Lesson 1 - Faith and Science
A Christian Among Scientists
In particular, Rick credits his Christian faith with instilling a sense of awe and wonder before God’s creation (Psalm 111:2). Other academic virtues such as integrity, excellence, and community are also rooted in Christian faith. And perhaps most importantly for a scientist, Christian faith guards against the kind of false certainty that makes for bad science and dangerous religion.
How have you experienced mutual distrust between “faith” and “science”? How do Rick’s comments help us to overcome this false dichotomy?
As Rick states here, Christian faith instills humility. Why is humility important for someone working in the sciences? Why is it important for someone seeking to live a faithful Christian life?
A Scientist Among Christians
“Whatever things were rightly said among all men,” wrote the early church father Justin Martyr in the second century, “is the property of us Christians.” This means that Christians ought to be truth people, and we shouldn’t be afraid to pursue the truth wherever it may be found, including the domains of science.
And so it’s ironic, as Rick notes, that he encounters the most suspicion and hostility not among scientists, but among Christians. But if we look closer, says Rick, science has a lot to teach us about faith. For one, it encourages an intellectual curiosity and courage to investigate the works of God in nature, even if what we find will challenge some of our most cherished ideas or values. Not only that, it gives us a proper sense of our place in the world and before God “when we bump up against what we don’t know,” as Rick puts it.
Think about the Christian community or communities of which you are a part. How is science discussed in those circles? Why do you think some Christians are suspicious of or even hostile toward science?
Take a minute to think of ways in which science can give us important insights into the character of God. How might science enhance our faith, rather that discredit or diminish it?
A Theology of Work
A Theology of Creation Care
To formulate a Christian ethic of creation care, Rick encourages us to widen our scope when it comes to talking about the Gospel. While it is true that Jesus Christ died to free individual believers from the power of sin and death, his death and resurrection did much more than this: it inaugurated God’s plan to restore the entire creation.
It is within this grand narrative of Creation → Rebellion → Redemption → Restoration that Christians can begin to think about what their responsibility toward the environment might be. After all, God’s very first instructions to humankind were to tend to God’s good creation:
“To know God as Creator means that I will worship him as Creator and celebrate and care for his creation.”
But Christian responsibility goes beyond this; as bearers of the divine image, human beings are to participate in God’s redemptive work to liberate creation from its bondage to decay (Romans 8:21). Rick then suggests that creation care is rooted in love of neighbor (Mark 12:30–31), since it is people living in poverty who are most vulnerable to the effects of environmental degradation.
In this way, environmental justice is social justice, and we owe our responsibility to our neighbors, even those who are not yet living. “The ultimate test of a moral society,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminds us, “is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.”
How might a broader understanding of the Gospel—a grand narrative of Creation → Rebellion → Redemption → Restoration—inform how we think about our responsibility to the natural environment?
Rick argues that creation care is a social justice issue, since environmental degradation will mean more suffering for people who are already disadvantaged. Do you believe that the future of the environment is a moral issue? Why or why not?