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The faith of Francis Collins and Robert Redfield: Five steps to loving God with our minds

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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The faith of Francis Collins and Robert Redfield: Five steps to loving God with our minds
National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins speaks during a Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on new coronavirus tests on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 7, 2020.

Francis Collins, as head of the National Institutes of Health, is arguably America’s top scientist. He has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Science, and recently received the Templeton Prize.

He is also one of America’s most public Christians.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Dr. Collins stated: “I see science as the most reliable way to study nature—and that includes this virus. But science doesn’t help me with deeper questions like why suffering exists, what we are supposed to learn from it, what is the meaning of life, and whether there is a loving God who grieves with us at a time like this. For that, I rely on what I have learned as a person of faith.”

He also lauded the majority of American faith communities for treating the pandemic as an opportunity to express their values by caring for the vulnerable, adding that “most of that loving and altruistic behavior doesn’t get much attention.”

Another scientist in the spotlight during the pandemic is Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Like Dr. Collins, he considers his scientific work and his faith to be mutually reinforcing.

He told the Associated Press, “One of the great things about faith is, you can approach life with a sense of hope—no matter what the challenges you’re dealing with, there’s a path forward.” In responding to the 2010 Haiti earthquake and the death of his son, his faith helped orient him toward the potential for “greater good” to arise from tragedy.

Five steps to loving God with our minds

As I noted in my Faithwire article, some of history’s greatest thinkers have been some of history’s most committed Christians. The list includes Nicolaus Copernicus, Sir Francis Bacon, Robert Boyle, George Washington Carver, Johannes Kepler, Sir Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur, Blaise Pascal, Johann Sebastian Bach, Rembrandt van Rijn, Antonio Vivaldi, Georg Friedrich Handel, Leo Tolstoy, and Fyodor Dostoevsky.

C. S. Lewis, the thinker who has most influenced me, was himself influential for Francis Collins. And Lewis was led to Christ by his friend J. R. R. Tolkien and other scholars.

We are called to love the Lord with “all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). God invites us, “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD” (Isaiah 1:18); the Hebrew for “reason together” is literally, “argue it out.”

You and I are called to join this mission today.

Here’s how.

First, ask the Holy Spirit to direct and use your mind for God’s glory (Ephesians 5:18).

Second, determine to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5), seeking to honor the Lord with your thoughts and attitudes today.

Third, spend time in Scripture and worship, seeking to “be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2).

Fourth, seek biblical wisdom as you make your decisions through the day, attesting that “your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).

Fifth, learn to “[be] prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

As you grow intellectually and help others love God with their minds, you are advancing God’s kingdom in eternal ways.

You and I may never lead the National Institutes of Health or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but we have influence we can use for God’s glory and the common good.

How will you love God with your mind today?