Thursday, May 24, 2012

Scientific Contributions to Faith?

For I see Thy heavens, a work of Thy fingers, Moon and stars that Thou didst establish.  What [is] man that Thou rememberest him? The son of man that Thou inspectest him? -- Psalm 8:4-5 (YLT)

Yesterday the Episcopal Church was recognizing Nicolaus Copernicus and Johannes Kepler.  These two men were key players in the scientific revolution that literally turned the solar system upside down in the late 16th-17th century.  Beginning with a shy Copernicus, the previous belief of a flat earth located at the center of a large dome that had the sun and all the stars and planets rotating around it was shattered.  It took more than a hundred years for The Church to accept the new planetary configuration, but it eventually did swallow its objections.

Lest we think this "obtuseness" on the part of The Church a thing of the past, we should note that we still find conflict between people of faith and science today.  Creationists still show up at school board meetings around the United States to argue against evolutionary theory -- a debate that has been raging since 1859 with the publishing of Darwin's On the Origin of Species.  This conflict between church and science raises the question what part does science play with faith?

The problem, it appears to me, is that we are hung up on the goal of propounding a "Universal Truth."  Human beings do not have the capacity to grasp Universal Truth; if there were such a thing, we would have no need for faith.  The wonder and expanse of the heavens reveal a God far larger than anyone's capacity to grasp the way God holds "it all" together.  We are each like the blind men and the elephant - each of us seeing only the (microscopically tiny) slice of "reality" that we can touch -- that the rest of the elephant is there is an act of faith.  What Copernicus and Kepler, et al did, and science does daily, is reveal how artificially (and vehemently) attached we can be to supposed truths and unimportant details of a limited physical existence.  This is in stark contrast to faith, which stretches out beyond the heavens, beyond science, beyond this mortal life to utterly and entirely embrace the God of Love.  "What is man that Thou are mindful?"  Mindful enough for Jesus Christ to come opening The Way to Truth and Life.

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