When science seems like Magic

Trust is central to Christian faith just as it is central to science.

In December 1903 (only an incredible 120 years ago) the Wright brothers had their first powered flight, traveling 37 metres. By the fourth flight they reached 260 metres and lasted just under a minute in the air. Today a Boeing 787-8 is fifty-seven metres long and can reliably fly for more than 13,500 kilometers carrying up to 350 passengers. When I go to the airport and watch these and similar planes take off to fly to the other side of the country or world, I am awed that aircraft weighing about 120,000 kilograms can lift off the ground. Yet I have no hesitation getting on board and using this method of transportation. What these planes do seems magical to me.

Complex technology

Then I take out my smartphone, snap a picture of the plane taking off, and instantly send it to my cousin in Australia. At the same time, I can send it to my home computer and print a colour picture that would be nice enough to hang on my wall if I was a better photographer. On my smartphone, I can access more information than was printed in the fourteenth edition of Encyclopedia Britannica, which I purchased years ago on a monthly payment plan over two years. How my house’s wireless system and the cellular system in my town and country work is a mystery I don’t try to understand. (Full disclosure: I used Wikipedia for many of the facts in this column.)

Much of the technology I use daily is complex and based on scientific advances discovered over the last one hundred years. I understand a tiny part of the science that has given rise to the wonders of our current age, but the reality is that I trust technology will work more than I know how it does. The details of how planes fly and how my smartphone works are magic to me.

Wright Brothers in Dayton Ohio. Flikr.

Meeting in trust

In many ways, my trust in our Lord is similar. I don’t understand how this vast cosmos can be created by a being who sent his son to this earth two thousand years ago. Jesus came to live, die and be resurrected to unite us with God. I don’t understand what happened on the cross. Theologians have many ways of describing this event, many of which seem reasonable to me. I have grown up in a community that tries hard to follow the commandments of our Lord to love God and our neighbour, but argues that we are grafted onto the true vine by grace alone. In many ways, my understanding of general and special revelation is similar: I can see that they are essential, but I only have a firm handle on the main points and live by trust in both.

This incomplete understanding makes me humble. I recognize that my knowledge is limited and could, in many ways, be wrong. I live in a world where trust is central to my scientific life and my Christian faith. May this trust in our Lord be yours as well.


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