Stop Treating Faith Like Science

Scotland recently banned the teaching of Creationism as a scientific theory in their classes.

Some of the people I’ve seen share that news on Facebook are pretty upset about it. Many Christians (most of whom have never even been to Scotland) are crying foul, demanding that Creationism be restored to its proper place in the classroom.  They insist that Creationism is a legitimate scientific theory, and deserves a place in the curriculum.

But it isn’t, and it doesn’t.

Creationism isn’t science, because it doesn’t include any sort of testable hypotheses. It’s based off theological texts from thousands and thousands of years ago by people who had no idea how science works. They weren’t interested in empirical data, they were interested in God.

That doesn’t mean that Creationism doesn’t have a place in our faith, though. Even though I don’t consider Creationism to be science, I still accept Creationism to be true in the sense that I believe that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

I don’t know when he did it. I don’t know the exact method of creation that he used, or the science behind creation. I will leave the question of how to the scientists. I’m more interested in the theology than in the science.

Because faith and science aren’t the same thing.

Probably as a result of the Enlightenment, Christians have this tendency to want to reconcile Faith and Science, because many of us see science as a part of their religion. When the Bible says God created the heavens and the earth in a 6 day sequence of events, many Christians assume that must be a scientifically accurate picture, or else the entire Bible is suspect.

But the Bible isn’t a history book. And faith isn’t a branch of scientific inquiry.

There aren’t formulas and laws that govern God’s behavior. Faith is far more art than science. It is more experiential than intellectual. It’s more music than math. And when we try to force science and faith to agree with each other, we limit both of them. We make both of them answer questions they weren’t designed to answer. Both God and scientific fact become twisted parodies of themselves when you force them together.

The two are completely distinct, but it seems like we have tried to marry science and faith as these two different but connected fields, in which one has to complement the other. Or, more particularly, that science has to prove and backup the claims of our faith. As if the only kind of truth about God is empirical truth. As if God can be tested in a laboratory and proven to be true.

That’s an incredibly short-sighted and limiting picture of God.

One of the reasons they call faith “faith” is because it encompasses far more than what can be proven or known. Without an element of the unknown, faith is just knowledge.

So lets stop trying to make them the same thing. Whether God created the universe in 6 days, or through the Big Bang and slowly formed life through the process of evolution, or through some other process that we haven’t even begun to guess at, we can still trust that God is the one who did it.

Empirical evidence is only one kind of truth, and it’s not even the most important kind. The whole existence of the Church hinges on the idea that there is more to life than what can be observed or known.

So maybe we should rest in that tension. Maybe part of faith is accepting that we don’t know exactly how God did anything and that’s okay. Maybe our faith ought to let us say, “I guess there’s more to God than I can understand.”

And so rather than coming up with these rational explanations for God, we can offer the experience of God. Rather than seeking to prove God by formula or experiment, we can reveal God by the way we live our lives. Rather than using science to prove God created the heavens and the earth, we can live responsibly and care for the creation. Rather than trying to come up with a logical answer for natural disasters, we can care for the hurting the way that God cares for the hurting.

Maybe the best rationalization for religion isn’t in what we can say, but in what it causes us to do. Maybe the best way to prove our faith is to stop trying to prove it, and just live it out.

2 thoughts on “Stop Treating Faith Like Science

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