Friday, November 1, 2013

Piety and Science

One of the purposes of a blog of this nature is to point people to writers whom readers might otherwise miss. I have previously noted an article entitled, "Why Conservative Christian Piety Should Animate Evangelical Engagement with Science’s Sticky Subjects." Today, I want to highlight a few of the main points within this article.

The article suggests that some Christians view an anti-science stance as part of their serious Christian piety; the stance against science being a kind of badge of honour for the holiest of people. That is, if one is truly in tune with God and guided by the Holy Spirit, that person will avoid scientific study so as not to influence their relationship with God. Christopher M. Hays instead says that we need people with deep Christian piety who will also study the difficult issues of science. We need scientists and science enthusiasts filled with a deep love for God who will help all of God's people navigate through science and how it relates to our theology. Hays refers to this as a matter of trust. Can we trust God enough to believe that the Holy Spirit has inspired the "composition and compilation" of the Bible and believe that it still has spiritual nourishment for us while also trusting that God is revealing himself to us through creation. I would add that God is also revealing himself through the methods of science. He is the author of the systems of cause and effect and experimentation and observation. Both the systems and the results bear witness to the nature of an orderly and logical God of justice, grace, and generosity.

Piety is devotion to God. It is about trusting God in all aspects of life. It is about putting our trust in him above our trust in our own abilities to conceptualize God. The God who is creator and sustainer of our universe is certainly difficult to grasp and we are all too prone to simplifying our image of God. Peter Enns, in a post specifically dealing with the science of evolution and its relationship to faith says,
It may be that evolution, and the challenges it presents, will remind us that we are called to trust God, which means we may need to restructure and even abandon the ‘god’ that we have created in our own image. Working through the implications of evolution may remind Christians that trusting God’s goodness is a daily decision, a spiritually fulfilling act of recommitment to surrender to God no matter what.
I need this reminder to trust God. I must trust God more than I trust the words of men and women; and I must trust God more than I trust theological constructs. Piety (trust in and devotion to God) means that I can engage theology and science while trusting the God who gave us minds that can think through difficult concepts.

The article by Christopher Hays also reminds us of a time honoured way in which men and women have understood the truth of God. He speaks of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral that "articulates how God’s truth is revealed through Scripture, reason, tradition, and experience (with special deference to Scripture as the “base” of the Quadrilateral)." Whether in the study of theology or in the study of science, these four factors must guide our understanding. All truth is God's truth.

I find myself agreeing with Hays when he points out his own agreement with the words of Amos Yong.
Those who are led by the Spirit can therefore pursue the life of the mind, even the scientific vocation, and in this way also bring their own questions, perspectives, and curiosities to their scientific endeavors.… [P]ursuit of the Spirit-filled life can be part and parcel of the modern scientific task.
I want to be one who is Spirit-filled and Spirit-led; I also want to be one who engages in the scientific process and one who communicates the wonders of what is being discovered in the realm of science. This is part of the great challenge to which I am called. As Hays says,

. . . grappling with the Big Bang and abiogenesis can express precisely the sorts of piety that should animate Christian evangelicals. For the sake of the lost and for the sake of our own struggling parishioners we have an obligation to sort out a faithful understanding of modern science.
 The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.
Psalm 19:1-4.

No comments:

Post a Comment