JLE conducted an internet interview with James Houck, a
participant in a consultation held by the ELCA January 25-26, 2002
on faith and science. Houck, an active Lutheran, has been
instrumental in the ELCA in bringing resolutions concerning faith
and science to synod assemblies and ELCA Church Council.
 JLE: Tell us about your backgrounds as a Lutheran and as a
 Houck: I was baptized and confirmed in the Lutheran church.
As a family, we attended Sunday school and worship regularly and
were active in other church activities. I, however, was full of
questions and did not receive many answers. I became very bitter
and frustrated. Consequently, when I arrived at college I started
looking for answers elsewhere. Ultimately, it was my physics
professor who was able to speak to me. He believed that God created
the Universe in the way in which God wanted us to discover it.
Today I attend the church of my youth and I feel very lucky that
the church into which I was born is also the church of my
 I became a scientist at age 12 when I learned about the Big
Bang theory of the Universe. Since then I have always been
interested in how seemingly unrelated aspects of nature
interconnect in a fundamental way. The story of creation is the
story of this interconnectedness. During graduate school, my focus
was on atomic physics. How do electrons behave within the atoms and
how does this behavior affect matter? Today my research remains
focused on the boundary between everyday life and the world of the
 JLE: Do you find that your faith and your science support
each other or clash-or both? How does one influence the other?
 Houck: For me, faith and science interrelate across a full
spectrum from integration to tension. At those rare moments when I
am able to open my mind to the possibilities of the Universe, faith
and science are indistinguishable. On most days, though, faith and
science complement each other. Science grounds me in reality and
faith inspires me to act. However, always lurking in the background
is this tension embodied by the life and death of Jesus. How could
the resurrection happen and what does it mean?
 JLE: Is there anything about being a Lutheran that you find
particularly helpful or inspiring as a scientist?
 Houck: Yes. Lutheran theology does not carry around a lot of
superfluous baggage. The message of salvation by grace is one that
resonates with me. There is room for doubt. It is through this
doubting and seeking that I grow in faith and knowledge.
 JLE: Do you think the church has a different relationship
with science than it did, for example, in the time of Copernicus?
If it does, what makes that possible?
 Houck: Yes, the relationship has changed dramatically. At
the time of Copernicus, the church was the reviewer and publisher
of scientific knowledge. This tended to have a stifling effect on
science. Today, the scientists themselves review and publish
scientific research. The result is a more open and diverse
atmosphere in which science can flourish. The down side is that the
church has little contact with this great body of knowledge that is
having profound effects on society today.
 JLE: What does the presence of faithful scientists
contribute to the work of the Church?
 Houck: Faithful scientists encourage the child who is
interested in nature. They give comfort and support to those who
struggle with faith and science issues. They provide accurate
information to those trying to make ethical decisions. They teach
others how to appreciate and care for creation. They help the poor
obtain food and shelter in a sustainable way. They develop tools to
improve the quality of life for all people. They serve to meet the
needs of people at the places where science and technology interact
with the everyday lives of people.
 JLE: How can the church contribute to the faith life of
scientists? Does the scientist have special faith needs?
 Houck: I can only speak for myself here. I struggle with
what it means to be Christian. How could the resurrection happen
and what does it mean? I struggle with how the scriptures are
presented. Where do we draw the line between truth and myth? I
often feel that I do not have a place in the church. I need to
church to talk to me instead of at me.
 JLE: You chose the theme "The Skeptical Disciple" when
asked about faith and science. How does this theme take shape in
 Houck: As a scientist, I discover the Universe with an
open-minded skepticism: a curious disposition, an objective
mentality, and a sense of adventure. I approach faith with the same