Faith in Public Life

Dr. Francis Collins was recently nominated by President Obama to head the National Institutes of Health. There seems to be a growing number of scientists and politicians that believe the President has made a great mistake. No one doubts that Dr. Collins is qualified for the job. Collins discovered in 1989 the gene that causes cystic fibrosis. He became the director of the group that in 1993 would sequence the entire human genome. He has been politically adroit enough to appropriate support and funds for his genetic research, and most people believe that he would make a wonderful director for the NIH.

So what is the problem? Is Dr. Collins an axe-murder? A soviet spy? A Republican? No, he is a Christian. He believes that a person can both be rational and also a believer. He is the author of The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, and he toured the country pushing his book (as all authors are required to do). There are some who worry that allowing such a vocal believer to head the NIH is too dicey to be wise. After all, the man believes that human morality is given to us by God and that we are ultimately responsible to him. Clearly he can’t be trusted to run a government agency! One critic of Dr. Collins says this

Any scientist who happens to practice a religion and is honest enough to admit it knows that science is based on empirical evidence while religion is based on the ether of faith and it is unlikely under the harsh light of reason and logic for the two to meet and make sense. Together they make (non)sense.

Sorry, but that sounds a bit like “Any one smart enough to know anything at all should know enough to agree with me.” And they worry Dr. Collins is too dogmatic?

We live in a postmodern, post-Christian world where there are multiple worldviews and points of view. Christianity no longer enjoys majority status in people presuppositions— not everyone accepts the Bible as the “Good Book” or believes there is a God. I truly believe that most of Christianity's “intramural” theological squabbles make no sense in this age of many gods and no god at all. We shouldn’t be surprised that our faith is looked down upon. Our job is not, I believe, to use political clout to move the country back to its Christian roots (if it indeed really had such roots).

Our job is to live such holy lives of integrity that the unbelieving world may still quibble with the truthfulness of our faith but can’t doubt the fact that it works. If all Christians lived humble, self-controlled, loving, peaceful lives (as Christ demands), then most of the arguments against Christians in public life would vanish. If we want people to respect Christianity again, then we’re going to have to do something radical. We're going to have to live it!