It’s poetry in motion
She turned her tender eyes to me
As deep as any ocean
As sweet as any harmony
Mmm – but she blinded me with science
“She blinded me with science!”
And failed me in biology
Thomas Dolby (1982)
PBS has a currently running series on people who have lost their faith. One of the articles focused on a Methodist pastor who lost her faith. Not to be outdone, NBC rolled out an interview with a pastor from Houston who admitted his atheism to the world on national television (his non-denominational church has since closed its doors). After listening to both of their interviews, apparently the more they read and thought about what they believed, the more they had trouble with it and got to a breaking point.
I can remember in seminary, I took a class called religion and literature. One of the novels they had us read was by John Updike and dealt with a minister who found he could not preach anymore and would show up on Sundays, enter the pulpit, and have nothing to say. I thought to myself then (and really still do), “What a horror story.”
The tragedy is that while many Christians are keeping up with their reading, we often are not keeping an on-going dialog with others about what is in our hearts as we learn new information. Our problem is that even in churches where we encourage reading, we can also cultivate this modern concept that faith is a “personal and private thing.” And then, if any Christian goes out and reads any of the neo-atheists and are impressed by their arguments – the question should be, “Who do I talk to next?” rather than trying to figure it out all on our own. Likewise, for Christians whose faith has not been shaken by the modern attacks on traditional theology, we need to be asking, “How are we helping others keep their faith strong in such an environment?” The neo-atheists like to paint the picture that people of faith as people clinging to outdated beliefs and while the atheists are “free-thinkers” who embrace modern scientific findings. It is a straw man argument to be sure but if you are not hearing the other side it can start to sound convincing. It doesn’t matter that most scientists still, some of the best scientists, are people of faith. If others don’t know this and if the larger church plays ostrich to their criticisms, we play into their hands.
The Christian faith is a communal faith. Although we do have a personal relationship with God, walking with God was never meant to be a solo-venture. I do believe the Devil’s modern mode of operation is “divide and conquer.”
When questions in life come up (they always will) it is best to listen for God’s answers through thought, prayer, and discussion. We should never be in a culture where someone has a crisis of faith that no one knows about until some breaking point comes. We all need to deepen our discussions. God gave us minds and he wants us to use them. There is no evil in reading and becoming knowledgeable of what is being discussed in our culture, maybe particularly from our critics. We also need to continually reconsider how we practice our faith in light of new scientific discoveries. I believe leaders in the faith need to regularly immerse themselves in what is being learned every year.
But if what we read challenges our beliefs (particular core beliefs) we should seek out others, particularly whomever we consider our spiritual mentors (and if we feel we have none, that in itself is a clear problem). And if we know someone whose faith is shaking, we should encourage them to go and talk it out.
Otherwise we will always open ourselves to letting the detractors of the faith blind us with science, and we will fail in theology.
What do you think?
Until next time,