For the last several posts, I have been investigating the relationship between experience and knowledge, facts and truth. To my embarrassment, my M.O. has been similar to an approach referred to as apologetics. Simply put, apologetics seeks to articulate Christian views in such a way as to make them palatable, acceptable, to the non-Christian world.
My problem with apologetics (to be discussed in much more detail in a series of later posts) is twofold: First, the Christian faith claims that becoming a follower of Christ involves a rebirth of the soul, the reception of a new heart, and a conversion of the mind. As Paul says, "The things of the Spirit are discernible only by people of the Spirit." It is only people who belong to Christ who have this Spirit. Thus, the attempt to guide someone across the threshold of belief by means of explanation is destined to fail. I can't just translate "Christianese" to you by outfitting my deepest beliefs in the latest logical and rational fashions. The mind of faith is inaccessible to the mind that has not yet been invaded by, transformed by the Spirit. Only after you believe what I believe can you see what I see. If you do not believe, you could be more fluent in English that any human being on the planet, but you will still not be able to understand what I say. In summary, apologetics offends me because it denies one of the core elements of Biblical Christianity–that Jesus opens the eyes of our hearts and enables us to see what was imperceptible to us before.
My second problem with apologetics is a logical consequence of the first. If Christians claim to have the Truth, it should be so expansively and comprehensively true that it fits all other truths into it. It should be the cipher that enables you to decrypt the secret code at the heart of everything, a pair of glasses that you put on that allows you to see how all things interrelate, interlock, and interpenetrate. An example of this would be my reference In Part III to the way Jesus' proclamation that obedience to His commands results in a knowledge of the Truth prefigures the scientific method. The meaningful content of both His statement and of the scientific method are essentially the same. The fact that some of the earliest modern scientists were Christians demonstrates that the situation we now have–where a 'scientific' worldview stands in diametric opposition to a 'spiritual' one–was not always the case. Science only becomes incompatible with the truth claims of the Bible when people who insist that both can't be True conspire unwittingly together to produce two worldviews: one in which there is only matter, and one in which matter is (to borrow a phrase from the physicist Brian Greene in a way that he would not likely endorse) "like the foam on an invisible ocean" of a vast spiritual reality.
The situation becomes further complicated when some scientists (not all) refuse to be honest and acknowledge that the scientific worldview cannot and should not be used even in an attempt to make statements about anything non-material. To put it another way, even the most advanced and specialized scientific training does not qualify the practitioner to offer any opinion about whether there is or is not a spiritual reality. On the same token, Biblicists do not help the situation when they engage in explanatory contortions of Scripture at the first cry of 'aha!' from an atheistic scientist who says she has found proof that there is inaccuracy in the Bible. For the person who believes, the Bible is never wrong. There is only insufficient perspective from which to comprehend the Truth that the Bible holds.
Scientists should be the first to admit to the problem of limited perspective. To cite Brian Greene again: it would take a particle accelerator the size of the Milky Way Galaxy to test the latest theories about how subatomic particles behave. "Ah yes! But at least science is always journeying toward a more and more coherent explanation of reality," you might say; "it doesn't have contradictions like the Bible does." If and when you hear yourself saying something like that, interrupt yourself – you're just showing how little you know about science. (Don't interrupt someone else, that's rude. Just smile and nod.) Ask around: there are people alive today who remember when smoking was harmless, when asbestos wouldn't cause cancer, when Pluto was still a planet, and when Vitamin C helped your immune system fight off a cold (wait, what?) Did you know that science cannot determine the velocity of a particle and its location at the same time? At this very moment, scientists are wrestling with the problem of why the branches of science that deal with the largest bodies in the universe (astrophysics) and the smallest particles in the universe (quantum mechanics) seem to operate by two sets of rules that are mutually incompatible. Please read between the lines: the word you're looking for is 'contradictory.' Scientists just believe (have faith) that once the technology is available to provide the right perspective on the problem, we'll be able to see that everything fits together perfectly after all. Right. That's exactly what I believe about apparent contradictions in the Bible.
So in the end, the search for scientific truth mirrors the search for spiritual truth: You have to try to find out. The big picture is so complex that you might not be able to reconcile the parts with the whole. You might have to learn a lot before you realize that the more expertise you have, the more clearly you will see how little you know compared to what you have not yet understood. But in faith as well as in science, believers are never frustrated by the ever-increasing gap between limited knowledge and complete understanding–each new question leads to wonder and excitement. Each new mystery is an invitation to walk in accordance with given principles with the confident assurance that it will lead to answers. ...or maybe, rather than answers, better questions.
So I guess I'll just 'leave this right here', as they say: science will never and cannot ever possibly contradict Jesus. Science is simply the process of uncovering the principles by which Jesus created the universe and sustains it by His thought. Maybe science will appear to contradict the Bible at times. But that will only happen if and when the Truth that the Bible is trying to communicate cannot be articulated in the grammar of our current conception of 'facts' (or when the original author was using words to do something much more akin to a painting by Monet, or Picasso, or even Dali, than to a sculpture by Michelangelo or Rodin.) As a Christian, it is my job to hear what the Bible is saying rather than attempt to reconcile it with people who believe in science. I have to admit that I do not know what people mean when they say that, because usually they come across as though they think that statement should put me in my place at the bottom of the intellectual ladder that they are on the top rung of. Actually, I believe in science too. But no science can provide me with the type of answer I am looking for when I ask the question 'why?' Following Jesus, on the other hand, always results in my 'why?' being swallowed up in Truth and replaced with a deeper and wider 'why?' My questions get bigger, but my soul does too.
Faith, seeking understanding, finds. Science, criticizing faith, declares, "Blind." Faith, sympathetically, sighs, "It's you that can't see, but there's no fault with your eyes: I've been under your feet the whole time."