An acquaintance in Texas wrote and asked a question that I had addressed on page 21 in my book, Reflections on Faith & History. He hadn’t read the book, so I copied that section and emailed it to him.
I retired from the scientific community in 2006 but since I still hear the question from other people, I’ll put it on this blog. I’ll present the original question and response and add further comments at the end.
While working at a scientific laboratory, did you have a hard time separating your “Christian life” from your “scientific life?”
I do not have the need or the desire to separate my life into compartments. For one thing, I might get confused as to “Who am I supposed to be today?” or “How am I supposed to respond in this situation?” Whoever ideologically partitions his or her life because of supposed differences is being hypocritical in one or more areas. Instead, I am a dedicated Christian and it is easy for me to live in both communities. In my case, I totally enjoyed my life in both areas of the scientific and Christian communities because both are based on a quest for knowledge. The word science is an old word that literally means knowledge. We in the scientific community are searching for knowledge in many areas of life. We are called scientists, or seekers of knowledge. Also, we in the Christian community are searching for knowledge, and the Holy Bible which is a major source of knowledge does not contradict true science (2 Timothy 3:16–17).
However, there is a problem here: many people have been taught the fallacy that either there is no Creator God, or that God does not interact with humanity (read Psalm 14:1). They have been taught that human beings (at least some of us) are the ultimate universal intellect, and that we must decide our own reality or fate. But a person who rejects the Bible is rejecting a major source of truth and is then forced to formulate questionable hypotheses to replace rejected truth. Attempting to abstain from religion, his or her belief system becomes a religion in and of itself; and a dubious, man-made religion will not provide the answers for life’s problems.
Also, since people tend to impose their agnostic or atheistic belief systems (which are religious in nature) and humanistic errors on our society, we must study the Bible carefully to separate their counterfeits from the truth (2 Timothy 2:15). But keep this in mind: thousands of scientists around the world realize it was impossible for this universe to just “happen” all by itself. They realize that man could not really evolve from a tadpole, amoeba, monkey, donkey, or a spontaneous loud noise (big bang), and they also believe in God.
So keep on learning about Jesus and the Bible, keep learning about God and his creation, and please do not separate your life into compartments. Be yourself. Be real. Be a Christian.
There is a misunderstanding about whether or not we can talk about our beliefs in public. Although I don’t cram my religion down anyone’s throat, I understand and employ my God-given and Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of speech and religion.
Here’s an example. One day at the scientific laboratory (I think it was in 1994), I was told that I need to take my Bible off my desk and stop praying on lab property. I looked at my manager and calmly said, “This week, America is celebrating National Native American Heritage Week. Ten Native American Tribes are opening each of their 4-hour sessions on Lab property with their own native prayer, and they have their religious material here on government property. Since the lab authorities and the national government are endorsing these religious events on lab property, they cannot deprive me of the same privileges. Therefore, my Bible stays on my desk, and I will continue to pray privately.”
I didn’t wave banners or get excited. I forthrightly but calmly stated my case and went about my business. And that was the end of it. I have many other personal examples, but that will suffice.
So, can a Christian be a scientist? Yes. Thousands of scientists, professors, doctors, astronomers, et.al., are Christians. Don’t be intimidated by non-Christians, but don’t be foolish, either. Be respectful as you wisely interact with the world (1 Peter 3:15).