Science in Christian Perspective

Letter to the Editor


From: JASA 18 (December 1966):

As a missionary working in a Buddhistic milieu, I would greatly appreciate hearing from men of the physical sciences on the two problems hereafter stated. Might these questions be of sufficiently broad interest to warrant space in the journal?

1. A parenthetical statement which appeared on page 25 of the March 1966 issue of the JASA raises a question which I would like to beg my brethren in the biological sciences to answer. The statement mentions that Frank Rhodes "is disturbed by the suffering he sees in nature, inherent in the struggle for existence." This reminds me of the statement by C. A. Coulson: "Nature is red in tooth and claw; and if in the end we come to accept Fabre's own verdict of his studies, that all nature is 'obedient to a sublime law of scarifice,' we shall mostly have to come to it in travail of soul." (Science and Christian Belief, Fontana Books, 1961, p. 133.)

Confrontation with Buddhism and its traditional reverence for life seems to me to require some sort of answer from us as to how the blood on nature's teeth and claws can be reconciled with the God who has revealed Himself as love. What do biologists think that Jesus meant when He said that not even one bird falls to earth without God's will?

In the face of animal suffering, we can point to Genesis 3 and say that such suffering is but one aspect of the curse which came upon the world due to man's sin. We can also tell the Buddhist that even the physical body which God assumed was bloodied and killed, yet resisted decay, came back to life and lives forever as a pledge that there is a renewed world coming in which blood will not flow. This position, of course, is taken only by faith, but can the sciences provide any sort of apologetic which might help get this good news a hearing?

2. Another question relating to ChristianityBuddhism-Science arises from the question of a Zen philosopher, Masao Abe, made in an extended dialogue with Christian theologians. (see Japanese Religions, Vol. III, No. 3, Autumn 1963, p. 25f.) Abe asks "Whether the Christian God can comprehend the impersonal rationality of modem science . . . ?" He insists that the Christian God, being Wholly Other, involves us in a dualism which modern science must deny.

This reminds me of a statement which I have seen attributed to Einstein: God who creates and is the universe." Zen likes the last part of this statement and feels therefore a bit closer to modern science than a "dualistic" Christianity. I have been told by men of the physical sciences that on sub-atomic level the universe is in fact monistic, that the various particles (if they are particles) are the same no matter what element they comprise.

If the universe is one in this sense, does this fact have any implications for the leap of faith in the Wholly Other? And what does it mean for a physicist that the Wholly Other, in becoming man, partook of the physical stuff which is one?

Hoping to hear some discussion of these things, I am 
Sincerely yours,

Don Neiswender
15 Nakano-cho Ichigaya,
Tokyo, Japan June 26, 1966