Presumed Innocent

Michael Metzger

The CBS series Evil ought to remind us there is no dividing line between science and religion.

Labor Day is supposed to be about leisure, and leisure is supposed to be about reflection. So I thought we’d reflect a bit on a show a friend recently recommended to me: the CBS series Evil. The plot revolves around three people. A skeptical psychologist, a blue-collar contractor, and a Catholic priest in training. Together, they judge the validity of supposed miracles, demonic possessions and so on.

For instance, in one episode, the priest performs an exorcism. But he doesn’t know the psychologist secretly switched the holy water for tap. Gotcha. But the priest is unfazed. The water is in fact holy, for God is over all and through all and in all (Eph.4:6). Even tap water.

Now, be honest. Which character do you think most viewers judge to be more credible? That’s why Evil is not, as CBS claims, about “examining the origins of evil along the dividing line between science and religion.” It’s about the dividing line between scientism and religion.

Scientism elevates science to the level of idolatry, where only the methods of the natural sciences can fruitfully be used in the pursuit of knowledge. This means math, psychology, physics, biology, neuroscience are presumed to be reliable. Religion, or faith, is not.

There’s the key word: presumed. In a court of law, you’re presumed innocent until proven guilty. The burden of proof is on the accuser, not the accused. When the western world assumed we live in an enchanted world, the burden of proof lay with those who doubted it, the few who were skeptical of religion. Religion didn’t have to prove a thing.

Scientism reverses this. Religion is presumed guilty until proven innocent. But you can’t prove the unprovable. The origins of evil predate creation and the natural sciences (Isa.14, Ez.28). Evil originated in the supernatural, beyond the physical world (the Greek word meta). That’s why metaphysics is required when examining the origins of evil. This is the realm of religion, the physical and the metaphysical.

That’s why the priest is unfazed by the switcheroo. Western science is rooted in a confidence that there’s something beyond the natural sciences. The universe is the creation of a creator. Those who embody this confidence recognize there is no dividing line between science and religion, for science (the Greek word knowledge) is based on metaphysics. Relax. The burden of proof lays with those who doubt the reality of religion, not religious folks.

C. S. Lewis believed this. In The Screwtape Letters, the demon Screwtape advises his nephew Wormwood on how to keep “the Patient” from coming to faith. “Do not attempt to use science (I mean, the real sciences) as a defense against Christianity. They will positively encourage him to think about realities he can’t touch and see.”

Lewis recognized the real sciences draw people to Christianity. They recognize realities we can’t touch and see—a mystical universe, an enchanted background. They recognize religion is presumed innocent—truthful—with the burden of proof on those who are skeptical. That’s why Evil isn’t about the dividing line between science and religion, for it doesn’t exist.


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