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

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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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

How Can a Christian be a Scientist?

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luvqs, Pixabay

I used to ask this question as a student. It took me a while to get to know the University staff who were Christians. I was aware of pressing ethical issues and controversial questions about science and the Bible; I knew science was a demanding career that might compete with church commitments; I knew some high-profile scientists were hostile to Christian faith. I wondered, who could make it in the world of science and still hold onto their faith? Continue reading

Guest Post – Physics and Faith: a personal journey

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Magnetic domains viewed by the Faraday Effect © Matesy GmbH, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

When I was a Physics student, I used to tear down the posters of the University Christian Union (CU).  It was an unexpected moment for me therefore when I found faith and became a Christian, while I was working on a PhD in magnetic domain theory.  In the early hours of the morning of the seventh of May 1971, alone in my room, God showed me how much I needed him.

I sometimes feel my experience has parallels to that of Saul meeting Jesus in Acts 9.  There were no lights or voices, just a sudden feeling of an urgent need for meaning to my life Continue reading

Guest Post: 200th Anniversary of the Discovery of Antarctica

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I am writing this sitting in a tent in Antarctica, surrounded by whiteness and wilderness. I have come here to undertake geological research as part of the joint US-UK International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration, which seeks to determine how the mighty Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica will contribute to the rate and timing of sea level rise across the globe in the coming decades. This is urgent work – the rate of ice discharge from the glacier has more than doubled over the past 2 decades, and looks set to increase further. Under the right conditions, the glacier also has the potential to enter a runaway retreat phase which could result in catastrophic ice loss because its catchment reaches hundreds of kilometres inland.

This is my seventh time in Antarctica, Continue reading