Life in the Lab – and the Church

Gustavo Assi in the lab. ©  Gustavo Assi
Gustavo Assi in the lab. © Gustavo Assi

Gustavo Assi is a Naval Architect and Ocean Engineer at the University of São Paulo in Brazil. Here he explains how his faith is relevant to his work, and how he tries to bring scientific conversations to the church (part 1 here.)

In the same way that faith brings purpose to my research and helps me to think about difficult issues, my research brings colour to my faith. It brings the same kind of pleasure and awe that I feel when I am worshipping in my church with a choir and orchestra playing. It’s so colourful, so rich, so enjoyable, and it helps me appreciate that God is there being worshipped! The same thing happens when I am working in the lab, and it makes Continue reading

Miracles

garden tomb 557292_94217112 M Nota
© M Nota, http://www.freeimages.com

Following the popularity of the dating of the crucifixion, this week’s post is on another aspect of Sir Colin Humphrey’s work on science and religion – his work on miracles.*  

Can a scientist believe in miracles such as the Resurrection? To understand miracles we must first understand ‘normal’ events. For scientists, normal events are described by theories and laws. Laws are well established theories which have survived many tests. Laws therefore describe the past: they do not prescribe the future (ie, predict what must happen in the future) but they do raise our expectations to a very high degree. For example, we would be astonished if Continue reading

Why I am a Christian

Chris Wittwer, http://www.sxc.hu/
© Chris Wittwer, http://www.sxc.hu/

When describing her own Christian faith, Rosalind Picard, a Professor at the MIT Media Lab, said that ‘I know some people will assume I have lost my marbles…I also know that if they move beyond such superficial characterisations and ask hard questions, the ones about real meaning and purpose, that they will see more of what I see.’ That is how I feel in trying to describe my own faith. I’ve already given some hints about what I believe in previous blogs[1], but I thought it would be good to spell it out a bit more.

How can a scientist be a Christian? W.K. Clifford, a mathematician and philosopher at University College London in the nineteenth century, said that ‘it is wrong always, everywhere, and for everyone, to believe anything on insufficient evidence’. I agree with Clifford, although Continue reading

The Creativity of God

Carpentry 1164432_72116930
© Luis Brito, http://www.sxc.hu

My theologically trained colleagues tell me that the Hebrew Scriptures are very concrete in their use of language. It’s not surprising, then, that a rather abstract concept like creativity never appears in the Bible. The creativity of God, however, is a strong theme running behind the whole text. There are images of God creating like an artist or craftsman, and one of the most famous is a beautifully poetic passage in the book of Proverbs. Wisdom is such an important part of God’s character that it is personified in Proverbs, and in Proverbs 8 wisdom is said to have been like a master craftsman (or workman) at God’s side as he created the universe.

Jesus is the Son of God and reflects God’s character perfectly, so we should expect to see creativity in his life. He was a carpenter’s son, and in those days a boy learned his father’s trade so there’s no reason to doubt that he learned to make things out of wood. Jesus began his ministry as a travelling teacher when he was around thirty, so he must have been a fairly proficient craftsman by then. We don’t read in the Bible, ‘Jesus fixed the table, and then they all sat down to the Passover meal’, but it may have happened! Continue reading

Making sense of science and faith

© igoghost, freeimages.com

This is the second part of my interview with marine conservationist Bob Sluka. Here he explains how he gradually came to realise the importance of his work from a faith perspective, and is now combining the two in a unique way. (Part 1 here)

I’ve been on a journey. I come from a fairly conservative American evangelical background, with all the good stuff and also some of the baggage. I think my experience is probably similar to that of many Americans, where at first science seemed to have no relevance to my faith. At university I joined the InterVarsity Christian student group and was involved in different activities on campus – but that was the only implementation of my faith at the time. Continue reading

‘Natural’ Theology

Image Credit: ESA/NASA

I’ve always found theology a little difficult. At times I find myself thinking, ‘This is God they’re talking about. If he’s anything like what they’re describing, shouldn’t they sound more excited?!’ I recently came across a theologian who expressed this problem in a way that I found helpful. He said that studying God is something of a balancing act. At times the theologian has to hold their breath, as it were, and suspend their sense of the sacred in order to understand deep truths. They should also spend time on their knees – perhaps mentally in this instance – revelling in the presence of God as they study his attributes.* I feel the same about natural theology. It’s fascinating to look at examples of fine-tuning in the universe: here, perhaps, is evidence for the existence of God. Logical analysis of the cosmological constants requires a good deal of spiritual breath-holding, but it’s possible – at least for a time – to remain focused on the physics. It’s when I look at what the universe reveals of God’s character that I begin to find it difficult to operate on a purely academic level. On Father’s day you didn’t confine yourself to writing a logical treatise about your dad, and the same applies to a relational God.

Continue reading

Why would a scientist be a Christian?

Open the laboratory door. © Ruth Bancewicz

Last week I spoke to some students about why a scientist should think about Christianity. Here are my top three reasons – see what you think.

1. Science flourished in the Christian west

Science has its roots in ancient Greek philosophy, which could be described as a ‘proto-science’ involving geometry. Greek texts made their way to the Islamic world, where mathematics, philosophy and experimental science were carried out between the 8th and 16th centuries. (After this, science died out in the Islamic world for a while and scholars have not been able to agree why.) Towards the end of the Middle Ages Arabic texts found their way to Europe, were translated into Latin, and people started to do science, or ‘natural philosophy’, as it was called then. Europe in the Middle Ages was Christian, so almost all of the early scientists in Europe were Christians. And today, a good proportion of current scientists are Christians.

2. Christian theology informed the development of science

A number of historians and philosophers of science, Roger Trigg included, would say that science really only flourished once some of the Greek philosophical ideas about the world were replaced with theological ideas. One example is Continue reading