The Antiscience Church

I’ll be fairly quick on this chapter of You Lost Me by David Kinnaman for a couple of reasons. First, the dynamics here in Canada and most of the rest of the world is different than in the United States where the research was carried out because of certain literalist tendencies that are more prominent there. Back in high school, I was in a Statistics course and we all had to do an independent study on a topic of our choice. I remember a classmate tried to correlate faith with career paths of other Grade 12 students. In her final presentation, she expressed that she was surprised to find no difference between the religious and non-religious students, having expected the religious students to be slanted towards the arts and the non-religious towards the sciences. To me this demonstrates something interesting: there is still somewhat of a perception that Christianity and science are supposed to be enemies, but the majority of people within the church – at least within Haliburton, Ontario churches as interpreted by 18-year-olds – seemed to have missed that memo and had no problem reconciling the two.

Big Bang: God’s Design or Naturalistic Explanation?

Secondly, I’m going to be quick here because in general I think the conflict is over-exaggerated. I’ve talked about it before, such as in my Searching Issues post on science and faith. I do think there’s a big difference between scientism and faith, something that Kinnaman also touches on. Scientism is a worldview which claims that if it can’t be tested through material means it cannot be true. It automatically assumes a naturalistic framework. But that’s different than science which does not of necessity need to make such philosophical assumptions.

In his usual fashion for this book, Kinnaman focuses on the effects that this perception has on the church. Many statistics and stories are given to help people understand both the scope and the personal impact of the perception that the church is anti-Science. Here was my favourite stat, though, which got past perception and into obvious reality: 52% of youth group teens aspire to science-related careers but only 1% of youth pastors/youth workers have addressed issues of science in the past year. On top of that, I wonder if that 1% includes those who “address the issue” by simply saying that science is wrong on things like evolution which is even more harmful than not addressing it at all.

That’s the big take-away for me: talk about science in your ministry, especially youth ministry. Many churches don’t talk about it at all which at least doesn’t continue to aggravate the supposed division. However, the stereotype already exists, so when we don’t talk about it we come across as just being afraid to engage in the fight that others think we are supposed to be fighting. In the same way that we need to deal with sex and violence at a deeper level than just listing off the rules and doctrines, we need to actively talk about engaging science faithfully and peacefully. Encourage our youth to pursue science if that’s where their gifts take them. Talk in your sermons about scientific issues. We need to show people that the myth of science and faith being incompatible is in fact a myth.

Ryan Robinson

It is easiest to identify Ryan as both theologian and tech guy. By day, Ryan is a Technical Consultant work with PeaceWorks Technology Solutions. There, he works on websites, CRMs, and SharePoint implementations. Along with blogging here, Ryan is a founding member of the MennoNerds blogging network and a contributor to the book A Living Alternative.