These two words are, by definition, opposites. Rationality is the ability to demonstrate something real that is replicable by somebody else. So, for example, if a scientist creates a new medication that can cure a certain virus, another scientist also be better to create that same medication if they followed the same steps. After all, if somebody proclaims one thing and nobody can reproduce it, how can we verify that it is real?
Faith, on the other hand, is something that we accept as true even though we can’t empirically prove it’s true in something like a laboratory. Hebrews 11:1 says it most succinctly:
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
It’s probably no surprise to you that faith in the modern age has been a contentious topic. With our growing methods of rationality, we are able to explain more and more of the world with each passing day. And the problem for the Christian community in particular is that these methods of rationality disagree with a literal interpretation of the Bible.
For example, the creation of the universe. The Bible describes it as something having happened in seven days. Our scientific research has determined that, literally speaking, the universe could not have been created in seven days but rather spanned over the course of several billion years. At which point, some people will scoff at the Bible and retort something like, “Somebody oughta tell the author of Genesis he was a little off with his estimate about how long it took to create the world.”
To this end, Christians have jumped through hoops to try making the literal interpretation work. I know some Christians who believe that, yes, it was a literal seven days, but God just created the universe in an aged form. Or, even more preposterous, some people outright reject the findings of science.
(This isn’t meant to be a post about biblical literacy and literalism, but to sum it up really quickly, of course it wasn’t a literal seven days. The author was using poetic language. After all, if humans were created on day 6, then who was there to witness the first five days?)
Creationism is just the tip of the iceberg on scientific refutations. Of course, we can’t forget to mention the global flood in the Noah story, the miracles of Jesus, and even the historical accuracy of Israel’s national conception.
So yeah, if you look at everything in a literal way, the Bible is a total mess. There is absolutely no way it can hold a candle to the irrefutable things that science has come up with. This has led many in our modern age to totally walk away from the faith. And with this interpretation of the Bible, who could possibly blame them?
But that doesn’t deter me from still supporting the faith.
There are two reasons I don’t totally abandon the Bible and its seemingly crumbly foundations. The first one way already mentioned, and that’s that the Bible isn’t meant to be interpreted literally. I’ve written a lot about this already, so let’s not dwell on that too much here. (Plus, one of my favorite authors, Pete Enns, just released a book entitled How the Bible Actually Works that talks about this in great length.)
The second reason and why I write today’s post actually has to do with that intersection of faith and rationality. You see… for as much as science has figured out, I think even scientists would admit we have a long way to go. That’s not at all dismissing how far we’ve come but simply acknowledging that the train of progress is one that shows no sign of slowing.
Think back to earlier times when humanity was still in its infancy in the rational revolution. Early people understood that the sun rose and set in a pretty darned predictable timeframe. They couldn’t tell you why this was so as it would be centuries until we understand what we know now about astronomy.
But we would never correlate that to faith, at least in the religious aspect.
So the question for me is, why are we pretending like the faith story is done?
This is why I have a profound interest in quantum physics. I’m going to be straight up with you, I am woefully ignorant about this subject. Woefully is the understatement of the year. But the brief things I’ve read and watched about it… it’s absolutely astounding. There are things that happen with quantum physics that totally defy how we know the world to exist today. Things like being able to turn one particle in New York and another particle simultaneously turning without any clear connection or logic to explain it. Or, if you really want to blow your mind some time, watch a YouTube video on the E8 theory.
One of my favorite, popular movies that covers this idea lightly is Interstellar. Yes, the same Christopher Nolan sci-fi flick. That movie is highly, highly underrated in my opinion, but I’m a little bit biased given my love of movies about space.
**Throwing in a spoiler alert tag here for the movie.**
The primary plot of the movie focuses on saving humanity from a dying Earth by traveling through an oddly convenient wormhole through space into another star system. While Matt McConaughey and his crew visit these planets, he leaves his daughter behind to figure out how to defy gravity and lift this huge NASA station into space. Partway into the movie, we find out that she can’t crack the code without some mathematical insights from a black hole.
Jump several scenes later where a naughty Matt Damon almost wrecks the mission, Matt McConaughey chooses to eject himself into a black hole thinking it will enable his other crew member (Anne Hathaway) to continue to mission as planned. Within the black hole, Matthew McConaughey is interjected into some sort of “tesseract” where he is able to communicate with his daughter across time and space to give her the mathematical insights she needs to complete her gravity-defying equation.
Now, here is what most people miss in the movie and where the movie gets unnecessarily panned.
Of course the tesseract thing is total fiction. In reality, the gravity of the black hole probably would have crushed and killed McConaughey instantly. How they creatively define this tesseract’s existence is what interests me. First, they define it as basically an invention from normal people far, far into the future. (Which lends to the idea that science will only continue to progress far beyond what it is today.)
More importantly, the way they explain the connection between McConaughey and his daughter across space and time as a quantitative measure of the love emotion. I know, sounds a bit ridiculous. But truly… we don’t know that it’s not a quantitive measure that we just haven’t figured out to make sense of yet. For me, it poses questions like…
- Is there a way to properly understand and qualify the emotions that a human body feels?
- Is there some sort of subconscious connection that drives people together or people away from each other?
- How will quantum physics usher in a new era of understanding totally unprecedented by the way we perceive the world today?
So again… writing faith off from a scientific perspective is just… well… incomplete and unfair.
Okey dokey, this post got way longer than I anticipated, so I’m going to cut it short here. Hope I gave y’all something good to think about! Catch you in the next post.