A matter of perspective

"The heavens declare the glory of God..." Psalm 19.1

The relationship between science and religion has seldom been easy. It's strange when one considers how much they have to offer one another: science reveals the wonder of the universe, religion reveals its creator. Yet society has seen fit to pit one against the other. Blame it on the dualists! Graeco-Roman philosophers conceived of two tiers of perception: physical and metaphysical. This way of thinking contrasted with the holistic mindset of the Jews, who considered things all of a piece. Yet once the Christian movement broke free of its Jewish moorings, it came under the influence of Neo-Platonsim through the teachings of such luminaries as Augustine. Though orthodox in so many ways, his personal struggle against "the flesh" rendered him susceptible to dualistic thinking: spirit versus matter.

Because it can be analysed, matter lends itself to scientific enquiry. The spiritual realm is altogether more subjective and harder to apprehend. Through the so-called Dark and Middle Ages, religion exerted the dominant influence but once science got into its stride following The Enlightenment, the balance began to shift and increasingly religion was relegated to filling the gaps which science could not (yet). But it would only be a matter of time before those gaps too would be filled and religion could be sent packing - or redeployed to the "museum of life", as an emblem of primitive ignorance.

Until Einstein came along... and proved that all observation - and that includes science itself - is relative to one's perspective. Suddenly our understanding of the universe, whose secrets science was closing in on, exploded into an infinite number of possibilities. Most of us are still trying to catch up. It is worrying how many - especially those in education - still carry around an outdated and false confidence in the ability of science to make sense of everything, explaining away the need for religion, when the reverse is the case: we need religion to make sense of science! What Einstein and his successors have done is to put science in its box and to re-open the minds of serious scientists - along with the rest of us - to appreciate afresh the wonders of creation and to rekindle our appetite for a relationship with the even more wonderful Creator...