Over 1,300 individuals from around the world gathered Friday and Saturday, March 25-26, 2022—virtually and in-person—to celebrate the power faith and science bring to answer the most challenging contemporary struggles. Hosted by the BioLogos Foundation, Faith and Science 2022 gathered leading scientists, theologians, scholars, pastors, and people of faith from around the globe, all who love Jesus and trust science and want to find a way forward for our communities of faith.
The way forward is in unity and love.
For anyone who has wrestled with the tension felt between faith and science in politics and in church communities, attending the Faith and Science conference is like coming home to a family you never knew existed. Yes, the speakers said again and again, you can love science, God, the Bible, Jesus, the scientific method, technological advances in medicine, and more, all at once, and here’s how.
“I Don’t Know”: The Humility of Uncertainty
Much like Dr. Deborah Haarsma, President of BioLogos, one of the most important answers to my deepest questions came to me in young adulthood. When I asked my mom whether she believed in God, she told me exactly where she was at that time. She answered, “I don’t know.” This answer opened up a world of possibility for me to explore. It sent me on a years-long search for the Truth-with-a-Capital-T in various world religions. It gave me permission to keep asking questions, to probe the universe and human thought for its most compelling answers, to enter into the lifelong quest for calling, identity, and meaning.
Dr. Haarsma’s question wasn’t a question of belief in God; having grown up in a strong evangelical Christian home, hers was a question of disharmony between natural selection and the 7-day Creation story. What was she to make of it? She asked her dad, and his response was the same as my mom’s: I don’t know.
“This taught me that you can be a mature Christian believer and not know all the answers to everything,” Haarsma shared during the opening session, Faith and Science in Polarized Times. Regarding her upbringing, Haarsma said, “I didn’t have a major faith crisis because I had a family that said ‘I don’t know,’ I believed in the authority of Scripture, and I had trusted voices in science I could lean into.”
A Church On Its Way to a Crisis of Faith
This hasn’t been true for others in the faith community. At the beginning of Dr. Alister McGrath’s presentation, Curiosity, Wonder, Science, Faith and Human Authenticity, McGrath said, “Because I loved science, it seemed to me I had to reject religious faith.”
Young believers with similar questions about science and religion have watched the war between the two with little direction on how to move forward in their faith. Some scientists, like Richard Dawkins, flat out reject religion. On the other hand, some Christians, like Ken Ham, reject the validity of science. Caught between the two, more than a quarter of Millennials who had left the church between 2007-2011 said they left because “churches are out of step with the scientific world we live in.” Nearly half of a 2018 survey of GenZers who still attend church agreed that “the church seems to reject much of what science tells us about the world.”
These young believers may be headed straight for the faith crisis that Dr. Haarsma managed to avoid.
Moving Beyond the Faith & Science Crisis
Dr. McGrath suggested that people need to get comfortable living with uncertainty. “Proof, in the proper sense of the term, is limited to logic and mathematics,” he said. “For Christians, faith is about trusting a way of thinking and living that can’t be proven but we know is trustworthy and reliable. Only shallow truths can be proved. The deep truths of our lives lie beyond proof.”
Dr. McGrath and Dr. Francis Collins, founder of BioLogos, both followed a different road to faith than Dr. Haarsma, beginning their journey as scientists with little or no interest in faith. That changed for both of them as they were presented with circumstances that challenged their scientific minds.
“We need more than science if we’re going to lead meaningful lives,” Dr. McGrath shared. “We need to know that we matter. Christianity gives us the wonderful reassurance that we matter to the God who created us.”
We can’t rely on just one intellectual tool in our toolbox of knowledge, says McGrath. “We need a set of intellectual toolboxes—yes, scientific, but philosophical and theological as well.”
Faith provides us with a sense of “existential security,” McGrath said. “Without God, we feel small, insignificant, and pointless, in the midst of a meaningless world.”
Making a Way Forward and Finding Common Ground
Dr. Haarsma suggested several steps forward for the faith community of scientists and scientific community of Jesus followers. She urged us to find ways to make the case for the reliability of science. We need to help others to know how to answer the question, should we trust science? But we also have to be honest about the limits of science, including its uncertainties and risks. Scientists and medical professionals who are vocal about their faith and their trust in science can make a lot of headway in earning the trust of those who might be skeptical about advances in medicine and the science of climate change, just two of the current politically charged topics in the news.
Finally, Dr. Haarsma calls Christians to practice gracious dialogue. Admit when we just don’t know. Invest time in conversations that are difficult or challenging. And respect each other as bearers of the image of God. In the middle of today’s culture wars where the word “science” is used as a weapon by both political parties, BioLogos believes, as Dr. Haarsma put it, “We need Christ-centered faith, rigorous science, and dialogue.”
“It might not ‘work,’” Haarsma says. “But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. That’s where faith comes in. Science can’t address all these needs. Science isn’t good at solving our polarized divides. We are looking towards faith and hope in Christ. Our calling isn’t to be ‘effective’ in the sense of fixing all the world on our own. Our calling is to be faithful and to keep imitating Christ.”
Haarsma was just the first of several leading voices in the conversation this weekend. In his session, With All Your Mind: Finding Truth and Love in the Midst of the Pandemic, Dr. Collins spoke about the scientific skepticism and vaccine hesitancy of the white evangelical church over the last two years, his heartbreak over tragic losses, and his own personal feelings of failure and vocation. Even in the midst of the ongoing wreckage of the pandemic, Dr. Collins offered hope and a way forward through the gracious dialogue that Dr. Haarsma encouraged.
“We must not settle for what we’re in the midst of right now as if it’s all it’s ever going to be,” Dr. Collins urged. Christians are a people of hope, not despair. Despite our differences of opinion and beliefs, we all share certain universal values: freedom, goodness, beauty, truth, love, family, and faith. Return to those, Dr. Collins said. Perhaps that’s where we can again find common ground.
If you missed the BioLogos Faith & Science Conference, there’s still time to access all of the sessions. Registration will remain open until April 1, 2022, and after registration, recorded sessions will be available to registrants for 90 days. Learn more about the conference and register here.
To learn more about BioLogos and their resources for scientists, theologians, pastors, teachers, parents, students, and lovers of all things in God’s world and God’s Word, visit biologos.org.