I am continually intrigued with Robert Alter’s translations, particularly of the Psalms. Psalm 147: Hallelujah. For it is good to hymn to our God, for it is sweet to adorn with praise. Builder of Jerusalem, the LORD, Israel’s scattered ones He gathers in. Healer of the broken-hearted, He binds their painful wounds.
He counts the number of the stars, to all of them gives names.
These first verses from Psalm 147 are an example of both power and pathos, of intimacy connected to the whole of the universe. As I work to articulate the purpose of offering a concentration in science and theology, the careful craft of translation suits to form a reason. In a world now totally shaped by technology, which lends itself to constant connection leading to unfiltered communication or to quick solutions for the human condition because of the availability of tests or medication or technique, what role does religion play? Even more pointedly, what role does faith and belief play? How do pastors, those designated in our culture as those with the knowledge and wisdom to provide answers to these questions, engage a postmodern world? What is revealed when the categories shift and it is no longer that pastors or churches assume the privilege of serving as the authority on these matters in the same manner? Of course, there is the push back, the seeking to retain a set of rules. I am not talking about rules of authority here in this blog (like a view of contraception for example); I am talking about the tension of the language and metaphor present in the Psalms and the language of science, which rarely speaks of the broken-hearted and of the counting of the stars in the same sentence. This in my view is the issue: the capacity to hold both an intimacy of the deeply personal and the expansive grandeur of the universe in the palm of the hand. In these verses, it is the hand of God—metaphorically speaking—which holds both together and for you and for me—it is the capacity for a mature, wisdom drenched faith. (In the cold reality of medicine, a test with the latest technology is no replacement for the warm hand of hope. Technology is not the savior—though it may serve to save. There is a difference. This is only one example of many I could cite.)
The Science and Theology Focus of the Doctor of Ministry Program is an opportunity to articulate as pastoral leaders what this might mean for those searching both in the church and for those at the edge of organized religion. It is not that people are abandoning church and the authority of pastoral leadership out of selfishness or distain for the most part—it is simply that pastors and churches are too much of the time unable and unwilling to engage the tensions between hope and despair, between the deeply personal and the growing knowledge of science and technology.
Here is my challenge: take the time, have the courage to address the present world as the poets of the Psalms have done, and create a new space for conversation not removed from the world but in the world. We are to immerse ourselves in the messiness, in the chaos, in the tension, in the laughter and love and pain and tears. When those who mark “none” as to their religious affiliation, they are marking a space to claim a new conversation. It is an invitation.
Questions about the science and theology focus? Follow the link below!