Monday, January 7, 2013

Faith & Science

Readings for January 6/ Epiphany Sunday:
Isaiah 60:1-6
Psalm 72: 1-2, 7-8, 10-13
Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6
Matthew 2:1-12


Today we celebrate with great joy the solemnity of the Epiphany, which literally means ‘to shine upon’ as we recall the visit of the Magi, when the face of God shines upon them and they receive the beginnings of the Gospel promise of the salvation of all nations. But as I was reflecting on this passage what struck me was not the calling of all nations to Christ but that the ones who came to Him are intellectuals – men of great knowledge. At that time there was no disconnect between faith and science. Rather, they often looked to the skies to help them discern religious things. For that reason they knew the stars and had vast knowledge of other things to help them draw closer to the Divine.

This struck me because in our modern world we are often told that faith and science are incompatible. Religion, especially Christianity, is often characterized as being a place of comfort for people who are simpletons and can’t really think deeply about things. Rather than being intellectuals, we are critiqued for our faith as others chalk it up as us simply trying to twist reality according to our religious beliefs. For these reasons and others, many intellectuals try to set the Church and Christianity aside as being anti-rational, antiquated, and ultimately irrelevant in this modern age. The reality, though, though is that rather than being people who have no place in the public square we must proclaim that we have a very prominent place in public debate and point proudly to the truth of what we live as Catholics.

To begin with, science actually presupposes faith because sciences base everything on one main assumption: that whatever is being studied has some intelligible makeup to it. The universe has laws and rules of all sorts and science studies these, but the reality is that something other than random occurrence is responsible for this intelligible makeup and we call that something GOD.

The beautiful thing about our faith, like that of the Magi who came to visit Our Lord, is that we see faith and science as intricately connected. As Catholics we recognize that Truth is Truth no matter where it is. If something is true in the world, then it cannot be contradictory to our faith, which is based on Truth itself – Jesus Christ. For us to grow in our knowledge of the truth of the sciences then helps us to draw closer to Christ. It’s like studying the fingerprints He left in creation; the full picture is found in the faith we celebrate, but there are hints all throughout the universe of His Goodness and Love.

Curious about the contributions Catholics have made to the sciences, I did a little searching online (check out wikipedia!) and found that Catholics are credited as being the founders of the Big Bang Theory, Evolutionary Theory, Bacteriology, Modern Physics, Modern Chemistry, Modern Astronomy, Modern Mathematics, Modern Anatomy, not to mention other major contributions to the intellectual world such as Philosophy, the printing press, modern universities, modern medicines, acoustics, musical notation, countless notable writers and other scientists who made major contributions. And these weren’t just nominal Catholics. These were men and women, many of them priests and bishops, who were learned people and yet people of incredibly deep faith. They knew Jesus Christ and had no problem connecting Him with the truths of the world.

All of this simply means that as Catholics we ought to be proud of the contributions that we have made to our world today, and continue to make, as we seek after Truth everywhere it may be found. Rather than being far from the modern world, we have a unique and privileged place from which to speak about both science and the foundations of it. More personally we each have the obligation to continue to grow in our knowledge of Truth. First - the truths of our faith. We must know our faith because if we don’t know our faith we fail in our primary mission in the world. But we must also strive to learn more about our world and continue to draw closer to the Lord who made it from the beginning. So as we honor Our Lord on this celebration of the Epiphany, the Christ the shining His light upon the world, let us also be seek Him wherever He may be found, that all might come to know His Truth and join us as we come before Him week after week to kneel in humble Adoration.

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For more on the relationship between Faith and Science/Reason, check out: