“Nobody has ever seen God, therefore he doesn’t exist.” This is a common enough premise rolled out by individuals of a rational frame of mind. But if someone said, “Nobody has ever seen an electron, therefore it doesn’t exist,” they would be laughed out of the room, even though two hundred years ago electrons also belonged to an invisible world. Is this fair? The very people who profess to have an open mind, with their faith in logic, are the first to label religious conviction as idle superstition. There is good reason for this; the different attitudes shown toward science and religion are due to the different natures of the two disciplines. In fact, science and religion live at opposite ends of the same spectrum, the quest for truth.
In the twentieth century massive progress was made in the understanding of electromagnetism. Scientific geniuses such as Einstein, Bose, Planck and Bohr delved into invisible physics to discover the properties of the basic building blocks of our universe, a new revelation and a part of our world which, though it had always been there, had not till then made itself manifest. It had not even occurred to humans that such a subatomic substructure could exist. These days we take it for granted; anyone educated in basic physics has heard of quantum theory, and though the vast majority of us trust that the equations which reveal the workings of unimaginably tiny particles are true and reliable, particles which control and guide our lives, we carry on without even given them a second thought. And new particles are being discovered all the time, quarks, fermions, bosuns and leptons, as well as dozens of hypothetical particles which ought to exist but have not yet been found.
Science is a long way from answering all the questions posed by this new science. The mystery of dark matter, an invisible mass in the universe which impacts on every calculation, still baffles the brightest minds. While theories abound, they are still just that – theories. But the quest goes on and scientists who persevere in the search for answers show unbounded faith, if not in an invisible God, certainly in the logical nature of the laws of the universe; but what quantum physics has shown is that in order to truly understand its workings, some of the laws we have till now taken for granted may need to be broken. That’s just how science works. Two steps forward one step back. Despite it being an uphill struggle, scientists are always confident that this slow, methodical process, sometimes infuriating sometimes inspiring, will eventually reveal hitherto unknowns.
This is one end of the spectrum. Religion tends to approach life from the other end.
Religious people use instinct and emotion based on the observation of wonders to understand what is going on. Faith accepts without question and without experiment that there is an invisible world everywhere around us which controls and guides our lives. Religion is less concerned with the way things work and more with things being the shadows of a more intense reality that is yet to be known (look up Colossians 2.17). When we witness birth and death, see the way lives prosper and degenerate, watch the suffering brought on by disease and war, we don’t look for scientific solutions, but pray to the force which rules the science that things will work out as they ought. We base our understanding of life and all its irregularities on a perception of the King of our lives and on what His attributes might be. Like science, religion sometimes gets things wrong. Just as the instincts of scientists can lead them down blind alleys, so the instincts of the faithful can be wrong and blind them. But in the majesty of a miraculous creation, we see something which has been carefully worked out beforehand by an invisible, guiding force – God.
So, whereas science proceeds from the visible and seeks to find explanations, religion begins with the explanation even though it is invisible and proceeds from there. Science seeks salvation in the mechanics of existence, religion guarantees salvation through a connection with the source of existence.
As children we used to say the Lord’s Prayer every morning in school. The second line goes, “Hallowed be thy name.” I used to say these four words with absolute faith but without really understanding them. Now, I know that hallowed means holy, and holy refers to that which is perfect. Something which is perfect cannot be altered or divided. The Bible also tells us that God’s glory can be found in the light and that Jesus was the light of the world. Here, too, there is a parallel with science. The photon, a particle that was not discovered until early in the twentieth century, is a quantum of light, cannot be divided or altered, is without mass and has no electrical charge. In a vacuum it can travel at the speed of light. And without it, life would not exist. In the discovery of the photon perhaps science and religion fuse.
Future discoveries might serve the same purpose, to illuminate the mechanics which linger behind faith. Perhaps faith is a necessary part of that process. Perhaps, long before science has all the answers, God our Creator will make his glory known to us all. Until then he remains invisible. Not only is that okay, but it is an integral part of faith, because faith is about accepting truth without having to question it. To a scientific mind this is anathema, but even to the most cynical of minds it must be obvious that not everything that exists can immediately be seen.