This reflection by Stefanie Kreamer was written in response to Duke’s sermon on Sunday, November 8, “The Bible is Too Unreliable” which will be posted up in the coming days.
Photo courtesy of unsplash.com and Aaron Burden
I was raised by scientists and became a Christian scientist (a Christian who is a scientist, to be clear). While these two communities have not always meshed well or easily, as I become more deeply involved in each of them, the more I see and appreciate their similarities rather than their differences. This past Sunday I reflected on this during Duke’s sermon on the Bible as a reliable text.
When I read scientific papers, I use a “rating system” to help me decide on the quality and reliability of the article. Is the topic being addressed an important one? Were its methods reasonable and in keeping with scientific standards? Are the results valid and meaningful, and would they affect my work as a doctor? After going through the algorithm, the paper gets a score, like a grade in school- A, B, or C.
Now there’s no doubt that science papers and scripture are different- though, I would argue, both have similar goals of telling the truth about our world in order to lead us towards more Life. And my rating system algorithm can’t be used in quite the same way for scripture (Jesus didn’t mention any randomized control trials, though I think his sample size would have been big enough ). That said, science papers require a good bit more faith to read and digest than I often acknowledge. Similarly, scripture actually does, in its own way, hold fast when subjected to scientific algorithms, though we often worry it is too fragile, and better not to put it to the test.
Last week I read a new paper about a medication for foot fungus (yes, my job is sometimes THAT exciting) that I’ve been thinking about starting to prescribe. I ran through my rating algorithm and decided, yes, this is a reliable paper. Three days later I prescribed the medication for the first time (foot fungus- be gone!). Now, I suppose the jury is still out on if that was a good decision. I’ll see that patient back in four weeks. Despite a reliable, well researched paper, I still didn’t have my own proof. I didn’t run those experiments myself; I didn’t write the paper; I’ll never look under a microscope to see firsthand the evidence that this medication is safe and effective. To move forward, I still needed a dash of faith, a willingness to give something new a try based on the results and suggestion of others.
On Sunday morning, I read through parts of the book of Jeremiah which call me to follow God into new lands that don’t feel like home, to trust he’ll care for me, and to make it my mission to serve my neighbors and hold fast to God’s promises of grace and forgiveness and a world made new. Everything in scripture, all of creation, Jesus himself, countless of my own stories, and the stories of others, tells me this is a good and reliable message. Its author is someone I know well, someone I know much better than the Mayo Clinic doc who wrote about foot fungus. It gets an evidence rating of A. So why is it harder to believe? The reliability of scripture is more undeniable than I allow myself to believe. Now one could argue that scripture is talking about matters much more important than foot fungus. But isn’t that just the point? With the stakes so high, and the text backed by the Triune God and thousands of years of results, the question isn’t do I have enough faith (though, yes, I do need a good amount!); it’s will I respond to, follow, and obey what I know to be reliable and true.
Stefanie is West/best coast raised, but an East coast transplant. Stefanie likes long runs on the beach (note: not the shore/bay/lake), sunsets over the ocean (note: not sunrises over the ocean), and fish tacos (note: Baja seasoning, not Old Bay). That said, she has an irrational love for the city of Philadelphia. Stefanie grew up learning bits and pieces about Jesus from all kinds of different places, and when the pieces finally all came together one day she thought it was the best story she’d ever heard. Some are surprised she’s an introvert, and if you’ve thought she was extroverted it’s because something has energized her a lot! A good day would be filled with sun, dirt, working with her hands, and talking to people (but not too many people…introvert, remember?)