Monday, February 2, 2015

On reconciling orthodox Christianity with modern science ...

I ran across this short article by Cathy Lynn Grossman in the Washington Post today (hat tip to Nancy Pearcey for directing me to it). It divides Americans into three groups with respect to their views on Christianity and science: "Traditionalists," "Moderns," and "Post-Seculars."  The third of these consists of scientifically literate Christians who, nevertheless, remain serious and devoted Christians.
I probably would consider myself among this group, believing, as I do, that scientific evidence cannot be blithely dismissed or rationalized away with lame and embarrassing quack science explanations. On the contrary, I think that the fact that God does not lie implies that special revelation in Scripture and general revelation in nature cannot, in the final analysis, contradict each other (although they certainly may appear to do so in the short term), and that apparent conflicts between the two sometimes demand that believers live with the cognitive dissonance of being unable to completely reconcile everything. What this means is not that we believe that two actually contradictory things can be simultaneously true, but that, not seeing yet how to reconcile the contradiction, we neither abandon our faith in God's revelation nor our intellectual integrity. Humility and honesty sometimes require us to say that there are lots of things we don't yet understand, and that we are much more likely to be wrong in trying to prematurely attain cognitive rest through the pretense of universal understanding than we are in living with the tension of faith while we work for and await a more complete understanding.
There are those who will object to this position, insisting that either religion must be rejected or rationality must be. The answer to both sides is the same: the apparent gain in consistency is illusory. The worldview of scientific materialism cannot account for the most important aspects of human existence, such as moral obligation (the best scientism can do on this question is to provide a phenomenological explanation - it can't provide the categorical imperative) and justice. Religious anti-rationalism only leads to rejection of God's revelation in nature and to living in a self-imposed religious ghetto (indeed, it could fairly be argued that it was the abandonment by evangelicals of the life of the mind that was the most important contributor to the loss of influence in our civilization).

To both materialists and anti-intellectualists, I would argue that all truth is God's truth, that reality is both more complex and more simple than you imagine, and that one ought not mistake one's own mind for God's.

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