Last Friday David Opderbeck introduced Ken Wilson’s essay Science and the Evangelical Mission in America. Wilson’s message is that the approach we take to issues of science and faith will have a profound impact on the willingness of people to consider the gospel. He was driven to consider the impact of conservative evangelical attitudes toward science as he set out to plant a church “in Ann Arbor, home to the University of Michigan, a major scientific research center and a community with decidedly blue leanings.” (Picture to the right from wikipedia)
Wilson’s essay starts with an anecdote relating a conversation where he asked a biology student “We have grad students in English, social work, and engineering–why aren’t there more science and biology students in our church?” – her answer was prompt “Ken, it’s evolution, what did you think?” and then makes he the following observation:
The evangelical posture toward modern science has missional consequences. We have inherited a defensive posture toward science that serves as a roadblock to faith for many people. The question is: what are we going to do about it?
If the essence of evangelicalism is a singular passion to see the gospel of Jesus embraced by as many people as possible, we must learn to think again like missionaries sent to a mission field.
Read Wilson’s essay – and while you are at, it read this essay by Stephen Blake, A Plea to My Shepherds. Speaking as one who has been a grad student, scholar, and professor, a blue leaning thinker in a red thinking church for decades, I find Wilson’s observations right on target. As a “tolerated minority” (see his essay for definitions) I would not risk inviting friends or colleagues to church. My attempt to discuss this with the pastor after one particularly troubling sermon led to a defensive response – and a comment that the church must stand against the secularism of the university.
This is a massive mission field: roughly half the population of the United States leans blue, either directly or through cultural identification with the scientists and thinkers who lean blue.
Wilson has the key question dead on…directly to pastors and those in campus ministry:
What effect does your approach to science have on your ability to have be a missional witness in your communities? Will people set foot in the door and feel welcome?
Does it matter?
Lets start a conversation.
If you wish to contact me, you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net