I didn’t realize when I became a youth pastor that my students would assume I was an expert in science. And yet, apart from questions of the heart, the most prominent questions I get asked have to do with the relationship between faith and science. How do we reconcile the creation account in the Bible with generally accepted theories in cosmology? How old is the earth? What about evolution–do I have to reject the theory of evolution to embrace faith in Jesus?
My problem in answering these questions is that I don’t know enough about science to know what I am disagreeing or agreeing with and I do know enough about the Bible to know that many of the questions asked are not addressed in the Bible, a book which not only gives us the right answers for life but stubbornly insists on asking the questions as well. And the Bible simply wasn’t designed to answer many of the questions of modern science demands that it answers. How then do we articulate a robust orthodox faith and prepare our kids to choose their battles wisely?
Timothy Tennent, president of Asbury Theological Seminary, spoke to this issue and suggested that we begin to again cultivate what C.S. Lewis called Mere Christianity.We must maintain that God spoke, God came, and God breathed. What we know about creation is that it is precisely that, God’s very good creation. God spoke this world into being and it is upheld by the Word of his power (Ps. 33:9; Heb. 11:3). But God’s very good creation did not stay very good, because of human sinfulness. So God came-–the very Word by which creation was made was made in the likeness of sinful flesh and dwelt among us (Jn. 1:14; Rom. 8:1-4), so that we could be made again like him (2 Cor. 5:21; Rom. 8:29). Upon his death and resurrection God breathed–the very breath that first gave life to Adam (Gen. 2:7) was breathed on his disciples (Jn. 20:22) and then spilled out recklessly and lavishly on all flesh (Acts 2).
God the Father spoke, God the Son came, and God the Spirit breathed and is breathing throughout the earth according to his mission of global redemption. I don’t know all the arguments for or against competing theories of science, but I do know that it is more necessary that our young folks are able to articulate the essentials of the faith, mere Christianity, than it is for them to argue for nonessentials of the faith, ornamental Christianity.
Besides that, maybe we need to show our kids that for all the questions science can ask and answer, we are still left with a very bleak world if that is all we know. It’s not that the Sistine Chapel cannot be reduced to mathematical quantities and essential qualities, not that it doesn’t ultimately break down to elemental ordinariness, indistinct in essence from the 7-Eleven down the road. It’s just that, while all physical objects can be described with the language of science, there are some things-–like the Sistine Chapel and the Universe–-that are best understood with the language of art–and I tend to imagine God with a canvas and a brush, not a lab coat and a beaker. How sad it would be if we failed to see Adam for the atoms. How sad would it be if we failed to see ourselves for our answers?
“What is Adam (humankind) that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty” (Psalm 8:4-5).