Have you read the engaging book by scientist Francis S. Collins: The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.? As someone who works in an engineering field and as a Kingdom of God Venturer this book’s discussion of science and faith intersecting piqued my interest.
Before reading this book I did have the innate understanding that science and faith were compatible and that each discipline reinforced the other with their respective insights and revelations. But prior to reading this book I hadn’t seen much credible literature discussing this premise. Currently, there appears to be plenty of antipathy between the church and science. So I was excited to purchase the book and evaluate a scientist’s take on the nexus. I was not disappointed.
Francis S. Collins, as the back cover bio reads, headed the Human Genome Project and is one of the world’s leading scientists. “He works at the cutting edge of the study of DNA, the code of life. Yet he is also a man of unshakable faith in God and Scripture.
Dr. Collins believes that faith in God and faith in science can coexist within a person and be harmonious. In The Language of God he makes his case for God and Science.”
Of special interest to me is the fact that Collins (as I do) accepts theistic evolution. In Chapter Ten he writes:
“This view is entirely compatible with everything that science teaches us about the natural world. It is also entirely compatible with the great monotheistic religions of the world. The theistic evolution perspective cannot, of course, prove that God is real, as no logical argument can fully achieve that. Belief in God will always require a leap in faith.”
The book lays out for the reader in very accessible terms how Collins who was not raised in a Christian home came to his belief in God as a budding scientist in his twenties. The book goes on to discuss why Collins fully accepts theistic evolution as opposed to literal Creationism and Intelligent Design. Based on his own research Collins says the evidence is overwhelming in favor of natural evolution as God’s creative methodology. I would agree.
He then further encourages the church to endorse scientific research as a resource for understanding God’s creation, therefore offering a better understanding of God. In concert with his plea I believe every church leader should purchase this book and read its message. There is, sadly, too much mis-information being preached and taught by the Christian Evangelical church regarding creation. This information makes the church look rather foolish. Remember Galileo’s row with the church? Being raised an Evangelical I was taught that the earth was created about 6-8000 years ago and that the seven days described in Genesis Chapter One were literal days: Poof! We just showed up on the scene.
Later in life I became skeptical of the Young Earth Creationist theology but I clung to it because I had heard of no other plausible evidence to the contrary. Evolution was routinely discounted in the Evangelical church. In fact everything I had heard in church told me that evolution was the atheist’s version of the Christian creation. Evolution was also described as a slippery slope which would carry people away from God toward unbelief. And worse, the church seemed opposed to science and science was something I truly enjoyed being involved with. I would later look into Intelligent Design (ID) and had wondered if ID might be the catch-all for my belief in God’s creative act. But I was to learn that ID was flawed theory that did not take into account the nature of God.
My change in thinking occurred a few years ago when I came across the writings of Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga from the University of Notre Dame. Spending two and a half hours on a train five days a week over the course of several years I had been able to read and research many different science and philosophy topics. And I did this precisely because I wanted to know more about God, the nature of His being and the world around me. This excited me no end. I don’t read romance novels. I find my excitement by romancing the truth.
Through reading Plantinga’s papers, though sometimes written in difficult philosophical terms, the door of my understanding was opened wide and I accepted theistic evolution as a valid creation methodology. I would encourage anyone to read Plantinga’s papers.
The basics of theistic evolution are clearly delineated in Francis Collins’ book and on the Biologos website. Biologos is the name given to theistic evolution by scientist Collins. Here are the Biologos premises/beliefs from that website:
We believe that God created the universe, the earth, and all life over billions of years. God continues to providentially sustain the natural world, and the cosmos continues to declare the glory of God.
- We believe that all people have sinned against God and are in need of salvation.
- We believe in the historical incarnation of Jesus Christ as fully God and fully man. We believe in the historical death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, by which we are saved and reconciled to God.
- We believe that God continues to be directly involved in human history in acts of salvation, personal transformation, and answers to prayer.
- We believe the Bible is the inspired and authoritative word of God. By the Holy Spirit it is the “living and active” means though which God speaks to the church today, bearing witness to God’s Son, Jesus, as the divine Logos, or Word of God.
- We believe that God also reveals himself in and through the natural world he created, which displays his glory, eternal power, and divine nature. Properly interpreted, scripture and nature are complementary and faithful witnesses to their common Author.
- We believe that the methods of science are an important and reliable means to investigate and describe the world God has made. In this, we stand with a long tradition of Christians for whom Christian faith and science are mutually hospitable.
- We believe that the diversity and interrelation of all life on earth are best explained by the God-ordained process of evolution and common descent. Thus, evolution is not in opposition to God, but a means by which God providentially achieves his purposes.
- We believe that God created humans in biological continuity with all life on earth, but also as spiritual beings. God established a unique relationship with humanity by endowing us with his image and calling us to an elevated position within the created order.
- We believe that conversations among Christians about controversial issues of science and faith can and must be conducted with humility, grace, honesty, and compassion as a visible sign of the Spirit’s presence in Christ’s body, the Church.
- We reject ideologies such as Deism that claim the universe is self-sustaining, that God is no longer active in the natural world, or that God is not active in human history.
- We reject ideologies such as Darwinism and Evolutionism that claim that evolution is a purposeless process or that evolution replaces God.
- We reject ideologies such as Materialism and Scientism that claim science is the sole source of knowledge and truth, that science has debunked God and religion, or that the physical world constitutes the whole of reality.
As a follower of Christ and as someone who seeks to bring people to faith in Him I see it as imperative that Evangelical church leaders (John Paul II accepted theistic evolution) come to grips with science (natural science, quantum physics, genetics, etc.) and to avail themselves of all empirical data and evidences coming out of science research. From my point of view the church and science are completely compatible. Therefore, the church must not seek to restrain the hand of God – an evolved hand that was once nailed to a tree, a resurrected hand that now reaches out to all of us.
For more information about theistic evolution and Christianity I especially recommend Dr. Karl Giberson’s book The Language of Science and Faith: Straight Answers to Genuine Questions, InterVarsity Press | March, 2011
More from Dr. Giberson:
The Language of Faith: Straight Answers to Genuine Questions by Karl Giberson and Francis Collins, Intervarsity Press, 2011
The Wonder of the Universe: Hints of God in Our Fine-Tuned World by Karl W. Giberson, Intervarsity Press, 2012
Dr. Francis S. Collins: