This story is being republished for National Science Fiction day, January 2.
Space and the unknown have called to me since childhood. Astronomy and travel among the galaxies fascinate me. The theoretical stuff, like the things you see in science fiction: Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica. It's fascinating what we imagine as feasible.
But with those interests came some confusion: I didn't know how to reconcile scientific knowledge with what the Bible says about the creation of the universe.
I was raised in a conservative environment where science and faith were kept separate. I was told to ignore the theories of evolution and the big bang. Anything that contradicted the explicit words of Genesis was not worthy of acknowledgement. No discussion. No debate. Full stop.
I first forayed into the reconciliation of science and faith at Hesston (Kansas) College where I took an astronomy course with Jim Yoder, who quickly became my favorite professor. He taught us that there is a distinction between the things that we know and the things that we believe. We know that the universe is hundreds of billions of years old and we believe that God created the universe with spoken word. Those can be separate, and both still be true.
This was further clarified for me by a minor character in my favorite science fiction series, The Expanse, which explores the social, economic and physical implications of colonization within the solar system in a realistic and gritty way. Pastor Anna Volovodov is a Methodist minister on Earth in the show. When she is confronted by an alien technology that serves as the catalyst of the plot, someone asks her if she sees "her God" in this unknown thing.
She responds by quoting St. Augustine: "God gave us two texts: Scripture and creation, and if they seem to contradict, it's because we haven't understood one of them yet."
In my mind, there is no need for reconciliation. My favorite example of this line of thinking comes from imagining the writing of the book of Genesis. I see that God spent a few days explaining to Moses about the ins and outs of the big bang. God then talked about the development of living molecules in mud puddles, which eventually became human beings over the course of billions of years. Moses, of course, understands none of this, so God reframes it for him, explaining the creation of the universe as a seven-day process with spoken word and metaphor. Moses understands this version better, as it fits with the cosmology of the early Israelites.
My cosmology, based on God's "two texts," gives me hope for a "Star Trek future," where humanity lives together in harmony with itself in a post-scarcity society. Everyone is cared for and they have the things they need to survive. That seems millions of miles away right now, but the hope for that future is the only thing that keeps me sane at times.
A post-scarcity society like that can't exist without scientific and technological advancement. It also can't exist with a human desire to simply be good, which comes from God. That's how I reconcile faith and science. I don't. They're different ways of looking at God's work. If we as a people realize that, we might save this planet that we are ever-so-quickly destroying. And maybe we'll get to that far-off future. Who knows?
The understanding of God's "two texts" fuels my desire to become better at creation care and to hold the big corporations accountable for their contribution to humanity's carbon footprint.
It also fuels a desire for me to see humanity expand beyond this planet. I think God placed a curiosity and a desire to explore in humanity and wants us to do this. Imagine the mission field expanding to the stars: SOOP placements on Mars and a Service Adventure house beneath the surface of Ganymede. That sounds like a future I'd love to be a part of. I hope we can get there.