Following Jesus into science

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I’ve been reading through Walter R. Hearn’s book, Being a Christian in Science. He spent twenty years as a researcher and professor of biochemistry. Below are some of his thoughts on science as a “calling.” Perhaps his thoughts will generate some consideration and appreciation of a scientist or a budding scientist close to you. At UBC I have been getting to know several students who aspire to the research scientist lifeform. Most feel the tension between the lab and the draw of other possible loves. Christian faith enters right into this tension with them but learning how to navigate it does seem to require wrestling with what we call “calling” and the ability to hold onto several ideas at the same time.

Dr. Hearn writes:

It is not improper to speak of having a gift for science. To test that gift, take all the mathematics and science courses you can, and work hard at mastering them. Think of your studies as mind-building, the way athletes and bodybuilders benefit from physical exercise at a gym. For most of us, the challenge of mastering science courses in school will either develop our interest or reveal that God has another direction for us. Good grades in math and science courses serve as reasonably good indicators of our attitude toward science as well as our aptitude for it.

As a rule of thumb we can expect God to call us into a life’s work that we will enjoy. Scientists generally work extremely hard, partly because it is expected but also because they tend to enjoy what they do. Any scientist needs emotional resilience, determination and self-discipline to keep going through long periods when joy is hard to come by. Sometimes theoretical calculations just will not come out right. The most carefully planned experiments can keep going haywire. The atmosphere in a lab can be discouraging because we may be surrounded by colleagues with similar frustrations.

Few Christians in science would expect to solve problems in the lab without putting in the same amount of effort as anyone else. Yet many testify that at least on occasion they have experienced God’s special present in the laboratory. Sometimes that means seeing the breakup of a mental logjam that has held back progress. More often it means being sustained by hope when things are not going well.

 

The apostle Paul referred to faith, hope and love as the “greater gifts,” with love being the greatest of all. Any individual able to exercise those gifts can make an outstanding contribution to a scientific laboratory. A Christian who demonstrates resilient hope biased on an abiding faith, and who can lovingly pass a spirit of hope on to coworkers, can have a salutary effect on the morale of a whole research group.

 

Flexibility is another important characteristic. Studies of psychological profiles indicate that successful scientists have a strong desire to find solutions, but can tolerate a lot of ambiguity and delayed gratification along the way. The most creative scientists can carry around in their heads a dozen competing hypotheses, seriously considering ideas that may turn out to be false or even ridiculous. Scientists must able to play with ideas even when they know that not everyone of them can be correct.

 

Thoughtful Christians often display that same kind of intellectual flexibility. Anyone who has grappled seriously with apparent theological paradoxes comes to realize that each extreme position may hold some partial truth but neither tells the whole story.

 

Scientists are trained to withhold judgement, to remain objective until all experimental results are in. Of course all possible results of all possible experiments are never in . Flexibility can harden into overarching scepticism, reluctance or inability to commit ourselves to any position. In practice, scientists will vigorously support an appealing hypothesis, the one they consider least likely to be falsified, because they believe in it.

 

In theory, at least, a scientists’ commitment to any hypothesis remains tentative. Yet no one gets to be a scientist without making a serious commitment of his or her life to the scientific community. Those who disparage religion caricature it as taking blind leaps of faith. Those who actually live by faith generally keep our eyes wide open — to see where we are going to land.

Resurrection People have been disrupted by Jesus.

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5Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. 6We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. 7For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. 8And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. 9We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. 10When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. 11So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.
Romans 6:5-11

 

Jesus is the master of disruption. He disrupts our lives so we can love and connect by first being loved and connected to God through Him. When His disruptions begin we may be troubled by the challenge we feel to our beliefs, behaviours, and attitudes. We may worry — what do others think of us? We may fear — what we are going to miss out on? But surely as we engage faith and become curious about the rumbling in our mind, body, and soul we will see a new day and a new life emerging.

