Join ESN for a conversation with Ciara-Reyes Ton and Andrew Rick-Miller, co-director of Science for the Church for a conversation on science, faith and a better conversation between scientists and the church. The conversation is on Wednesday January 25 at 4 pm ET. Sign up at https://tinyurl.com/ESNSciFaith.
Science draws me closer to God. It didn’t always though. At first it seemed irrelevant. Science inhabited a different domain than things of the spirit and scripture. I kept them compartmentalized, in part because I didn’t see a need for them to interact.
Connecting with Christian community in the sciences, however, helped me discover that science can enrich our spiritual practice and lives, and that science doesn’t have to intimidate or threaten our faith. Science and faith can and should interact, especially for people of faith. I truly want to help others see how considering science alongside scripture can be awe-inspiring, wonder-inducing and lead to deeper worship of God our Creator.
As a biologist and Christian, I often find myself looking to the natural world to better understand scripture. In part, because the things of science come more naturally to me than things of the spirit. Whether it’s reflecting on what cells can teach me about calling and vocation or considering what the biology of seeds and soil has to say about the spiritual condition of my heart, reflecting on what I do understand, helps me make sense of what I don’t yet fully understand.
While we may see many things dimly in this life, one day the mysteries and wonders of this life will be fully revealed to us (1 Cor. 13:12). Until that time comes, I truly believe that we can use the tools of science, which are a gift from God, to seek out revelation in nature and scripture.
This idea isn’t a new one. Early thought leaders in church history helped form the Two Books metaphor, which says that God reveals himself through two books, the Book of scripture and the Book of Nature, or rather, God’s words and God’s works.
A beautiful thing to me is that you don’t have to be a trained scientist or theologian to study both books or apply the principles of one to the other. I used to teach intro biology to non-majors at the college level, and half the challenge was helping my students overcome their intimidation of science or lack of interest. My job as their instructor was to deliver the content in an engaging, relevant and accessible way to them and show them that science is for everyone and that anyone can be a scientist.
Of course, we should rely on the work of experts and credible sources to guide our inquiry to prevent misinterpretation or spreading misinformation, but anyone really can and everyone truly should access both books. If God is revealed in both, we only know in part to some extent because we are looking at one and not the other.
While these are two different kinds of books, they complement and enrich each other. The more we read God’s Word, the more we invite the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to the evidence of his glory all around us, and convict us of our role in its redemption. The more we experience God’s works, directly by immersing ourselves in it or indirectly by benefiting from advances in science and medicine, the more we encounter God in profound ways.
I often find myself putting God’s Word in conversation with his works because he is revealed in both, and I want to know him better and more fully. God can speak to us through his creation, and I want to hear what he is saying. This is in part what inspired me to write a science and faith devotional book called, “Look Closely! The Life of Christ: from Dividing Cells to Resurrecting Corals.” It explores the life of Christ, from birth to death and resurrection with the help of science. It is written for anyone who wants to explore scripture and science side by side, bringing them into conversation to deepen our understanding of God.
For example, dividing cells hold important lessons on waiting that resonate with the arrival of the long-promised and prophesized Savior. Actively dividing cells spend the majority of their lives in a “waiting” period called interphase where they take the necessary steps to prepare to divide. Waiting is more than just a preoccupation with busyness—work and preparation are involved that are important for the fidelity of the process and for the overall health of the organism. As we navigate our own seasons of waiting, we can take comfort in the promise and fulfillment of Christ’s birth, which brought hope to a weary and anxiously waiting world. And consider what the very cells that make us up might teach us about waiting well.
Another example includes unpacking the miracle of Jesus walking on water by putting it in conversation with the chemical and physical properties of water. For me, understanding the necessary physical parameters that would’ve needed to be met in order to make such a miracle possible, can help me better understand and grasp the impossible, making it more tangible and real, without attempting to constrain or explain away the miracle. Jesus walked on water, and while we can’t, looking to other organisms that can, like the basilisk lizard helps illuminate my understanding and blows my mind in ways that make God even more amazing.
Science truly is a gift, and the tools of science can be used to make the works of God’s hands more visible, helping us uncover his glory at all levels of creation.
For me nature isn’t just material—I believe that the natural world is deeply spiritual as well because of who created it. May we seek out God and know him and the fullness of his power by consulting both books at our disposal, his Word and Works.
About the author:
Ciara Reyes-Ton is a biologist, science writer and editor who is passionate about science communication to faith communities. She has a Ph.D. in Cell & Molecular Biology from the University of Michigan, and a B.S. in Biology from Valparaiso University. She has served as Managing Editor for the American Scientific Affiliation’s God & Nature Magazine (https://godandnature.asa3.org/), and previously taught Biology at Belmont University and Nashville State Community College. She is currently the Digital Content Editor for BioLogos and an Adjunct Professor at Lipscomb University. Outside science, she enjoys singing as part of her band Mount Carmell (https://www.mountcarmell.com/) and drinking coffee. She recently released a new single "To Become Human (https://music.apple.com/us/album/to-become-human-single/1648561459)," a song that explores the biology and theology of what it means to be human. She is also the author of "Look Closely (https://scienceforthechurch.org/product/look-closely-ebook/)," a science and faith devotional that explores the life of Christ by bringing scripture in conversation with science, from water walking lizards to dividing cells and resurrecting corals.
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