Friday, May 15, 2015

Faith and Science

I am not sure these two things need always to be tied together, but I also don't think they need to be accepted as two contradictory belief systems. For two subjects whose main goal seems to be to know, I've been fascinated by how both of them seem to be wrapped in mystery more often than factual truth. 

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In class on Saturday, we had a very interesting discussion on the subject. What stood out to me from the various, thoughtful opinions of my classmates, was the subject of language. One of our classmates has been a professor for many years and has taught faith and science from a secular perspective. He insisted that when you discuss this topic you must pay special attention to the language being used. 

It is common knowledge that the language of the Bible is steeped in metaphor. Jesus himself spoke in metaphors, everyone did who sought to teach and explain who God is or what God is like. Phrases like, "The Lord is my shepherd" or "Jesus is my rock" are metaphors. God is not a literal shepherd, a herder of sheep, but we all have an understanding of what God is like when we hear that phrase. Jesus is obviously not a inanimate stone, but we can divulge great meaning about who he should be in our lives from that single line. The whole of the Bible is written in the common language of the everyday person. Both the ancient Hebrew and the Greek are written not formally as the elite would read, but in the daily rhetoric of the people in that age. It is full of parables, stories that teach, each a metaphor in it's own right. For those who argue for the literal translation of the Word, I have to wonder if they have read it at all. The Bible, believed by many, was written by men inspired by God. Then it was assembled by men led by God to put this Holy work together. Inspired by God...written by people who new Jesus...this work is a great and wonderful metaphor that helps us to believe; to know God more personally. 

In a similar way, science uses the same technique to explain their theories and newest discoveries. Think back to science class when your teacher first explained to you what the Big Bang Theory was. I remember what my teacher said, "There was a giant star explosion and the energy was so great that all the dust and particles started spinning so fast that things started to change. All the spinning matter became fused together by gravity and then there was a planet. Then life began to appear on the planet..." This is not what the Big Bang Theory states or is at all, but this helped me to understand a little bit about this idea so that I could support it in my everyday belief system. What about the Theory of Natural Selection? Remember the sparrows that your teacher showed you. It was probably explained like this, "There are lots of variations that come about in each species and some variations help an animal survive longer. Then that variation is passed down to their young and over time more and more birds begin to look that like the bird with the variation because that trait helps them to live longer." Can't you see all those different sized bird beaks? This is essentially a metaphor. Yes, it is explaining what Natural Selection is, but that isn't technically how it works or why it came about. Think back to any new discovery in science and try to remember how someone explained it to you or how the article explained it to you. If you look closely, I bet you will realize that what you received was a metaphor, at least, this is what my classmate believes. 

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We use metaphors to explain something that is really isn't explainable. If you want someone to believe something you have to make it relative. One of the best ways to do this is to tell a story, a parable, or use a metaphor, because then the listener came make it personal. For most of us, when things become personal then they become real. 

I do not think Faith and Science are the same thing and I am not sure I think it is good that we yoke them together as much as we do. However, for me, I am finding that scientific discoveries and the metaphors of my faith, while very different, are pointing me in the same direction. They are pointing me to the Great Mystery. There is so much that we don't know. Maybe we cannot ever know it. But still, I have the choice to believe what I want to believe and relate these metaphors to my life. Just like the theories of science are refuted and updated, my faith continues to evolve and grow into something new each day. What I know is that this is all so much bigger and more mysterious then I can even imagine.

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