What If a Woman Wants to Believe in Both Jesus and Science?
This may seem a strange question to many of you, but it is not strange to a young Christian, “on fire for Christ” as we say, who is also on fire to know the what, how, and when about the natural world. As Tim Stafford pointed out recently, such a young person from a conservative church background is at high risk to lose her faith in the pursuit of scientific knowledge. In fact, some bloggers or commentators today simply cannot understand how anyone with a rationale mind (i.e., a scientist) could accept the teachings and divinity of Christ or accept the Bible as a sacred and vital book.
I was once in that quandary – well, sort of, because my path was the other way around. Science came first. I loved science in high school, and graduated with highest honors in chemistry at UC Berkeley. As a chemist, I loved working in the analytical lab of a major oil company, identifying unknown substances, trying to figure out why this engine part failed, and so on. It was mystery, logical thinking, and discovery.
But by mid-life, my personal life was in deep difficulty – unhappy marriage, three little kids, no help, nowhere to turn. Churches were familiar from my young childhood as places of solace, although I never did get the Jesus “thing.” When I finally tried church again in mid-life, people were indeed friendly, and someone watched the kids for an hour for free. Then, at a women’s retreat I was desperate enough to try, total strangers loved so unconditionally, in all my pain. I decided then that I wanted to see what this Jesus thing was really about – this Jesus that the women claimed was the source of their love for me.
That was 24 years ago. I began to read anything I could find on Christ, the Bible, and living as a Christian. I dug into apologetics and the “5,000 answers to tough passages in Scripture” with the same fervor I dug into analytical problems in the lab. I asked the tough questions – I still ask the tough questions -- and, yes, fundamental Christianity caused some cognitive dissonance. I remember asking myself, do I have to give up believing that life evolved in order to have the love of Christ that I so craved?
Through my journeying, I have found that I can indeed believe in the scientific process with its flaws, in the Christian church (writ large) with its flaws, and most wholeheartedly, in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. But I no longer hold “religious fundamentalist” views, in the general sense of the term. My constant seeking of Jesus has taken me to experience many different Christian traditions, and some non-Christian, and my spiritual views have broadened. But I see myself as a good example of how it is very possible to be a Christian and a scientist, without schizophrenia or other dissociative disorders!
There are others of us, too. More than ten years ago, I found the American Scientific Affiliation. It is a great place for people like me. ASA is a fellowship of Christians involved in all areas of science, engineering, and related. We don’t take positions on issues, but try to provide a place for respectful discussion and scholarly investigation of science and Christian faith. ASA members include Nobel Laureates and common lab rats, students and theologians – but all Christians, and all doing or involved with respected science. We even have a new group within ASA called Christian Women in Science (CWIS link), because Christian women have even more issues pursuing a career in science, engineering, and related than do Christian men. ASA has a scholarly journal; as an example, here is an issue devoted to papers on evolution. We also have an e-zine on God and Nature, with many types of interesting essays and insights for the less scholarly reader. Lastly, anyone is welcome to join us at our annual conference, held every summer over a weekend, with inspiring speakers from a variety of science disciplines (coming up: July 25-28, 2014, Hamilton, Ontario link).
Also, another great organization for those who pursue serious science and serious Christian faith is BioLogos. BioLogos differs from ASA in specifically focusing on the issues about evolution, and striving towards a mission “to help the church develop a worldview that embraces both of these complex but complementary ways of understanding the world and our place in it.”
So if you want to believe in both science and Jesus, you’re not alone. Come, join us for fellowship and shop talk!