Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Really Bob Jones – How Out of Date You Are

Yesterday, Bob Jones published an opinion piece in the NZ Herald entitled, “Clear winner in science v religion” (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11359994). In the article, overflowing with his usual humility and wit, Bob expresses his certainty that science had trumped religion, inspired by Pope Francis putting “the cat among the pigeons” with his recent endorsement of the big bang and evolution. Jones wrote off the invented deities of human societies and even pondered declaring himself the Messiah. He then singled out Jesus, priests, monasteries, and nunneries for a real crack. He did display some vague signs of appreciation for Christianity, or as he calls it voodooism, with such things as “glorious cathedrals, Easter eggs, hot cross buns, some splendid music (offset by the dirgy stuff) and Christmas presents—only to then write them off as things Christianity merely took over. He concludes, “[d]espite those attractions I'll stick with science rather than fairy tales. All the primitive praying never saved us from the Creation's syphilis and rabies as antibiotics have, this just one of the thousands of examples of our debt to science.”

As usual, thanks Bob for not holding back, we sure know where you stand. The problem for Bob is that again shows that he is thorough going modernist, a dinosaur dualist, who doesn’t realise that the old dichotomy of science and faith is old hat. Science and faith don’t need to be set against each other Bob. Science is full of great answers to humankind’s many questions and most thinking Christians praise God for it and not a few get into science, inspired by their desire to explore their God’s creation. But science hasn’t got all the answers and especially the ultimate “why” question. Take the Pope for example, he doesn’t see a need to give up on God and faith because he gives a high place to science in his worldview. He recognises that science can take us back to an instant after the big bang, and then it’s anyone’s guess. God? Perhaps? Why not? And perhaps science can be understood as the exploration of God’s wonderful creation. After all, thanks to Isaac Newton we actually have modern science – and dare we admit it, he was a Christian, as were most of the first generations of scientists and more than a few today.

It seems to me that in his zeal to repudiate voodooism Bob creates a new religion (an old one actually) – scientism with its myths (like the big bang and evolution, true or not) and its priests (the scientists in which Bob puts all his faith). Science has its evangelists, like Bob himself. Some are old school fundamentalists who preach the absolutizing of a gospel of science in radical opposition to faith, ignoring, as many fundamentalist evangelists do, that there may be a third way – science and God?

Bob Jones really needs to read some contemporary theology from the likes of Alistair McGrath, Science and Religion: A New Introduction or John Polkinghorne, Faith, Science and Understanding which explore the exciting relationship of faith and science. Whether he changes his mind or not, I suggest he stop basing his understanding of Christian faith on old dichotomies that may be perpetuated in some popularist Christianity, but which for most, has been well put to bed in the present. For me, science is glorious, one dimension of theology, in which humanity explores the creation and finds the patterns, links, disturbances, incongruities, meaning and so on. We discover that the Creator put into creation wonderful things to be discovered, like things that heal, ways to harness the created order for human good (like power), amazing worlds to explore and so much more. One does not need to give up on faith in God to be thrilled by science. So, thanks for your article Bob – in reality, it is an epic fail based on an old dualism that is, to put it plainly, boring.

I wouldn’t put yourself forward for Messiah Bob, and if so, you need to come up with some new material. Maybe like Jesus who came up with “The Good Samaritan”, “love your enemies,” and dying by crucifixion and rising from the dead to save a world. Then, he, like Jesus, may be considered wonderful enough to be the world’s largest religion full of people who don't think science has trumped religion but can live happily with both, and who has shaped whole civilisations; kind of like the one Bob enjoys at the moment. Perhaps he should give this Jesus a bit more credit.