When Salvation Met Science

person standing on grass field while opening hands
Photo by Kourosh Qaffari on Pexels.com

As a kid in school, I didn’t take much interest in science courses. There were the standards: Biology, Chemistry and Physics, with some curriculum on the fundamentals of Geology, Archaeology and Sociology. I wish I‘d realized back then how extremely cool science is and that getting good grades would have opened up exciting career possibilities, far beyond anything I can mention on my humble résumé (accents included to give an illusion of being smarter than I am, which this admission nullifies).

Nowadays, there are University prep courses, such as Nutritional Science, Pathogens and Disease, Medical Technologies, Biotechnology and Public Health. These are fields of study that concern many aspects of daily life, that are undeniably important for our understanding and practicality as functioning adults in our society. Yet, there is a noticeable resistance amongst many in religious communities, to skip giving proper scientific reasoning or exploration it’s due — at least from a secular standpoint. Instead, there appears to be more of an unnerving or a suspicious regard for multiple fields of science, in general.

I grew up in “the church”. There was a strong focus on learning about the holy scriptures, singing hymns, choruses, being a vocalist of CCM (Christian Contemporary Music) with “Soundtrax”(anyone remember those backing cassettes for church soloists way back in the day?), playing in the band, worshipping the crucified and risen Lord through various media (whatever we had back then that qualified as media), seeking the baptism of the Holy Spirit (speaking in tongues), fervently praying for miracles and being watchful day and night for the Rapture. Full stop…. yes, terms and phrases like, the great Tribulation; the second coming of Jesus Christ; the trumpet call of the Archangel; Armageddon; etc. Eschatology was the backdrop of everyday living and doing your utmost to avoid the outpouring of God’s wrath was the rule of the day. Don’t get me wrong — there was a lot of love, laughter and care for others, during those impressionable years and I have memories of serving God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. Some of the role models from my childhood have remained dear to me.

As life transitioned from youth to adulthood, the “thief in the night” didn’t come. The drama ensembles I’d participated in as a teenager, that portrayed heaven or hell scenarios; the testimonies of “getting saved”; audible assumed prophetic utterances; altar calls; binding and loosing; witnessing; leading souls to recite the sinner’s prayer — those key phrases and expressions encapsulated the shaping of my worldview. God-talk (the Trinity: Father God, Jesus, His Son and the Holy Spirit) was ‘everything’ … at least our concept of the 3-in One.

As the decades rolled on, the sense of urgency to “win the lost” remained very strong amongst my tribes folk, despite relocating to a different part of the country. Everything was still on point. The religiosity was very similar to my childhood, with preachers and contemporaries preferring to promote scriptural references that served hardline fundamentalist agendas and gave rise to startling new predictions. These were considered prophecies, yet were they genuinely from man, woman or God? Can one really be certain? The predictions gradually faded into memory. I’m not going back in time with my recollections now, in order to pull up questions, troubling methodologies, and to bring a “gotcha” to this piece. However, the noticeable lack of interest in science from my multiple human ecosystems and the very influential televangelists of the day was largely due to the assumption that “this world is not our home, we’re just a-passin, through”…. therefore, learning more about science wasn’t important. We were going to immanently leave the planet anyway, leaving our troubles, traumas, bills, unresolved relationship issues, etc. behind.

As time has progressed into modern-day social media oversharing (I’m looking at you, those who tend to share misinformed and inappropriate click bait), I’m often reminded of the religious culture I grew up in. As I am evolving into a person who has taken a great interest in many fields of science, I’ve reckoned that knowledge and wisdom applied from deep understanding, then touched by God’s infinite mercy, is as life-enriching as the salvation my soul rests in. It’s what works for me, the lifeblood that flow in and through me — certainly, some moments more than others, in my very flawed, yet sincere human condition.

If you are a religious person (this applies to any faith tradition and please don’t take offence to the term, it’s just for distinguishing purposes), you should celebrate scientific breakthroughs, instead of being wary of them. To truly balance your soul, add some easily accessible teachings in Philosophy and Psychology. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to learn about the latest credible reports about the happenings in different humanities around the world and develop a working understanding of Soteriology. For those unfamiliar with the term, it’s the study of doctrines of salvation, primarily referring to Christianity. The Population Reference Bureau estimates that over 108 billion members of our species have existed, past and present (www.prb.org). That is astounding to me; yet growing up, I believed that I was amongst the most privileged people on earth, because I knew how to get through the ‘narrow gate’. I was of the elect. I had a calling and a mission to reach the lost. However, I was lost.

