Pastor’s viewpoint: Dec. 15, 2018
Good science begins with faith; it’s called a hypothesis, an “explanation for the occurrence of some specified group of phenomena, either asserted merely as a provisional conjecture to guide investigation (working hypothesis) or accepted as highly probable in the light of established facts.” (Dictionary.com) The hypothesis is an educated guess about what might happen. Both my grandsons recently turned in their science projects and they began their work with a hypothesis. They made a statement they believed to be true and then they tested that statement to either confirm or disprove it …
Our Christian faith works in much the same manner; we hear or read a statement we believe is true and then we test it to either confirm or disprove it. Mary Ella and I were traveling through Cherokee, North Carolina, and stopped at the Heavenly Fudge Shop … which we often did while we were living in Kentucky and driving home to South Georgia. This time, we noticed a sign over the door as you leave the store. It read, “Psalm 34:8,” so we dug through all the “stuff” in the back of our station wagon to find a Bible and opened it up to find, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” It could easily have been translated, “Test and see that the Lord is good.”
The New International version says in Hebrews 11, “ Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.  This is what the ancients were commended for.  By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.  By faith …”
Faith begins with two hypotheses, “God is” and “the God who is created everything.” Maybe you’ve begun to realize that science and faith have a great deal in common … both begin with a hypothesis or educated guess, both are tested to prove or disprove the hypothesis, and discover a truth that can be believed and trusted and tested … something we can have “confidence in” and “assurance about.”
Faith is not a wild guess, nor a hunch, nor something we’ve read or heard someone say, nor something we inherited from our parents, nor something we “picked up” along the way. Faith is, in one version, “the evidence of things not seen” and in other versions, “the substance of things hoped for,” “confidence in what we hope for,” or “the reality of what we hope for.” I remember one of my seminary professors warning us; the unexamined and/or untested faith will be too shallow and weak to sustain you when you need it most.
So, we gather the “evidence” using the Bible and 2,000 years of Christian history and tradition. And we evaluate it using our own intelligence and reasoning skills, and we confirm it with our own experiences. Someone gave us an imprinted cup for Christmas, “Faith is not believing that God can, it’s knowing that God will.”
Charles “Buddy” Whatley is a retired United Methodist pastor serving Woodland and Bold Springs United Methodist Churches and, with Mary Ella, a missionary to the Navajo Reservation in Arizona.