JACKSON, MS (BP) – "We don't get religion," New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet said, his words sparking a whirlwind of attention. The "media powerhouses," as Baquet put it in an NPR interview Dec. 8, "don't get the role of religion in people's lives."
As a Christian, I can understand Baquet's observation. In order to "get" religion, one has to "get" faith. This often seems to be a challenge for those who see themselves as intellectuals. They have a faith; however, their faith is limited to their understanding of the thoughts and observations of other "intellectuals" -- thoughts and observations collectively known as science. It is understandable why many place their faith in science as the ultimate explanation of what we observe as we analyze our surroundings. Science provides a means by which the physical circumstances which affect us can be justified and explained. Because of the testable and re-creatable nature of scientific principles, we develop confidence, or faith, in our scientific explanations.
Science, however, has its limits. Science, for example, argues for a spontaneous natural occurrence of the formation of the universe, yet struggles to explain what happened prior to this moment of origin. Scientists continue to argue about how something -- that something being the entirety of the universe -- came from nothing. Different theoretical explanations are described in scientific "models" of the origin of the universe. Consider, however, that the renowned scientist Stephen Hawking has explained that, in order to be valid, a model of the origin of the universe does not have to prove reality; it only has to "work" in a theoretical argument. Science, in other words, only has to appear to be correct.
Faith in a spiritual Creator, however, demands a much higher standard. For spiritual faith to be true, the spiritual Creator has to be eternally valid. Such a Creator is not bound by our concepts of scientific truth or physical reality. Such a Creator would be, instead, the author of all physical law and would therefore supersede these very concepts and, at the same time, would not invalidate them. Indeed, belief in this Creator does not deny an instant of origin. In fact, Genesis 2:4 describes Genesis, chapter 1, as "This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made earth and heaven" (New American Standard Bible). The concept of a Creator reaches beyond the finite point of creation into the eternity of an existing supreme being.
Like train tracks stretching into the distance, the principles of both spiritual faith and scientific faith converge into the acknowledgement of a single moment of origin of existence, an instant of physical creation. At this point, however, these faiths instantaneously diverge to the greatest extreme imaginable. Those who practice a scientific faith often do so in a derogatory manner toward those who practice a spiritual faith. Spiritual faith is often condemned as insupportable by physical evidence and theoretical equations, with its practitioners called unenlightened, fearful and naïve.
As Christians, however, we trust in what we have personally experienced in God through our relationships with Jesus Christ. We concede that we can't prove God or Christ by any equation, but neither can anyone disprove by equation our experiences of faith. As the Bible states, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1, King James Version). It is very difficult to consider a hope as reality, and to then trust what is evidenced only by that hope. Yet, that is the very nature of spiritual faith.
My hope is that Mr. Baquet's recognition that he does not "get the role of religion in people's lives" would lead him and others like him to explore the possibilities of Christian faith. They may find it surprising that they are the ones who are restricted in their enlightenment, limited in their universal experience to only the physical realm while fearful of a co-existing spiritual reality, and naïve of the incomprehensible fullness of living a spiritual life based on faith in Jesus Christ.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Doug Parkin is a pharmacist in Jackson, Miss., and a member of First Baptist Church.