A Reasonable Faith: Renaissance, Reformation & Modern Science

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The Last century has seen the sharpest divide between Faith & Science where theories grew and multiplied stating that faith and science cannot coexist. Even though it’s not a recent problem and the divide has existed for centuries, but it never competed at this level as aggressively as we see it today. A false notion is created that belief in God makes people irrational. Faith and Logic, Faith and reason were made to look poles apart. This great divide has birthed to a generation viewing these two areas which govern the lives of many as irreconcilable. In recent times, few from both the scientific community and the faith community is working towards this great reconciliation. The dualism that exists is real in many areas, but we cannot neglect how both helped each other to grow, and I feel it’s important to look at both the realities of this divide and the possibilities of reconciliation. I believe it would make a beautiful combination. The intellectual and practical activity of science in finding the inference through observation and experiments I feel dwells very much inside the framework of faith and not out of it. How does science begin? Through seeking, what does it seek? I believe it seeks the absolute truth about life and on its way many subordinate truths. Science says “I will keep seeking the absolute truth and reality till I’m convinced”, Faith says “We have found the absolute truth and reality, get convinced”. The problem comes when seeking is completely restricted in the name of faith and belief in God is seen completely irrational. I think dialogue is important in this case. This tug off between proof to believe and believe in order to be proved debates if approached with genuine sincerity, I believe the truth will find its way. In this article I have focused on how the faith community has contributed during the period of the Renaissance and Reformation to the evolution of modern science, and to conclude that faith never undermines seeking, reason, logic or any intellectual activity, but only gives purpose and meaning to some of the deepest issues of life which in turn enable true science to evolve.

Jesus asks us to seek in Matthew 7:7 “Seek and you shall find”. He also said in John 14:6 “I am the way and the truth and the life. There is both Revelation and reason.In faith, Reasoning from human and Revelation from God meets at a comfortable place. A wonderful example in the Bible that it never underestimates reason can be seen in the gospel according to John Chapter 20 where Apostle Thomas wants proof of the resurrection of Christ; he didn’t want to believe just because his friends told so. We know from the scriptures that Jesus didn’t undermine the reasoning of Thomas to know the truth. Instead, he revealed himself to him so that he might believe in his resurrection. He gave convincing proofs to his disciples about his resurrection( Acts1:3). Jesus also went on to say “Blessed are those who don’t see and yet believe”. In saying this, Jesus emphasized believing the word in the spirit is what God expects. An unseen supernatural act of God in this existential natural world is for sure is beyond belief and gives us the reason to ‘reason’, but that’s what faith requires us to do, to believe the eternal unseen through experience as well as reason. So God or faith never undermines human reason and intellect. Even though it’s in a different context, I love how the character of God is shown in Isaiah 1:18 “Come let us reason together says the Lord”. God understands our ability to reason , but he also doesn’t want us to go away from the truth because of the same ‘reason’, which sometimes creates unbelief. Faith acknowledges reason within the premises of God, but outside of it the purpose isn’t served and it becomes illogical since God is the absolute truth and the highest intellect and from him came the whole creation and its nature is governed by him. So faith agrees with all the intellectual and practical activity except for those which deny the existence of God as faith begins with “In the beginning God created”. Faith views science as understanding the works of God and how his creation functions. Faith believes that revelation from above and reason from below. A faith which allows space to reason and encourages seeking can alone be a reasonable faith.

The philosophy in the human mind which leads to experimentation (Theory & Praxis) resulted in science. On the basis of science, technology evolved. It’s important to know that the Faith community can never belittle technology. If Adam was first to experiment with the science of farming and vegetation, Noah put the seeds of modern industry. The first mass carrier transport was built in the form of an Ark, based on the revelation of God and the faith of a human, much before Archimedes and the Buoyancy of fluids came to limelight. Collaboration between God and man gave us the first technological innovation to save the human race from calamity. So to say faith dismisses the technology altogether is a failed argument. Any technology that nurtures human life and makes it better should be acknowledged by faith.

