I know quite a few parents whose adult children have renounced their faith recently. Their kids grew up in a Christian home, went to Christian schools, and attend church regularly, but now they no longer believe. You probably have your own list of loved ones who no longer follow Jesus. I imagine that, like me, your heart hurts when you see people fall away. So what are we supposed to do? How might we begin to help our loved ones rediscover their childhood faith?
In the past, I would start with a scientific argument. I’ve read quite a bit about our natural world, and there is much evidence that seems to point to the existence of God. For example, the universe seems to have had a beginning. And everything that has a beginning, has a cause. Therefore, there must be some kind of Divine cause behind our universe. Or we could talk about the digital code found in our DNA. Such code is a language, and every time we find a language, we find an author. Or finally, our world from its cosmology down to its microbiology is all extremely fine-tuned for the existence of life. Therefore, such fine-tuning points to a Designer. These scientific claims seem to me to be airtight arguments for the existence of some type of Divine Being. But I want to tell you three reasons why such scientific arguments might not be the best places to start.
1. The word science has been redefined.
There was a time when science was defined as the observation and study of the natural world. Isaac Newton observed an apple falling straight down and wondered, “Why did that happen?” Then he did experiments to answer this question. In addition, not only did science observe the world, but it also changed as it was built on new information. That’s what science was.
But now many see science as a set of dogmas that have religious implications. Here are a few “beliefs” behind many modern-day views of science:
- The material world is all there is.
- The tenants of Darwinian evolution and all its implications are irrefutable, unchangeable, and inerrant.
- Knowing how something works eliminates a need for a Creator or Designer.
- Time, chance, and a desire for survival create and design everything with purpose.
When science becomes an unquestionable religion, it is no longer a non-bias set of observations. That’s why even when observable facts seem to point to a Divine Creator, Author, and Designer, those facts are dismissed from the start.
2. Scientific “facts” keep changing.
One of the gifts of the coronavirus is that we have observed the evolution of science in real time. When the pandemic swept through the world in 2020, scientists were telling us what they believed about the virus. To the best of their knowledge, they believed the virus was being passed through physical contact. So, like many other people, we washed our groceries and wiped every surface we could think of. As more data was available, we were told that the virus was passing mostly through air droplets. And so we stopped washing our groceries and started wearing masks. (I could enumerate many more examples, but you get the point.) And in a few months, we might have a different theory about how this virus is spreading.
Because the science kept changing, organizations like the CDC kept changing their recommendations. Such changes frustrated nearly everyone. But why should we be so frustrated? That’s how science works. Science is not a set of eternal dogmas. Science is the process of observing and studying our world. And our understanding of the world keeps changing. What we think is absolutely true today will be seen slightly differently, if not completely differently, tomorrow.
That’s why we need to be careful about building the Christian faith on the foundation of a scientific argument. Yes, as I mentioned in the beginning, there seems to be a number of scientific discoveries that point to a Creator, Author, and Designer, but what happens when such findings need to adapt because of new information?
3. Science is usually not the reason someone renounces their faith.
Over the years, I’ve engaged in quite a few debates around science and faith, and what I’ve observed is scientific objections to Christianity are usually just a smoke screen. The person who questions the Bible is not primarily asking, “Is Christianity true?” but “Is Christianity good?” Usually they have a psychological or philosophical problem with their faith. Maybe they were abused or suffered from a traumatic event. Maybe they struggle to rationalize the reality of evil and a good God. Either way, scientific data is not the primary cause of their doubt.
In such cases, it is a waste of time to bat away scientific objections. Instead, we are called to listen to and sit in the pain of hurting people as they reveal the real reason they don’t want to believe in the God of the Bible. They don’t need an airtight argument to calm their troubled hearts. They need the presence of Jesus through the work of the Holy Spirit to bring healing and peace.
Why I still love science
I try to read a book a week. And in my rotation, I usually try to read a book on science or health. I love to learn about how our world works, especially the incredible capabilities of the human body. I read such books, not necessarily to defend my faith, but as an act of worship. When I learn about the neuroplasticity of our brains or the dynamic power of our immune systems, I sing with the psalmist, “I praise you, Lord! For I am fearfully and wonderfully made!” (Psalm 139). Such facts might not win anyone to Christ, but they do motivate me to learn more (to do more science) so that I can know my Maker even better.
I do believe we need to find ways to defend and explain our faith. I believe historical, philosophical, and even scientific arguments have their role. But at the end of the day, the Holy Spirit works faith through the Word of God as it is lived out in our day-to-day lives. Let us all be a walking testimony of the power of God as we live lives of love and service in his name.