Science, my boy, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make, because they lead little by little to the truth.
Jules Verne, Journey to the Center of the Earth
Science flourishes on the premise of systematic wrongness. It is, in its entirety, an endeavor to test all the hypotheses. It’s a barrage of negative results and strategic failures until the minuscule minority of correct guesses emerges.
Science is built on two fundamental truths:
- The truth is out there.
- Our understanding of it is grossly inadequate.
Now, scientists include among their ranks some of the most arrogant people in the universe, but as a group they are grounded and driven by a commonly held awareness of their ignorance (and pride in the vast mountains of truth uncovered in their trek through that ignorance).
Faith, by contrast. . . . Wait. No.
Faith, by comparison, operates in much the same way.
Look at the Bible. Adam and Eve lived with God and got it wrong. Cain killed Abel for getting it right. Then everybody except Noah got it wrong, and God killed them all. Then everybody but Abraham got it wrong, and God gave him a plan for getting it right. And then he got it wrong, and then mostly right. Then his kids got it wrong and his grandkids got it wrong, but one of his great grandkids seemed to get it right. Then the whole family got really huge and wound up in slavery. Then Moses freed them all, and they wandered around for 40 years because they got it so wrong. Then Joshua led them on an assault in which they wiped out multiple nations, but they didn’t do that right either. They were then ruled by a series of judges, every single one of whom got it wrong with various levels of wrongness. Then came the kings, who were like a who’s who in the all-time Hall of Wrong.
Then came the prophets, and they were a little different.
See, the prophets were sent by God to tell everyone they were doing it absolutely wrong and to stop it. They had it right, basically, but no one ever fully listened.
Then came a long period in which, only priests and religious teachers, apparently, claimed to speak for God, with the understanding that they had at their disposal the full and complete inspired word of God. They were, as a group, convinced they were right about everything.
Then Jesus came along, proved them all wrong, and everyone confident in their rightness killed him for getting it right.
Plenty of people followed him, but while he was on earth, they never really got it right either. They were pretty much a mess, but they were aware enough of their wrongness and firm enough in their belief in his rightness, that they could at least plot a course to trek through the wrongness and compile mountains of truth along the way.
According to the Bible, they continued to get it wrong. A lot. Paul had it absolutely wrong and then saw the light and proceeded to continually remind Christians of how they were getting it wrong in their need to pursue the truth and to pursue the one they had put their faith in, the truth personified.
The refrain, You’re getting it wrong—do better—understand better, but it’s worth striving to keep getting closer to right, repeated over and over.
And then, people of the Christian faith resorted back to an extended period of priests and religious teachers believing that they had the full, sufficient, inspired word of God, most of them convinced they finally had it right, continually challenging other people, sects, denominations, and entire religions that they’re wrong. Completely different from scientists? Nah. Just people being people. But I can’t help but admire the ones who believe the truth is there for the taking and that our understanding of it is woefully inadequate.
Faith, like its cousin science, is not believing that you are right. Faith is, I believe, trusting that God will show you the truth and being desperately committed to accepting what is revealed to you, knowing that what could be true far exceeds what you think you understand already.
Why must that lead to so much conflict?