The human mind at rest and a peaceful environment with the availability of resources always resulted in amazing creativity. The periods of peace through governance and code of conduct in any civilization gave way to innovations. The ancient civic structures and life sustainability mechanisms are testaments to the internal consolidation of power and peace. Literature, arts, commerce, philosophy, and astronomy flourished under this ambience. Once this comes to its saturation then the desire for supremacy in the expansion of territories and conquests resulted in wars which lead to the decline of intellectual safety. According to historians Greek civilization which enjoyed a great time of peace and safety inspired great contributors to philosophy and science which had an unparalleled influence on western civilization. If Greeks gave way to philosophy and science, The Romans were more into technology and praxis. They with their hard work and organization skills multiplied the use of technology of that time, especially weaponry, and water transport which gave them the military edge over others. After the Church became powerful in Rome, there were attempts made to revive classical philosophy. Especially Church councils give ample evidence of the space available for reason and debate. The Church in the subsequent centuries became powerful with Pope at one point became more powerful than the Emperors. The civic and religious life was mixed and the Church influenced the daily lives of people. Popular Historians term this as the “Dark ages” where there was no intellectual activity, but there are those who deny it. There were truly some distractions for the church. Since in the early and mid centuries the Church was looking for doctrinal consolidation and organization, then came the power debacles between different centers of the faith, the Schism followed by religious wars in the east ,and especially the temporal materialistic mindset of the Church and its leadership does validate the argument that the faith order didn’t encourage reason and science to a great extent. But intellectual activity was very much part of the western world. At the same time, we cannot deny the transformation of the barbaric north, the Vikings of the west into a community of the faithful and the formation of great centers of learning and education influenced by the Church and missionaries cannot be overlooked. Especially the contributions to science and philosophy through classical education by Benedictine monks and later by Friars cannot be neglected. The Eastern Church too had ample space for reason and intellectual activity about the universe to an extent.

One cannot disagree that the period of the Renaissance in the 14th century which is considered as the greatest intellectual breakthrough, flourished in religious Italy right under the nose the Roman Papacy. The rise of humanistic theories and classical philosophies during this time was embraced by many of the faithful of those days. Even though the Church leadership had restrictions in many inferences and interpretations of science, still many arts and architecture during this period attributed their work to bring about the matters of faith. The apology of Pope John Paul in 1992 on Galileo Galilei is a testament to the mistakes that the organized Catholic Church has committed against reason and intellectual activity, yet sometimes it was over exaggerated that the faith community didn’t allow scientific understanding to flourish. In this time of the Renaissance, many education centers were set up and most of the Philosophers, Explorers, Scientists, Musicians, and artists were part of the faith circle. Especially the discovery of the printing machine in this era printed the materials related to faith, and expeditions to new territories were allowed by the church. The Reformation movement further established the space for faith and reason to coexist which also laid the foundations of modern science which rests on free thinking. The Roman Catholic Church did have some nervous moments and made crimes against the reformers and the scientific freethinking community, fearing the peril of the authority of the Church. In all this, we cannot Justify the crimes and injustice committed by the then Church with its power, arrogance and their deviation from the fundamental values of faith.

The post-reformation era opened up the western world like never before and the combination of faith and reason gave to some of the amazing discoveries in different fields, theories, innovations, and technology like never before, especially great centers of learning in the west began during this post-reformation era when faith played a greater role in peoples lives. The Newtonian Law was given by an ardent believer in Christ, so were many great scientists of this era. The core of classical education was faith, during the time producing some of the brightest minds and leading innovators. Many discoveries in this period were made to serve humanity and to propel the Gospel. So to say faith limited reason is just a hoax. It was only after revolutions and industrialization the great drift with faith and science started to happen. The later American scientific movement too had its foundations of faith. So to refuse the contributions of the Renaissance and reformation which shaped and contributed much to the modern day science and technology is unjust. Many from the scientific community of the modern day fail to acknowledge Reformation as a great scientific movement; they restrict it just as a religious movement. Many major inventions were directly inspired to the benefit of sharing the Gospel. The post-reformation era which brought liberation in so many ways is the golden age of science and nobody can deny it. A reformed faith did influence science positively which paved the way for learning and innovation.

