Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Science cannot restore our humanity. . .

Christianity has had a strained relationship with science as of late.  You don't need me to tell you about it.  Long gone are the days when there was an easier connection between what we observe and learn of nature and the world around us and our confession of the God who made everything.  But part of the problem lies with the way many folks view science now.  You saw it in the presidential and vice-presidential debates.  The moderators suggested that the current administration had a problem with science.  What was really being said is that the current administration had a problem with facts.  You see science has become the unique realm of fact.  It is connected to climate change.  We want science to tell us incontrovertible truths on everything from clean energy to dirty energy and how to clean up our act so that everything will work out in the end.  It also showed up during the pandemic.  We wanted science to speak with one voice on everything from masks to treatments so that we would know exactly where we stand.  But science does not have only one opinion.  Yes, there are times when the science seems to coalesce around one point of view but more often than not science has a range of opinions.  

We try to separate religious truth from science but the end result is that scientific truth becomes fact and religion becomes myth, legend, opinion, and an idea.  How many Christians have surrendered historicity to the idea that faith has no facts and no roots in truth any bigger than the individual and the moment?  That is certainly not the domain of the New Testament.  St. Paul insists over and over against upon the factuality of the cardinal truths of the faith.  If Christ is not raised, there is nothing left except a pitiful people.  He is persuaded not by desire but by the evidence and the Holy Spirit does not work outside the realm of facts and truth but within its very beating heart.  Christ is the most true truth of all.  But there is more.

The Christian faith is about humanizing a humanity which has lost that humanity, or rather, willingly surrendered it first in the Garden of Eden and over and over again throughout the history of fallen man.  The danger of science is not its facts but its tendency to dehumanize us.  C. S. Lewis certainly recognized this threat of dehumanization as a consequence of the misuse of science.  But he is not the only one.  A good example of it lies in the way we have taken children from marriage, love from marriage, and sex from love.  So in the end if we want kids, we have options beyond marriage and family.  Yet the very consequence of having access to children the way we might purchase something int he marketplace is that life has been robbed of its uniqueness and humanity has been dehumanized.  No, there is nothing very romantic about a test tube fertilization but there is also nothing mysterious or sacred.  It is a science experiment pure and simple and, as we all know from high school labs, the best science experiments are the ones that turn out the way we expect and plan.

No one took our humanity from us but we have surrendered it willingly in the name of freedom.  We want to be free of attachments, of responsibility, of duty, and of obligation.  Christianity does not relieve us of any of this but makes it possible for us to know and begin to do what is ours to do.  It restores to us our place, our humanity, and our relationship to God our creator.  How many times don't we say it?  It is good. right, salutary, and our bounded duty to give God thanks and praise.  The only freedom that counts is the one that restores to us the order, meaning, and purpose we too willingly surrendered to the devil, doubt, and desire -- once in Eden and over and over again in every sinful thought, word, and deed.

We want science to give us answers it cannot give and we refuse the answers only Christ can give.  We are making religion into something it is not but we are also making science into something it is not.  In the end, all of us lose.  Science observes but it cannot give meaning.  It can even attempt to explain but it cannot give purpose.  It can tell us about the moment but it cannot speak authoritatively about either the past or the future.  That does not make science bad.  It simply admits what true science has known all along.  None of our attempts to control our environment have ended well and we have needlessly complicated things by trying to act as gods instead of men.  Christ does not give us control but He does give us back our humanity and that is the best start possible.  Lives restored to God our creator have meaning and, even more importantly, purpose.  Once we begin to learn this, we will find renewed appreciation for science but we will also find out who we are by acknowledging whose we are.

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