Let’s talk about particle physics, my past crisis with evolutionary biology, and being a follower of Christ. Those are simple topics for one blog post!
My daughter, who is clearly smarter than I am, recommended The Particle at the End of the Universe: How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World by Sean Carroll. I am pleased to say that I finished this book. Finally.
I started off feeling like I maybe understood 7/10s of the words in the book. Eventually that figure eroded away. Today, I can confidently say I grasped about 3/10s of what Carroll was putting down, and that’s only because he wrote in such a casual way about neutrinos and photons, bosons and quarks, like they were Legos and Lincoln Logs, making me feel like I actually knew what he was saying, when actually I did not.
Outside of the awe, wonder, humility, and fascination I felt while trudging through particle physics, here’s my big takeaway: the Higgs boson, or the “God particle,” holds everything together.
“The Higgs field is like the air, or the water for fish in the sea; we don’t usually notice it, but it’s all around us, and without it life would be impossible. And it is literally ‘all around us’; unlike all the other fields of nature, the Higgs is nonzero even in empty space. As we move through the world, we are embedded in a background Higgs field, and it’s the influence of that field on our particles that gives them their unique properties.”Carroll, p. 136
The Higgs field / God particle sounds an awful lot like this…
“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”Colossians 1:15-17 NIV
So despite my lack of comprehension of all things particle physics-y, I am just delighted in how God’s “Big” Book of Creation keeps smashing into God’s “Little” Book of the Bible, telling two sides of the same Truth-y coin, revealing God’s nature in creation and God’s nature in special revelation. (If you aren’t familiar with the Two Books Metaphor, there’s a wonderful article about it on the BioLogos website, and if you aren’t familiar with BioLogos, you should be. Go follow them.)
Speaking of the Two Books Metaphor for special and general revelation, I’ve been hanging out with the finest young minds at our church on Sunday nights to work through BioLogos’ Integrate Curriculum with high school students, and it’s so fun. I’ve been geeking out on all things science and faith for longer than I’ve been a Christian, and being able to share this nerdy love with others gets me all energized.
The Integrate curriculum is designed to follow a high school biology textbook as supplemental material to a student’s biology units, so there is a LOT more information here than we’ll ever be able to cover together.
My greatest hope for our time is that our discussion dissolves the assumption that faith and science are incompatible. Perhaps by having this discussion, they’ll have one less stumbling block to navigate along their faith journey.
The Origins of My Journey with Faith and Science
Science—especially evolutionary biology—was a significant stumbling block for me when I was first exploring Christianity. People’s insistence that all things that existed were created in seven days according to the first chapter of Genesis drove me nuts. “How could all of this” I’d say, gesturing to the trees and the air and the stars and the sun and the ground, “have been created by some god, in just one week?” P-shaw, I thought to myself, because, science.
Then, one day, I was driving along in my parent’s Ford Thunderbird, mulling over all things faith-y, and the rays of the sun became entangled with a thousand leaves dancing in the treeline, and the clouds were shrinking and growing, and a million blades of grass shuddered, and billions of people around the world breathed in and out together at once, and I gasped, “How could all of this,” I said, gesturing to the world around my car, “have not been created by one God?” The interconnectedness, the complexity, the wonder of it all mystified me, and in that moment, everything I believe flipped upside-down.
It was as if in an instant God changed my vision. Nothing anyone had said and nothing anyone had written up to that point had really convinced me to believe; I just did.
However, I loved science, and I was beginning to love God. Most of the people in my life saw these two worlds as incompatible. In order to believe in God, I was told, I had to believe in the literal 7-day creation account at the beginning of Genesis. If I didn’t believe this, I wasn’t a real Christian.
Over the last 20 years, I have fought for and against various origin accounts, sometimes with other believers, sometimes with people who aren’t Christians, but mostly internally, warring over the “right” interpretation of all of these things in my heart. It wasn’t until about a decade after I first became a Christian that I encountered a Christian who was a practicing scientist, someone else who had had their more fundamentalist faith in God challenged by science. Karl Giberson’s book, Saving Darwin: How to Be a Christian and Believe in Evolution, I can safely say changed my life. Here was someone that had found a way to embrace both faith in God and faith in science. It was possible! I knew it!
Since that time, I’ve continued to love science and go deeper into the world we love, the world that has been given to us, the world that is filled with more wonders than we could ever fully grasp, even if given ten thousand lifetimes. And I’ve continued to go deeper into the Word, the Word I love, the Word that has been given to us, the Word that is filled with more wisdom and truths than I could ever fully grasp. Both places reveal truth. Both realms have been given to us by the same Creator as ways for us to know the character of God.
BioLogos Integrate Curriculum
Which is why I am so excited to share about BioLogos’ Integrate Curriculum. Let me tell you some more about this curriculum. Integrate includes 15 Units, each of which is composed of 5-9 distinct Modules that can be taught individually or consecutively. The units are also grouped into four topical Bundles—Strong Foundations, Human Biology and the Big Questions, The Bible and Origins, and Creation Care.
The units are flexible and modular. They can be completed in any order, or they can stand alone.
The content features interviews with leading Biblical scholars and scientists, with theological and scientific instruction that has been vetted by qualified professionals in their fields.
It is this word—and—that excites me the most. There is excellent theological content out there in the world that grapples with these subjects, and there is excellent scientific content out there, but this curriculum is the first I’ve seen that seeks out the best of both worlds and brings them together into one curriculum. Faith and science.
On the Topic of Origin…
As I’ve discussed this subject with our high school students, the topic of origins has inevitably come up, and thank God it does. Our teens are grappling with Big Questions; shouldn’t we encourage and support their pursuits? It turns out we have a diverse set of students with diverse beliefs about origins, ranging from Young Earth Creationists to Theistic Evolutionists, and that’s okay.
Although the Integrate curriculum is written from an evolutionary creation perspective, its fundamental goal is not to advocate for a particular view on origins but rather to help students see acceptance of evolution as one among many faithful Christian perspectives on origins. Integrate treats all Christian perspectives on origins with respect and grace.
I’ve long been an advocate for allowing teenagers to ask questions, of their faith, of their church, of their culture, and of their world. I believe that God loves our curiosity and designed us to want to know God better and to know more about the creation God loves. Integrate is doing just that. It seeks to create a space for students to ask questions and engage in gracious dialogue as they explore what they believe and why.
This coming Sunday, I’m going to continue the conversation with our high schoolers at church, talking about humanity’s impact on the planet and what we’re called to do as stewards of God’s creation, and I can’t wait to hear what is on their hearts and minds. Ask all the questions, sweet souls. Ask all the questions.
This endorsement is part of a paid partnership with BioLogos to promote Integrate. If you’re interested in exploring the Integrate curriculum for yourself, visit biologos.org/integrate to subscribe to the Integrate email list. Your subscription comes with a free trial of Unit 1. If you’re ready to use Integrate for the students in your life, use my promo code SARAH30 for 30% off any product or bundle – visit biologos.org/integrate/shop.