In response to Dr. Anthony Fauci’s expressed concern about a prevalent “anti-science” bias in our society, Franklin Graham posted on his Facebook: “Science isn’t truth—God is.”
The evangelist’s comment was an attempt to discredit or minimize scientists’ warnings and guidelines regarding COVID-19. The comment reflects a long-standing effort to drive a wedge between science and religion.
Pitting science and theology against one another is one of religion’s most costly and deadly mistakes. The church persecuted and executed scientists in the name of defending God; and the current attempts to undermine epidemiologists and other scientific specialists dealing with the COVID pandemic is killing people.
I was privileged to serve as pastor of First United Methodist Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee in the 1980s. The congregation consists of scores of Ph.D. scientists and professional engineers. Their intellectual brilliance, commitment to the pursuit of truth, devotion to contributing to the healing of creation, and humility in admitting their mistakes inspired me and broadened my own understanding of who God is and how God works in the world.
One of my Oak Ridge friends was Dr. William Pollard, a world-renowned physicist and Episcopal priest. He spoke and wrote often of how his science expanded his understanding of God and how his faith informed the purpose and use of his science. He reminded us all that God is the source of ALL truth, scientific and theological/Biblical, and that all truth must be approached with humility and mystery.
Franklin Graham is right: God is truth! He is wrong when he pits religious revelation over against scientific data. God’s revelation is contained within creation as well as the pages of Scripture. In reality, the creation itself is the first “Bible,” preceding the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures by millions of years.
From my perspective, science is one of God’s most generous gifts to humanity. Yes, it can be–and often is–misused, but no more than religion has been and continues to be used for devilish purposes. Both religion and science can also be arrogant and idolatrous.
But anti-science is a dangerous form of practical atheism. It denies God’s sovereign presence and work in ALL creation and negates our stewardship of God’s gifts. Science is God’s gift over which we are to exercise stewardship in service to the healing of creation.
Albert Einstein put it succinctly: “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”
What are the implications for the current pandemic crisis?
The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, is a public health challenge that requires the world’s best scientific minds. It is a new biological phenomenon about which science learns more every day. Let us support the scientists who are devoting their God-given expertise to understanding and defeating the virus.
The pandemic is also an ethical, theological challenge. The heart of our religious faith is summed up in the commandment that we shall love God and our neighbor. Science is showing us how we can best love our neighbors in face of COVID-19:
Wear a mask
Practice social distancing
Wash your hands
Support research for vaccines and therapeutics
Now is not the time for partisan politics and self-serving efforts to undermine scientists. Now is the time to seek and live the Truth revealed in science AND religion. For those of us who claim allegiance to Jesus, it boils down to loving one another as Christ loves us.