It is entirely possible that any astute reader of this blog will immediately recognize that I am out of my depth on this one. But here is my promised follow-up to my thoughts on the movie Angels and Demons posted a week ago here. My goal is to demonstrate that is worth questioning popularly held notions like this aleged battle between science and religion. If you’re interested in reading more on this subject The Soul of Science, which I reference below by Nancy Pearcey and Charles Thaxton is an excellent starting point.
There is no age-old battle between science and religion. This battle that is supposed to have raged from the dawn of time is actually a fairly recent development. It is also a development that originated very intentionally from the side of the scientist. Men like Thomas Huxley set out to undermine the Christian view of the world by aggressively promoting their secular agenda. Their view of the world is simply: what you can see is all there is. In the 19th century Andrew Dickens White published a book that is still being quoted today titled, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology. In it White states, “In all modern history, interference with science in the supposed interest of religion, no matter how conscientious such interference may have been, has resulted in the direst evils both to religion and to science.”
The truth is science as we know it today first took root in the minds of men who had a thoroughly Christian worldview. Christians believe there is One God who created and sustains the world so that it functions in an orderly and predictable way. There can be no scientific method in a world of chaos. Christians also believe that God’s glory is actually revealed by creation in such a way that one must actively suppress the truth in their hearts if they refuse to see it. For the Christian, the study of all that is created is just one more way of seeing the glory of God. Other religions start from worldviews that actually discourage the study of the world around us. In her book, The Soul of Science, Nancy Pearcey points out that while cultures like the Arabs and the Chinese produced much more in the way of practical knowledge through the ages it was Christian Europe that gave birth to what we today would call modern science.
The objection will no doubt be raised, “But didn’t the Catholic Church persecute as heretics those who promoted scientific views that were opposed to church teaching?” It is true that men cloaked in religion have often tried to manipulate the scriptures to promote their own agendas and carry out gross atrocities under the banner of faith. Incidents such as these should serve as a warning to the church in every century lest we fall into the same abuse of authority. But the truth is that sinful men in every discipline, science included, have always found ways to abuse their positions of authority so that they can carry out their wicked intentions. There is no doubt that today many in the sacred halls of science are using their “authority” to condone and carry out great wickedness against their fellow man.
The Christian who engages in scientific study actually enjoys a great advantage over the scientist who is not a follower of Christ. Having put his faith in Christ, he will join the redeemed of all ages in exploring the glories of God in creation for all eternity. There will be no end to the fantastic discoveries that await the believer after this life. Also, understanding the fear of the Lord to be the beginning of wisdom, he will know the right starting place when he comes to the study of the world. The scientist who chooses to suppress the truth of God as seen in creation will be unable to see the world as it really is.
I’ll get back to Angels and Demons. I know I often promise more and don’t deliver. This time I actually have the second part written. Basically I’m doing what Fox News does when they tell you they are going to have some story right after the break but don’t get to it until the end of the broadcast. (I promise this didn’t happen to me last night regarding John and Kate + 8 on O’Reilly.)
Anyway… The Lord has given me a really cool ministry in that I preach funerals for families who don’t have pastors. The funeral home that calls me is known around town to be Christian so people who call there know they’re getting a Christian funeral. What this means for me is that I am free to preach the gospel.
Because most of these people don’t have pastors I am often not clear (at best) regarding the spiritual state of the deceased. In these cases I try to encourage the bereaved and exhort them to consider the gospel of Jesus Christ at a time when they are most likely very aware of the brevity of this life.
Today was different. This morning, because her regular pastor wasn’t available, I had the privilege of preaching a memorial service for a dear lady whose life was filled with the fruit of the Spirit. Her parents died when she was in her teens and she immediately went to work so that she could take care of her younger brothers and sisters. According to the many accounts I heard about her life as we stood around the graveside today this attitude of loving self-sacrifice was consistent with her entire life. She loved her Lord Jesus with all of her heart, spoke of Him often, and no doubt is rejoicing today in His presence with her husband who went to be with Him over 40 years ago.
A few yards away in the same cemetery is the grave of my Nana who we buried a little over a year ago. She too lived a life of self-sacrifice, always giving of herself unconditionally to her family. She didn’t have much but what she had she would give cheerfully without hesitation. Both of these women belong to a generation who knew the importance of setting aside selfish ambition for the sake of those they loved. We all need to do more to follow their example both in service to the Lord and service to others.
I left that service this morning full of joy. This woman’s life became a great encouragement to me to finish the race well…to persevere in serving my Lord. Her son described her as poor even though she never really knew it. She gave all she had and now knows what it’s like to hear her Savior say, “Well done good and faithful servant.”
Having read Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons several years ago I was interested to see the movie. The religious world created by Dan Brown in this novel and The DaVinci Code is only slightly less fantastic than Rowling’s wizarding world in the Harry Potter series but I enjoy the way his books move so quickly. I’m also very interested in anything that will give me a little inside view the Vatican. Who wouldn’t want to spend a day browsing the Vatican Archives trying to discover what treasures are contained within or wander around in the passage ways and caverns under Vatican City?
Ron Howard’s movie is an enjoyable enough adaptation of the book. Tom Hanks seems to have gotten his hair under control and Ewan McGregor plays Obe-Wan Kenobi playing a Catholic priest. I’ll try not to give anything away but I am getting tired of the plot-line that involves people on the inside of, say, a country (the United States in 24) or say, the Catholic Church, hatching an elaborate plot to blame some enemy for a series of ghastly attacks with the end goal being that said country or church will suddenly see the need to tighten up security or ideology or whatever needs to be tightened up. Who really thinks like this except for some screenwriter who is desperate to prove that our enemy is not really our enemy? Note to aspiring writers, this plot-line is over-played.
Angels and Demons has prompted my return to blogging not because of the quality of the film but because of the assumption upon which it is based. Central to the plot is the alleged, age-old battle to the death between science and religion. The possibly evil, possibly naïve, definitely old and un-cool Catholic church (whose leaders wear doilies) is under attack from the onslaught of science which is threatening to do away with the need for God as it explains more and more about the universe in which we live. Science, on the other hand, is represented by very beautiful, very cool, very smart people who write books. They certainly don’t believe in the devil and would rather be fighting the real enemy in the universe: energy companies (insert creepy music in your head as you read those last two words.)
In the world of Angels and Demons the difference between the church and science is well summed up by the way the two sides deal with the conflict. The old guys in the doilies lock themselves in the Sistine Chapel and appear desperate to maintain their ancient ways while the beautiful and smart scientist joins the brilliant professor to dash around Rome actually doing something about the threat all the while shedding light on the dark underbelly of religious tradition. Don’t you know December 25th is really just a pagan holiday adopted by early Christians? Come on! You Christians don’t even know your own history (or at least Dan Brown’s version of it!) How could you possibly know anything about science?
I’ve got more to say on this topic but in the interest of keeping this brief I’ll post more later this weekend.