I remember the time when I was sitting in a biology class, perhaps in high school, listening to my teacher on the controversial subjects, like theory of evolution, the existence of dinosaurs, or the age of the earth. I learned that fossil fuels were formed from dead organisms million years ago. Meanwhile, my Sunday school teachers taught from the Bible that the first man was created by God about six thousand years ago and it took literally seven days for the creation of the earth and all the living things.
Growing up with two different views (and values), I could feel the tension of trusting and doubting one and the other, either scientific or biblical resources. Which one is ultimately trustworthy? There seems to be unresolved contradiction between science and faith. This question remains: can two contradicting views be both right? For example, when I say: “Life is good”, that sounds right in a sense that life in itself is a miracle, full of beauty and wonders. But when I say: “Life is miserable”, that could also make sense due to the fact that life is not apart from tragedy, disasters, injustice, etc. Now, is life actually good, miserable, or both? Is it only a matter of perspective?
In light of this reasoning, I would like to share the struggles between science and faith in my own research and observations so far:
1. The Trait: Natural vs. Supernatural
While science is used to explain natural phenomena, faith is often used to deal with supernatural things. When a doctor is no longer able to cure a disease, it would take a little “step of faith” to trust in supernatural healing than in natural efforts (i.e. medical treatment). To believe what we see is natural, but to see what we believe is supernatural. What do I mean by that? It is easy to believe in something that has already happened (or existed), because we believe in facts. But it takes us to another level to believe in something that is yet to happen (or exist) and finally see its realization, because this attitude requires faith. So then, if it is supernatural, what (or whom) do we believe? This must be something beyond our abilities to comprehend. In fact, there are many things science can’t fully explain, such as the purposes of life, miraculous healing, resurrection from the death, etc. Why? Because they are from another level. Can science believe in a miracle? Can science believe in its Creator? Can human altogether believe in science and have faith in the Almighty?
Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see. (Hebrews 11:1, NLT)
2. The Basis: Knowledge vs. Trust
Science means “knowledge” (from the Latin word, scientia). It is built on the observations, explanations, and predictions about the universe. Faith can be defined as “total trust”. Science has more to do with our minds, while faith is more about the issues of our hearts. When minds and hearts were not getting along each other, we started to struggle. Science demands evidence, while faith requires confidence. One of our lifetime struggles is to find the balance between evidence and confidence. Science teaches us to develop our critical thinking, while faith encourages us to develop our confidential trusting. In science, we start with doubts – we’re not supposed to trust in something easily, we have to question a lot, to find out what is missing or lacking, to have our own original ideas, and to rely on our own understanding. In contrast, in faith, we begin with trust – we’re asked to believe in what we are yet to see, to keep calm and surrender, and to have rest in the divine 5P’s (provision, providence, protection, plan, and promise) believing that all things work together for our good.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5, NLT)
3. The Force: Human Efforts vs. Divine Power
The world we live in now consists of not only the seen things, but also the unseen things. Interestingly, even science confirms the existence of the unseen ones. A simple case: we may have never seen oxygen molecules, electron particles, or even our own brains – but they really exist! Can we live without oxygen, electrons, and brains? Certainly not. Now, if they are all invisible (at least by mere human’s eyes), do they exist by accident or by the Creator? This is where we might have different views. But, at least, we know their existence by both science and faith. We confirm it by science and we believe it by faith. You see that science is driven by human efforts to build knowledge from what they have seen (observed). It is, in nature, a human-centered project. But faith is driven by divine power to realize things we have not seen. It is a God-centered project. A real struggle between science and faith happens when humans are trying to build projects out of their selfish ambitions which contradict God’s will. As always, the real problem begins when humans worship the creation (knowledge, achievement, etc.) instead of the Creator. However, when science and faith are combined together within God’s plans, we see a great collaboration and beautiful harmony between human and God in presenting masterpieces in this world. All the knowledge and truth belongs to God, but in His mercy and grace, He has granted us a privilege to work together with Him, to be His partner in executing His perfect plans for all the living. Ultimately, it is God who gives us the desires and the abilities to do what brings Him pleasure and glory.
For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. (Philippians 2:13, NLT)
Technological advance has arguably improved human’s life quality. Communication and transportation have been more convenient than ever in our generation – thanks to science and technology. However, the biggest life “struggle” remains unresolved: that is how we can create life from scratch, make something from nothing into existence. It is only when science can bring back the dead to life, we may sense the science’s triumph over faith. But… would that ever happen in our time?
Vancouver, Winter 2018 – 2019