I’ve been musing about some of the interesting debates I’ve had online with my buddies at ChristSF (a yahoogroup for Christians who like sci-fi and fantasy). We’ve talked a lot about science and religion, of course; we’re a wide mix of different backgrounds, ages, educations, and denominations. One of the things that’s come out of these discussions is that I’ve had to think about where I stand on some issues. Nothing prods you to really take a good look at your beliefs like having friends who do NOT all believe the same thing you do. Bad grammar, but you get the drift. So … there are areas of reality where the Bible and the world’s current scientific knowledge seem to diverge (things like the age of the earth, for instance, and names that do not crop up in history where they should). And while these things don’t impinge at all on my responsibility to live a God-honouring life, they can be fascinating to explore.
Jesus said, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
This is not a statement made by an insecure person.
Nothing about Jesus ever gives us the impression that He felt Himself to be a frightened child in a schoolyard, surrounded by the bullyboys of more popular philosophies. No. He saw Himself as the principal. Their threats probably made Him want to laugh on the one hand, and get out the strap on the other.
This is why I get frustrated at what I call “defensive” Christianity. As soon as something arises in popular culture that looks to be throwing stones at what we believe, we go into a flurry of condemnatory rhetoric. I believe this is largely unnecessary. If the truth is really the truth, shouldn’t it stand on its own two feet? Why would it need our help or validation to be seen as “real”? Do we really achieve anything through vitriol?
I’m not saying we shouldn’t stand up for what we believe in, or educate people in the truth. But the image I’m trying to portray here is one of an actual scared kid, taking up a big stick to defend said principal. Is the principal that helpless? Is he less of a principal because a bunch of punk kids repeatedly tell each other so? Does he not stand in an authority that comes from a higher government, one of which most kids are unaware? Does the principal become more of a principal if the wild-eyed stick-wielder takes a few swings?
So. Getting back to science and the Bible diverging … what we mostly hammered out in our talks at ChristSF was that our knowledge of both the natural world and the history of same are incomplete, and therefore frothing at the mouth at each other was pointless. The Bible contains all we need for life and godliness; it doesn’t propose to be a detailed treatise or textbook on the entire history of every earthly culture, complete with gapless timeline. Rather, it’s a “need to know” document for a specific purpose. Likewise, we look at surviving “secular” records of ancient times and wonder what was in the records that _didn’t_ survive. We look at science, constantly having to update and correct itself as new information comes to light. Everything we know is patchy. Therefore, it’s entirely likely that while the points of convergence are unknown, they do in fact exist. I believe that there will come a day when those points will be revealed. Perhaps it will happen one point at a time. But if the Bible is truth, and has no agenda save to glorify and reveal God to us, that carries more weight with me than the facts of history, written down by persons of agenda unknown.
Jude says, “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.”
The word “contend” here means “to struggle for” – no surprises there. But notice the context. He is not talking about taking a swing at other religions or at science. He is talking about heresy _within the church_; he is arguing for purity of doctrine, for going back to basics, much as Paul did with the Galatians: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!” It is a civil war, not a world war; and it is made necessary by infiltrators, not by the outside world at large.
The outside world needs the impact of the growing kingdom of God. I just don’t believe that we’ll achieve that by getting het up every time someone comes out with a poorly-researched movie, or a mystical novel, or a new archaeological dig. We aren’t threatened by those; we don’t have to dignify them with an answer, and in the case of science we have only to shrug until the rest of the jigsaw pieces turn up. And where they threaten others – the gullible, and those whose heart-eyes have not been enlightened – we do better to pray for them for wisdom, and to calmly explain the rubbish away rather than to splutter imprecations.
Perhaps I’m being naive – it wouldn’t be the first time – and there’s more to a number of those issues. It’s just that I want to see the kingdom expand forth proactively, rather than reactively from the back foot all the time. I think we have better and more constructive things to do in this world than to argue with nonsense or from ignorance. Like Jesus, I want to be secure in who I am, what I have to say and what my task is – and do it.