As both science and faith are important to many of those who attend Campus Edge, being able to talk about science and faith well is important. Unfortunately, many conversations about science and faith derail into arguments about a) whether one is reading the Bible properly (or taking the Bible/faith seriously) or b) whether one is ignoring or elevating science too much (science being anything from the world God has given us to the knowledge that people have obtained and put forward about how the world works). The conversation often leaves people with the assumption that the other is either stupid or unChristian/sinning, neither of which are particularly complimentary conclusions to make about the person with whom one is conversing.
Bob Trube recently provided some helpful guidelines for good science + faith conversations. We can all do with a gentle reminder and extra help, so I’m posting a shortened version of his guidelines here below:
1. Perhaps above all, good conversations arise when we listen in order to learn and understand rather than mentally composing arguments and rebuttals while another speaks.
2. For Christians, I think we need to read our Bibles well, gleaning what the writers meant to say under divine inspiration for their first audience, in their own cultural context. . . Too often, we impose our own questions and the concerns of our own context on the Bible and try to make it answer questions its writers never intended to answer.
3. We should set aside all attempts to force a reconciliation of science and the Bible that result in either the rejection of scientific findings or concluding that certain portions of scripture in error. This may lead to unanswered questions, but I would prefer that to forced answers.
4. Efforts to prove or disprove God by science should be set aside. This is not a question science can decide one way or the other. . . . This is also problematic because science continues to advance and what may be a “proof” today is disproven or capable of an alternative explanation tomorrow. The most I will ever say as a believer is that I have not found what I’ve learned in science inconsistent with the idea of a God.
5. We should recognize that potential participants on both sides of the discussions may come with certain fears. . . A better conversation doesn’t attack people at the place of their fear. It creates a space where fear can be acknowledged without ridicule or attack and seeks to allay fear through building trust and mutual vulnerability.
6. We likewise should not foreclose the search for understanding of others. . . .
7. We should be skeptical of all of those, believers and skeptics alike, who have made a career, and in some cases a pile of money, promoting the warfare between faith and science. . .
8. Might we instead devote ourselves to the important questions that people of faith and people working in the sciences care about deeply? For example, might Christians who care deeply about the majority world lobby for funding of research on diseases that impact majority world peoples, or livestock, disproportionately, rather than adding more funds to fight diseases in Western contexts that already enjoy significant support?
His hope is that in pursuing these better questions, we might also have better conversations – because our focus is on flourishing instead of on being right.