Column by Mary Lee Talbot.
“We are always learning about science and religion. They are not separate spheres; God has two major sources of revelation. In Scripture, we find specific revelation, and in nature, we find general revelation,” said the Rev. Joel Hunter at the Tuesday morning 9:15 a.m. Devotional Hour. His text was Romans 1:20, and his topic was “Odd Couples: Faith and Science.”
He noted that the sermon continued on his theme of complementarity. God made the world for differences to combine to be complete; they can go together, but they should never marry. Hunter said that his wife was a biology teacher, and he is a preacher, and they agreed to never combine their fields of expertise in their marriage.
Hunter shared some stories about children’s understanding of science. Horsepower, wrote one youngster, is the amount of power it takes to drag a horse 500 feet in one second. Another wrote that if you listen to the thunder after the lightning, you can tell how close you came to getting hit. If you did not hear the thunder, you got hit. Yet another wrote that when people run around in circles, we call them crazy, but when planets go around in circles, we call it orbiting.
“God’s revelation comes by the Word and the world,” Hunter said. “We have to respect the revelations in both. When there is a disparity in Scripture with our understanding of nature, we have to hold judgment in abeyance. God does not speak with a forked tongue, saying one thing via Scripture and another through science.”
Hunter is on the advisory board of the BioLogos Foundation, founded by Francis Collins, who headed the Human Genome Project and is now director of the National Institutes of Health. Collins grew up an atheist but became a Christian after watching a patient die. He could find no explanation for her peace, Hunter said.
“As we reconcile the revelations of science with the Creator, we are hurt by Christians who make ultimatums. You know the story of the first-year college student who takes a science course and loses her faith. There was inadequate preparation for her,” Hunter said.
“I got nailed by a parishioner once when I mentioned that there might be something to theistic evolution or intelligent design,” he said. “She told me that young people would lose their faith and live illicit lives after hearing that. I told her that, for me, Scripture was the final authority, but she told me she used to think that, but now she was not so sure.”
Hunter continued: “I believe in a big God who can do anything he wants. I believe that we can find revelation in a penultimate source. The history of science is studded with Christians trying to discover more about God. Kepler said that he felt he was ‘thinking God’s thoughts after him.’”
Hunter asserted that there are times when science catches up with Scripture. Scientists, for many years, believed that the universe always was. Then, through the Big Bang theory, they found that there was a time that the universe was not, and then it was.
People laugh at the thought of a virgin birth, Hunter said. But in Time magazine, there was an article on parthenogenesis. Scientists found that further up the phylogenic scale, the incidences become fewer, until in humans, “it would take a miracle,” he said.
“More often,” Hunter said, “science enriches our understanding of things that appear contradictory in Scripture. Take free will and predestination. In the three-dimensional world, they are opposites, but through particle physics, we know that there are 12 to 26 dimensions of reality. In that realm, free will and predestination become complementary.”
God, he asserted, is outside the space-time continuum, and we should think of ourselves as children of light, as eternal beings.
“The speed of light is the one constant in the universe. How often do we refer to God as light and Jesus as the light of the world? What if we think of ourselves in this world as progressing toward the speed of light to the point where there would be no aging and time would be no more,” Hunter said.
He continued, “Weren’t you fascinated by the Higgs boson, the ingredient that is the cause of matter, sometimes called the glue of the universe? In Colossians, Jesus is the glue that holds all of creation together. Science talks about the ‘why’ of matter, and faith talks about why things matter.
“Science is about what is provable, repeatable fact. Faith is about the evidence of what you don’t see, the eternal. You can never come by faith from proof, reason or evidence, but you must have it to get the most out of science.”
When he first finished seminary, Hunter was the pastor of a small church in southern Indiana. He was visiting a retired railroader in the hospital. The man recalled that when he was a child, there were prizes, usually puzzles, in soapboxes. He loved the puzzles, and one time, he got one he could not solve. He urged his mother to write to the company and complain. She did, and the boy received a letter with instructions that unless two certain pieces were put together first, the rest of the puzzle could not be finished.
“It’s kind of like life, isn’t it, Pastor?” the railroader said.
“How is that?” Hunter asked.
“You have to put the first two pieces together first — you and Jesus,” he said.
Hunter concluded, “When we worship with all our heart, and soul and mind, we encompass all of God’s creation.”
Pastor Scott Maxwell presided and served as liturgist. Ruth Mohney read the Scripture. She is a retired vocal music teacher from Fredonia, N.Y., and has lived in Chautauqua County all her life. She taught in the public schools for 32 years, and her family has visited Chautauqua since the 1940s. It is her 22nd full-time season on the grounds, serving as a dormitory counselor, Chautauqua Choir robe coordinator and singing in the Motet and Chautauqua choirs. She serves on the Scholarship Committee for the Chautauqua Women’s Club and is a Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle Class of 1996 graduate, having reached the Centurion level of reading in the Guild of the Seven Seals.
The Motet Choir sang “Behold, the Tabernacle of God.” The text came from the Sarum Antiphon for the dedication of a church and the music by William H. Harris. It was written for the dedication of the Royal School of Church Music in England in 1954. Jared Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music, led the choir.