Robert of Franklin College requested that readers peek at other entries. I clicked on faith and found an article on Charles Townes, the Nobel-prize-winning physicist and Christian. (Note: Bright Mystery is closing down, Robert’s old blog, so the article will be at the end of this entry.)
My sons and I were just discussing what it takes to impress/influence unchurched and once-churched people. I think Robert had an excellent perspective on that.
“Lesson for Christians: In the real world, the best way to gain a hearing for one’s faith — and to verify to nonbelievers that it’s a faith worth having — is to be unassailably respectable and exceptionally good at what one does. Never underestimate the value of excellence.”
“We just have to accept that we don’t understand”
Charles Townes, the Nobel-prize-winning physicist whose work includes the invention of the laser, has won the 2005 Templeton Prize “for progress or discoveries about spiritual reality”. He is a Christian and has made the integration of science and faith a highlight of his intellectual endeavors throughout his career.
USA Today has a good writeup on Townes and the award. Here’s a quote I really like:
Townes has found little difficulty in reconciling his Christian faith with the empiricism of scientific inquiry. “I don’t think that science is complete at all,” says the 89-year-old physicist. “We don’t understand everything and one can see, within science itself, there are many inconsistencies. We just have to accept that we don’t understand.”
That sort of describes what the title of my blog — “bright mystery” — is all about.
What I find really amazing about Townes is not so much that he’s a world-class scientist who is also Christian and makes no pretense of hiding his faith, but that he teaches on the faculty at the presumably uber-liberal UC Berkeley and is highly respected among his (presumably) non-Christian, even anti-Christian, colleagues. Another quote from the article:
“He is very interested in the foundations of religion and faith-based concepts and he discusses them in a manner that is very attractive for fellow scientists,” says Marvin Cohen, president of the American Physical Society and a close colleague of Townes. “He really thinks before he speaks. If there is an opposite of a loose cannon, that would be Charles Townes.”
Lesson for Christians: In the real world, the best way to gain a hearing for one’s faith — and to verify to nonbelievers that it’s a faith worth having — is to be unassailably respectable and exceptionally good at what one does. Never underestimate the value of excellence. And remember the lesson of Acts 17 — Paul didn’t gain an audience by knowledge of the Gospel alone, but by his ability and willingness to reason, and by the fact he’d memorized the Athenians’ poetry. Christians, especially evangelicals (of which I am one), are way too eager to set up a false choice between excellence and “serving God” — as if the one is not the other. Townes is a refreshing reminder that in reality it’s hard to separate excellence from serving God.
Hat tip to Michelle Malkin for this story.