|The Fruit of All Sciences (1)|
|by T. M. Moore|
|July 31, 2012|
Science can be a wonderful tool for nurturing faith.
And this is the fruit of all sciences, that in all, faith may be strengthened, God may be honored, character may be formed, and consolation may be derived from union of the Spouse with the beloved, a union which takes place through charity…
- St. Bonaventure, On the Reduction of the Arts to Theology
So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
- 1 Corinthians 10:31
St. Bonaventure was writing about all the various means of knowing which were being pursued in the universities of the late middle ages. The scientific revolution was still beyond the horizon of history. His thoughts concerning “the fruit of all sciences” were aimed at the various disciplines of study current in his day.
Nevertheless, St. Bonaventure’s aims for these disciplines can be seen to have had an impact on those early Christian practitioners. We see his views reflected, whether consciously or otherwise, in the writings of many of the pioneers of the scientific revolution during the 15th-17th centuries.
We note four “fruit” which, according to St. Bonaventure, the scientific enterprise should be working to produce: strengthening faith, honoring God, forming character, and facilitating union with Christ, expressed in works of love. Here we may identify spiritual, devotional (and evangelical), ethical, and practical fruit to be sought through the work of science, and of any discipline or field of learning.
I want to examine each of these briefly in this and the next three installments of this column. Christians working in the sciences, or even believers who have interest in this arena, should take up their labors and studies with a view to bearing fruit. St. Bonaventure’s guidelines can be most profitable for this effort.
First among the fruit of all sciences is that of strengthening faith. Undoubtedly this is the furthest thing from the mind of most contemporary scientists. Christians working in the sciences swim continuously against the current of the “separation of science from faith” mindset that characterizes most arenas of this endeavor, and nearly all the academic world.
However, knowing that science can bear fruit for strengthening faith, believers must persevere to consider what this requires.
Science can be a wonderful tool for nurturing faith in the believing community. But three things are necessary if it is to realize this fruit.
First, those working in the sciences must pursue their callings with this objective in mind. They must take pains to show how their studies, research, and various projects bring out the “hidden” knowledge of the glory of God so that we may read the “book of creation” as God intends (Prov. 25:2; Ps. 19:1-4; Hab. 2:14). As no student of Scripture would be satisfied merely with the superficial work of grammatical, historical, and cultural analysis, but must go on to explain the Word and will of God revealed in his text, so those working in the sciences must bring their labors to a higher state of completion by demonstrating the evidence for God’s glory, wisdom, goodness, and power which their disciplines disclose.
Such efforts will doubtless take them beyond the requirements or restrictions of their “jobs.” However, as those who pursue their work as callings from the Lord, Christians working in the sciences should not be content to operate within those limits alone. They must seek other outlets and venues for instructing the community of faith in the glory of God they have discerned.
Second, the members of the Christian community must be willing to receive the work of their brethren who labor in the sciences as a means to strengthen their faith and grow in the Lord. Since the works of God declare various aspects of His being and purpose, we are not wise, and not likely to grow to maturity, if we ignore the messages about God which general revelation, mediated through the sciences, can help us to know.
The sciences can provide abundant solid food for nurturing our faith in the Lord, but we must cultivate an attitude of openness to the sciences and be willing to learn as much as we can.
Finally, scientists with a message from God to declare and believers eager to grow through the knowledge of God revealed in creation must have venues, forums, and outlets where they can come together. Websites, conferences, journals, books, seminars, Sunday school classes – all these and more are available, and should be increased, both to encourage those working in the sciences and to provide convenient and suitable means for the rest of us to learn from them.
Science can be a powerful resource for strengthening faith in God. St. Bonaventure had it exactly correct. The challenge to us is to encourage and support one another in bringing this valuable faith resource more consistently and fruitfully into the experience of the followers of Christ.