I get a little annoyed each time a science and faith conversation gets railroaded by the question of origins, climate change, or some other contentious issue. Sure, these are issues that our churches must wrestle with, but by putting all our attention on areas of felt conflict, we might entirely miss the ways science reveals how God works.
Hope and optimism are often lumped together (as we have done here), but they are not precise synonyms. In church, most of our attention is on hope, a central aspect of the Gospel message. For scientists, the attention is reversed as optimism is an easier concept to define and study experimentally. So what are scientists discovering?
When we look at 2020, when we look at this world—a year marked by the exposure of racism in America, political division, and the deadly COVID pandemic—can we have either optimism or hope?
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?