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Reconciling science and Christian faith

In his lecture, Dr Andrew Loke (second from right) challenged the view that science and Christian faith were necessarily in conflict.

Photos courtesy of The Bible Society® of Singapore

“As a young Christian, I’d always thought that creationism and evolution were opposing ideas,” said Timothy Seow, 19, an attendee at the ‘Science and the Christian Faith’ Public Lecture organised by ETHOS Institute™ for Public Christianity on 4 Jan 2016.

“But Dr Loke shone light onto the possibility of both being reconcilable; and necessarily so, because, as he had mentioned, Christians too often misrepresent the position of faith in science and unnecessarily deter people from searching for Christ.”

Timothy’s response seemed representative of the many young adults who attended the lecture, a number of whom stayed on to engage the speaker, Dr Andrew Loke, a Research Assistant Professor at The University of Hong Kong who holds a PhD in Theology from King’s College London.

In his lecture, Dr Loke briefly outlined main points from his booklet Science and the Christian Faith, published as part of the ETHOS Public Engagement Series. “Many people,” he said, “have the impression that modern science threatens Christian faith.” This, he noted, was not necessarily the case, as there was the possibility that if one studies the Bible and the natural world correctly, they are reconcilable.

“Why do many people think science and Christianity are in conflict?” he asked. He explained that mistakes made by both non-Christians and Christians had contributed to this misconception.

For example, many atheists hold to the view that anything that can be known must be known scientifically. However, Dr Loke pointed out that this was a philosophical view, and like the criteria for a good scientific theory, cannot itself be proven to be correct scientifically. Reason is not limited to science, but scientific, historical and philosophical reasoning can be carried out; the type of reasoning we use depends on what we are trying to find out.

On the other hand, he notes, “the way that Christians have defended their faith has been quite problematic sometimes”, especially when they try to defend the Bible against scientific discoveries that seem to be in conflict. They often neglect the fact that Genesis 1-3 is not meant to be a complete record of everything about Creation; the main message of the text is that God is the Creator, that He was behind each step of Creation, and thus humans should not worship created things but the Creator, and that He has a special purpose for humankind created in His image.

The astronomer Galileo himself noted in a letter that “our opinion is that the Scriptures accord perfectly with demonstrated physical truth”; one can treat science as a discovery of the process by which the Creator created the universe. With this in mind, Dr Loke touched on the five levels of meaning behind the use of the word “evolution”, noting that only the non-scientific level of meaning explicitly denies the existence of God.

“We need to be open to possibilities,” he urged, “not to be dogmatic when the text itself does not require it.” He explained that, regardless of whether evolution is true, all life forms and indeed everything in the universe must have ultimately come from a personal First Cause (i.e. a Creator).

Responding to the lecture, Ms Grace Lin said: “I gained new insight into how God’s work of creation is not limited to our ability to comprehend. We are in a journey of discovering things that He had already created before and the more we discover, the more it points to an infinitely powerful and intelligent Creator.”

Ms Faith Buan noted: “I appreciate Dr Loke’s appeal to Christians to consider re-framing our mindset about the idea of evolution. His presentation has also definitely helped offer several good starting points for me to continue conversations with others (non-believers and Christians) regarding science and faith.”

You can purchase Dr Andrew Loke’s book Science and the Christian Faith by contacting ETHOS Institute at 6304-3765 or info@ethosintitute.sg

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Grace Toh is Assistant Editor of Methodist Message and has been a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church for most of her life.