Friday, October 09, 2020

Starting a Chapter on Christianity and Science with a Little Help from C.S. Lewis

I've been working on a new book about religions (in the plural) and science. As I move into the chapter on Christianity and science, I’m pondering this line from Stephen Prothero: 

“There is a persistent, unexplored bias in the study of religion toward the extraordinary and away from the ordinary. In the United States this bias manifests in a strong attraction (even among scholars who are atheists) toward hardcore religious practitioners….” Prothero, God is Not One
Nowhere is this more applicable than with Christianity and its relationship with, where too often the loudest and most strident voice is heard. The fundamentalists rage against “godless” evolution and the climate change “hoax,” while millions of believers have no significant problems with either. Though this approach makes good copy for the media, I won’t work for this book. 

Why don't we like talking about reasonable religious believers?

Fundamentalist approaches to Christianity can certainly ungird a "believe-no-matter-what-you-discover" approach to faith. Exploring questions becomes the much-dreaded "doubt." Nonetheless, unbelievers often supply the worst distortions. They assert that Christian faith is opposed to scientific reasoning. Consider this from the arch-atheist, Richard Dawkins, 

"Faith means blind trust, in the absence of evidence even in the teeth of evidence." Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene

Here I bring in St. Clive, aka Clive Staples Lewis, to assist. (Nothing new for me about that!) Certainly, there are believers who have faith despite the evidence, but St. Clive, whose book, Mere Christianity, still sells millions and guides their understanding of the Christian faith, writes this,

Faith is “the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.” C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

That seems to be reasonable approach to faith. Faith is faithfulness to our commitments.

A word then about what this means for Christian faith and science... A reasonable faith, like the one Lewis presents, is one good historical ground for the rise of modern science in 16th and 17th century Europe. Of course, scientific endeavors flourished in the 8th-14th centuries in Muslim countries (a topic for another post). Still, this approach to faith and reason, to state it ever so succinctly, is cause of why the Scientific Revolution occurred in Christian Europe. Faith in the God who creates gives us an ordered creation to study. As the Nobel Laureate UC Berkeley physicist Charles Townes once noted (and as I've quoted before), 

"For successful science of the type we know, we must have faith that the universe is governed by reliable laws and, further, that these laws can be discovered by human inquiry." Charles Townes

That's a start to my chapter. More to come I suspect...

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