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We recently finished up a sermon series on Faith & Science. It was one of the most well-attended, and highly invitational series in recent memory. Now that it’s over, I thought I’d offer a few reflections that come to mind.

#1: Congregants are more motivated about this topic than you think.

This was an easy topic to choose because we live in the backyard of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, and as such, a large percentage of our congregants and neighbors have occupations that intersect the sciences (e.g., engineers, astronauts, scientists, medical personnel). But don’t let that fool you into thinking that the subject of faith and science is one in which you should pass because your demographic may differ. I discovered that just as many people from non scientifically-oriented backgrounds were also deeply drawn to this series. If philosopher Dr. Charles Taylor and his critically-acclaimed book A Secular Age‘s description of modernity is accurate, we live in time where atheistic materialism has come to full flower. It is the explanation for everything. Science is king and Christianity, by contrast, is harangued as a pale imitation for understanding our world. These are the waters in which all of your congregants swim. It’s the fight they deal with as they disciple their children who are indoctrinated into the secular age. It’s for reasons like these that your people thirst to know how the Christian faith actually engages science instead of tucks tail and runs.

#2: It’s a perfect opportunity to deconstruct the stereotypes the unchurched have about Christianity in general and the church in specific.

Throughout our series, I had the opportunity of conversing with scores of folk who identified as unbelievers. Most were from scientific backgrounds. For example, I spoke with an MIT-trained scientist who was not only impressed that a Christian church broached the topic of science and its relationship to faith but that, by and large, demonstrated how Christianity isn’t monolithic on secondary and tertiary issue (e.g., the interpretive stance of Genesis 1-2). Many skeptics, especially the scientifically-minded I’ve spoken with, tend to paint all churches as anti-intellectual, anti-critical thinking, anti-science communities that is generally evidenced in Christian fundamentalism. A series on faith and science however presents them with a different narrative that forces them to re-think their presupposed categories and biases. Indeed, it pushes them to employ their critical skills to re-evaluate not only the church but Jesus Christ himself. And that deconstruction can reboot the spiritual journeys of more people than you might think.

#3: You may save the faith of some.

I anticipated a lot of different responses to this series, but I was surprised to see how many tears came from it. They weren’t tears of anger but gratitude. One gentlemen found me in the lobby between services and soberly remarked, “You have no idea how this series has helped me.” I said thanks but he grabbed my arm and with tears forming in his eyes continued, “No. You don’t understand. I grew up in a church that told me science was evil and to ask questions was wrong and a lack of faith. Consequently, my whole life I’ve thought I’ve betrayed God because I wanted to know more about how the universe works. I thought I had to pick Jesus or science. And hearing from you that we, as Christians, don’t have to think in such binary terms has been oxygen to my soul. I’m sure this series has helped many people to work out their faith, but for me, it’s saved mine.” How many folk in your congregation have been given the same soul-crushing burden of thinking they must choose between their Savior and science? Rescue them!

#4: Pastors can help their people build better bridges between faith and science than the one they’ve likely been given.

Christians have been given too little discipleship that intersects with science, if anything at all. For many, their church’s unfortunate strategy concerning science was “don’t ask, don’t tell.” And those churches who did try to equip their people often did so using tired and outdated argumentation that tends to be peppered with ad hominems, red herrings, and straw men which won’t last three seconds into a college biology class. Don’t use that ineffective playbook! You might fool the majority of congregants who just accept those old arguments prima facie, but those with even the slightest level of advanced scientific education won’t. Far from winning the scientifically-minded, you’ll only confirm their bias that Christian pastors, like their flock, still have their collective heads in the sand when it comes to how the world really is. However, a series on faith and science can point out the shortcomings of a fortress mentality that retreats from scientific dialogue and reorients followers of Jesus on how a person of faith fairly and intelligently engages science. It can help them answer questions they were too afraid to ask in the past and free them up to pursue relationships with both the sciences and those who work in them. Simply put, it’s a series that helps them become better missionaries because it builds better bridges to cross.

#5: If not you, who?

