The "Speaking of Faith" program this morning on NPR was excellent. Krista interviewed physicist-turned-theologian John Polkinghorne on how he believes religion and science complement each other. All should go listen to the program and read the excerpts and additional materials on the Web site. I particularly recommend the parts about "The God of the Gaps" argument, kenosis and this discussion by Polkinghorne of "petitionary prayer":
A scientist can pray. We can take with absolute seriousness all that science can tell us and still believe that there is room left over for our action in the world, and for God's action, too. Of course, this does not mean that prayer is just filling in a series of blank cheques given us by a heavenly Father Christmas. This is why I could not expect all those patients I prayed for simply to recover, much as I hoped they would. Prayer is not magic. It is something much more personal, for it is an interaction between humanity and God.
In Greek, kenosis means "to empty oneself." Essential elements of the idea of kenosis play themselves out in personal and communal relationships, in the act of forgiveness, and in self-sacrifice. At its extreme, it may involve sacrificing one's own life. In the New Testament of the Bible, it is used to describe the ethic of Jesus' willingness to sacrifice his power and his life for the freedom of others.
In the Speaking of Faith program, "Science and Hope," listen to Quaker cosmologist George Ellis describe his belief that the ethic of kenosis is built-in to the universe and how he finds its expression in all the major religions.
Krista also quotes German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer on why God isn't a "stop-gap" measure:
We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don't know; God wants us to realize his presence, not in unsolved problems but in those that are solved. That is true of the relationship between God and scientific knowledge, but it is also true of the wider human problems of death, suffering, and guilt. It is now possible to find, even for these questions, human answers that take no account whatever of God. In point of fact, people deal with these questions without God (it has always been so), and it is simply not true to say that only Christianity has the answers to them.As to the idea of "solving" problems, it may be that the Christian answers are just as unconvincing — or convincing — as any others. Here again, God is no stop-gap; he must be recognized at the center of life, not when we are at the end of our resources; it is his will to be recognized in life, and not only when death comes; in health and vigor, and not only in suffering; in our activities, and not only in sin. The ground for this lies in the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. He is the center of life, and he certainly didn't "come" to answer our unsolved problems. From the center of life certain questions, and their answers, are seen to be wholly irrelevant (I'm thinking of the judgment pronounced by Job's friends). In Christ there are no "Christian problems."
— from Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Letters and Papers from Prison
Thoughtful program. Check it out.
If you haven't already read it, I highly recommend Dan Brown's "Angels and Demons." Aside from the fact that Dan Brown is a master at the twists and turns of a mystery/thriller, the philosophical and religious themes in this book are just incredible.
Underlying the action plot, is the idea of what science and religion are to each other and human beings.
One of my favorite things from the book - Vittoria (who is both a a world-renowed scientist and the daughter of a Catholic priest) is asked what she thinks of religion and faith:
Faith is universal. Our specific methods for understanding it are arbitrary. Some of us pray to Jesus, some of us go to Mecca, some of us study subatomic particles. In the end we are all just searching for truth, that which is greater than ourselves.