In a world of science and technology, some wonder if faith is still needed. Is it? Let’s consider.
Science is our understanding of how the world operates: the “laws” of reality. For instance, gravity pulls things down because that is how gravity works: heat generally passes from hotter to cooler because that is how heat works, light generally travels in straight lines because that is how light works. Science describes, and tries to understand, how the physical universe works.
Science is very useful because it provides knowledge that we can use to build tools that do useful work for us. Airplanes and buildings, for example, work because gravity works in the way it does; furnaces work because heat works in the way it does; telescopes and microscopes work because light works in the way it does. This is technology: useful tools that can be built because science helps us understand the operation of the physical universe. Technology makes life physically possible where conditions would otherwise make it impossible (such as indoor heating during cold winters), and it makes life comfortable where it would otherwise be difficult.
Over the past few hundred years, as science has progressed, technology has proliferated: the printing press, electricity, the gasoline engine, the airplane, rockets, modern medicine, computers and the Internet, cell phones, and much more. Because of technology, science has developed quite a reputation as being a source of truth: every time we use a technological tool, we are reminded that science “works”: it tells us something true about the physical universe that we can rely upon to get things done. But are the creature-comforts provided by technology sufficient in themselves to live a fulfilled and happy life? Perhaps not. This is where faith comes in.
Faith, like science, is about truth, but it isn’t so much truth about the physical universe, it is truth about other people. People have faith in others when they believe that the others will be who they are and will do what they do. We don’t build technology with faith, instead, we build relationships. Relationships are powerful in a different way than technology: they provide meaning, support, joy, peace, and love. Relationships are the things that makes life “alive”, meaningful, and worth living.
When we consider religious faith, faith in God, this, too, is about relationships. God isn’t a phenomenon of the physical universe that can be studied by science and turned into technology to make life easier. There’s no “bottled God”, no “divine power vehicle”, there are no “Godputers”. On the contrary, God is personal, and we have faith in God when we believe he is who he is, and does what he does. We human beings found out about God not through experimentation or measurement, but through human beings witnessing and bearing witness to events where God acted in human history. For Christians, the key event is God becoming a human being in the person of Jesus, introducing himself to human beings in a new and special way, and showing his love through his death and resurrection. Because of Jesus, a better and closer relationship with God is possible. This relationship is what Christianity is all about.
Thus we see that science and faith address different aspects of a human life. Science and technology speak to the mechanical, physical aspects of life: what to eat, what to wear, how to make things, how to shape the physical world. Faith, on the other hand, speaks to the relational aspects of life: meaning, purpose, love, support. As human beings, we need both. In the same way as life without science and technology is primitive and harsh, life without faith is pointless and empty. But there is no need to live a pointless, empty life: Jesus came into the world so that we could have life to the full, life full of love, peace, joy and purpose. So let us not settle for a meaningless, purposeless life, however comfortable it may be. Instead, let us embrace Jesus and the life of meaning and purpose that he offers to us.