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Shakshuka, and Science and the Christian Faith

Shakshuka - fuel for cleaning day
Shakshuka is supposedly an Israeli dish that is as varied as the people who cook it. A housemate and I wolfed down this riff on Ottolenghi’s first published recipe before returning to major housecleaning.

Whenever variations to a specific dish are mentioned, we usually get into the cooking-as-science vs cooking-as-art debate, with the pinch-of-that-and-shake-of-that grandmothers being trotted out against cold clinical carefully-calibrated and test kitchen-tested recipes.

Am less interested in this debate than the whole science vs faith (specifically in Christ, therefore “Christianity”) thing. There are those who think the scientific method for determining truth is superior enough to determine the truth about the whole of existence, to the exclusion of all other methods. Then there are Christians who rail against this and advocate “faith” instead.

What appears to be mostly lacking in the argument that pits science against Christianity is pinning down the concepts of “science” and “faith”. Without any agreement as to definitions, all parties could possibly be uselessly talking at cross-purposes.

So what do we mean when we talk about “science”?

  • Do we mean that which claims to be objective truth; which speaks in an absolute tone of voice; which sets out authoritatively what must be believed by sane, rational people (ah, value-laden presuppositions!)?
  • Do we mean that which studies what is observable in the world and tries, on the basis of such observations, understand it enough to build a coherent system and so predict future cause-and-effect?
  • Do we mean that which is considered empirical only in the sense that results can be verified by repeated trials?

And what do we mean by “faith”?

  • Do we mean that which is merely a personal subjective mental state?
  • Do we mean beliefs that are founded on baseless presuppositions – basically, blind trust?
  • Do we mean beliefs for which authority is found in each individual religious subject and so completely relative?
  • Do we mean just that which is pietistic and religiously and aesthetically beautiful (cf Oscar Wilde) – faith for faith’s sake?

tea and biscuits

  • there appears to be a falsely forced conflict between science (assuming the definition of “science” includes an affirmative answer to all of the relevant questions above) and faith in Christ (assuming that all relevant questions above are answered in the negative):
    • science and Christianity both insist they are objective certain interpretations of reality; they are both concerned with the truth about reality. Faith in Christ is not merely a feeling or a personal experience but belief based on real objective knowledge (grounded in real revelation in human history);
    • both involve the human mind, they appeal to human reason, to human reasonableness and rationality as witnesses to their veracity;
    • but science and Christianity are concerned about different aspects of reality – science deals with the how of things, God’s revelation in Scripture deals with the why of things – why he created the world, why he created humans, why he reveals himself/his character to us. So the purpose of the bible is different from that of a science textbook;
  • adherents of the cult of “science” frequently overstate its ability to explain everything about this world:
    • its claim to be the arbiter of objective truth is limited to that which can be observed – any attempt to hypothesise about the origins of the universe and the purpose of all within it and how it will end is necessarily outside of the scope of science, and can only be the personal assertion of a science, however eminent;
    • it is not without its own presuppositions, for example, science must work on the basis that world is ordered and can be known and understood by the human mind;
    • but it is possible that the human mind is too limited to comprehend what can be observed;
    • it is also possible that hypotheses and conclusions are skewed by the subjectivity, personality, and background of the scientist, bad methodology and erroneous logic (including the far-too-common correlation implies/proves causation fallacy);
    • its insistence that everything be verifiable by repeated experiments is too compartmentalised and narrow-minded a view of reality. Truth can be determined in many other ways including analysis of historical evidence. The failure to synthesise knowledge gleaned from different subjects taught in modern school is, one suspects, is one root of this problem.

If, in fact, the author of the Bible is ultimately the Creator of the world and Lord of the universe, then there can be no higher source of authority to verify this claim. However, we would expect that which has been written to be an accurate reflection of reality (historically or otherwise). And Scripture explains why science is possible – because the God of order has made an ordered universe.

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