How do we know? Faith and science

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I believe that, if anything is truly true, it can questioned freely and openly and it will stand to scrutiny. Naturally, I think that nothing is more important than knowing the truth about God, and, therefore, it is absolutely vital that people question, research, analyse and be as open as possible to what is found by those methods. How can we know anything? How much is it a matter of “science”, as commonly understood, and experience, for example?

The biggest problem, in my opinion, is that too many are coming to conclusions about things without looking at the evidence, or knowing the facts. A common objection to any conversation about religion is: “Every religion believes they have arrived at the absolute truth, or that a paramount truth has been revealed. There are many groups out there who believe they have identified or uncovered an indisputable truth…Everyone has a response, and they can’t all be right.”

That raises the question: are they all wrong? If not, which one is right? That is worth finding out. The idea that all religions are the same, and claim the same thing, is not accurate either. In one way, among many others, Christianity is unique. Whereas other faiths teach various ways in which one can reach God, Nirvana, whatever, Christianity states that God has reached out to us at his own initiative. Others believe that by following ceremonies, rituals or rules, one can store up credit with God and, eventually, perhaps over many lifetimes, reach that state of perfection.

Christianity teaches that there is nothing we can do to “earn” our way to God: that the death of Jesus was on our behalf, making a way to God for those who can accept that substitution. Many find that far harder than it seems: we are a proud and stubborn people!

Another approach states: “I’m especially partial to the scientific method because of its power to test evidence over time and adjust our “scientific truths” accordingly. In my view the scientific method has contributed as much as Judeo-Christian philosophies to revolutionise society, and probably more when you consider the progress made by humankind.”

This is absolutely in keeping with my approach also. Though, I would mention that the scientific method, and modern science in general, owes much to Christianity. The earliest, as well as some of the most respected current scientists, began to look for the laws governing our universe because they believed, rightly, that if it was created by God, it would be based on laws and principles that can be discovered and examined, as it has proved to be. In that sense alone, science has only underpinned the claims of Christianity.

There are so many areas of science which support, at the very least, the idea of Intelligent Design, for example. Edwin Hubbel’s work changed the traditional view that the universe was static and unchanging. That led to our understanding that the universe is expanding, and by working backwards, the idea of the Big Bang was developed. (Another fascinating debate there!). The discovery of DNA completely shattered any credibility that Darwinism still had, other than in the minds of the general public.

Then the discovery of the Cosmological Constants, at least 26 different constants in physics, chemistry and cosmology that need to be exactly as they are for our universe to exist. From the smallest molecules to the layout of the universe itself, the idea that these constants happened at all lends tremendous credibility to the concept of Intelligent Design, and, by extension, of an Intelligent Creator. Even the notorious sceptic, Richard Dawkins, accepts that the universe “looks as though it was designed”, though he denies that it actually was. But I may begetting off topic.

But the faith of a Christian is not a “blind” faith, not a “leap in the dark”. That is an idea that came in with Existentialism and Kant. The word, “faith”, for a Christian means trust: my faith is based on evidence and experience. One without the other is dangerous, and that is why I agree with having four standards for evaluating the evidence: logic, rationality, empirical knowledge and the scientific method.

There is, I would hold, a limit to how much we can use the scientific method in this regard. It needs to observe, analyse and repeat: spirituality is not really open to that kind of approach. Nor are other essential truths of our lives, like love, integrity, beauty, etc. I believe that what evidence can be examined using the scientific method actually goes far to prove the claims of Christianity, particularly its historicity and the common elements that you find in individuals’ testimony to their empiri- cal experiences over many centuries, cultures, levels of education, and ages. More of that later.

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