The most popular question pastors have asked me concerning this series deals with how much more preparation did I have than a “regular” sermon series? While I’m sure my study might have taken a few more hours than potentially a different topic, don’t let that stop you. My question to you pastor is, if you don’t shepherd your congregation in the intersection of science and faith, who will? That’s your job. Don’t let secularists and materialists be the only voice they hear! In fact, I’d bet your congregation can deal with one less sermon series on marriage, family, or parenting this year (which, I’m sure, they’ve heard more than once) and have it replaced by a series on faith and science they’ve likely never heard before. Will it be challenging? Sure. But if part of the difficulty of that challenge is because you don’t know how to think about faith and science for yourself, then you know where you need to grow as a teacher and congregational leader. Whether you like it or not, your calling as a pastor is to be a Christian thinker as well as a Christian communicator. You aren’t called to think for your congregants (that’s their responsibility). You are called to equip them in their thinking. And it’s hard to train your people to “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5) if you aren’t working hard to get your own head around how to biblically engage the world, and that most definitely includes science which is the religion of the secular age. So if a series on faith and science for your congregants demands you first need to figure out what faith and science means for you, then get to it. If you don’t do it for your people, just know the world has been doing it for you.

This is a modest list of resources for further study into issues of faith and science. This is by no means exhaustive but hopefully a fair representation of the different interpretive views within orthodox Christianity. As previously stated in our ‘Faith & Science’ series, CCCC doesn’t hold to a specific interpretive position. With that said, the listing of resources here is not an endorsement (indeed, these works disagree with each other). On the contrary, we encourage you do the work both personally and in community in order to discover which of these resources makes best sense of the two books of God: his Word and his World. It should also be noted that descriptions were taken from other sources such as the publishers.

Faith & Science in General

The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief by Francis Collins is for believers, agnostics, and atheists alike. The Language of God provides a testament to the power of faith in the midst of suffering without faltering from its logical stride. Readers will be inspired by Collin’s personal story of struggling with doubt and faith and as well as his experiences as a genetics researcher with discussions of science and spirituality, especially centering around evolution.

Quarks, Chaos & Christianity: Questions to Science and Religion by Sir John Polkinghorne draws on discoveries made in atomic physics to make credible the claims of Christianity, and helps refine Christian perceptions through the knowledge that the new science brings. He discusses belief in God, chaos, evolution, miracles, and prayer, and gives an answer to the question: Can a scientist believe?

Science and Religion: A New Introduction by Alister McGrath. This popular textbook introduces readers to the central questions in the field of science and religion. Ideally suited to those who have little or no prior knowledge in either area, it examines the historical, theological, philosophical and scientific aspects of the interaction between religion and science. Takes a topic-based approach which fits into the existing structure of most courses, and includes explanatory material not found in other works of this kind, making it highly accessible for those with little scientific or religious background knowledge.

Interpretive Views of Creation

Literal View (Young Earth Creationism)

Gap View

Day/Age View

Literary Framework / Ancient Near East View

CCCC’s “Understanding Creation” Presentations

Other Faith and Science Resources

Conversations Between Different Viewpoints

Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design by Ken Ham, Hugh Ross, Deborah B. Haarsma, and Stephen Meyer. Presents the current “state of the conversation” about origins among evangelicals representing four key positions: 1) Young Earth Creationism – Ken Ham (Answers in Genesis), 2) Old Earth (Progressive) Creationism – Hugh Ross (Reasons to Believe), 3) Evolutionary Creation – Deborah B. Haarsma (BioLogos), 4) Intelligent Design – Stephen C. Meyer (The Discovery Institute). The contributors offer their best defense of their position addressing questions such as: What is your position on origins – understood broadly to include the physical universe, life, and human beings in particular? What do you take to be the most persuasive arguments in defense of your position? How do you demarcate and correlate evidence about origins from current science and from divine revelation? What hinges on answering these questions correctly?

