Emily Ruppel served as BioLogos Web Editor from January 2013 to August 2014. In part 2 of her final post, she talks candidly about the struggles of holding onto faith in the midst of hard questions, as well as her hopes for the future of science/faith dialogue—both in the church and in the broader culture.
My secular friends sometimes express concern over why anyone would want to believe in God now that we’ve entered the age of giant microscopes and elegant equations that explain so many of the wonders that were once ascribed to God. I tell them this: sometimes I don't. Sometimes, my faith escapes me and all I seem to have are unanswered, unanswerable questions beneath the hull of my daily prayers and my quiet participation in church traditions. These are the hardest times to talk of faith, because at these times I feel jealous that belief could seem to come so easily to my brothers and sisters and not to me. It becomes very hard to admit to those who vociferously proclaim their convictions that sometimes, doubt gets the best of me.
However—no matter how frequently these empty times come and no matter how long I remain entrenched in them, there’s one aspect of my faith that I am sure of all throughout. I fix my gaze on this truth as though peering into a lighted diorama in the middle of darkened room. Maybe it’s because this thing is so much simper than the terrible wonder of God and our own too-easy-to-question significance, but the truth that never diminishes even in my darkest days of doubt is the truth of who I am when I believe in God, and this truth is always enough to keep me coming back and working out what it all means, exactly.
I don't want to lose my faith in God, no matter how silly it might seem to some, because the very idea that someone like Jesus walked this earth and his spirit lives on today increases my humility, teaches me what love can be, and expands the part of me that is graceful, childlike, and vulnerably open to others. It fills me with peace even when I don't know what it means when we say to each other that God is here and listening.
No matter where my mind wanders and what alternate reality I might consider in moments of spiritual desolation, once the morning sun rises and I see the shadows for what they are, I realize I really want to live my life in the light of a faith that touches everyone I see with the godly love that I, too, share. For this truth of being, this challenge and this prayer, I wake up every morning and I choose to be a Christian.
While I’m now moving away from science writing and from my work with BioLogos to pursue a PhD in rhetoric of science, my goals in this direction are inspired and fueled by time spent searching with these scholars and writers for the best way to approach the problem of reconciling the long-standing science/faith conflict in America. For me, these questions are not as rooted in the theoretical as they are the rhetorical, because even though I tend to err on the side of proclaiming passionately and defensively my views about, well, anything—I don’t think this tendency is the best way to win an audience and I certainly don’t think it’s the most Christian way. Rather, in working alongside and learning from the scholars of BioLogos, whom I’ve watched go out of their way to understand and respect the motivations of those who disagree with them, I’ve had to reexamine my personal approach to talking, writing, and debating with others.
For me, studying rhetoric of science is less about the art of persuasion than it is about the phenomenon of humility in the human search for truth. As artists, as scientists, as fellow believers or atheists—it doesn’t matter how brilliant our ideas are if how we voice them is wracked with myopia, overconfidence, and lack of engagement with opinions to the contrary. Yet if we do attempt to adopt a posture of respect and modesty—even when we are most sure of our own views—a radical opportunity presents itself: Watching our enemy become someone we learn from and love.
I am deeply thankful to Deb Haarsma, Jim Stump, Kathryn Applegate and a host of others on the BioLogos staff and council for both inviting me into their fold and for teaching me some of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned about communication, love, and faith. The work this organization is doing is unique and important in so many ways, and I look forward to being part of the conversation—hopefully someday as a scholar in my own right—well into the future.