Apostle Paul in the Epistle of Romans 1:20 says this “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. Faith itself encompasses science, logic, and reasoning. In short, Faith is a scientific, intellectual and practical activity. When we observe the creation it shares a divine story, and according to this verse, there lies an order beyond human power and capacity. We live in this supernatural world and in the name of intellectual reasoning, we question miracles and the supernatural wisdom of God (omniscient). Faith doesn’t limit human reasoning but directs it towards the right and purposeful dimensions. God is a God of science and scientists too, and the supernatural is a part of our reality.The abuse of technology in recent times undermines the value of Human life and its purpose is a matter of concern. The mutation of modern machines for commercial benefits which are created to display supreme intelligence coupled with the greed of many have resulted in great turmoil. At the end what we are trying to prove? That human being created the whole universe, or to say the whole of creation is an accident and that we don’t have any purpose towards life on this earth? Faith in God gives meaning to human life and addresses some of the core issues of the human soul, life, morality, relationships and so on. How do one explain the order in which the world function, if even a small table in my room is created by a creator with a purpose, then where is our logic in life defining issues like our origin, existence and the eternal.On the other side, there is no denying that there was suppression to a level in the past and also neglect of scientific reasoning from many among faith community which is unfair. This dualism needs to stop, but I firmly believe that the truth of God and the truth in God can give so much meaning and purpose to science and reduce so much of unwarranted technological activities which can become so dangerous. Jesus himself in his teachings used reason, his teachings involved lot of questions and positive interactions with examples from human observations of the universe and he did travel in boats, a common technology of his time . He also exhibited his power over the natural order, and showed himself as the proof of God (John17:24, John1:18).In everything he always kept human relationships as the central point of his teaching. He knew that science and technology which has positive contributions to humanity can be destructive too. It was under the preying eyes of the world press, Advanced Radio and revolutionary television, Adolf Hitler committed the evil called ethnic cleansing of such vast magnitude and with even more advancement in our times, people are still living under, fear,suppression, terrorism and genocide . It is the reason Jesus gave his highest focus on human conscience and the sin which affects it, he gave importance to love which builds everything. No matter how vast the advancement in technology is, if the human soul is corrupted it leads to destruction. Even in the final days ,technology will be widely used for Global oppression. Remember,Christ came as a person, a person full of love and compassion who cared for the needs of people.

In Conclusion, we are entering into an age of Artificial Intelligence (AI), by denying the truth in God and Christ let it not become “Artificial” Intelligence. In the Garden of Eden Eve ate the fruit as it seemed like it’s good for wisdom and fell for deception, a life enjoyed out of complete submission to God got derailed by disobedience and the quest for knowledge beyond God, but knowing all this is faithful in revealing to us the truth through the same reason. A wise man who said everything under the sun is vanity didn’t forget to say that the fear the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. Human soul searches for peace and the peace can be found only in the truth that is in Christ Jesus. His teachings had inscriptions of science and many argued and reasoned with him without fear, but his core messages were about the much deeper reality of life and he didn’t deviate from it. The right kind of faith will never be an obstacle to the right kind of reasoning, it only formulates a noble science. I believe the right kind of faith which seeks the truth and the right kind of science which seeks the truth can truly coexist, the rest I leave it to your own Imagination. A right kind of faith is never irrational. On the other side, fideism should not superimposed on those who reason, Apostle Peter’s approach to reason and apologetics gives us the guideline that a reasonable faith is an answerable faith, Why we believe, what we believe? “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15.

One of the greatest scientist of all time Albert Einstein quoted this, let me do a slight experimentation…

“Science (Reason) without religion (Faith) is lame; religion (Faith) without science (Reason) is blind.”

-Albert Einstein.

Wish we could tell Mr. Einstein that Faith works beyond human limitations and God’s ways are higher than our ways; the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom. So to believe the ‘supernatural’ is to believe in the supernatural. Yet, we must agree on this interpretation to a point that Reason and Faith can go together and benefit one another. But if reason can become the reason to reject the higher purpose of God and his plans to humanity and question the very being of the supernatural God then we must seriously think where do we stand. The Biblical interpretation of human life stands tall with an idea of a relational God that exudes hope, meaning and purpose. Science has a faith element to it without being interpreted as a ‘spiritual faith’, and faith has a reason attached to it, even if there is no academic intellect everybody has a ‘reason’ to believe. Even in science everything is not revealed, and in faith not everything is concealed.Belief in God and his ways exists not because as believers we have all the answers towards the idea of God, and also to be fair to us that we cant be held responsible to give an answer to every theory that arises in human mind and reason. Our personal experience with the saviour and we becoming his proof to the world going to be crucial, that’s what the Apostles did, they shared their personal experience with an extraordinary person and became his living proofs , even by laying down their lives for the truth they saw. Faith opened a way for us to partake in God’s plans and in our innermost being our soul testifies HE LIVES!!

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”. 2 Corinthians 4:18.

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