Weekly Impact is written for leaders by our former Executive Director, Garth Jestley, who has decades of experience in senior leadership roles in the financial services sector. Each week he will share insights on life, leadership and faith.
Not all statements by scientists are statements of science. ~Dr. John C. Lennox, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics, University of Oxford
Of late I have been ruminating on the oft perceived conflict between science and faith in God. The catalyst was the death of Stephen Hawking, the famous astrophysicist, earlier this year. Here is an article from the National Post, one of many appearing shortly after his death.
Besides being a formidable intellect, Hawking was also a profile in courage. From the aforementioned article: Hawking owed one part of his fame to his triumph over amyotrophic lateral sclerosis[He] defied the normally fatal illness for more than 50 years, pursuing a brilliant career that stunned doctors and thrilled his fans.
Hawking is one of the most influential scientists of the modern era. Thus, when he pronounced several years ago that because there is a law of gravity, the universe can and will create itself out of nothing, some saw it as the final word on the non-existence of God.
In The Grand Design, Hawking and co-author Leonard Mlodinow made the following assertion, Traditionally these [the big why questions of life] are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead. It has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics. As a result scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge.
Is Hawking correct? Is science the ultimate arbiter of truth? While not a scientist, I have studied this topic extensively and concluded that Hawkings assertion is incorrect. Some who are not followers of Jesus, however, will use Hawkings credibility to dismiss the concept of faith in God out of hand. Rather than engaging personally in critical thinking, they essentially outsource it to others.
There are excellent reasons to believe that the domains of science and faith in God are neither mutually exclusive nor in conflict.
On the flip side of the coin, many followers of Jesus are uncomfortable with the science-faith debate. They feel out of their depth. As a result, they sometimes privatize their faith rather than expose their ignorance. This is a tragedy in light of Jesus command to share our faith in Him and Peter the Apostles exhortation to always be prepared to defend it.
As ably articulated in this lecture by Dr. Lennox, there are excellent reasons to believe that the domains of science and faith in God are neither mutually exclusive nor in conflict. In this regard, it is relevant to note that the very first sentence of the Bible is: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Prior to the mid-twentieth century, scientists generally believed the universe was eternal. When strong evidence emerged that it was not (the Big Bang theory), many initially resisted this conclusion because it gave credence to the biblical account of beginnings! Today, the scientific consensus is a non-eternal universe.
Rather than causing me to question my faith in God, scientific discovery (accompanied by rapid advances in useful technologies) has served to increase my trust in God. More on this topic next week.
Garth Jestley is a husband, father, grandfather, leader and business executive. Most importantly, he is a follower of Jesus Christ.