During the early 2010s (and continuing to this point in my life), I began listening to intriguing podcasts, reading helpful Theologically-themed articles, watching informative YouTube videos and reading scholarly books that deepened my faith and renewed my mind. To take the heart, soul, mind and body into consideration as a human being who happens to follow the way of Jesus, my awareness and interest in science became heightened, by a natural progression. No hype, no propaganda, no intention to sound the alarm about hellfire awaiting those who don’t turn from their wicked ways. Instead, I think the key to finding everlasting life is through knowing more about the Creative force behind everything that is good and the incredible ways He sustains life, every day. That is the Source, the Fount of every blessing, the Way, the Truth and the Life.

I wish I had learned more about this brilliantly creative God, while developing into an adult who would eventually lose her trust, hope and faith in the sustainer of life. Looking back at psychologically frustrating situations from each decade of my existence, I now realize I didn’t really know God. I had been influenced to believe that God has a plan to prosper and not harm me, that everything is good because God knew me from when I was in my mother’s womb, that all of my days are numbered, so God’s got this, that all I had to do was seek first His kingdom and everything would be added to me. I didn’t know it then, but I was suffering from a case of bad theology. The significance of understanding the CONTEXT of how and why these scriptures exist cannot be overstated. That sounds like something I will attempt to write about in another post.

My prayers were mostly about …. me. Praying for pain and sickness to go away, for my future life partner, for enough money to cover my expenses and a surplus to be considered “prosperous” (not to be confused with the evangelical-style prosperity gospel, of which I’ve never been interested in). Wanting to look, feel and be successful, by the standards of my known society (essentially, a “shiny, happy person”), to be the most attractive version of myself, yet willing to be the hands and feet of Jesus” (more Christianese), eager to participate in missions gathering and hi-tech worship events with visiting superstar recording artists and ultra-hip, all-together fabulous Christian singers and musicians. That reminds me of the time I wanted so badly to be one of them …. I recall writing a letter (remember writing letters?!) to a singer in Nashville (the hub of CCM), asking for advice about how to get into the industry. I think I was 17 at the time and wondering if I could cut a break. She warmly responded to my letter and basically told me to “keep singing as often as possible….” No big break came, despite how I prayed for such a blessing. Those prayers weren’t wrong, just very incomplete.

Now at the edge of my 40s (a late bloomer, by most accounts), I am sharing many of the profound truths that I have discovered, often the hard way. How I pray is one of them (and I am developing new and exciting ways to encounter God — more on that in a future writing). I have recited the Lord’s Prayer my entire life, yet woefully skipped the significance of “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” That is something to take a moment to ponder — those 6 words. That is more than a piece of a scripture, or a sermon — it deserves a sermon series. It should have been a high school course in my Christian school, expounding the terms, studying the Ancient Greek and making the best effort to honour these precious, timeless words the ancient scribes captured by Jesus of Nazareth from Matthew 6:10.

If it is God’s will for us to be mindful of how we are to live on Earth, perhaps we should be treating it a lot better. I’ve heard many references to Earth, in the feminine. Why don’t we offer her more respect by caring for her, treating her inhabitants better (humans and all other life forms)? If we can be genuinely humbled and honour the guidelines (in particular, this one I’m mentioning today), what a difference that would make in our lives, our intentions, our families and affecting our particular structures and facilities. Our food sources would be much more natural, with only minimal processing and not harming the earth’s organic riches.

I am far from being an all-knowing, resourceful person, but I appreciate science. I know better than to pretend as such. As we proceed through May 2020, we are living in the highly inconvenient season of COVID-19 — and it’s staggeringly, quantifying effects on our planet are unknown, but the experts won’t suggest looking at the situation through rose coloured glasses. It is optimism and realism we need, not idealism and pessimism. For example, you would be wise to listen to the scientists and experts who have been trained to deal with these kinds of novel infectious diseases. Getting through these times requires everyone to be on board with defeating the coronavirus and helping our world to avoid future devastations. I will include on this topic, that there is no conspiracy theory here, Bill Gates did not participate in the mutation of this killer virus (it’s absurd to believe otherwise), God did not order this pandemic (or the other ones from history) and the best way to beat COVID-19 is to mindfully and thoughtfully live as though you are carrying the virus.

Discernment is more important than ever and knowing how to process information is critical to survival — yours and those of whom you normally have contact with. I don’t disagree with Darwin’s scientific and philosophical deduction that we are currently existing in a “Survival of the Fittest” context. It certainly feels that way as we struggle more than we used to, in everyday life. If you want to best your odds of surviving this beast of a pandemic, do everything within your power to be fit. Like God gave Joshua the admonition to “be strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:9), move forward in such a way. Take care of yourselves, your families, respect our planet and ease up on the doomsday predictions (here’s a hint: they’re not helping). Better to get on your knees or go volunteer somewhere, being the aforementioned hands and feet of Jesus, while practising recommended social distancing. Our children and future generations are counting on us to do things well, so we can all fulfill God’s desire: “Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” We’re here now, lets make it better. Applicable to this discussion and how I will wrap up these words today, is my plea: Deliver Us From Bad Theology.

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