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With Jesus, Can You Follow the Science?

There is a huge myth out there that I want to challenge.  I know I’ve challenged it before.  But I keep hearing it repeated.  It keeps getting told, unchallenged, over and over again.  And it’s deceiving millions.  What is this myth?  It’s that if you can follow the science, you can’t believe in Jesus.   

If there’s one thing we could all agree on this past year it is that we need to follow the science.  We might not have always been able to agree on what the science said.  But in modern America, we do believe that we should always follow what the science does clearly say.  The myth that keeps getting repeated, though, says that, if you take what the science says seriously, it is intellectual suicide to believe in Jesus.  You can’t accept a modern, scientific worldview and at the same time believe in Jesus and, especially, the miracles associated with him. 

There is a huge fallacy in this view that rarely gets exposed.  It’s the same fallacy the people of Jesus’ hometown made with him two thousand years ago.  When Jesus finally returned to Nazareth during his public ministry, he was invited to speak in their synagogue.  Those who heard him marveled at his teaching.  It was so sublime, they wondered where he got all this wisdom.  On top of this, they marveled at the reports they were hearing about all the wondrous miracles he was performing.  They wondered how he could exercise such supernatural power. 

But as they listened, they remembered his humble origins.  That he was a carpenter.  They know his mother, Mary, and his brothers and his sisters.  They know who he is, that little, ordinary kid who grew up in their midst.  So, how can he be God’s anointed?   

As they ponder the question, they take offense at him.  That’s a strong reaction.  They don’t just dismiss him.  They are offended by him.  They are offended by the things that are being claimed about him.  They reason that, because they know him, because they know his humble origins, it’s not possible that he is who he is implicitly claiming to be.  It’s not possible that he could be the Messiah, the Son of God.  

Don’t miss the move they make here: Without ever trying to find out if he did do any of these marvelous deeds, they conclude--a priori (that’s the fallacy)--that he couldn’t have done them.  Without ever examining any of the evidence, they are offended that he would even dare make such an audacious claim.

A few days ago, I was listening to a discussion Bishop Robert Barron had with Jordan Peterson.  In case you haven’t heard, Jordan Peterson is a social media sensation.  He has a huge following, mainly among young adult men.  That Peterson has attracted so many zealous devotees is startling not only because he’s an older academic, a psychology professor, but because he’s done so mostly through long, monotone lectures that buck cultural trends and issue hard challenges to live more ethically and responsibly--not the most scintillating message!   

During the conversation, the topic of Jesus’ resurrection came up.  Like the people of Nazareth, like many intellectuals of our day, Peterson admires Jesus’ wisdom.  But, Peterson said that he could never believe in the Resurrection because science tells him it is impossible.  He admits that he’s never really seriously considered the evidence.  He doesn’t think he needs to.  To him, science makes it a foregone conclusion.  

One of the major reasons for Peterson’s success is the fact that, as a psychologist, he is naturally considered a scientist.  This is what gives him such immense credibility among so many young people.  They have been conditioned to only believe what science tells them is true.  And, they have been told by credible scientists like Peterson that science says the Resurrection is impossible.  No scientist with any integrity would ever say the Resurrection happened.

Really?  I just started reading a book by John Polkinghorne, a major, world renowned theoretical physicist.  A scientific insider.  The book is called The Faith of a Physicist.  In addition to being a highly credible and formidable scientist, Polkinghorne is also an Anglican priest.  As a scientist, he believes in Jesus.  As a scientist, he believes Jesus actually rose from the dead.  He doesn’t see any contradiction between his science and his faith.  In fact, in this book, he argues that what the science says is not only perfectly compatible with Christianity--that Christianity is perfectly rational in light of what modern science says--but that Christianity makes the most ultimate sense of the kind of world science is unveiling.

Polkinghorne is not alone.  I’ve mentioned other major scientists before, such as Francis Collins, John Lennox, Michael Guillen, and Ian Hutchinson, who are also believing Christians.  Believing in Jesus and his Resurrection has been the furthest thing from intellectual suicide for them.  The integrity of their scientific approach has only led them to deeper and deeper faith in Christ.  Though there are many more examples, these are enough to show that faith in the Resurrection isn’t unscientific or intellectual suicide.

What is unscientific, what it intellectual suicide, is refusing to conduct an open minded inquiry, drawing a conclusion before examining the evidence.  That’s what Peterson and many other scientists have done with the Resurrection, dismissing it a priori without ever bothering to look at all the evidence.  That’s what this myth is based on--not a sober, hard-minded, scientific evaluation of the evidence, but an unfounded belief that the Resurrection isn’t possible.  So, who’s not willing to follow the science?

When the people of Jesus’ hometown refuse to believe in him and the things he’s doing, he is amazed.  In Greek, the word Mark uses to describe Jesus reaction means to marvel, to be astounded.  It’s the same word Mark uses to describe people’s reaction to witnessing Jesus’ miracles.  They marvel, they can’t believe their eyes.  This is the same reaction Jesus has to his hometown.  With all the evidence at their disposal, with all the witnesses they could talk to if they wanted to, including some of those who had been healed, Jesus can’t believe that they can’t believe in him.  He can’t believe that they can’t believe before they ever examine the evidence.

Don’t be deceived by this huge myth.  Before dismissing Christ, examine the evidence for yourself, especially the evidence for the Resurrection.  You will see that you can follow the science and believe in Jesus.  In fact, if your experience is anything like some of the leading scientists of our generation, following the science will lead you to believe in him!

Do you see any contradiction between science and belief in Jesus?  I’d love to hear your comments.  You can go to the “Contact E. J.” page of the Raising Jesus website and leave any comments, questions, or feedback you have.  I look forward to hearing from you!

About Me

E.J. Sweeney is a true skeptic. He needs to see to believe. Hard Evidence. Compelling Proof. Solid Logic. This is what he believes in. In college, he encountered questions that the superficial faith he was raised on couldn’t handle. So he began a quest for Truth, a quest for the answers to life’s ultimate questions.

EJ Sweeney

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