Why Science Causes People to Leave the Faith (and how to fix it)

Concept image of a lost and confused signpost against a blue cloudy sky.“I Just don’t know if I can believe anymore.”  It’s a phrase I have heard in my office far too many times.  And when it is a person who has not recently experienced a tragedy, the source of their lack of confidence in their beliefs is often Science.

Whether they had a teacher contradict something they believed to be a key tenant of Christianity, or just watched some Discovery or History channel special, somehow the discoveries of Science has challenged (or ruled out the possibility altogether of) their belief in God.

Some will tell you the solution is to wage an all out war against Science.  Pull your kids out of school, make them teach religious principles in the classroom, and disprove (using things very close to science) anything that even hints at disputing a religious belief. This response will not only exacerbate the problem, it totally misunderstands the REAL issue here.

On the surface, you might think that the problem is that Science is challenging the truths of Scripture when serious Science never seeks to interact with the spiritual at all. It seeks to collect data, analyze it and make conclusions from it.  Disproving God is an aftereffect of offering another option (based on the data collected) of how something occurred.

Which forces a choice: either our Biblical explanation of an event is correct and God is real or Science is correct and God is not real right?  Wrong.  There is a third option: we have poor theology.  I think that is, more often than not, the case.

For too long, we have explained our faith’s relationship to science using a HORRIBLE method known as the God of the gaps.  Basically, wherever Science comes up with nothing, we interject God.

Before we understood how our immune system fought a common virus, every time a person recovered from one it was attributed to God.

Before we understood the gravitational force that holds our solar system together, the answer was: God held it together.

Before we understood how plate tectonics worked, earthquakes and tidal waves were God’s judgement.

The problem with all of this is that when science fills in one of the gaps and explains something that was attributed to God, God seems less credible and less powerful.

Fast forward to when I was a child.  The Scientific idea that was rocking our spiritual world was the idea of the Big Bang.  Up until that point, even those who ascribed to evolution had no real explanation for how the universe was created, and God was the answer.

I remember talking to a pastor about the Big Bang and saying, “If the universe was created by the Big Bang, where was God?”  One of my gaps had been filled in thus making God seem a little less.  His reply?  “Well, maybe the universe was created by the Big Bang, but what made the Big Bang?”  Another Gap, and another place for God to live.  Until…

You’ve guessed it.  There is a plausible explanation now for how the Big Bang happened, and our bad theology has once again allowed God to be unseated by Science.

What’s the solution?  Pretty simple:  stop using the God of the gaps and start using science.  Start using science?  That’s right.  Check out Romans 1:20: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

God created the universe and created it to tell us about who he is.  That means when we (Scientists) study the world and come to a greater understanding of it, we are further clarifying God’s message about who he is. That means Science is an intensely spiritual undertaking for those who believe in Jesus.

When the findings of Science become another tool for us to better understand God, we can take God out of the gaps and place him where he belongs: as ruler over all.  We stop making enemies out of the geniuses that are studying God’s creation, and we allow our people to believe without feeing they have to reject Science.

So, go read some science and learn about God!

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