Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christian Politicians? Christian Scientists?

Following Nick Clegg's commendably brief and honest (how often can you say that about a politician?) answer to whether he believed in God, Matthew Parris has written a good piece in the Times about about how many recent PM's have actually professed Christian faith.

Parris concludes the article thus:
We don't want to be a bore but we sense a parting of the ways between faith and reason, and a need to stand up and be counted. Perhaps without meaning to, perhaps without thinking, Nick Clegg this week seemed to me to be responding to that anxiety for honest clarity. Millions more than will say so will approve.

Parris makes a good argument demolishing the idea that faith is a 'private matter' which has no bearing on public life. How can it be? Any truly committed Christian will find their faith impacting on the way they speak, do business, make friendships, make decisions, handle conflict, work out priorities etc. If this isn't having an impact on public life then there is some pretty deep level schizophrenia at work.

However, I think Parris is too willing to identify 'faith' with the unreasonable aspects of a religion. It's unfortunate that there is no Christian scientist with an equivalent profile to Richard Dawkins, who can make the case that faith and reason go together. I remember speaking to someone a few years ago who did regular university missions, and remarked that most of the people becoming Christians were studying science, rather than humanities, because scientists still worked with the idea that things were true or false, so could respond to reason.

Just one example: in Physics, the constants for just 2 elements vital to the existence of the universe: gravity and the quantity of matter, are fine tuned to an accuracy of 10 -61. In other words, if either of these constants was out by
then we wouldn't have a universe at all - it would be a cloud of gas with no solids, or a singular point in space collapsed in upon itself.

The point is, that if the universe is fine tuned to this level, never mind the horde of other things which have to be spot on (see here for a mind-boggling list)then it takes a whole lot more faith to believe it was an accident, rather than intelligently designed. Just reckoning with these facts doesn't make you a 7 day creationist, it simply makes you a decent scientist who isn't blinded by dogma. There is a culture within science, as there is in all other areas of life. The culture within the biological sciences is strongly atheist (with Darwin as a patron saint, there is still a sense of 'payback time' going on), but in other branches of science the picture is different.

Of course, there's still a long way to go from a cosmic designer to the personal God revealed in Jesus, but that's where Christmas comes in. God will give us enough evidence for his existence to lead us to the living water, but the decision to drink is up to us.

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