Thought for the Week by Rev John Carrick: retired Director of Middle East Christian Outreach

The coronavirus pandemic has upended life with devastating effects on health, community life and the economy. 
Almost all else is crowded out. As thousands of jobs are being lost the World Bank predicts a 5.2 % contraction in global GDP by the end of the year. 
Confidence in political leaders wanes and feelings of anxiety and hopelessness take hold. The pandemic has raised questions about the role of religion in crises. Google records a 50% surge in online searches for prayer: the highest level ever recorded. 
Russell Brand has caught the attention of many by speaking about “the desire for connection to the sacred” at this time. Churches, who broadcast services on YouTube and ZOOM find their “attendance” has shot up. While it would be wrong to say the nation is experiencing spiritual revival, might it suggest that what the French philosopher/theologian and scientist Blaise Pascal wrote is worth a fresh look? “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator, made know through Jesus Christ.” In effect he was saying that in times of stress a need for something beyond ourselves can be felt. But as a scientist did he jettison the scientific appeal for evidence in making this bold claim?
At its simplest the scientific method is the ability to test a hypothesis. Behind his words Pascal was saying that just as he would present a scientific conclusion based on a laboratory experiment, it is possible in the tough laboratory of life’s crises to put faith to the test. Psalm 34 puts it well: “Taste and see that the LORD is good! How blessed is the person who trusts in him.”