Ideas and Their Consequences
Christian tradition gave us many scientists. We must once again embrace that tradition.
Last night, I was on a Zoom call to pray for my Bible study leader’s health. He’s in the hospital on a ventilator, sick with covid. We prayed for a miracle. But I couldn’t help but think that the miracle happened a year ago when scientists used their God-given skills to create a vaccine to save us from this disease.
That’s the irony of this whole thing. Many conservative Christians are quick to dismiss the advances of science, relying instead on God to save them, or they fear that science has produced the “mark of the beast” mentioned in the book of Revelation. Yet when they get sick, they pray that God would use science to save them. Paul Krugman’s latest column, “The Quiet Rage of the Responsible,” and a New York Times video about “freedom” in Arkansas capture some of this irony well.
It reminds me of that story where the man was sitting on his roof in a flood. A boat came by, but the man said he was waiting for God to save him. Again and again a boat came by. But when the man finally met God, he asked why God didn’t save him.
I was angry on the call. I’ve been angry the past few days. The spike we’re seeing now—the weary hospital workers, the lack of beds, the dying patients—was completely preventable. We have the antidote, blessed to us from the hands of science, guided by the hand of God.
Conservative Christians forget that their tradition has spawned some of the greatest scientists in history, not to mention our greatest universities—like Oxford and Cambridge, Harvard and Yale—as well as the greatest hospitals.
For example, Robert Boyle, the seventeenth-century chemist whose law you learn about in the tenth grade, spent his life integrating science and Christianity. George Boole, the mathematician from whom we get Boolean logic and modern computer programming, was fascinated with Christianity; I’ve heard that his views on logic grew from his attempt at resolving the logical nature of the Trinity. Isaac Newton spent much of his time studying Christianity. Even many contemporary scientists, including Francis Collins, who led the Human Genome Project, is a noted Christian who even cared for Christopher Hitchens as he lay dying.
The road of the Christian tradition runs right through many other great minds in Western thought—Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Leibniz, Kierkegaard, and many more—who have literally erected the intellectual frameworks from which we received political freedom, democracy, capitalism, and more.
Unfortunately, Christian culture seems to have lost sight of our extraordinary heritage, and that side road requires a toll: 628,285 American lives.
Christians must wrest their brains from the shitshow that is Facebook and Instagram “thought leaders” spreading lies because, quite simply, ideas have consequences. And their lives depend on it.