Religion and Science
Befriending Science: Christian Theologians Respond
In his article, Clayton mentions a return to the "Big Questions." While I personally enjoy pondering some of these questions, my experience with congregations has led me to see the importance of the "Little Questions." For instance, one time when I was talking about theological anthropology at a church, one intelligent gentleman asked me, "Is all of this discussion just another version of how many angels fit on the head of a pin?" For this man and many in the churches I have worked with, how science interacts with their faith is a matter that focuses primarily on relevancy. The various views of how the universe came into existence may be of interest to certain scientists and theologians, but the average Christian (or average person, for that matter) might not think that what happened 14 billion years ago affects their day-to-day lives.
In my mind, the only way that Christians will be able to see the benefits of science to their faith will come from being able to see how science affects their lives, period. With the lack of science literacy in our culture in general, it should come to no surprise that so many Christians see science as either a threat to their faith or of no consequence. So, rather than just arguing over which version of theistic evolution is the best, more fundamental questions need to be answered for the general public: Why care at all about evolution? What is the actual difference for people whether they came from dust 10,000 years ago or a eukaryote a few billion years ago? If I am struggling to get a job or looking for love or just trying to keep my children safe in world that seems so dangerous, is it really worth my time to ponder the nuances in the debate between Intelligent Design and Neo-Darwinian Evolutionary theory?
For many pastors and lay Christians I have talked to, the answer to that last question (and questions like it) is "No." Until that changes, the benefits of science to the Christian faith are going to remain minimal. Until people really start to see that what science is teaching us about the world actually does have an impact on their lives and faiths, the terrific conversations that Clayton mentions in his article will more of the exception than the rule. Until Christians begin to take science seriously, we won't hear a genuine prophetic voice from the Church on issues like stem cell research or the development of new energy sources. Until the conversation is finally able to make it from the professional theologians and scientists to the folks in the pews and the streets, we won't be able to truly see the benefit of scientific breakthroughs on the Christian faith.
Achieving what I just mentioned won't be an easy thing. If it were, we probably wouldn't be having this conversation. To put it bluntly, it's going to require some evangelism on the part of those who are already interested in the science and faith conversation. Now, I'm not talking about the door-to-door, handing out tracts type of evangelism. What I mean is that those of us who are able to see why science does matter to our faiths need to have the conversations that Clayton mentions with people who may not seem to be interested at first glance. We need to expose these topics to folks who might not otherwise think twice about them in ways that really help them see why they should care about what is happening in laboratories around the world. We need to find creative and interesting ways of presenting these complex ideas. When that happens, then we can truly see the benefits.
Blake Horridge currently serves as the Registrar and Director of Academic Administration at the American Baptist Seminary of the West in Berkeley, CA. He received his Master of Divinity degree from ABSW in 2008 and a B.S. in Chemistry and Forensic Science from the George Washington University. In addition to helping churches and pastors look at various issues of science and faith, he has served as a Research Assistant with the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences and has presented at American Scientific Affiliation's annual meeting.