How to Pray in Unprecedented Times? Ideas for the Scientifically-Minded

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Annca, Pixabay

When the seriousness of the current pandemic began to hit me, I realised very quickly that one of the best ways I could contribute would be to pray. I want to try to take my own praying habits up a notch, and spend some extra time each day praying about the events happening in my own country and around the world, as well as friends, family and church family.

The only problem is, I’m human. I get distracted, tired, hungry, bored, restless, or decide I’ve done enough after only a few minutes. Anyone who’s been at an average UK-based church prayer meeting will know the phenomenon of the hubbub of group prayer that lasts a few minutes, or maybe a little longer if the prayer points have been extensive, then subsides into an awkward silence. It can be even harder praying on your own. Continue reading

Lent Reflection: Destiny

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Supermassive Black Hole (artist’s impression, NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The period of Lent comes as a remembrance of Jesus’ fast for forty days. He goes out to the desert, away from the distractions of life – away from friends and family as well as food. I look at this with awe. I’m connected online pretty much every moment I’m awake. I like food, and I like the fast pace of twenty-first century life with its ever-changing stimulus. I currently live in Tokyo, which can do intensity in all its forms. There are districts here where the bright lights, flashing neon and wall of sound is like a physical blow. Take two steps and there is yet another loudspeaker, megascreen, or crowd of people. I love it! Food, friends, family, fun – I could just about manage a day away from these things. I can’t imagine having the strength of will to abandon them for over a month.

In the Bible there is a startling snippet of a story from that time. It comes just after Jesus had been publiclyidentified as the Son of God, the Messiah, the one all Israel has been waiting for. With God’s voice declaring over him ‘you are my son, whom I love, with you I am well pleased’, the weight of expectation was on him. How was he going to deliver his nation? Would he be a triumphant king, driving out the Roman oppressors, restoring peace? What sort of Messiah was he going to be? How would he fulfill this destiny? Continue reading

Churches Engaging with Science

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© Greg Balco (International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration)

Joanne is studying the mighty Thwaites glacier in Antarctica. She drills down through the ice, collecting rock samples from below it for laboratory analysis. Her team will run tests that tell them when the rocks were last exposed to daylight, providing some clues about how the ice sheet has expanded and contracted over the past millennia. Ultimately they hope to gather enough data to be able to predict how glaciers like Thwaites might respond to current and future climate conditions, and the impact they may have on sea level over the coming decades.

Science is all about gathering evidence for physical phenomena by making measurements and observations. Looking at these data, scientists can develop general principles about the way things are, often describing them mathematically. In this way we have learned that glaciers shape landscapes, that water is made out of hydrogen and oxygen, and that energy and mass are interchangeable (described by the famous equation e=mc2).

Science can support our theology, reminding us how wonderful the creator must be to make such amazing things. We can also give theological reasons for doing science. Continue reading

From Science and Belief to churches@faraday: Finding a home on the new Faraday Institute website

Next month will mark the ten year anniversary of the first post on Science and Belief. The initial aim of this blog was to explore the positive relationship between science and faith, as part of a project that resulted in a whole series of events, articles and other input into the Christian community in a number of different countries, including the book God in the Lab. Five years later, I began a new project which explored the wonders of the living world, asking what questions do these raise for the scientists who study them? Continue reading

The Strength of a Seed

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Tim Hill, Pixabay

The winter aconite is a ray of hope in the dark days of January, often flowering before the snowdrops come out. It’s easy to assume that these fragile short-lived flowers are produced by equally fragile plants, but often the reverse is true – especially when it comes to seeds. Aconite seeds need to sit in a cold damp place for several months before they can start to germinate. If you put me in a cold damp place over winter I would absolutely not flourish – in fact I would probably catch pneumonia!

A friend recently told me something I didn’t know about seeds, which her Father – who happens to be expert in tropical silviculture (forestry) – had passed on to her. I knew that some seeds need to lie in the soil for years before they can germinate, and others need to be exposed to fire, but I didn’t know that some could last longer than the trees themselves and still produce a seedling. Continue reading

Do the Bible and Science Contradict Each Other?

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Shutterstock

As a child Rosalind Picard, a Professor of Computer Science at MIT, was encouraged by a neighbour to read the Bible – starting with the book of Proverbs. She expected to encounter fantastical stories, but found it profoundly wise. She went on to read the whole Bible, and found herself changing in response to what she read. Later she described that time as “an experience of being spoken to. When you enter into a conversation with somebody, if you’re willing to truly listen, then you are also open to being truly changed.” Rosalind enjoyed being made to think. She began to question her assumptions about Christianity, and although it was a long time before she became a Christian herself, that journey started for her with the Bible.

For a Christian, the Bible is God’s word to us; it tells us about God’s character and creative purposes, how he has related to people in the past, and his promises for the future. Science is a specific way of studying the world, exploring the physical properties of things – a wonderful way to explore God’s creation. With this in mind, if the Bible and science seem to be contradicting each other, surely we have made a mistake in interpreting one or the other? Continue reading

Can Science Prove God Exists?

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Shutterstock

To risk sounding like a smart aleck seven-year-old, technically speaking you can only prove things mathematically. If you need to know that one plus one equals two, don’t go to a chemistry lab. The natural sciences deal with objects and forces that can be observed and measured. Scientists look at the evidence from their experiments and try to come up with a way of thinking about the material world that makes sense.

For example, if I travel around my local area and see nothing but brown cows, then I could try out the statement that “all cows are brown”. I couldn’t prove that all cows are brown. I could never rule out the existence of a different-coloured cow somewhere in the world. Scientific knowledge is always provisional. Continue reading