Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Faiths & Science

Wednesday, September 27, 2007 -- Week of Proper 18
(John Henry Hobart, Bishop of New York, 1830)

"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this location --

Audio Podcasts of today's "Morning Reflection" and those from the past week are available from (go to St. Paul's Home Page and click "Morning Reflection podcast")

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (p. 982)
Psalms 119:49-72 (morning) 49, [53] (evening)
1 Kings 17:1-24
Philippians 2:1-11
Matthew 2:1-12

It seems so odd that some expressions of Christianity are as hostile as they are toward other religions and toward science. Today we have stories that offer another spirit.

We begin our sequential reading of Matthew today starting in the second chapter. Wise men from the east come to the manger of the infant Jesus. There, they are welcome.

Who are these wise men? They are people who practice another faith. They are not Jewish. They are first century scientists. They observe the movements of the planets and stars. Their knowledge is welcome.

How small is your God? How small is your Jesus? At our best, we proclaim a God in Christ who is perfect truth, the fullness of all that is is in God. So, wherever truth is discovered, it is a manifestation of the truth of God, and wherever faith becomes real it is the manifestation of the Word of God whom we speak of as the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. When scientists discover new truth by observation or experimentation, whatever they discover is consistent with the God of truth, because God is truth. There is no inconsistency between the truth of evolutionary theory and the Biblical truth that God created the heavens and the earth. Whenever someone following a different faith tradition connects with the depths of spiritual reality and lives with faith, love and compassion, that person experiences the Word of God manifest.

Following science and the practice of their own faith, these wise men come to the manger. They find welcome. They are not opposed as followers of another religion. Their gifts are not refused because they are the fruits of a scientific process. Their faith and their knowledge are welcome at the manger, because all faith and all knowledge are grounded essentially in God.

In our first reading, Elijah finds refuge in the home of a foreign woman, the widow of Zarephath, a town in Sidon. Presumably she follows the faith of her people, worshipping Baal or one of the fertility cults that was common among the non-Jewish neighbors of Israel. She and Elijah live in peace and mutual accord during the drought. She welcomes him, a foreign prophet. He raises her son from the dead. She doesn't become Jewish. The son isn't circumcised. But goodness, truth and life comes from their relationship as they treat one another with deference and honor.

Which bring us to the reading from Paul's letter to the Philippians. "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others." In an "honor culture" where people see themselves as competing against one another to gain honor as a limited commodity, this is startling language. Paul suggests that it is in emptying ourselves that Jesus is exalted. The path of humility and servanthood is the path that reveals Jesus. There is nothing coercive or prideful about this way. But this is the way that will ultimately reveal the glory of Christ, who because of his self-emptying, "God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

So the path Paul offers for glorifying Christ is to "regard others as better than yourselves," looking to their interests rather than your own. That is a context of peace, love and respect within which we can be in relationship with those of other faiths and other knowledge. We can trust that all faith and all knowledge leads to God. We don't have to challenge or compete for God to be true. We need only be humble, faithful and charitable. Like the holy family at the manger and Elijah in Zarephath. No need for arrogant attacks at science or threats of hell to Buddhists. That is very un-Christlike.



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The Rev. Lowell Grisham
Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, AR

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at

Our Rule of Life:
We aspire to...
worship weekly
pray daily
learn constantly
serve joyfully
live generously.


At 8:42 AM, Blogger Wheat said...

I enjoyed this message a great deal, Lowell. I think we need more messages like this today, rather than the sectarianism that mars so much religious discourse.

It's cool that you're doing podcasts of these. It's nice to hear your voice as well as read your words.

Peace be with you.

At 9:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reg golb said

personally I have no problem with science. I have no problem with observation, discovery. My problem is with the conclusions drawn by those observations.
Eg. global warming is humans fault.
The problem is not with the science, just the agenda of the scientist. That is where all good skepticism must be directed.

At 10:16 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Thanks Wheat,
I'm beginning to hear from some folks who listen to the podcast. I'm delighted. We're hoping to set up an automatic RSS feed soon.

And thank you Reg,
Not being a scientist, I tend to trust scientific consensus, knowing that thousands of researchers are out there just hoping they will be the one who can find something new to transcend the consensus. My son-in-law is an ecologist with his Ph.D. from Georgia Tech. I know from him that he is convinced by the evidence based research that human beings are contributing significantly to global climate change. Much of his doctoral research was done working with coral reefs. The combined damage of pollution, over-fishing and development, and climate change is pretty devastating to the world's reefs.


At 10:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reg golb said
"We can trust that all faith and all knowledge leads to God."

While I would argue that all faith leads to God, I will pass on that today.

All knowledge does lead to God. The difference between knowledge and consensus is the problem. "It's agree upon, It's decided science" that is clearly not the case, so human's as the cause of global warming? Let's wait on that.

At 7:52 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

The problem with waiting is... what if the consensus of science is right? What if we are contributing to global warming and we do nothing until it is proved and we pass a tipping point beyond which we can do nothing? Pretty disastrous consequences.

On the other hand, what if we heed the consensus? We do the work of conservation and limiting carbon emissions. There are some financial costs. There are some benefits -- environmental improvement regardless of how you read the evidence. Less dependence on non-renewable resources or on foreign oil might have some political and economic benefits.

Not unlike the argument I once heard. Why not accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior? You might live a better life. If you are right, eternal life. If you are wrong, what have you lost?


At 7:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reg golb
Conservation should be happening no matter what the environmental situation. So that is not an issue.

Limiting carbon emissions? Lets see, CO2, less than 1% of global atmosheric gas. What should we limit it to? How can it be a for sure environmental improvement when we don't know if that is what is causing the slight warming (which is occuring on mars as well, gee could that be from martial flatulence?) You believe that the world is bilions of year old right? Well how can we possibly KNOW anything about the worlds temps. Maybe the real average is still 5 degrees hotter than right now, or maybe it is 5 degrees cooler. If Al Gore cuts his emissions, then so will I.


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