Hey Kids… Let’s Talk Science

As a second year university student, I came to my campus minister with some questions about science. Like others my age, I wanted to know about evolution and Genesis and the Big Bang and whether they can all work together. Many of the details of that conversation escape me now, but I do remember a lingering, Tree Silhouette Against Starry Night Skyinescapable tension that made me think science and religion were fundamentally at odds with one another. Sadly, in this particular context I was discouraged from asking questions that would test my faith because even the process of asking questions was perceived as a capitulation to the norms of a secular university.

The doubts I had then were eventually expressed and met with persuasive, winsome answers, but what if they hadn’t been? What if I had always felt afraid to ask these questions, or what if the answers I was given about science, God, and Christianity were shallow and superficial? Countless ex-Christians attest to experiences like these, and it is no wonder that they become atheists, agnostics, or “nones” (those who claim no religious affiliation whatsoever). Indeed, the anti-scientific posture held by some Christians is one of the main reasons why church leaders and ministers have seen their numbers dwindle. For kids especially, the failure to acknowledge the role and importance of science in our culture makes the church appear outdated and irrelevant to their career aspirations. As researcher David Kinnaman observes in a study conducted by the Barna Group, while 52% of youth group teens aspire to science-related careers, only 1% of pastors and youth leaders had addressed scientific issues in the past year![1]

With this finding in view, it seems an apology is in order: Kids, we’re sorry if we haven’t discussed science with you, acknowledged its tremendous benefits, and helped you work out an appropriate view of its relation to a biblically attuned theology or your career aspirations. As Kinnaman rightly notes:

people of faith have a responsibility and an opportunity to speak positively and prophetically to issues of science, rather than responding out of hostility or ignorance. We must work together to offer a viable, respectful Christian voice to our culture’s collective dialogue about stem cell research, cloning, animal testing, pharmaceuticals, technology’s impact on the human brain and soul, cosmetic and elective surgery and beauty enhancement, nutrition, agriculture, weapons and military technologies, and many other matters of science and ethics.[2]

To be sure, this is a tall order, but steps in the right direction are certainly feasible. On a local level, whether you’re a frequent churchgoer or not, it’s probable that a church nearby has a parishioner whose main expertise is in a science-related field. Perhaps there is a professional engineer, university biology professor, or high school chemistry teacher who could help mentor younger scientifically minded Christians.[3] These resources notwithstanding, there are thankfully a number of internationally renowned scientists today who happen to be Christians too. One thinks of Francis Collins, Alister McGrath, or John Polkinghorne, all of whom have published significant works on the compatibility of science and religion.[4]

Finally, for anyone working out an understanding of science and faith, it is important to remember the very origins of modern science. As Oxford philosopher Michael B. Foster brilliantly argued in his 1934 essay, it is no lab experiment childrencoincidence that modern science as we know it came out of Christianized Europe and not the pantheistic or polytheistic atmosphere of ancient Greece.[5] Indeed, for science to work at all, the universe must be intelligible and our minds capable of comprehending it. Such presuppositions are supplied by the Christian worldview, which insists that the universe was brought into existence ex nihilo (“out of nothing”) by a divine will. Since Christians believe that God created the world in a way that could be understood by us, early (Christian) scientists from Copernicus and Francis Bacon on up to Isaac Newton, botanist Asa Gray, and Big Bang discoverer Georges LeMaitre have all had confidence that their scientific work would yield true results and that the natural order could be comprehended.

Since we live in an age dominated by the findings and conclusions of our revered scientists, it makes good practical sense to have a faith that remembers the past, is aware of the present, and can respond adequately to scientific issues in the future. For many people and especially younger ones, these are often pressing concerns that determine the shape of their faith. Christians ministering to those with scientific questions, then, should know where their resources are and remember that all truth, whether stated in scientific terms or not, is still God’s truth.

Paul McClure

[1] David Kinnman, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church… And Rethinking Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2011), 140.

[2] Ibid., 143.

[3] Ibid., 144.

[4] See Francis Collins, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (New York: Free Press, 2006); Alister McGrath, Dawkins’ God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005); John Polkinghorne, Belief in God in an Age of Science (New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1998).

[5] Michael B. Foster, “The Christian Doctrine of Creation and the Rise of Modern Natural Science,” Mind, Vol. 43, 1934, 446-468.


8 responses to “Hey Kids… Let’s Talk Science

      • I think so… if your grandfather’s name was D. C. McClure (from Memphis), then your great-grandfather and my grandfather were brothers.

      • Hey Matt,

        Yes, that’s wild! My grandfather Don was then definitely your grandfather’s nephew. My family is still in Memphis, but I reside in Waco now and currently am in my first year of doctoral studies at Baylor in sociology of religion.

  1. Don and I used to email a lot and discuss genealogy. He even mentioned you once and told me of your collegiate studies. Congratulations on your doctoral studies. What is/are your specialties?

    • Along with many of the contributing writers on this blog, I graduated from Regent College in Vancouver with an M.A. in theological studies. My next stint here in Texas has me studying the growth of the religiously unaffiliated segment of the American population. Thanks for asking, and what about you?

      • I’m a biology professor in southeast Texas (Lamar State College – Orange, where I’ve taught for 19 years). I specialized in zoology and evolutionary biology when I was in grad school at Texas A&M. Last year I published a book via Amazon.com discussing a biblical perspective on evolutionary theory.

  2. Matt, that’s really really cool. Now that I know that, I think you should’ve been the one writing this post! Anyway, if you’re ever up in Waco please look me up, and thanks again for the shout out.

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