[Originally pubished on Theologica]
After an interesting conversation with a potential parishioner, I have had a few curious thoughts about the Discovery Channel. Well, not solely the Discovery Channel–which, by the way, I love–but about the popular consumption of science.
The gentleman I spoke with had several questions about scripture most of which were brought about because of one TV show or another touting a grand expose of the ‘real’ truth of what happened during bible times. One show had purported to ‘explain’ the plagues in Egypt when the Hebrews were delivered from slavery as a series of natural and fully explainable phenomena. Another some explanation of creation and still another explaining how Jesus healed and walked on water using medical skills and optical illusions.
For me, the idea that some thing or another is a ‘natural phenomena’ does not in any way preclude the action of God. If God created all things, then surely he may use all things to his purpose. So what if the plagues in Egypt were natural progressions? Can you or I create a gnat or a frog from scratch? (if you wish to bake a cake from scratch, you must first create the universe.) Of course not. If God so chooses, may he not use the laws of nature which he created in order to work his wonders? As a painter uses paints, brushes and other tools to create, so, too, may God use anything he has created to do his will. Just because we can point to brushes as the method of achieving a work of art does not preclude the presence of the painter. However, for my new friend and, in my experience, for many unchurched persons, science is a trump card of sorts. My friend said: I just can’t believe in something I can’t see for myself.
Here is the amazing thing to me. For the average person, we must rely upon what science tell us just as much, if not more so, than what theologians and biblical scholars tell us. If you cannot believe in something you cannot see for yourself then how can you believe in any one of a thousand things we only have knowledge of because of what a scientist has told us? I have no doubt that there are electrons and protons in existence as well as quasars and black holes or dust mites and chromosomes, but I will never see them with my own eyes. I am certain my friend is the same. And yet our whole society will take these at face value (though only a miniscule portion of the population will ever have close enough contact with them to have personal knowledge of their existence) while still saying they cannot believe in God because they cannot see him.
Ah, we are such rational, reasonable people! Thank goodness science has saved us* from ever having to believe solely based on the here say of others! So glad we escaped the dark ages where we actually had to take things on faith!
*however, as a footnote, I do not think that science as a discipline ever intended to usurp faith