So, our question for the first Roundtable of 2018 is about science and faith: “can they coexist in religious rhetoric?
The short answer is “Sure, they can”—and we’ll demonstrate how that works in this very column.
However, we probably ought to begin by defining our terms. Basically, science is a particular method of approaching reality. This method really started to come into its own about four hundred years ago. The method relies on theories that are tested by experimentation; those experiments are then reproduced in other settings; the results are measured or quantified, and that’s how this method provides us with an objective way of approaching reality.
And, clearly, science has a very impressive track record: it’s not like everyone who ever lived before us was trapped in misery and ignorance, but the conveniences that we simply take for granted in 21st century America are breath-taking, and all of that has been made possible by the approach to reality that we call science.
However, there is an older way of approaching reality. That older way is called faith, and it has been around since the beginnings of recorded history. Faith, though, is not a method. A method is a procedure that anyone can use, but faith is something that is much more personal. So, it’s really more accurate to call faith a skill. And what this skill produces is the direct perception of reality, the ability to experience reality at its very source.
Now what faith doesn’t produce is new technology and cutting-edge innovations. Instead, what faith creates is saints. After all, the source of all reality is the Most Holy Trinity, so folks who can directly experience reality at that level are people who have been united to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In other words, these are people who have themselves become holy.
Of course, a self-driving car seems a lot more exciting and a lot more useful than a saint. But think about it like this: One of the main characteristics of a saint is happiness; the Biblical word for that happiness is blessedness. Genuine happiness, true blessedness, comes from the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and, since a saint is someone who has been united with the Most Holy Trinity, these holy people are living examples of what happiness actually looks like.
And, as we head into this New Year, we need those examples more than ever. Because despite all of our impressive gadgets and all of our super-cool tech, one thing that is in very short supply in our culture is happiness. In fact, a lot of people are beginning to wonder if real happiness is even possible.
But you can make that call yourself—and you can use the scientific approach. You can conduct your own experiment and develop that same faith, using the same methods that the saints have used down through the ages: worship, prayer, fasting, service, generosity. All of those activities must be done in a parish community, and each of those activities take a significant amount of time. However, if you stick with it, what you will discover is the very same thing that each of the saints have observed: faith is a skill that can be learned, but it is also, at the same time, a gift. It is a gift that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit extend to us, a gift that comes to us from the very source of all reality.
That would make a great project for the New Year. If you’d like some assistance in becoming a saint (or just sharing in their happiness), give me a call or send me a note. I’d love to help.
Father Aidan Wilcoxson is the pastor of St John Orthodox parish in Cedar Park (www.theforerunner.org); he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.