As I was coming up in the hard-baked fundamentalism of Appalachia, my religious instructors began to feverishly warn me of the dangers I would face in the world. It consisted of the obligatory advisement against sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll, of course, but nothing got their religious knickers in a knot like the evolutionists.
“Those science teachers don’t believe in God,” they would squawk. “They will tell you that we came from the apes,” they would cry. “They will try to convince you that the world is billions of years old, not God’s week-long creation six thousand years ago just like the Holy Bible says,” they would caution. As one of my elders once said, “Keep yourself clean of that monkey-lover, Charles Darwin!”
So, what did I find in the classrooms of my high school and my local community college? Wonder and awe. No, few of my instructors were “Creationists.” They were scientists, philosophers, and artists, but each of these had nothing but astonishment when faced with the mysterious beyond. These weren’t competing disciplines, I learned, but complimentary ones.
Listen closely when a scientist speaks of the origins of the Universe. He or she uses language not unlike the mystical preamble to the Gospel of John, enigmatic words of light, life, and fusion; or words echoing the Apostle Paul in Colossians 1, where he speaks of Christ, “holding all of creation together.” Even with recent discoveries involving the Higgs-Boson, the cosmic glue that holds atoms in place, science defaults to calling it the “God Particle,” for lack of a better description.
Philosophers grapple with “reality,” its meaning and manifestation, speaking of what is larger and greater than can be seen. Artists attempt to capture or interpret the mind-welding beauty of the world. Poets and writers strive to communicate with words the deep essence of life, an essence that eludes easy explanation. All the while theologians speak of God.
Each of these are efforts to describe the “Wondrous More” to quote William James (something I find myself doing more and more of these days). Each discipline – from science to theology and everything in between – has its own native tongue, its own vocabulary, something George Lemaitre called, “parallel interpretations of the world.” God. Reality. Universe. What if we are all reaching for the same thing?
Lemaitre should know. He was the Father of the “Big Bang Theory,” and he was a Father – as in a priest. The rare combination of scientist and theologian, he insisted that there be no conflict between faith and science. Each one was telling a story – the same story – but using different languages.
So, my counsel to young people of faith is different from the counsel I received: Don’t fight science, art, and philosophy. Don’t be afraid of having your presuppositions challenged. Instead, listen and learn. Soak up the wisdom and splendor that is offered. Synthesize and integrate all you can; for the Truth is Truth, no matter where you find it.