Old Earth or Evolutionary Creation?: Discussing Origins with Reasons to Believe and BioLogos by Kenneth Keathley (Editor). Christians confess that God created the heavens and the earth, but they are divided over how God created and whether the Bible gives us a scientifically accurate account of the process of creation. Representatives of two prominent positions – old earth creation (Reasons to Believe) and evolutionary creation (BioLogos) – have been in dialogue over the past decade to understand where they agree and disagree on key issues in science and theology. This book is the result of those meetings that touches on many of the pressing debates in science and faith, including biblical authority, the historicity of Adam and Eve, human genetics and common descent, the problem of natural evil, and methodological naturalism. Old Earth or Evolutionary Creation? invites readers to listen in as Christian scholars weigh the evidence, explore the options, and challenge each other on the questions of creation and evolution. In a culture of increasing polarization, this is a model for charitable Christian dialogue.

Intelligent Design

Discovery Institute website

Darwin’s Black Box by Michael J. Behe helped to launch the intelligent design movement: the argument that nature exhibits evidence of design, beyond Darwinian randomness. It sparked a national debate on evolution, which continues to intensify across the country. From one end of the spectrum to the other, Darwin’s Black Box has established itself as the key intelligent design text — the one argument that must be addressed in order to determine whether Darwinian evolution is sufficient to explain life as we know it.

The Signature in the Cell by Dr. Stephen C. Meyer. Meyer presents a convincing new case for intelligent design (ID), based on revolutionary discoveries in science and DNA. Along the way, Meyer argues that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution as expounded in The Origin of Species did not, in fact, refute ID.


Evolutionary Creation

Biologos website

How I Changed My Mind About Evolution: Evangelicals Reflect on Faith and Science by Applegate and Stump (Editors). Many evangelicals have come to accept the conclusions of science while still holding to a vigorous belief in God and the Bible. How did they make this journey? Here are the stories of 25 people who have come to embrace evolution and faith, including Francis Collins, Scot McKnight, John Ortberg, James K.A. Smith, Jennifer Wiseman, and N.T. Wright.

Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture After Genetic Science by Dennis Venema and Scott McKnight. Genomic science indicates that humans descend not from an individual pair but from a large population. What does this mean for the basic claim of many Christians: that humans descend from Adam and Eve? Leading evangelical geneticist Dennis Venema and popular New Testament scholar Scot McKnight combine their expertise to offer informed guidance and answers to questions pertaining to evolution, genomic science, and the historical Adam. The authors address up-to-date genomics data with expert commentary from both genetic and theological perspectives, showing that genome research and Scripture are not irreconcilable. It should be noted that some readers found Venema’s first half of the book sounder than McKnight’s conclusions in the second half.

Don’t judge others, Jesus didn’t judge others.

It’s an easy statement to make – ubiquitous on social media.  Folk use it to defend politicians, athletes, celebrities, or anyone else’s behavior that the New Testament clearly defines as sin.

The advantage being leveraged is the ignorance of Christians who don’t know what the Bible says about judging (and the different uses of the word) combined with the corrosive power of a shame culture that loves to embarrass, cajole, and marginalize people who don’t toe the latest societal line. That’s why its common when professed Christians essentially make statements like “God loves everyone as everyone, so everyone can do what everyone wants to do” to be met either with virtual silence from Christians who know better or supported with cheers by others who don’t.

To actually look at the context of Jesus’ warning in Matt. 7:1-2 to “judge not, that you be not judged,” is to realize that Christ isn’t prohibiting the identification of something as sinful but the hypocrisy of legalistic religion that thrills in doing so before first sincerely examining potentially greater sin struggles in one’s own life (e.g., the speck/log contrast). This seems to be the definition of judging Jesus is using in this oft-quoted, oft-misapplied passage. The point Christ makes is that singling out the lesser sin struggles of others while hypocritically holding onto greater transgressions is the kind of religious hypocrisy that is the opposite of the kingdom of God. Ahem, please note that Jesus even “judges” his listeners in this very passage by calling them hypocrites (v. 5)! Therefore, we have an admonition for Christians to keep growing in the gospel so they would be quicker to examine their own hearts for sin struggles and slower to criticize other believers for theirs.

However, slower isn’t the same as not at all.

The idea it’s automatically unloving or un-Christian to properly call someone’s sinful behavior as sin is far afield from what Jesus said or did. Furthermore, it’s far afield from what his apostles did and said in the rest of the New Testament.

