I first came to faith as a teenager, where my main objective at school was to poke, prod, and pester my Christian friends with all sorts of questions and remarks to make them squirm. The hope, I suppose, was that they would eventually crumble and admit that my rational scientific arguments were too good and I was, of course, right all along. The only flaw I realised, apart from my unflappable friends, was that the answers I was seeking would never be enough to satisfy me. Not more than meeting Jesus for myself, and deciding to follow Him.
In many ways I’ve found science quite similar to my experience of faith. More about seeking and the belief that each question’s answer won’t necessarily be what we expect or want, but will mould our perspective, equip us, and give us hope that the next challenge is never out of reach.
Many say that science has no place for God, or that He becomes smaller as we understand more about the world around us. I disagree with this “God of the gaps” idea. Throughout my life and short career, I’ve found the further I progress and the more we find out about science, the more I realise how high, wide, and deep God’s love and design is. It’s everywhere, intimately knitted into our very being.
It’s not the lack of knowledge that drives me to faith, it comes back to finding an answer that speaks to both my mind and soul. Science connects us to what has always been there, effortlessly designed in the background. However, this doesn’t mean the majority of scientists are open to faith or even respect the idea of supernatural power. God’s peace is an affront to the fast-paced, often competitive, and self-interested world of research or industry.
As a Christian, I do see faith in my discipline and workplace of cancer genomics. From the complicated and often indiscriminate pain caused by cancer, we have hope that there is something to be done and there will be a breakthrough. In my work, we aim to utilise someone’s genetic code to provide more effective personalised treatments or reduce the likelihood of serious illness with earlier interventions. At the times I feel most isolated, I still see God pulling together unlikely individuals to shine a light into dark situations. We see this in Nehemiah (chapter 3), where the works of many different tribes are united to see the walls of Jerusalem restored.
Recently, the lab where I work was visited by fundraisers and some patients from Sarcoma UK, and although I wasn’t personally involved in the tour, there was an emotional and moving atmosphere throughout the day and those that followed. I genuinely believe the impact of sharing our work led to a deep spiritual conviction for all those involved. The visitors left with more than just an understanding of the progress being made but a re-ignition of hope in their continued walk, living with sarcoma. Those of us in the lab gained a connection to why we keep trying, and a fresh gratitude to every precious sample, in our aim to improve the lives of those with cancer.
Science at its greatest can be a beacon of goodness and triumph impacting the lives of many. Whether producing vaccines or fighting the climate emergencies, God pulls together the good works of his people to multiply his blessings. I see mankind’s creations like a scale model of God’s brilliant design, much of which inspires these breakthroughs in the first place. However, it must be said that we don’t always strive for what is good in God’s eyes.
Across the world there are worrying signs of where science itself has replaced God for far too long, and we lose focus of where we came from or why we continue. This is why it’s crucial that we have people with God’s heart for His creation, justice and mercy embedded in all parts of research and industry. From the participants, product developers and principal investigators (head of a research lab), to policy makers and politicians. If we’re not careful the million miles-an-hour, billion pounds-a-day, industry will drag so much of society down with it in its attempt to chase profit or profile in the name of progress. But remember, God is timely and good. Always. So we look for Him in every experiment, every precious sample and possible breakthrough.
My tip for those working in science (research or industry); be content to stay in your lane of expertise, not self-inflating your influence beyond what God has prepared you for… BUT be brave to carry the spirit of God wherever you go, as He works all things for our good.
As Christians in science, we should be like those wall builders in Nehemiah (Chapters 3-5). God put plans on Nehemiah’s heart to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Science, in its purest form, works to restore the earth to a world which honour God’s original creation. As we build though, we must protect those plans. We must defend the oppressed and vulnerable, not exploit them. Building with one hand, sword in the other to defend both our good work and our faith. Whatever industry, be encouraged that you are not alone, your work has value, and you are valued. By His gracious hand, God will make a way.
Nick Tovey lives and works in Birmingham as a Senior Research Technician in the Beggs cancer genomics research lab. He has a BSC in Biomedical Science and an MSC in Genomic Medicine, and was involved with molecular diagnostic work during the pandemic. He is a member of Churchcentral Birmingham.
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