Madeleine L’Engle: Is There Conflict Between Science and Faith?

In her nonfiction book Walking on Water, novelist Madeleine L’Engle recalls an exchange she had following a talk she gave at a college campus:

“During the question-and-answer period after a talk, a college student rose in the audience and commented with some surprise, ‘You don’t seem to feel any conflict between science and religion.’

“I tried to explain. Of course not. Why should there be a conflict? All that the new discoveries of science can do is to enlarge our knowledge of the magnitude and glory of God’s creation. We may, and often do, abuse our discoveries, use them for selfish and greedy purposes, but it is the abuse which causes the conflict, not the discoveries themselves. When they upset the religious establishment it is not because they have done anything to diminish God; they only diminish, or—even more frightening—change, the current establishment’s definition of God. We human beings tend to reject change, but a careful reading of Scripture reveals the slow and unwilling acceptance of change in the ancient Hebrews’ understanding of the Master of the Universe, and the Incarnation demanded more change than the establishment could bear. But our fear and our rejection does not take away from truth, and truth is what the Bible instructs us to know in order that we may be free.

“Neither our knowledge of God and his purposes for his creation, nor the discoveries of science are static. I must admit that the scientists are often easier for me to understand than the theologians, for many theologians say, ‘These are the final answers.’ Whereas the scientists—correction: the best of them—say, ‘This is how it appears now. If further evidence is to the contrary, we will see where it leads us.’

“And of course I’m being unfair to the theologians. The best of them, too, are open to this uncertainty, which is closer to the truth which will set us free than any closed system.”

MADELEINE L’ENGLE, Walking on Water (Grand Rapids: WaterBrook, 2001) 190-191.

Advertisements

Attacking Reason is Bad Theology

Chesterton in 1905

My friend, crime novelist James Scott Bell, author of Try Dying and Try Fear, brought to my attention a passage from a G. K. Chesterton story, “The Blue Cross,” featuring Chesterton’s famed priest-sleuth Father Brown. In the story, Father Brown has identified the culprit as a fake priest named Flambeau.

When Flambeau demands to know how Father Brown outsmarted him, Father Brown replies: “Oh, by being a celibate simpleton, I suppose. . . . Has it never struck you that a man who does next to nothing but hear men’s real sins is not likely to be wholly unaware of human evil? But, as a matter of fact, another part of my trade, too, made me sure you weren’t a priest.”“What?” the dumbfounded thief asks.

“You attacked reason,” Father Brown repies. “It’s bad theology.”

It’s true. We find truth—whether scientific truth or theological truth—through reason and evidence. Those who attack reason, or argue unreasonably, have stopped seeking the truth.