Science, Faith and God-A Wonderful Combination

Author: Nathan McCarthy

Picture: Suus Wansink, Flickr

Science, Faith and God-A Wonderful Combination

Far from being a stumbling block, science can help us discover the wonders of God, says Physics teacher Nathan McCarthy.

“But Sir, how does that even work?”

This is a phrase I am quite used to hearing in the classroom. As a Physics teacher, it is usually because a student is doing mental gymnastics with complex concepts.

However, every year, a brave student asks the question in a different way; they know my wife is an RE teacher and a Catholic, and they wonder how that “works”. Their argument is that, naturally, my scientific background flatly contradicts any belief she has in God.

Except, the problem is, it doesn’t.

The students are more perplexed when they find out I am also a Catholic, a weekly churchgoer and that the Big Bang and evolution provide no obstacle to my own beliefs in God or my salvation through Jesus.

"Why Is The Kettle Boiling?"

It is a wonderful moment watching students quickly and freely debate the perceived incompatibility between science and religion.

I like to summarise my position to my students with an analogy, borrowed from theoretical physicist and Anglican priest John Polkinghorne.

Polkinghorme states that, when someone asks why the kettle is boiling, one answer is an explanation of the physics behind energy transfer to the water, whilst another is that I simply fancied a cup of tea-and would you care to join me?

I explain that science and religion can reach equally valid and complementary conclusions to the question “why are we here?”

A scientific understanding of the world enhances the wonder that I have for creation; it cannot replace the Creator.

God's Creative Power Seen Through Science

The Big Bang and evolution, two frequently (and wrongly) cited examples of how science and religion are incompatible, are merely detailed explanations of the mechanism of how we exist on Earth, not a re-write of our theology.

The Big Bang presents an awesome beginning to the existence of our universe; the very essence of our reality brought forth from nothingness in a blast of energy 14 billion years ago.

Hydrogen nuclei fused with each other into heavier elements, creating stars, galaxies and, ultimately, the elements that make our bodies and the world around us today.

Far from excluding God, the Big Bang simply illustrates some of His creative power.

The Father's Gift: An Immortal Soul

Evolution, on the other hand, provides a mechanism for life to have developed from its simplest form of proteins and single cells into the wonderfully complex organisms we are today.

The result of this are the tiny neurones inside our brains currently working in harmony to fire electrical signals that process the text in this very article, retrieve words from memory and turn it into a language we understand.

The difference, as a Christian-and this is so important- is that we know, at some point in our evolutionary journey as a species, we were granted the gift of an immortal soul from the Father.

Our purpose shifted from merely existing, to existing in relationship with God; knowing Him, experiencing Him, and having some idea of how we fit into this wonderful creation: "Blessed be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Chist..He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless." (Ephesians 1:3-4) 

He Died For Me

Science might help me understand the world in a bit more detail, but this does not give me the intellectual right to replace God; it can only lead me to become more awestruck that, in this complex universe, I still matter enough that He died for me.

Our God is not a “god of the gaps”, one whom we invoke to explain something our understanding cannot comprehend; we know Him personally and His existence and relationship with us is independent of our understanding.

Like the kettle analogy, my science explains and describes the world, but it also provides a rich background to putting my faith in Jesus and accepting my place as a child of God, the Father and Creator of all.

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