Pastor Carl Lentz of Hillsong NYC recently made an appearance on Comedy Central's "The Nightly Show", where he defended the compatibility of religion and science during a debate with renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.
During the segment on Thursday, which was partly comedic, the two offered their views on whether scientific discoveries conflict with Biblical truths.
"The war between science and religion is like, one of the oldest wars between man ever, and we're going to solve it tonight," said host Larry Wilmore. After citing a recent study by the Pew Research Center, which found that millennials are becoming less religious, Willmore asked, "As we become more advanced in science, does it hurt our belief in God?"
Tyson, who presented the 2014 TV series "Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey," argued that the chaotic state of the universe makes it difficult to believe in a kind, benevolent God.
"Anytime somebody talks about their understanding of God; typically it involves some statement of benevolence or some kindness. And I look up at the universe and yes, it is filled with mysteries. But it also filled with all manner of things that will just as soon have you dead, like asteroid strikes, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, volcanoes, disease, pestilence. There are things that exist in the natural world that don't have your health or longevity as a priority," Tyson said.
"And so, I cannot look at the universe and say 'Yes, there is a God, and this God cares about my life.' The evidence does not support this," he added.
In turn, Lentz responded that he believes it was God who created science, and thus, Christians shouldn't be afraid of it.
"I think God created science, so, for me, I don't think that exploring any of this stuff is bad. I think it's going to lead you to acknowledge that something had to begin this, that there is something more. So I love it, I think that science is awesome. I don't think they are at war at all," the pastor said.
"I think sometimes people are threatened by science, which makes no sense to me, because if you're secure in your faith, you'll be open to learning, hearing, discovering...I think that's the essence of, at least, my religion," he added.
Comedian Tom Papa also weighed in, stating that while science may lead people toward God it could also drive them away from religion when it comes to people following legalistic belief systems.
After suggesting that an Intelligent Being could have been behind the creation of the world, Willmore asked Tyson if he is open to the possibility of God.
The astrophysicist said he is open if there is evidence, but reiterated that it is difficult for him to find any evidence for intelligence that created the world.
However, Tyson charged that faith in a personal God and trusting in science are not entirely incompatible, as certain notable figures, such as Thomas Jefferson and Francis Sellers Collins - the director of the National Institutes of Health - have done so.
Before concluding the segment, Lentz shared his final thoughts, stating, "I think that people need to keep on discovering, and learning, and hearing. Doubt does not have to be a dead end; it can be something that leads to open doors. And I think we need room for people to be able to explore doubts, and have thoughts, and figure this out. We all have a desire to be fulfilled, and people need to keep on looking."
Lentz, 36, leads one of the largest megachurches in New York, with Hillsong NYC attracting over 5,000 worshippers every week. He is also known for pastoring celebrities such as Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, and a number of NBA stars including Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, David Lee, and Jeremy Lin, among others.
"For me, I've never really sought a particular type of person," Lentz said in the past of his platform. "For me, God handles what the fruit of stuff is, but faithfulness is my job. ... The beautiful thing about Jesus is, he's so appealing that he'll work out the street, he'll work out what you see. But for me, I've always just tried to stay faithful to what God's called me to do and be who I am."
"I'm kind of like not your typical pastor in some regards," he added. "I used to be ashamed of some of that stuff, but then I realized, well I actually do get along with guys who play basketball and video games. I get along a lot better with a dude in a club than I do in a pastor's green room, being that guy. I think it's encouraging to be a part of churches like ours that champion who you are. Whatever you're good at, whatever you love, God needs you there."