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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Science Lover Accounts for Faith

            ‘Finding God in the Waves’ is a moving tale of love of God, love of science, and the two loves finding space in one person.  I recommend this book to anyone who loves science but doesn’t want to abandon faith because of that love of science.  It is a well-told story full of feeling and twists and turns.  And depending on how you come out on the faith-atheist question, it definitely has a happy or disappointing ending.  The title makes that much clear.
            As much as I enjoyed the book, I have some specific critiques.  I will go into those in more detail in future blog posts, but will summarize them here.  My first critique is the entire notion that a true scientist will have trouble with many aspects of the Christian faith.  The author makes this assumption throughout the book.  I know plenty of scientists, MIT and UNC PhD’s, who have no trouble following Jesus and committing to excellence in their fields (chemistry, medicine, biology).  To assert that knowledge of science automatically leads to dismissal of certain tenets of the faith is a leap the author made that was unnecessary and is not the case for many scientists.
            Second, I was mostly disappointed that the author made no reference to the best resources that deal with the intersection of faith and science.  He said the internet is full of instances where atheists overwhelm Christians in debates.  He has apparently never watched the debates Oxford mathematician and devoted Christian John Lennox has had with atheist scientists; or, those of Oxford church historian and biologist Alister McGrath.  It is unfortunate that he never referred to McGrath’s work at all.  McGrath deals with questions of faith and science in depth in several of his books and is uniquely qualified to do so.  The same is true of John Polkinghorne whom McHargue also never cites.  He also make no mention of the ongoing work of the Biologos foundation.  He refers to one of the science authors who works with Biologos, but beyond that he does not seem to be aware of the best site out there for conversations about science and faith.
            A third critique comes in his clear prioritizing for scientific knowledge over faith knowledge.  He doesn’t claim that God must live within the laws of nature.  But he does believe all acts of God in this universe must be observable within the laws of nature.  Every faith axiom he proposes begins with a doubt and then the doubt is assuaged when he can account for it with brain science.  I don’t believe God is beholden to the limitations of the human brain and no matter how amazing the human brain is, it is limited.  God acts outside of the workings of the brain.  Every of God humans experience and describe is not confined to some part of our brain and how it stores information.  But, this author cannot accept anything as real unless scientific observation (mostly brain science) accounts for it.
            This leads to a fourth major critique: his treatment of the resurrection.  The author compares Oxford Bible scholar and historian N.T. Wright to Stephen Hawking in expanse of knowledge.  Wright is the ‘Stephen Hawking’ of faith, he says.  He also says the Gospels were written too late to be treated as reliable sources for events in Jesus’ life.  N.T. Wright disagrees.  In his exhaustive treatment of the resurrection he cites the gospels as reliable sources.  Wright, whom McHargue praises for his scholarship, believes the gospels and the other New Testament books can be shown to be reliant upon oral traditions that date back to the days of Jesus and thus used in a complex historical argument.  McHargue seems completely unaware of this and thus dismisses the possibility of the resurrection as an event in history.  If history is treated as a science, then history shows that the best conclusion is that the resurrection happened.  It was an event in history.  Wright shows this as does Gary Habermas and Mike Licona, each in their own lengthy scholarly studies of the topic.  McHargue has either not read this material, or disregards it.  Of course if he understood that history shows it had to have happened, it might throw him for a loop because it shows something in history happened that science cannot reckon.  He treats the resurrection as something that is not necessary for faith.  I agree that it is not.  But if one’s faith is Christian in nature, the resurrection has be a nonnegotiable.  McHargue does not deny the resurrection and he sees signs of it in creation, but there is evidence of it that he either doesn’t know or doesn’t accept.

            These are each meaty critiques that bear their own treatment, and I hope to get to each in future blog posts.  For now, I am very glad to have read ‘Finding God’ and I recommend to anyone who in interested in science and in faith.  In spite of my critiques, I rejoice at McHargue’s journey as I find his search for God moving and true.  Read this book and allow it to challenge your own thought about God.  It won’t be easy, but it is worthwhile.

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