Connections: Christina M.H. Powell
Nov. 30, 2014
Christina M.H. Powell is a biomedical research scientist who obtained her Ph.D. at Harvard University. She also is an ordained Assemblies of God evangelist who speaks in churches, on campuses, and at conferences. Powell’s new book, Questioning Your Doubts, shows how she bridges the worlds of the church and academia. Powell, who has attended Calvary Christian Church (AG) in Lynnfield, Mass., since 1998, recently spoke with Pentecostal Evangel News Editor John W. Kennedy.
evangel: How are faith and science less at odds than when you studied for your doctorate?
CHRISTINA M.H. POWELL: On university campuses today, scholars are building bridges across the divide between science, which seeks to explain the physical world, and faith, which addresses questions about life’s meaning and purpose. Instead of compartmentalizing their faith, professors and students are exploring how Christianity is relevant to their academic studies.
For example, the Veritas Forum, which started at Harvard during my time as a graduate student, has spread to campuses all over the country. A Veritas Forum is more than a one-time event; it is a catalyst for fellowship and mentoring as Christian professors and students discover they are not alone.
evangel: Your own mother’s death from cancer illustrates why Christians need faith, but shouldn’t exclude science.
POWELL: Yes, my mother believed the error that pursuing medical treatment demonstrated a lack of faith in God’s ability to provide healing. As a result, she waited too long to seek medical attention for cancer. While she did not experience physical healing, God’s grace was abundant at the end of her life as she died peacefully in her sleep.
As Pentecostals, we need to take a balanced approach to our understanding of healing and recognize that medicine can be a gift from God. In His sovereignty, He may choose to heal us through the medical profession as well as through miraculous means.
On the other hand, medical professionals need to realize people have spiritual beliefs that affect how they make medical decisions. Patients often need care for emotional and spiritual needs as well as medicine for their physical bodies.
evangel: Talk about how doubts aren’t necessarily detrimental to faith.
POWELL: God created us to think, and thinking leads to asking questions and experiencing doubts. Sometimes doubts serve an important purpose in our lives when they alert us to the need to discern God’s direction or exercise caution when making an important decision. At other times, doubts challenge us to adjust our perspective and look beyond our current frustrations to see God working things out for our long-term benefit and for the good of others. If you choose to allow doubts to enrich your understanding of God instead of driving you away from God, you can keep those doubts from being detrimental to your faith.
evangel: How can listening to doubts through a cultural filter cause people to lose faith?
POWELL: People more readily accept information and viewpoints shared by friends and endorsed by authority figures such as parents, teachers and coaches. Individuals surrounded by cultural influences denying the importance of spiritual truth may waver in their faith. Professors modeling a lack of faith may influence students to question their own beliefs.
I encourage people to become aware of how significant people in their lives are impacting their relationship with God. A person listening to doubts may need to step back from negative influences and seek faith-building influences by forging friendships within a local church and seeking biblical answers through the writings of Christians through the centuries.
evangel: Is it OK to question God?
POWELL: In His wisdom and compassion, God understands our questions and knows how and when to answer them. I often challenge people who are questioning their faith to turn the process around and begin to question their doubts. I ask them, “What is shaking your faith right now? What insights can you gain about yourself, your emotional state, or your circumstances?”
God wants us to maintain a balance between thinking and feeling, between reason and faith. We can’t rely on spiritual experiences without understanding why we believe. Yet our faith must go beyond discovering intellectual proof for the Christian faith to forming a vibrant personal relationship with Jesus Christ.