Academic journal article Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith

The Ways of Jesus and Science at an IVGCF Meeting

Academic journal article Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith

The Ways of Jesus and Science at an IVGCF Meeting

Article excerpt

Setting

As part of an InterVarsity Graduate Christian Fellowship (IVGCF) student chapter's "Jesus and ..." series at Virginia Tech, I was asked to talk about Jesus and science, including my own experience as both a follower of science and a follower of Jesus. The small auditorium felt full with over seventy-five academically minded adults, ranging in age from 18 to 70. As both a scientist and a Jesus follower for over twenty years, I told them that my experience subverts the common expectation that increased knowledge terminates inquiry and ends argument. It was my contention that we are called, as heralds of both nature and beyond nature, to dwell in those tensions with the hope of congruence.

Introduction and Confession

In a world of continuing antagonism, where "versus," "conflict," and even "war" are common descriptors for attempts to simulaneously consider ideas about the transcendent and nature, I am thankful for those who strive to observe and to create resonance between these voices without compromising their distinctives. My goal here is to examine the methodological and pedagogical approach of Jesus as documented in the New Testament, in the light of the usual manner of methodology and pedagogy within the sciences. (1) I will refer to these methodological and pedagogical patterns of habit as the "way of Jesus" and the "way of science." Since both communities claim that their way leads to a truthful understanding of the world, it seems that Jesus followers possibly have something to learn from scientists, and scientists could also possibly learn from Jesus followers. Both the way of science and the way of Jesus deserve respect for their historical tradition and their appeal to a broad spectrum of the population. As someone who finds a significant degree of satisfaction with both ways, I seek to present each of them with integrity.

An Unhealthy Response to Tension: Reductionism

Within the context of communicating truth and meaning, the ways of Jesus and science are susceptible to reductionism as a means to alleviate tension. For both the transcendent and material perspectives, generalization is necessary for the purpose of classification. However, the extrapolation found in reductionism moves beyond the search for commonality and attempts to strip the world of its diversity and idiosyncrasy. With reductionism, as commonalities between varied experiences are discovered and highlighted, differences are suppressed. The unique, the atypical, and the exceptional are made to hide as though they do not exist at all. Reductionism is a primary tenet of fundamentalism, for both those who follow the way of science and those who follow the way of Jesus.

Aspiration

Through examining facets of the way of science and the way of Jesus, my intention is to uncover situations in which reductionism seems to have had the final word in our current context. Can the perspective of Jesus call attention to, and offer correction for, the reductionism present within the realm of science? Furthermore, can the perspective of science call attention to, and offer correction for, the reductionism present among followers of Jesus? As a result of unaddressed reductionism, is it possible that the ways of science and Jesus have become less than what (or who) they were originally intended? By examining statements within one realm, I seek to remind us of the fuller character of the other realm. By presenting tenets familiar to adherents of each particular way, I intend to show how the perspectives might inform the other.

What can we learn from the way of Jesus about reductionism present in the way of science?

1. Truth is aided through a priori commitment to a particular viewpoint.

We often hear that science provides a perspective that is objective and free of commitment. A corollary to this "view from nowhere" is that we as learners can enter the academic world without any commitments as to how our knowledge might come to us. …

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