For example, in 1 Cor. 5, the Apostle Paul writes in the local church at Corinth, “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.”1

If this were written in 2019 some might be shouting Paul down on Facebook as unloving or give him a Twitter “clap back” shaming him for “judging” others (ironically, both judgments in themselves) because God accepts everyone as they are, or that love is love, or some other bumper sticker platitude that gets you likes and attaboys on the social network echo chamber.

But the apostle not only says what this self-professed Christian is doing is sinful but also that the community of faith should respond to this situation. Interestingly, Paul adds that the Corinthian church isn’t to include non-Christians in this kind of accountability. Dealing with the sins of someone in this communal way applies only to those who consider themselves to be a part of the community of Jesus (v. 11, “anyone who bears the name of brother”). Paul then sums up the principle in vv. 12-13, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?”

It’s illuminating that the apostle’s expectation for the world and the church are completely different. He knows unbelievers aren’t compelled to follow kingdom ethics (e.g., sexuality, stewardship) nor should Christians expect them to follow Jesus as King or see God’s Word as authoritative and binding on their lives. Thus, the community of faith has no accountability with “outsiders” in those matters.

However, the tune changes when it comes to those within the community of faith.2 While the gospel should shape our addressing any sin with grace, humility, and a keen awareness of our own shortcomings, make no mistake, it also creates a community where sin can be not only identified but also, if need be, confronted. That’s why the expected answer of the question, “Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” is “Yes” provided the kind of judging is the kind Paul has outlined and not weighing into someone’s eternity as if we were God the Judge.

Neither Jesus nor the rest of the New Testament knows anything of the idea that calling something sinful the Scripture considers the same is somehow the sin of “judging others.”3 It’s merely just agreeing with what God’s Word says. Just make sure if you are agreeing with what God’s Word says about any kind of sin, you also do it with the understanding that the only reason you are a follower of Jesus is because God in his grace redeemed you from the same sinful situation as everyone else. And that were it not for the Cross and the wondrous love of God in Christ, we would all be far from him.

This should also help us see that followers of Jesus fall into a spiritually dangerous situation when they erroneously play the “don’t judge others” card in refusing to acknowledge sinful behavior in other professed Christians. This sets them up at some kind of quasi-authority who knows better than the New Testament ethic (and likely Christian orthodoxy throughout the last two millennia) and leads some scrambling to Google any and all other articles or videos of professing believers that would agree with them. But this kind of strategy only parallels, in a sobering way I might add, Paul’s words to the Romans, “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (1:32). Talk about judgment!

It’s more likely that people who play the “Don’t judge” card do so because they’ve confused acceptance with endorsement. They want to rightfully love/support their person in question and think that in order to do so they must wrongfully endorse everything that person does without hesitation. But acceptance is different from endorsement. Contrary to the cultural forces that say differently, you can accept someone for who they are without endorsing everything they do.

To not endorse certain behavior in believers (because it’s sinful) isn’t unloving or unkind. In fact, it’s the most honest kind of love. It’s the kind of love Jesus gave to the woman caught in the act of adultery. Once again, Jesus pushes back on the hypocrisy of the religious leadership when he says to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”4 But, after they leave, Christ turns to the woman and says, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”5 Jesus’ love is one that takes her where she is but doesn’t leave her where she is. This woman, after meeting Jesus, is to seek obedience from this time forward. So while Christ’s love fully accepts, it doesn’t fully endorse. He doesn’t say, “I love you for who you are so do whatever you choose,” but the opposite, “I am for you. You know what is right and wrong. Seek to obey.” Jesus loves this woman best because he is honest with her about who she is and what she had done. This is grace and truth, not grace or truth. Together they’re helpful, but offering one without the other is damaging and dangerous.6

Unfortunately employing the “Don’t judge” trump card retards our real growth in the gospel because it keeps us from being honest about sin and sinners. It’s grace over truth, not grace with truth. As much as arrogantly, pridefully condemning others reveals a lack of knowledge about the truth of the gospel so does endorsing sinful behavior in other believers while telling everyone else how wrong they are for calling sin a sin.

May Jesus tutor us all as his followers into what loving other believers (and unbelievers) looks like for our good, their good, and his glory!