The CMA group at my medical school recently had the privilege of hosting Dr. John Patrick, a physician from England who lectures on matters of faith, science, and medicine. He was an awesome speaker, and I want to take this opportunity to reflect on some of what he said while it’s still fresh in my mind. So basically, I don’t take credit for the following thoughts. I’m paraphrasing a man who’s brighter than I am.
During the dinner talk, one of my classmates asked the following question:
“How do you suggest we respond to colleagues in the medical profession who regard our faith as irrational?”
Dr. Patrick’s response really stuck with me. He suggested, first of all, that we explore what’s meant by “irrational”. The word “irrational”, after all, is just a polite way of saying “crazy” or “insane”. If our faith is insane, one would expect that to manifest itself in visible ways. One would expect our lives to be chaotic, inconsistent, or disordered. Instead, we most often find the exact opposite: our lives reflect a sense of meaning, our relationships become healthier, and our thoughts and actions become subject to a higher set of standards.
In other words, living a godly life is the easiest way to dispel the notion that our faith is irrational.
Furthermore, Dr. Patrick suggested talking about men like Pascal, Boyle, and Kepler (who scribbled prayers in the margins of his lab notebooks). Many of history’s greatest scientific thinkers were also men of profound faith.
The funny thing is that people of faith have plenty of room in their lives for reason. It’s modern-day secularists and rationalists who have no room in their lives for faith. Which is the bigger box? Who, then, is being small-minded?
To paraphrase the words of Dr. Patrick, our Christian faith is neither “rational” nor “irrational”. It’s supra-rational. It recognizes that human reason can only extend so far, and that there is an ultimate source of Truth beyond our powers of understanding. Science is a powerful tool, but we should recognize (with some humility) that there are certain questions that it cannot answer.