BreakPoint: A Religious Scientist?


President Obama made a great selection for the top spot at NIH. Only one problem. The candidate is a Christian.

It was good news when I picked up the New York Times and read that a good friend of mine, Francis Collins, was picked by President Obama to become the head of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

You’ve probably heard of Collins, who led the Human Genome Project, which actually sequenced the human genome. For this, President Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His nomination has been applauded, as the Times reports, by “top scientists and research advocacy organizations.”

But as I read the article, my delight turned to dismay. After citing Collins’s significant achievements, the Times darkly warned, “But praise for Dr. Collins was not universal or entirely enthusiastic.”

The chief reason for this—hold on to your hats, folks—is that Collins has (gasp) publicly “embraced religion.”

The Times reports that he has even written a book entitled The Language of God. Scandalous! Even worse, he has, quote, “given many talks and interviews in which he described his conversion to Christianity as a 27-year-old medical student.”

And the Times warns its readers, “Religion and genetic research have long had a fraught relationship, and some in the field complain about what they see as Dr. Collins’s evangelism.”

This is ignorance and bias at its worst.

While his confirmation by the Senate “is all but certain,” I can only imagine what awaits him during the confirmation hearings. He is sure to face hostile questions about his faith in Christ.

Well, I can assure you that Dr. Collins will not back down. He is a solid follower of Christ and an articulate defender of his views—both religious and scientific. Converted by reading C.S. Lewis, he became a fellow at the C.S. Lewis Institute and studied there. He and I have spent long hours together discussing Scripture and particularly the works of St. Augustine.

I should mention that he and I have some profound disagreements. He is an evolutionary theist who believes in the common descent of all life. His book, The Language of God, tries to harmonize evolution and Christianity in a way that I simply cannot agree with (and so I couldn’t endorse the book).  He also is in favor of certain kinds of embryonic stem cell research. Again, I could not disagree with him more.

Nonetheless, I for one hold him in high esteem—both as a scientist and as a brother in Christ, living proof that one can be a great scientist and a serious Christian.

Several years ago, he gave the address at the National Prayer Breakfast. It was a powerful testimony. When he finished, he picked up a guitar and asked the crowd to sing with him a hymn he had composed. He then led 3,000 dignitaries from around the world, worshiping the God of the Bible. It was an amazing morning.

Some years ago, Supreme Court Justice Scalia told a Christian audience to “have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity . . . and the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world.”

I know Dr. Francis Collins has that courage—and that he’ll soon have the opportunity to show it to the so-called wise of the world. Just as he did that morning at the National Prayer Breakfast.

Today’s BreakPoint Offer

In The Faith DVD Curriculum, Chuck Colson and Gabe Lyons discuss the foundational tenets of Christianity in six sessions.

Further Reading and Information

Pick to Lead Health Agency Draws Praise and Some Concern,” New York Times, 8 July 2009.

Justice Scalia: ‘Be Fools for Christ’,” Mere Comments, 24 January 2005.

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