This post is the beginning of a series which explores how to integrate spirituality and science. The series begins by drawing on the fourfold Wesleyan approach to the quest for truth. This Wesleyan quadrilateral, as it is known, consists of Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience. These four ways of knowing invite us to integrate spirituality and scientific inquiry. In this post we investigate the first part of the quadrilateral: Scripture.
When my children were little, Pokemon was all the rage. They loved discovering and trading the little plastic discs (found in chip packets and called tazos) with their friends. One day my younger son informed me that some of his friends had claimed that Pokemon was satanic and that, if you placed a tazo inside a Bible, it would scream and burst into flames. He asked if the claim was true, so I suggested he try it. I think he was a little disappointed when nothing happened.
A MAGIC BOOK AND A BOOK OF MAGIC
This strange claim about Pokemon tazos revealed something not just about how some people viewed Pokemon, but also how those people viewed the Bible. Many people feel that the Bible has, in itself, a supernatural power. I suspect that you might find the followers of most religions have a similar view of their own sacred texts. The problem with this approach is that it turns the Bible (or other sacred texts) into a magical book and a book of magic. Reading Scripture in this way creates a spirituality which is more like a Harry Potter story than living in the real world.
Perhaps it is this ‘magical’ approach to spirituality and its sacred texts that creates the great divide between science and faith. But what if there is another way for science and spirituality to connect? What if sacred texts are a way of knowing, of understanding the world and our place in it, that can inform, and be informed by, scientific discovery?
WHAT ARE SACRED TEXTS REALLY?
I believe that, essentially, sacred texts are a form of collective memory to remind a people of their history and wisdom. They are a unique kind of insight into our world and into our personal and collective stories that gives us meaning. And they reveal how our small existence in this tiny paragraph in the cosmic story is connected to a bigger narrative, a larger reality.
Viewed in this way, sacred texts can offer great value to our scientific endeavours. Scripture reminds us that life is more than data and truth is more than facts. In Scripture we see people wrestling with moral and ethical questions related to their (scientific) understanding of the world, and we learn how to engage more deeply in the complex but important conversations about life, the universe, and everything.
SCIENTIFIC SCRIPTURE AND SCRIPTURAL SCIENCE
It is a futile and foolish quest to use Scripture to deny or contradict what science reveals. But, it is immensely important and helpful to bring Scripture into the conversation as a call to a more compassionate and ethical scientific method.
Conversely, scientific inquiry has to be more than just a tool to prove the truth of sacred texts. Our reading of Scripture becomes much deeper and more relevant to our lives when we allow the insights of science to inform how we read the ancient stories.
As we learn more about our universe through the discoveries of scientists across the world, it can be tempting to see sacred texts as relics from the past with no relevance to today. On the other hand, as we find value and truth in Scripture, it can be tempting to reject what science reveals as nothing more than a quest to undermine faith. Yet both of these approaches leave us with an inadequate and incomplete knowledge of ourselves, other people, the universe, and even the divine. Only by viewing sacred texts scientifically and science scripturally can we bring both ways of knowing together into a meaningful and insightful body of knowledge.
INTEGRATING SCIENCE AND SACRED TEXTS
- What is your relationship with Scripture?
- What value does science have in your life?
- How can you integrate these two ways of knowing more effectively in your own life and faith?
Why not share your stories and insights in the comments? Let’s keep the conversation going together.
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