Monday, April 14, 2008

science and Christianity

On Sunday at church (the one I go to on campus), I was chatting to an old woman who is just about the only non-student, non-young person to go there. She seems like a very interesting and sensible person, but then we had this weird conversation.

She found out I was living with my dad, and asked what his interests are.

I say, "Rocks and wood." [My father would hasten to say he has many other interests, but I would like to add that I have never seen him so animated as when he talks about rocks and wood.]

"What?!" she says.

"Well, geology," I explain.

"And he's a Christian?"


She looks very surprised. "And how does he reconcile geology with Christianity?"

I'm a little taken aback. "Er, God made rocks too."

How weird is that? I mean, I know a lot of people in the Church have a problem with the way science seems to be attacking them these days, but you'd think their point of view would be that science does not contradict faith. Whereas this woman seemed to think that if anyone was interested in rocks or wood they'd come across insurmountable obstacles to Christianity.

I like that in my family there are a lot of scientists, some of whom are very distinguished, who are also Christians, and that they don't feel their faith is fundamentally threatened by the things they study in the world around them. I am totally uninterested in science in general, but with all the Richard Dawkinses in the world it's nice to know that theirs are not the only qualified points of view to be had.

So why does the Church seem to shoot itself in the foot sometimes by suggesting that science and Christianity cannot go together?

Friday, April 04, 2008

foolishness and wisdom

This afternoon I was studying in the honours room when two of the other students came in, in the middle of a conversation. One of them, who majored in philosophy as well as history in his undergrad degree, was in the middle of saying how remarkably similar Judaism, Christianity and Islam are. I'm not sure if I can remember the flow of the conversation perfectly, but here are some of the other things he said. He thinks if following a religion makes someone feel better about life, well, that's nice and not a bad thing. He likes meeting a devout atheist just as much as a devout Christian so he can "rip their argument open". Then they left the room again.

I didn't jump in. I didn't tell him what I thought of his argument. I kept my head down and pretended to be busy highlighting, because I don't like it when people jump into my conversations. But I wanted to jump up and shout to the world what I thought!

I couldn't study for about half an hour afterwards because I just felt so tense. Here's what I did.

1) Formulated exactly what I would say to him. (Let's call him... Gary.)

a) Re Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Gary, I think most Christians would agree that there are some similarities. Especially given that Christianity was born out of Judaism. However, sharing a moral code and the idea of one God is not really the crucial factor. We believe that some things are right and wrong, yes, and we also believe that many of these things are natural or widely accepted laws that were written into Creation. If other religions recognise these natural laws, well, they're just recording the obvious truth that in general it is better to love than to hate, it is better to forgive than to murder, etc etc. However, the thing that Christianity is based around is not a moral code (although that's an important stepping stone to faith) but a historical event, a person whom we call God in the flesh. And that most crucial element of Christianity happens to be the part that Muslims and Jews just cannot accept. I, for one, did not accept Ethics or Monotheism as my Lord and Saviour. Get it?!

b) Following Christianity is not my little crutch I carry around with me to help me get over Life. Christianity makes life harder. I feel happier most of the time, but I also have to deal with people like you, Gary, psychoanalyzing me or making fun of me or, if I were in a different country, persecuting me or putting me in prison or torturing or killing me for my faith. Christianity gives me a permanent conscience that asks me to abstain from things that are difficult to abstain from, and to do things that are risky, embarrassing, selfless or downright dangerous to do. Doesn't make for an easy life! I will admit that Christianity is about the only thing I can have hope in. In that way, yes, Christianity improves my life. Is that too naive for you, Gary?

c) You say you enjoy meeting a devout Christian (or a devout atheist) so you can rip our arguments open, Gary. Little reminder: Having done three years of Philosophy courses at university doesn't make you omniscient, just arrogant. Just because you have acquired a knack of saying "but what do you mean by truth/fact/believe/insert word here" to everything anyone argues does not mean you have "ripped their argument to shreds". Just because you are quite happy taking the middle ground doesn't mean you haven't got your own position to defend.

2) I paced around for a little while.

3) I got out paper and a pen and wrote down my favourite Bible passage in phonetics. In this case the Bible passage is very very relevant. (And I did it in phonetics because I love writing things in phonetics. No relevance.) This is it:

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:
"I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
The intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate."
Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
1 Corinthians 1:18-24.

4) Made myself a cup of tea, then went home.

5) Played the piano and sung very loudly, then put my Jacques Loussier Trio CD into the stereo and turned it up loud. Blogged [current].

I can't wait till Gary figures out that I'm a Christian.