No better way, I think, to start the Faith and Wisdom in Science New Year than by spending a day with school pupils. I am always very grateful to be invited by Michael Harvey and his colleagues to participate in any God and the Big Bang events, and Thursday saw us at Abbey Grange School in Leeds. As ususal, the day ran with an entire year group, working with religious studies and science teachers together (when we can) and offering talks, science labs, and discussions on Christian Belief and Science.
This time Michael suggested we offer prizes for the best questions posed at the Q&A at the end – and what better (hmmm…) to offer than pre-publication copies of Let There Be Science, the new book that talks, with teenage school pupils especially in mind, of the reasons that one does not need to choose between science and Christian faith.
Some great questions too! What about, ‘Would intelligent life on other planets not pose a problem for Christian theology – why would it be fair for Jesus to visit the Earth and not elsewhere?
This one won a prize. It pushes at the apparent specificity of the Earth, and human beings, in an incomparably vast universe whose size seems to draw value away from our provincial and diminutive backwater, and also to pose this problem of inappropriate favouritism. Interestingly, my colleague David Wilkinson at St Johns College Durham has written a book about the theology of the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI).
There’s lots to say – and lots of resonance with the Bible’s Book of Job, which among other things cautions, in the ‘Lord’s Answer’, Job to think of human beings as the pinnacles of creation, but points to the alien creatures of Leviathan and Behemoth as more wonderful still… But this is also not a new problem. An incarnation in Palestine in AD30 is in many ways as specific and ‘irrelevant’ to 21st century London, for example, as a visit to a small planet at the unfashionable end of the Galaxy’s Western Spiral Arm might be to an inhabitant of Andromeda (until we collide that is). Yet encounters with the risen Christ are as relevant, revolutionary and real there and then as they were as recorded in the closing passages of the Gospels. Read David’s book for more…
Another thoughtful one – What evidence would you give, scientific and philosophical, in support of Christian belief?
It’s an important one as one of the current myths floating about media, schools and conversations is that Christian belief is unevidenced dogma and so conflicts with science methodologically. I tend to be personal in answering this sort of question and point to my main five reasons for belief:
- A universe that is comprehensible by minds
- The New Testament events and the need for an explanation of the consequences of what they claim was the resurrection of Jesus.
- The account that Christianity gives of the observation that there is a non-relativisable thing called ‘evil’ (non-relative ethics in a system can only be defined with regard to a context outside that system)
- A personal experience of encounter with a Person in being a Christian
- The experience of thousands of humble, unnoticed, kind, people whose distinctiveness and love they themselves attribute to their following Jesus
Probably there ought to be a long Faith and Wisdom in Science blog that expands these and adds to the list in a ‘long apologetic’ of some kind. Possibly titled Why I am not an Atheist or some such.
The last question was more or less Why do you do this? The answer is not to insist that the pupils should believe in God – this is their road and their choice. But it IS to quash the demonstrable and pernicious lie that Science logically implies atheism, that you have to choose between Christianity and Science. God loves science -it’s his gift, so nothing could be further from the truth.