A weekly dose of science for the church
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It’s hard to wrap our minds around the idea of baby Jesus – fully God and yet with all the limitations inherent to human infancy. Fuller Seminary professor Justin Barrett guest writes our newsletter today, drawing on knowledge from psychology, cognitive science, and evolution to point to the beauty of this dependence and vulnerability.
In our 2019 Advent series, we will feature scientists reflecting on the question “What does it mean to say that Jesus was fully human?” We introduce the topic this week.
Gratitude is probably the most scientifically studied virtue. We could do a Thanksgiving edition every year and focus entirely on new research each time. We know the benefits of being grateful, and we know steps each of us can take to become more grateful. We even know how gratitude correlates with, and often cultivates, other virtues like optimism, humility, and forgiveness.
How might science work alongside Scripture as a tool for discipleship? Or how can it illustrate sermons, support the biblical teachings, and supplement the wisdom of the church? Can it be a catalyst for worship? May it even draw folks into our ministries, perhaps attracting the “nones” and “dones” to come back?
Let’s take a look at some of the scientific work on hope and optimism. Very little of it takes a theological perspective, but as you teach and preach true Christian hope, the science can surely be a good conversation partner.
Can we find any use for suffering? What does suffering do for us as followers of Christ and for our compassion for others?
Is there any way to respond to the fact that everything’s not right with the world? Let me suggest this as a different image for a theodicy: God and the world play together in a cosmic jazz improvisation.
We have gotten so used to mechanical images of God as architect or engineer that we sometimes forget that this is not the primary imagery Scripture uses. God is the shepherd and the parent. Even God as King does not imply total control, but leadership. When God created the world, risk was involved in the same way as when parents choose to have a child. You are making another person, and they will make their own choices.
The problem of evil and suffering faces us in many forms. Truth be told, it is probably the single best argument against belief in a good God. Especially in those cases where evil and suffering are rooted in nature and cannot be excused by human sin. As we begin a series on natural evil and theodicy, we focus this week on some of those faith-rattling natural occurrences.
How do we reconcile a good God with the gruesome competition we see all around in the natural world? We will attend to this question over the next few weeks. But today, before we take on natural evil and theodicy, an important reminder: We are created not only to compete and survive and pass on our genes. Biologists also tell us we are created to cooperate.
I wish we could time travel about 300 years in the past and meet the brilliant 17th century Christian thought leader Jonathan Edwards. There’s any number of things we can learn from him, but one stands out—how beauty brings together science and faith … because it leads us to wonder and to worship.
Neitherwould assent to a belief that denied what they found via science to be true about the world. Faith became plausible only when they were given the intellectual tools to see science as a means of studying God’s creation, and when they discovered faith did not require them to give up any science.