I spoke a couple of weeks ago with Julian Charles in an interview for his podcast “The Mind Renewed”. We covered a number of topics that my book addresses. Although he agrees with me on many of my answers, he deliberately asked tough questions, acting as a kind of “Devil’s Advocate”, in much of the interview. I find that helpful, as a way of thinking together deeply about these important questions.
Perhaps you will too.
A week ago I was in Bethel, Connecticut, at a big non-denominational church there: Walnut Hill Community Church.
They are in the midst of a sermon series called “the big Why”, one of which was on science and Christianity. Rather than give a lecture or sermon, Victoria Kowarick, the pastor responsible for that topic, who is a friend of mine from the Board of Vision New England, decided to interview me. Since their church has four campuses, we could not be at all the services so they pre-recorded an interview to be shown at those we could not attend. It was pretty similar to the way things went with the live interview.
Victoria was a good interviewer, raising important questions. And the large congregations seemed very appreciative. Evangelicals have a bad reputation concerning their suspicion of science, and sometimes it is partly deserved, but this church showed an open-hearted interest in the topic. Most probably that is because they feel more comfortable hearing about science from someone they know shares their fundamental commitments, as well as having serious scientific credentials. I would not have chosen their title “Why believe what science has disproved?” although it does portray one misguided way of phrasing science-faith interaction. See what you think!
This weekend saw me with my wife, Fran, in Fort Lauderdale Florida, for the first event of a new series called Veritas et Vino. This event, organized by Rose Ann Lovell, and billed as Happy Thinking Hour, aims to engage people from all walks of life in conversations about the big questions of life. In addition to a talk from me entitled “Can a scientist believe in miracles?” there was a time of lively questions from the audience of 200 people. This was bracketed by times of relaxed conversation among all the participants accompanied by a classical trio, while delicious hors d’ouvres and — you guessed it — wine were served.
You might gain an impression from this photo gallery from Veritas et Vino.
The weather was wonderful and we spent a couple more days enjoying a break from 20 degree Boston temperatures, and getting to know a remarkable group of Floridians.
The book is coming out in 4 days now and I’ve been fielding requests for interviews about it from numerous media sources. The most natural request was from the Veritas Forum itself. I had a stimulating conversation with Caleb Gotthardt who had some interesting questions of his own.
How can a smart scientist like you believe all that?
Probably most scientists today who follow Jesus have been asked this question in one form or another. My clearest memory of being asked it was by a an MIT colleague in an airport restaurant. Chicago, I think it was. Our plane back to Boston had been delayed, giving us a few hours together returning from a scientific collaboration meeting. This was in the late nineteen seventies; forty years ago now. Lou and I were close coworkers in the fusion research team at MIT at the time. He a freshly appointed junior professor; I a research scientist a couple of years past PhD.
I told him that my experience of God and of science did not lead me to regard them as incompatible in the way that he obviously thought they were; and that belief in both were essential parts of my intellect, commitments, and personality. Our dinner conversation continued to explore the questions that he and I put to each other. In the years since, as I have grown in my understanding of how those two strands interlock and interweave, I have often thought of my friend and wondered what he would think and ask today.
I’ll never know, because Lou died suddenly and tragically, hardly a year later. The occasions of our conversation and of the later emotional service of remembrance for Lou by his MIT friends are inseparable in my mind. They are, for me, a reminder to think about matters of ultimate significance, as well as the day to day challenges and occasional inspirations that every scientist encounters.
My book “Can a scientist believe in miracles” tries to answer, in as fair and open a way as I can, hundreds of questions I have been asked about this topic in the years since. I think of Lou today and am thankful that the quality of our friendship enabled him to ask his question.