Thursday, January 05, 2006

Art and Science

I recently had the pleasure of hearing Tony Campolo lecture on Apologetics for Youth Ministers (which could have also been titled Apologetics in postmodern times). In his fascinating presentation, Campolo pointed out that while in recent history the debate has been between Christianity and Science, he no longer believed that to be the debate. He said that we always tried to make Christianity "work with" science or it was assumed that Christianity couldn't be true. In this construct, Christianity was subservient to science and faith, in effect, became viewed as a kind of science. However, as Campolo points out, Science is no longer on the throne. Postmodernity itself is throwing and has thrown science out of its place of power, causing many Christians to worry that faith is in the crosshairs as well.

I was recently listening (again) to my Audio Version of Rob Bell's book Velvet Elvis. As I listened, it became clear that faith isn't science to Bell. It's art. All of the impulses that Modernity cultivated in me recoiled at the thought. Art? What about facts? What about Truth? Then it occurred to me that just because something is art does not make it any less true. In fact, it may make it more true. The Bible, for example was never meant to be a cold, sterile thing. It is a beautiful, creative, living story about a beautiful, creative, living God. The Creation narratives were not written as science. They are beautifully poetic. That in no way makes them less true. Faith is not empirically deciding on a set of facts relating to God and then living by that proven set of rules. It is the creative expression that pours out of a life that is encountering the living God. It is our expressing the story that we are a part of with every fiber of our being. Church is meant to be dynamic and ever changing, not a repository of facts and patterns.

I want my faith to me more like art. I want it to express in dynamic and exciting ways the story that I live in and the God whom I love. I want it to overflow with truth, not merely be stuffed with facts and made servant to a system that is lacking.


Ryan said...

I'm not sure how Campolo and others can claim that science is no longer 'on the throne' of our society.

The top issues today are: cloning, biological-chemical warfare, genetic manipulation and engineering, abortion, euthanasia, stem-cell research, nanotechnology, the internet and computer viruses, cosmetic surgery, new medicine and therapy (and the technology that goes hand-in-hand) drives, shapes and manipulates our lives--and this is the most serious crisis of our times: what does it mean to be a human being in a world controlled by scientific research? It would worry me if Christians stopped thinking, stopped wrestling with how the above issues relate to their faith.

At the same time, I agree that the most important things to be known in life, are not scientific. What matters to human beings is purpose, sense of being, community, beauty and story (etc., of course). What really matter is knowing my parents love me--and that's not a scientific question at all.

Thoughts from here.

Adam said...

Campolo wasn't saying the science no longer has a place, simply that it is no longer considered the final authority, even by the dominant culture. Postmodernity exists in part due to the fact that science didn't live up to it's promise and wasn't all it was cracked up to be. As it turns out that the closer they look, the less things (like subatomic particles) act as predicted. As it turns out, science didn't lead us to peace, harmony and answers, but instead to conflict and confusion. It simply doesn't have the capital it once did.

Agent X said...


I recently discovered your blog. I really like it. Very engaging.

I too like Campolo and the thoughts you convey here make sense to me.

I have recently read a book by a couple of former N.T. Wright students called - COLOSSIANS REMIXED: SUBVERTING THE EMPIRE. I highly recommend it. In that book, Walsh and Keesmaat (authors), make a compelling case that knowing truth in a biblical sense is not about facts objectively known, it is actually very relative. Not a relativity in which anything goes, but more an epistimology of love (as Wright would say). They make the case that the word "truth" comes from "troth" as in "betrothed" which means fidelity. Knowing is the activity of faith - a trusting relationship with the known.

I do not dispute that faith is more art than science, but I offer this tidbit to see how you might further shape or else clarify the concept for me.

Again, very good blog. I'll be back in the future...

Many blessings,

Michael Exum
Lubbock, TX

Amy S. Grant said...

Adam, I saw your comment on Phil's blog and had to come over to see that beautiful picture of you and your daughter. Love it!

Jovan said...

Thanks for your comments. I believe I have been too abstract and flatt sharing my beliefs. I want my faith to become more organic. When this begins to happen I believe my ministry will follow suit.

Matt Elliott said...

Just started reading "Velvet Elvis" this morning! I like what I've read so far.

Jamie Arpin-Ricci said...

Great site & excellent post. I would highly recommend the book "Ockham's Razor" by Wade Rowland in this context. Worth the read.

Jamie Arpin-Ricci