I am a Christian.
I also hold a degree in physics.
People ask me all the time how I can reconcile my faith in a creator God with my understanding of how the universe works.
I ask too many questions
I was always the problem child in Sunday school, and teachers would often dread me showing up in the morning. Not because I was a trouble-maker, but because I asked questions. A lot of questions. A lot of difficult questions.
"If Moses was in line to become Pharaoh before Rameses, why didn't God just tell him to stay put. As Pharaoh he could've released the Israelites without the need of plagues or death?"
The answer: "Stop making up questions just to make us mad. You won't get anywhere that way."[ref]The real answer I figured out for myself years later. The Israelites already believed in God, but the Egyptians did not. By using Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt the way He did, God showed himself and his power to the Egyptians, upsetting the status quo and reaching a people who otherwise would not have been reached.[/ref]
Despite being told for years to just take things on faith, I still needed to know the answers. When my church mentors failed me, I turned to books at the library and conversations with leaders of other congregations. For a time after college, I had two standing lunch meetings with pastors from two different churches every week so I could ask questions.
By my questions aren't just about God or scripture, I also ask questions about the world around us. How is it built? How do different elements interact? Why is the speed of light constant?
For me, it's about the search
The study of physics is the study of the natural laws of the world - the instructions God coded into the fabric of the universe. The structure of fermions versus bosons and how that makes a difference to the makeup of atoms. Electrons are fermions, so no two electrons with the same energy can occupy the same space. The pressure exerted by electrons to prevent the violation of this rule is called "electron degeneracy pressure," and is the reason white dwarf stars exist - if the external pressure exceeds that which the electrons can resist, they are forced to combine with their atom's protons, creating neutrons, and relying on neutron degeneracy pressure to resist further contraction.
None of the above science is outlined in scripture, but it's very real science. Studying these rules is a way of looking at the God's fingerprints on creation, and I find it fascinating!
I enjoy hiking for many of the same reasons: I get to go out into the world and marvel in God's creation first-hand. I hike and backpack in remote areas of the mountains so I can spend time alone with God and reflect on the beauty he has wrought.
My favorite area to hike is central Oregon, in the Three Sisters Wilderness. It's a high desert, filled with volcanos, and covered with constant reminders of how the world was built. Seeing how the hand of God carved the face of the earth and then filled it with life is remarkable.
I see signs of God in my science
I attended a few different Bible studies in college. One of them, to which I was invited by a friend, really frustrated me, though.
It was winter, and the ponds and fountains around town had begun to freeze. Some of the students in the Bible study were talking about it and one made an incredulous remark about the miracle of ice:
It's amazing how water works. Ice freezes, then floats on water. It's the only reason life works on earth and it's a miracle! I can't believe how cool it is, and the fact that modern science still can't explain why ice floats is further proof of God and his miracles.[ref]Emphasis added ...[/ref]
I couldn't let a statement like that stand.
I went into an impassioned lecture on how water was a polar molecule, and how at low energies (temperatures) the molecules would align and, thanks to their polar nature, begin to repel one another and expand. The expanded solid water would feature the same weight as it did as a liquid, but due to a higher volume would have a lower density and, thus, would float.
I got ahead of myself and tagged on that claiming such natural - and well-understood - behavior as an "inexplicable miracle" was exactly the reason non-Christians think people of faith are out of touch with the world.
The leader of that particular Bible study asked me not to come back; I had no intention to, anyway.
I see science as a way to chase after and better understand God and the wonders with which he's filled our world. There is so much left to be explained - and I hope to see explanations penned in my lifetime.
The central way I reconcile this thirst for knowledge with my faith in Christ is choice. I choose to believe in God. I choose to believe in his son, Jesus. I choose to follow after their example.
I also choose to seek after them by studying their creation.
Like accepting a scientific theory as "fact" until evidence arises that proves it false, I still accept many things on faith - but I don't so so blindly. I will always search after the truth, be it physical or spiritual.
I've found nothing thus far that makes the two mutually exclusive.