My seventh-grade science teacher proposed a great debate juxtaposing evolution and creation. Being the biblical literalist that I was then, I argued with all my might for creationism. My friend Vicki, the eventual valedictorian of our class, defended the theory of evolution. I’m not sure who won that debate, but I do know that I’ve been pondering the questions we raised ever since.
I tell you this story because my mind immediately goes back there when asked to write this devotional contrasting faith and science—specifically, whether my faith limits the way I think, or contradicts things I’ve learned outside of church; and how I can explain my faith while having a career in science. These questions make me wonder why we so often insist on this kind of binary thinking—an either/or mentality that limits our worldviews…including our understanding of God.
To me there is no difference. Faith and science, or art and music, and literature and sports and nature are all the parts of the same whole of creation. When I first listened to microbiology and biochemistry lectures in college and medical school I was impressed by the huge amount of knowledge there was in these areas. Ten years later I attended lectures about the mechanisms of disease, learning more about the evolving research regarding factors such as prostaglandins and cytokines and monoclonal antibodies. I was amazed a couple of years ago when I heard the same researcher from twenty years ago describing the rationale of disease mechanisms but with a depth of understanding and detail that far surpassed that of her original explanations. I pushed my chair back, stopped taking notes, and said to myself, and the person scribbling next to me, “this is God stuff.” There is no end to the layer upon layer upon layer of information to be discovered. Each new generation of microscopes and technology reveals more detail. There is no end because God has no limits.
Sunday morning, February 11, we heard a sixteen-year-old soprano sing “Give me Jesus,” with a voice that practically opened the gates of heaven for me and I cannot get out of my head. Do I think her gift is anything other than divinely given? Or just because we have some degree of knowledge about the science explaining the sound this young woman makes, that my absolute conviction of God giving her such a gift is precluded? Is the science behind the ability to make sound separate from the gift to make that sound in the first place? Of course not. It is all intertwined and from God. God reveals and explains God’s self in so many ways—different disciplines, cultures, religions, and philosophies. Just as all components of God’s creation embellish my faith, so do science and faith. So when you ask me if science makes it difficult for me to practice my faith, I smile, as I am taken back to 7th grade.
My friend Vicki received her PhD in philosophy from Notre Dame and now practices Buddhism as she teaches philosophy to college students. I practice medicine and recently received my masters in theology. I think my faith seeks understanding, and Vicki’s understanding seeks faith. We have come full circle, no longer needing to defend sides of a false argument. Our quests, and our truths, are the same, as they have always been. We just didn’t know it.
I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees Thee. Job 42.5