Science. The word seems to strike fear into the hearts of too many of us who live lives of faith. I don’t think that it is a fear we are born with, and I certainly do not accept that it is a fear we are born again with. Instead, it is a learned fear, an acquired fear. And an illogical fear, unlike the fear of snakes. Which is perfectly reasonable.
Where does this fear come from?
First, I think it comes from the cultural image of the scientist. Not the “mad scientist,” but the genius scientist. We picture Marie Curie hunched over test tubes or George Washington Carver in his lab as our biographies often focus on the science without touching the fact that these were real people. Since we are not spending all day, every day, in a lab, we fear that our knowledge of science will never be enough.
This builds into our second fear, born of the immensity of science. One of the first real science concepts we learn is the scientific method, which is all about asking more questions. Science centers on the idea that we always have more to learn. The immensity of it all, illustrated in an old story I heard once about Einstein who, at the pinnacle of his fame, still said he was “a student of physics” rather than claiming mastery, intimidates us. We can learn every major battle of the War of Jenkin’s Ear (1739-1742), but we can never learn every aspect of biology, chemistry, or physics—to say nothing of the sub-disciplines!
It is this immensity that props up our biggest fear.
The Underlying Fear
We do not know what will be discovered by science next week, next month, or next year. We probably do not know all that has been discovered and placed in academic journals and slated for publication in years to come. Down in, though, we harbor a fear that science may find something that disturbs our faith. We fear to get too close to the science because we have heard, so often, how studying science has pulled others away from walking with God.
And we are concerned that it might happen to us. Worse yet, it could happen to our children. Our fear here is the most illogical yet. It finds its basis not in faith, nor even in a committed trust in the Bible as accurate. Rather, it is based in the same fears that Martin Horky held when he opposed Galileo: fear of change. The life of Galileo, though, is a valuable guide. He looked, he questioned, he learned, and by all accounts, kept his faith fully intact.
People of faith, we need not fear the unknown in science.
If we can trust God with eternity, we can trust God with astrophysics and zoology. If we can trust God to know the future and the past, we can trust God to know organic chemistry and oceanography. The immensity of science points us to a God who is greater, and the pursuit of knowledge should encourage us, not intimidate us. We will find that the universe we live has been made amazing by an amazing Creator, who set the earth in motion around the sun.
We who greet the rising sun with praise to the risen Son should be enthusiastic about studying the work of God. The fear we develop is illogical, because knowing the Who behind the whats should encourage us to seek deeply, ask big questions, and find the answers.