It’s the age old argument. Science vs. Faith.
Like most things in life, Star Wars might offer some insight.
In A New Hope, even Obi-Wan has trouble convincing Han Solo of the realities of the Force, a mysterious energy that is said to ‘bind all things together’. Han-Solo inadvertently articulates a scientific worldview by saying,
“Kid, I’ve flown from one side of this galaxy to the other and seen a lot of strange stuff but I’ve never seen anything that makes me believe there’s one all powerful Force controlling everything.“
We see that the evil Empire, though technologically superior, lacks the guidance of the Force. Ultimately we see that the rebels achieve victory by using the Force harmoniously with scientific technology.
There must be a way for Science and Faith to peacefully coexist.
But how do these two terms intersect? What does it look like to engage both science and faith in a youth ministry context? There’s no way for me to address these questions completely in this forum, but maybe I could offer some simple reasons why this struggle exists. It’s important to realize a few of the generalizations that most people (especially teenagers) have about Science and Faith.
1. Science answers the question “Why?”. If there is one question that youth are asking, it’s “Why?”. Why did God put the forbidden fruit in the garden? Why should I believe the Bible is true? Why doesn’t God just make God’s self abundantly obvious? These are honest and difficult questions that begin to explore the gray areas of the Faith. To students, Science offers an easily navigable world of black and white. When faith can’t directly answer the question of “Why?” with a black and white answer, it is often seen as inferior.
2. Science deals with concrete thoughts. Developmentally, adolescent students are in the beginning stages of being able to think abstractly. Needless to say, concepts such as God, grace, and sin, are incredibly abstract and aren’t easy for students (or most adults) to grasp. Science offers a concrete and observable reality. It is easier for students to grasp concrete equations (i.e. Water + Cold = Ice). Abstract equations (i.e. (God x Man) + Life + Death + Resurrection = Salvation x All People) are more difficult to grasp.
3. Science can be tested. Because science deals with observable reality, it can be tested and retested to prove validity. Let’s face it…It’s easy test the effectiveness of gravity. It’s exponentially more difficult to measure the effectiveness of prayer or quantify the amount of grace received during the sacraments. Teenagers are inherently pragmatic. If aspects of the faith cannot be tested then they are perceived as less valuable.
4. Science doesn’t have as much to apologize for. History does not lie. Too much blood has been spilled in the name of God. The church has a bloody history of crusades, slavery, and oppression. In light of history, Faith is seen as a hindrence to social progress while Science is seen as the vehicle. Essentially, science is perceived as a uniting force while Faith divides. Unfortunately, these sentiments are the fault of the Church.
5. Faith is antagonistic to Science. Try to embrace new scientific discoveries. It’s always appropriate to have a healthy amount of skepticism about new theories but try to use these as teachable moments instead of immediately labeling them as evil. Faith does itself no favors by being close minded to genuine conversations about matters of Science. Give your students the freedom to learn about and challenge themselves with how Faith and Science intersect.
What do you think?
How do you create an environment in your youth ministry where youth can wrestle with tough questions, about science, faith and/or both?
What resources have you turned to for discussions about science and faith?
Where do you see the potential for science and faith working together?