Faith and Science

Every great once in a while, my father, the late great Champ Ruffin, would decide it was time to get a new used car. He had one main criterion for any vehicle he purchased: it had to have four doors. The reason was that we transported “the ladies” (as he called them) to church every Sunday. There were three of them and three of us. I’d sit in the front seat between Daddy and Mama, the ladies would sit in the back, and off to Midway Baptist Church we’d go.

One fine Sunday morning in the late 1960s, one of them, inspired by what she’d been seeing on television, said, “Mike, do you believe those men went to the moon?” “Sure I do,” I said. (I was an eleven-year-old expert on such things.) She said, “I don’t.” “Why not?” I asked. “Because they show the ship flying through space. They couldn’t do that.” “But,” I replied, “it says ‘simulation’ right there on the bottom of the screen.” “Uh-huh,” she said.

That afternoon, my father said he wanted to talk with me about that conversation. “First of all,” he said, “she doesn’t know any better. There’s no point trying to talk her out of her opinion.” “Okay,” I said, “but shouldn’t she at least see that the image is a simulation, like it says right there on the TV screen?”

“Mike,” Daddy replied, “she can’t read.”

I was surprised to hear that. She took her Bible to church every Sunday. But I understood what my father told me. Some people’s limited experience lessens their ability to acknowledge what science accomplishes and teaches.

It’s not like I understand quantum physics.

Were you to ask me today if I “believe in” space travel, I’d say no. I’d also say no were you to ask me if I believe in evolution, in human contributions to climate change, or in the wisdom of being vaccinated against diseases. I don’t “believe in” any of those things.

But I don’t have to believe in them. I don’t have to take them on faith. Science verifies all of them, and that’s good enough for me. So while I don’t “believe in” any of them, I accept all of them because scientists tell me that the evidence supports them.

I am very concerned about the seemingly increasing rejection of science among some of our leaders. I hope such rejection doesn’t spread. I hope we elect science-affirming leaders who appoint and nominate other science-affirming leaders. We need more science, not less. We need to approach our difficult situations through rational problem solving, not through irrational posturing.

But science doesn’t tell us everything we need to know and it doesn’t help us become everything we need to be. There are ultimate matters that go beyond what science can tell us. I believe in the God who created what we study through science. I believe in the Savior who shows us how far God will go to be with us and to love us.

I accept science, but I trust in the Lord. Some people say you can’t do both. My experience, and the experience of many other people, says you can.

I started out talking about the lady who told me she didn’t believe those men went to the moon. She was wrong about that. I’m told that some years later, they found her kneeling beside her bed, where she had died while praying.

If I had to choose, I’d take such trust in God over acceptance of science.

But I’m glad I don’t have to make that choice.

This post originally appeared On the Jericho Road.

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra and father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara (Benjamin). A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. You can visit and communicate with him at MichaelRuffin.com. He is the Connections Series Curriculum Editor.

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