Fact-based faith

A few days ago, I saw the documentary “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” It was filmed in 2006 before Obama became president. One of the profiles is of a family that goes to a mega church (and they spend a fair bit of time filming that church’s pastor preaching), and at one point, the family visits the Creation Museum (yes, there is such a thing).

One thing that continually strikes me when I hear fundamentalists talk is that it seems that they have completely turned off the critical thinking switch. Maybe, there never was one in the first place. My favorite part of the film is when they are filming in the museum, in the exhibit that talks about creation. From what I can tell, the exhibit only details the Genesis 1 version of events, and not the Genesis 2 version of events.

The thing I can never get is how people can believe in the literal truth of the Bible, enough to insist that a hundred and fifty years or so of scientific research is fatally flawed, and the world is really only 6,000 years old, and yet completely miss the fact that the two versions of the origin story in Genesis are mutually exclusive! The creation events come in a different order. For instance, in Genesis 1, God creates the plants on the third day, and humans on the sixth day. But in Genesis 2, God creates humans (well, Adam) before God creates plants. At the moment, I don’t actually know anybody who believes in the literal truth of the Bible, but if you come across one, ask them, and tell me. (Actually, I found this extremely convoluted explanation. Oh, and then there is this one. Um, really?)

I’m not a Wesleyan (nor a Methodist), but I have to admit that one of my favorite theological methodologies is the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. I think it’s really cool. Wesley had this idea that one should look at four things in order to make theological conclusions: scripture, tradition, reason and experience. I know that he’d likely lean more heavily on scripture and tradition, and a bit more lightly on reason and experience than I would, but I agree with him that all four of these are critical to our faith.

I believe in God, which I (loosely) define as the creative being or force behind the universe. And I’d bet that at least for the time being, science is not going to be able to prove or disprove God’s existence–that existence is not amenable to the scientific method. And I’m not a materialist – that is, I think that there is more to the universe than just observable matter and energy, and that there are some things we may never be able to explain or fully understand, due to our limitations as human beings. That said, if a phenomenon is amenable to the scientific method, and that method tells us some stuff (like the Earth is really four and a half billion years old, not 6,000) I’m going to accept it wholeheartedly.

The Dalai Lama said once: “If scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.”

That is fact-based faith. In Christian terms, one might say, God gave us brains for a reason: to use them.

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2 thoughts on “Fact-based faith

  1. I just watched the same documentary myself. I found it thoroughly engrossing, if a little depressing. What did you think about the docent (or whatever he was) at the Creation Museum who had a PhD in astro physics? He had more elaborate justifications for the creationist argument. I found his rap to be very…. surreal.

  2. I agree, that was very surreal. I was thinking “Diploma Mill” when he said he had a Ph.D. in astrophysics. I couldn’t imagine how someone who thought the earth was 6,000 years old could get through a real Ph.D. program.

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