You know it’s going to be a ‘heavy’ blog post with those three words in the title! I’ve seen a couple of things recently which have been bugging me, a kind of ‘cognitive itch’ if you will. As the best way of dealing with a cognitive itch is to write a blog post, that’s what I’ve decided to do!
So here we are. Thing number one which has been annoying me: a few weeks ago, someone I follow on Twitter posted up the following tweet: “Between religion and science, science is willing to change and review, whereas change in religion is tantamount to heresy.” This is a claim which I often hear as a criticism against religion. On the surface I think it may even look vaguely passable as an argument. However I think it’s a pretty bad argument to make, and here’s why:
The implication is that scientists are willing to change their theories whereas religion is not. Scientists objectively look at all the evidence, and then it will lead them where that may. Scientists are the very epitomy of objectivity, whereas the close-minded religious fools blindly believe in something because their holy text tells them to. They unquestioningly accept the dogmas of their religion, never changing, while the world moves on around them.
This is wrong on several different levels, but here are the main ones (or at least, the main ones I can think of right now):
- Scientists aren’t a model of objectivity. Just look at the work of someone like Thomas Kuhn to see that it really isn’t as simple as that. Scientists have pet theories and will often not give them up easily. The data doesn’t lead scientists where it may, not always at least.
- Both Christianity and science have changed. Look at slavery, for example: I’ve seen many people accuse the church of supporting slavery (which is probably a fair accusation). But then again, so did science. Scientific data at the time was used to justify what is basically racism. Now we can look back at those times and shake our heads – but the point is the change has been made since then. I can’t speak for the scientists, but in the case of the church I think they were genuinely wrong to condone such behaviour – that said, it was a Christian who was at the forefront of the campaign to abolish slavery.
- Change in itself is not a virtue. The truth is what we are aiming for. The goal of science is to get ever closer to the truth and describe our universe. The goal of religion – well, Christianity in particular – is to bring man into a relationship with God. The purposes of the two things are different. I believe that Christianity is true, therefore – why would it need to change? Now, don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying that the church is incapable of error (see slavery above, for example) – but I do think that the core truths of Christianity do not change. Science is always going to be changing. One is not ‘better’ than the other, they just serve two different purposes.
The other thing which got me thinking was another quote I read: “if Christians really believe in heaven, why do they wear seatbelts?” This struck me as completely missing the point of Christianity.
It is true that the apostle Paul said “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). But that doesn’t mean we should just go and kill ourselves! It seems to me that the Bible says there is far too much valuable in this life. God created the world “and saw that it was good”. Although this is a world gone wrong, it is still “good” in many ways.
As Andy Saville pointed out in his sermon at Sunday@6 last Sunday (his last ever sermon as the assistant minister at Fordham, actually) – heaven is not going to be some airy-fairy place in the clouds with harps and the like! We hope for a bodily resurrection, with a new heaven and a new earth. We hope for a renewal of the earth, not a total destruction of it!
So the reason we do not kill ourselves, firstly, is that the earth is good and we do not wish to leave it! Secondly, we believe that we all have a purpose on this earth. In Ephesians 2 Paul says, “for by grace you have been saved… to do good works which God prepared in advance for you to do” (from memory, might not be exact). God has given us jobs to do, we need to do them!
I could go on here, but I think my point has been sufficiently made: making a statement like that seems to betray a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to be a Christian.
Anyway, I think that’s enough of my ramblings for now!