Disruption is required! Its required so we can enter into the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Gospel life is not a life of dual citizenship. Really! Today many countries allow “dual citizenship” and people are walking around with multiple passports. But the Kingdom-life with Jesus is not like that. We must surrender our passport to the “old life” and the “old nature” in order to fully receive and live into the new life of the Kingdom of God. That’s disruptive! We have to die to the old life and its claim on us. Turning over a passport may initially seem limiting and scary if you have retained deep connections, hopes, and dreams fuelled by a residence in the “old country.” But life in the new country, as my father who immigrated from Ireland declared to me, “cannot be lived looking over your shoulder.”

We must reckon with with this truth about the Kingdom of God: it is not meant to be lived looking over our shoulder. Life in the Kingdom of God is meant to be looking forward to Jesus and what He redeems and plants anew in our lives.

Discipleship, then, is a continual process of consideration of our union with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. We are intended to be Resurrection People so we must

“consider [ourselves] to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.”

Why would we bother with the hard work of waiting and wading with Jesus? Because He is the master of disruption; He disrupts death!

“And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. 9We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. 10When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God.”

So now, we too may live for the glory of God as Resurrection People!

 

Walking treasure chests… full of glory!

 

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24I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for his body, the church. 25God has given me the responsibility of serving his church by proclaiming his entire message to you. 26This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. 27For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.

28So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. 29That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.  Colossians 1:24-29

 

I love the window Paul creates for his readers here. We get to see his internal motivations. Why would he suffer for the beginning of the church in each city he visits? Why would he persist to preach the Gospel even when it seems to cost him so much?  What vision continues to fuel his passion?

Well, for one thing, Paul treats the Gospel as a precious treasure contingent the secret and mystery of God.  And two, he treats the Gospel as a that gateway to most tremendous vision of our lives:  “Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.”

Some translations read: Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Wow! So this is why Paul labours and struggles so much in prayer, in teaching, in preaching, in disciplining his own life, in working to clearly communicate the truths of the Gospel. Paul has a vision of what people fully displaying the greatness and glory of Jesus. And that’s what motivates every disciple-maker. That’s what is going to motivate you someday as you care and take interest in another person who is following Jesus and trying to figure Him out!

You are walking treasure chest… full of the glory of Christ Jesus!

Jesus is not an absentee landlord.

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15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:15-17

 

Jesus holds it all together. Not only were all things created through Him and for Him, but He also remains connected and part of life — Jesus holds it all together. He is not an absentee landlord. This man Jesus who is the image of the invisible God, precedes Creation and now holds it all together! This is a magnificent declaration of Jesus’ supreme importance to life.

When I feel as if everything is falling apart — Jesus is holding it together. When I wonder if death and destruction is winning — I must remember that death has been defeated through Christ. These powers arrayed against the knowledge of God and the glory of God in creation, in people, and in the church have nothing on Him.

The universe is personal. It is personally connected to Jesus, yet it is a distinct reality. You and I can study all that is created as an entity separate from God — but the declaration of Scripture is that in the mind of God all things were created for Christ Jesus.

Jesus is supreme. Our lives, are held together by Jesus. Glory! to acknowledge Jesus as Lord, is to engage personally with the One who made you and knows you.

We have the forgiveness of sin.

 

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7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. Ephesians 1:7-10

The large problem standing in between our union with God is sin. Its the problem Jesus came to deal with as He came from the communion of God, took on flesh, was born of Mary, crucified on the cross, buried in the tomb and raised from the dead. The word for sin here indicates a “trespass” against God. Trespassing occurs when we cross a boundary and enter space that is not ours. Its not that we have entered God’s space, but that we actually left the bounds of His character, will, and word. In leaving that boundary we have been taken captive. Now Jesus came to pay the price.

Jesus paid our redemption price so we can be united with Him again and become participants in the full union work He is planning: the union of things in heaven and things on earth. Jesus’ redemption price – the giving of his blood – is constantly available to you for the forgiveness of sin. When it seems like we are being taken captive by sin again, its time to enter into God’s glorious purpose for you: Jesus shed his blood for the forgiveness of your sin that you might be with Him!