Thursday, August 04, 2011

Does God Belong in the Science Class?

Ok, stick with me here for a minute. Last night I had the boys at the Ellettsville Library. I was looking through the new books section in the kids area and stumble upon a book about religion for kids, What Do You Believe?. I picked it up and almost put it in the basket just out of curiosity - what was the premise of the book? I went with a newer Spiderman book instead.

Anyway, as I was looking at it, I thought to myself that if Caleb or Jacob had to read this in school I'd make sure I read it first to engage their questions. It came out, in my mind, as a resolution: 'Read any books dealing with religion that my kids read'. Then I quickly added, again in my mind: 'Oh, and read any science books they are reading'. Then I began arguing with myself, 'Why the science books? Why not the history books?'

The obvious answer is because the science books my kids read teach theories that leave God out, or, worse, are hostile to what we as Christians believe (though I have never read a book that says, 'God did not create'). But again, is that different in the history classes? Is God the God who creates but not the God who rules the nations?

Maybe the answer is, 'I should read the science books because issues related to science are the ones being hotly debated now'. Ok, but why are they being debated? Because we, as Christians, have decided to take a stand there and not allow God to be pushed out of the science classroom. I am pretty sure the debate would get pretty heated if we insisted on God being in the history classroom! Try arguing that the Civil War was God's punishment on the United States for tolerating slavery (a position articulated pretty clearly by Lincoln himself!). Or, that 9/11 was God's judgment, or Katrina, or ...

Think that would cause a stir!? (I remember Caleb came home one day and asked, "Do you think what Hitler did to the Jews was God's punishment for crucifying Jesus?" I begged him never to ask that question in school!) I honestly don't know what my point is here. I could go either way now, though I'm leaning in one direction so far I might fall over. I could say, "Stop focusing so much about the science classroom, look, God has been removed from the history class also...and the math class...and the gym floor...the ethics class (the Air Force Academy just removed classes which use the Bible as the basis to teach ethics, especially Just War Theory). We need to fight to get God back in the classroom, period" I affirm that God is the King of Creation, the Lord of all things, Sovereign over every sphere of life (and death). But does every question, every time, need to be traced back to God. I'm not leaning that way.

On the other hand, I could say that we, as Christians, need to worry less that God has been removed from the science classes. Let the science teachers do what they do, much in the same way the history teachers and math teachers do what they do - without recourse to providence or divine intervention. Make it good science and it will be agreeable to what the Bible teaches (when we understand the science and the Bible rightly)! When explaining why the square root of 9 is 3, do I need to go all the way back to God creation of an orderly world? When I talk about WW2, can I talk about the error of appeasement, or do I need to talk also about God's sovereignty over nations? When we talk about the beginning of the universe, do we need to say God did it, or can we talk about the natural mechanisms by which he did it (and there will certainly be gaps in what science can explain because God was working in direct ways that science can't account for). Will the science be complete without God? No, it can't be. But, is the history complete without reference to God? No, it can't be (unless you are a deist who doesn't believe God is active in his world anymore). By way of ultimate explanations, God is always there, always important. But I can/should be laying that groundwork for my kids at home. The church can/should be laying that groundwork at church. Does it need to happen in the classroom too?

1 comment:

MBK said...

"Make it good science and it will be agreeable to what the Bible teaches (when we understand the science and the Bible rightly)" Amen.

I think it is fair to say that we migrate to talking about science in that way because it is one of the hot areas being debated in the last 10-15 yrs. Most of the people I encounter who don't believe in God would trace their disbelief back to evolution in some way. But then again, I probably have a biased sample of people. :)

I've also found many more examples of religion leaving science out... or almost treating it as voodoo or something evil and scary. Beware of those too. Luckily we live in a place where you can see people coexisting with faith in God and science without compromising either--like you said, when we understand both the science and the Bible correctly there's no problem.