Believing Scientists Respond: Why Are You a Christian?
For these scientists, their Christian faith helps them make sense of the world.
Jeff Hardin, chair of the department of integrative biology, University of Wisconsin (BioLogos Board Chair)
I’m a Christian because the Christian story of the world—and of myself—makes sense of reality. The Gospel—an old English word for “Good News”—is a Big Story that involves each one of us, but it’s also one of cosmic proportions. When I began to grasp the personal and cosmic dimensions of this Big Story, I began to catch a tiny glimmer of how it makes sense of everything else. First, it made sense of my own life. When I was first presented with the Good News about Jesus of Nazareth, I saw that the Gospel story ran right through my own life. It explained why I, if I was really honest, could be capable of acts of love, goodness, and kindness, but why I could be simultaneously petty, mean, and disingenuous. It was why, when this truth about myself came crashing down on me as a middle schooler, I gratefully accepted, by God’s grace through Christ, something I could not do for myself. Second, the Big Story of the Scriptures is consilient with all that we know. It makes sense of the moral nature of reality that we all perceive, the “unreasonable reasonableness” (to borrow from physicist Eugene Wigner) of the universe, and of our own ability to perceive the moral and rational fabric of reality.
Robin Pals Rylaarsdam, acting dean of the College of Science and professor of biological sciences, Benedictine University
I’m a Christian because of the gracious offering of love that God extends to me. As the old hymn says “my heart would still refuse you, had you not chosen me.” That gift, along with the countless gifts of believing parents and a community of believers around me throughout my life, is something I accept with thankfulness. In my daily life, especially during times when I was working full-time in a research lab with all the inevitable failure that goes along with that work, it was a comfort to be regularly reminded that life is more than my work, and that God is bigger and older and “more than” everything.
Keith Miller, research assistant professor of geology (retired), Kansas State University
Both my parents were committed Christians whose lives demonstrated what it means to live out their faith. There was no sacred/secular dichotomy demonstrated in their lives. Everything that they did—from their professional work, to their work with youth in scouting and in church fellowships, to hosting international missionaries, or sponsoring refugee families, to making themselves and their home available in the service of others—was a reflection of their faith.
But why am I a Christian? In addition to the example of my parents, I was involved in the Christian youth movement of the 70’s where I experienced my first sense of real Christian community. This was followed by active involvement in college and graduate school in the ministry of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, and then in the Graduate and Faculty Ministry of IVCF. When pursuing my doctorate, I was part of a diverse and dynamic Bible study group of PhD students that challenged and stretched me. This continued with my involvement and writing for the American Scientific Affiliation, an association of Christians in the sciences. That challenge continues to this day as I seek to be faithful to the calling of Christ to serve others.
The above may not sound like a basis for my personal Christian faith—no discussion of a conversion experience or a deep theological revelation. But through all these steps in my life my understanding of God and what it means to follow Christ has been continually challenged and stretched through the community of other believers. The claims of scripture have grown stronger, not weaker in the process. Nothing else makes sense of all that I know of the world and humanity, including all its pain and suffering.
Stephen Barr, professor of physics, University of Delaware
I am a Christian by the grace of God, beginning with the grace I received when I was baptized as an infant. And since then I have “received grace upon grace,” to use a phrase from St. John. The seeds of faith were planted in me as a small child by my parents and the good Sisters who taught me in parochial school, and (thanks be to God) I have never lost that faith. I had many questions and some intellectual difficulties when I was young, though I never doubted the existence of God (which always seemed luminously self-evident to me), the divinity of Christ, or the divine origin and authority of the Church.
As I wrestled with difficult theological, philosophical, and historical questions raised in my mind by the teachings of the Church, God gave me the patience and (over time) the insights that allowed me to work through them. Some of these insights I derived from the works of authors I was fortunate enough to encounter when I was young, such as Chesterton and Lonergan. My persistent study and reflection gave me a growing conviction of the coherence and solidity of the Church’s teachings. All this I attribute to God’s grace.
Roseanne Sension, professor of chemistry, University of Michigan
I am convinced that the purposelessness of a purely natural/materialistic outlook is missing something significant. There is a purpose to our existence that goes beyond chemistry, physics and biology. Of course, Christianity is not the only possible solution to this problem. I am a Christian because the overarching story of purpose and redemption and the ethical vision for love, service, justice is compelling.
Ian Hutchinson, professor of nuclear science and engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
I became a Christian as an undergraduate at Cambridge University, because of the person of Jesus. He was, to me, an exceedingly attractive figure for what he taught and what his life and death was said to represent. But it was only then that I heard clearly and came to accept that the evidence for his Resurrection is strong, and gives good reason to believe it is true. I also heard clearly the call to repentance and discipleship, and I accepted it. My subsequent decades of experience in the Christian faith have confirmed to me the reality of God’s presence, and my intellectual exploration has strengthened my conviction that the Gospel is supported by compelling evidence and logical arguments.
Kristine Johnson, aerospace engineer, Honeywell
Initially I became a Christian when my parents introduced me to Jesus as a child. As I matured, I wondered about the truthfulness of Christianity and the Bible. I investigated the reliability of scripture and the truthfulness of its claims. Many people from other religions have claimed to have peace with God, mountaintop experiences, and other emotional and spiritual reasons for their belief. I have found that Christianity is more than spiritual experiences and that the Christian faith is based on factual claims that are well supported by the evidence. Today I am a Christian because Christianity is true and because Jesus died and rose from the dead to pay the penalty for my sin.
S. Joshua Swamidass, assistant professor of laboratory and genomic medicine, Washington University in St Louis
I follow Jesus because he bodily rose from the dead, demonstrating to the whole world that God exists, is good, and wants to be known. I find that Jesus is beautiful and compelling. I have searched all over and found nothing greater than him. Nothing threatens him, not even science. Nothing here diminishes him. There is evidence, but coming to Jesus, for me, was more like falling in love than solving a math problem.
Sarah Bodbyl Roels, research associate/senior scientist specializing in evolutionary biology and education, Michigan State University (member of BioLogos Voices)
Drawing from the title of a mid-20th century U.S. radio series, Christianity is “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” The Biblical story is infinitely relatable, full of promise and pain, ultimate suffering and salvation, but overall, the pages are bound together with intense love. The gospel message is radical and countercultural, and gives both meaning and purpose to life. There is a reality to Christianity that I struggle to grasp as a scientist, since the field doesn’t inform this area of reality, but that I nevertheless know to be true.
Fr. Nicanor Austriaco, O.P., professor of biology and theology, Providence College
I am a Christian because I was baptized when I was an infant. The grace of that sacrament moved me to encounter my Savior while I was a graduate student at MIT. Since then, the Lord has become an intimate friend who has called me to his holy priesthood to serve him and his Holy Church. I am a Christian because the Christian life is an adventure, a romance, and a mystery, all at the same time. Christ makes it all worthwhile.
This article was originally published on July 31, 2017.
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