Greg, I have a second question and it relates to how you would respond to a young man whom I’ve known for years and who recently left the faith and dismissed all things metaphysical and said that the scientific method is the only way to the real truth. In relation to this, how can one best go on to show that the Christian faith is the only one which satisfies the deepest human longings? Thank you.
This question is another good one. In fact, you asked two different questions. The first is about science and knowledge. The second is about how to show that the Gospel holds out what people long for.
The science question is pretty easy to answer. You can ask (gently) “Why do you think that science provides the only way to know things?” What you are doing is helping your friend see that the claim “Science is the only way to know things” is not itself a scientific claim. It is not a claim established by botany or physics. It is actually a philosophical claim. A person who makes this claim puts himself in the embarrassing situation in which if his claim is true, then it must be false! Because if it is true, that is a result of philosophy telling us some truth. But if philosophy can tell us some truth, then science is not the only thing that can tell us truth.
Now someone can respond with the claim that Science is the BEST way to know truth. If someone says this, you can say “Yes and No”. Science IS the best way to know things that science can tell us about. If I want to know about the chemical reactions that occur in photosynthesis, I do not ask a philosopher! A biochemist or botanist has the resources to answer this question. If I want to know about the effects of the American Civil War on the economics in the 1880s, I ask neither a scientist nor a philosopher. I ask a historian.
Then you can discuss the kinds of things science is good at. These are empirical things. That is things that can be in principle observed and also things that operate according to natural laws. God, of course, does not fit into those things. Therefore, science is not suited to tell us about God.
The second question is about showing Jesus to connect with the longings people have. I just wrote a book on this! A few short suggestions can be said, though. First, it is important for us to think about two things for ourselves. 1. What are people’s longings? 2. How does Jesus REALLY meet those? Sometimes we claim Jesus meets human longings but if someone asks us to explain how this works, we are stumped. So if goodness and relationships make up some of our longings, How does Jesus meet these?
One thing that is helpful is to look at the stories of Jesus encountering people and to ask What are their longings? How does Jesus meet them?
Thanks for your question!