“Did you hear that Bill has cancer?”
“No, I did not. That is so sad.”
“Well, the doctors think he will have a good outcome because he is going to start a new cancer medicine called Brutax that has appeared to be very promising in clinical trials. The doctors mentioned that the evidence in the trials indicated the medicine might even be a cure. “
In science, we often hear the phrase “evidence based.” For example: “The antibiotic works because it is based on past FDA trials and evidence.” Even more noteworthy is the frequency with which we equate words like “evidence” with the topic of science. They often become nearly synonymous.
Now, consider the way the word “faith” is often used synonymously with religion.
What is fascinating is that all science begins at some point with trust and incorporates faith. It isn’t uncommon to hear phrases such as, “I trust this experiment will work,” or “I have faith this trial will show the effectiveness of this medicine for that condition.” It is only when the trial proves positive that there is then evidence to support the study.
In today’s cultural climate, students often perceive of evidence and faith as mutually exclusive matters. They perceive that evidence belongs in science while Christianity involves “blind faith.”
However, is unbelief really the evidenced-based stance? Can’t we also use the words evidence and reason to build our faith? Wouldn’t a deeper base of knowledge about the existence of God and the veracity of Christianity form a stronger spiritual foundation in students? The more solid, spiritual foundation students are able to establish, the better they will be able to weather life’s curve balls.
A Mind Is A Horrible Thing to Waste
We should remind students that scripture calls us to love God, “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:34-37).
In Gunning for God, Oxford scientist and theologian, John Lennox, says,
“The confusion arises from an idiosyncratic, implicit, re-definition of “faith” as a peculiarly religious term (which it isn’t) and that it only means a special kind of believing, that is, believing without evidence (which it doesn’t)” (p. 39).
Lennox goes on to say,
“Christianity may be open to criticism on many grounds, but it is certainly not vulnerable to the charge that, in contrast to scientific or empirical thought, it rests on “mere faith” (p. 113).
As Paul insists in one of his earlier letters, “…test everything: hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Paul is saying that it is acceptable to be critical of our beliefs, subjecting them to interrogation. We are encouraged to use our minds in our pursuit of God.
Let’s follow the advice of Socrates in our ministries with our students and …”follow the evidence wherever it may lead.” We will find that both scientific and scriptural evidence can be avenues for young minds to find God and to grow in their faith in Christ.
Science Is A Friend, Not An Enemy
When pursuing an evidence-based faith, apologetics in youth ministry too often neglect science as an ally. In reality, we can both find science in scripture and see ways that scripture supports science. This may seem contradictory to many since they pit religion against science in the same way they have faith against reason.
Historically, science and religion have not always been viewed as adversaries. St. Augustine discussed the doctrine of the Two Books— the Book of Scripture and the Book of Nature. He wrote, “Let the Bible be a book for you so that you may hear it. Let the sphere of the world be also a book for you so that you may see it.”
The idea here is that God reveals himself to mankind in two qualitatively different ways by inspiring the sacred writer and by creating the world. Theologically, we understand this as special revelation and general revelation. We can encourage students to look at both to learn about God.
While some may be nervous to encourage students to engage science, let’s cut against the grain and get out of the box. Let’s encourage students to think about their faith from an evidence-based, scientific approach – not one just based on blind faith. If they are willing to dig deep and follow the evidence with the intent of seeking God, they may be surprised to find just how much their faith may grow.