“But HOW can you be both a Christian and a scientist?”
We’re at the end of Holy Week, an important time in the Christian calendar where we reflect upon Jesus’ death upon the cross. Where we are thankful that he sacrificed himself for our sins. We follow his journey from the joy of Palm Sunday through the bleakness of Good Friday to the miracle of Easter Sunday. Holy Week truly is a wonderful time to be a Christian.
I’m often asked about my faith, and what it means to be a Christian. Now, while I don’t claim to be the best Christian in the world (are any of us, is that even possible?) I do think my faith in God is pretty solid. What is also pretty solid is my love for science. This is a concept that bizarrely seems to confuse a lot of people – if I had a pound for how many times I’ve been asked “but HOW can you be both a Christian and a scientist?” (I’d have about £53 – I’m not that popular).
Many people in the modern world seem to view both science and religion as separate – if you’re a scientist, you’re not religious, and if you’re religious, you can’t be a scientist. That is, in my humble opinion anyway, too simplistic. Because both science and religion are intertwined, even on the most basic of levels. How many times in Church do we pray for those sick and in hospital? For doctors and nurses? For those suffering to be cured of their ailments? Well, without science, that’s never going to happen. We acknowledge that medical professionals and researchers are paving the way for a better future for all. When I pray for those suffering, I’m not asking God to push them out of their sickbed and into tap class. No, I’m asking God to give them comfort through their pain. I’m asking God to give those working to deliver a cure the strength and determination to do so.
One of the most powerful quotes in the Bible for me is Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” This quote is one which screams hope, comfort, ability. It is quotes like this which make me want to know more about science, to do more, to be everything I can be. Science is complex. There’s no denying it. But I know, with the strength of Christ, I can slowly understand a little bit more of the world I live in. And perhaps also help you readers understand it a little more too, whether you’re religious or not.
Now, being both a scientist and a Christian isn’t without its challenges. There are, of course, aspects of both which cannot neatly overlap. There’s also the feeling of being a minority in a group overwhelmingly similar in mind-set (that’s less of an issue for me – I’m not fussed about being a minority). But it is nice to know that there are other scientists out there who have shown they can practice science whilst being a Christian. Charles Darwin struggled with his religious views as he made his discoveries which pointed towards evolution by natural selection. The idea that we were not, in fact, all direct descendants of Adam and Eve (well, not the Biblical ones anyway – more on this in the future) was understandably a concept which could place doubt in the mind of anyone who wished to follow both science and Christianity. A more recent scientist who is also a Christian is John Gurdon (joint recipient of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discoveries in stem cell research). In fact, my secondary school chaplain was a biologist.
Whilst I have more to say on the links between science and religion, the point I wish to make in this post is that being a Christian is part of who I am, as is my love for science. I want to emphasise that I’m not interested in science to disprove the Bible, or to choose which pathway I want to pursue. For me, they’re the same pathway. It is gratefulness for the world around us, and a desire to help others which makes me want to understand science. God gave us an intricate world filled with surprises, and science is just another way for me to slowly get to grips with all of its complexities. I believe I am who I am down to a number of factors, and two of those are most definitely my genes and Jesus.
Tweet me your thoughts – it’s £1 to ask me “but HOW can you be both a Christian and a scientist?”