A robust intellectual basis for Christianity is not enough.

I like to understand why things are like they are. As a child I was taught that science provides the answers that I needed.

When in later life I became a Christian I thought that there was a conflict between science and God, but for a while reconciled this with the idea that ‘God can do anything’. A simple idea, but science and faith was not an area that I really wanted to explore.

We are given the impression that ‘science knows’, but we just haven’t been told yet. About five years ago I decided to find out. What does science know? What does it still not know? Are there things it can never know? Taking everything into account, what story best fits all the facts, a godless universe or one with a God?

I adopted an analytical approach, but avoided the temptation to dig too deeply into details of each field. I just tried to understand the underlying principles sufficiently to see what they contribute to the big picture. I found that most people feel uncomfortable outside of their specialist field, that few seem willing to take the necessary overview.

Having read a couple of books like ‘The Edge of Evolution” by the Intelligent Design proponents I began thinking that it may be possible to prove God exists. But then I read secular books on the origins of life and realised that everyone accepts the remarkable unlikelihood of life but that it doesn’t provide irrefutable proof – there are alternative explanations such as the multiverse theory.

I needed to find out where the Bible came from; could I trust it, and if so, why? I researched the source of the NT documents in particular, and some of the gospel accounts that are excluded from the Bible (the Da Vinci code stuff). I realised that the gospel accounts are not trying to prove who Jesus was and what he did, but that they wouldn’t have been written if he hadn’t done some amazing things. The accounts are simply people trying to capture what happened for future generations. The Bible is not a spells book: “Do this and God will do that for you”.

I reached a number of conclusions about how to understand and respond to the big picture of what’s going on. Realising that everything requires a level of faith (including science of course), I suggest a response which recognises that many religious and scientific dogmas are unproven and unprovable – but unnecessary. I call the response “Minimalist Christianity”. I wrote up what I found in “The Big Picture”, found a publisher and then set about marketing my masterpiece.

There is a robust intellectual basis for Christianity, and I would commend it to others, but I recently realised that in exploring it I was falling into a bit of a trap. Because I have necessarily spent several years testing and probing, viewing things sceptically, I let my personal spiritual life become analytical too. My reasoning has shown that God exists, and that he must have a ‘personality’ and want to interact with each of us, but I have not really been responding to the real God – just developing an intellectual one.

We need to ‘get to know God’ as more than an idea; I need to follow my own advice! It is from the integrity of that relationship that the power to fulfil our purpose will flow. We need analysis to know that we can trust, but then we need to act on that trust to complete the experience. Having determined that the rock exists, we need to actively build the house of our life on it!

“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock.” Jesus circa 30AD

About Minimalist Christian

Phil Hemsley is a graduate of the University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in the UK. He works for a multinational company in the power industry, has presented technical papers at international conferences and holds many patents. He has published two books, the most recent is "The Big Picture, an Honest Examination of God Science and Purpose". He has lived on both sides of the faith fence. He is married, with two daughters.
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5 Responses to A robust intellectual basis for Christianity is not enough.

  1. Discuss says:

    Nice post Phil. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Anonymous says:

    I’ve been reading Sarah Coakely on her idea of ‘théology totale’ which seems to be coming at the same idea – that contemplative, prayerful and worshipful activity necessarily accompanies intellectual theological conception in order to be taken up into a trinitarian life. In terms of applying this to science, it means that science itself doesn’t belong in opposition to Christian faith, but is a particular outworking of disciplineship within it. See a first attempt to articulate how this goes http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780198702610.do


  3. Tom McLeish says:

    Sorry that last post wasn’t supposed to be anonymous!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lewis Smith says:

    My faith is rooted more in history than in science – partly because I am a historian, so that view comes more naturally to me, and partly because the Gospels are historical accounts of real events. However, they describe an obviously supernatural being whose existence and actions transcend science as we know it. God in His entirety is unknowable this side of eternity, but God in His incarnation as Jesus Christ came that He might know and be known by His creation.


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