Science and Theology

“To not participate in these narratives is to miss a vibrant and interesting human endeavor which is both spiritual and formative.”

There are those who adamantly preach that there is no bridge between science and religion, let alone theology and any narrative constructed is a mere mirage, a false engineering project, an illusion of smoke and mirrors.  I get this:  and it remains an interesting source of study for me.  At the same time, I direct a focus within the practice-based degree, (Doctor of Ministry) which provides a kind of borderland space in which science and theology is the subject (object?) of study. It may be audacious, it may be naïve even, and it may fail to address what scientists consider important, or what skeptics consider silly, and even what some but thankfully not all theologians consider irrelevant.   For those who listen, for those who pay attention to the everyday lives of people—those who are in ministry as a calling and profession—it is relevant all the time.

My point is not to argue (the point); my theme is to highlight the opportunity shaped by a very long series of narratives which have become tangled and twisted, debated and discarded, revived and co-opted to stir ongoing dialogue and discussion.  To not participate is to miss a vibrant and interesting human endeavor which is both spiritual and formative.  In my ninth grade biology class with Mr. Fink, I began to consider Genesis 1:1 which up to that moment had been the only narrative of biology I knew.  We boarded a yellow bus for a field trip to study frogs in mountain streams and woods of Southern Oregon.  What I mean is that Mr. Fink did not quote from scripture, he quoted from science, and we did experiments based on scientific method.  I was not asked to draw conclusions between God creating and frogs in ponds.   It was left to me to sort out.  It never occurred to me that there was a conflict until in history class we studied the well-known Scopes trial, which remains a somewhat sclerotic set of themes.

At the end of January, the cohort of the Science and Theology Focus of the Doctor of Ministry Program of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary will gather for two weeks of study in Scottsdale, Arizona.  They will discuss, write and perhaps debate.  They will be part of a new lecture series at Pinnacle Presbyterian Church featuring physicist Paul Davies and a response by Ron Cole-Turner of the seminary faculty, to which the public is invited.  It will not be about rigid and settled themes—it will be about reclaiming a conversation in the wider culture; it will address wonder, mystery, possibility.  In will engage the narrative of science and the narrative of the divine.  It will not result in answers though it will foster a platform for deeper understanding of our place in a wider view of life within the universe.  Lawrence Kraus, who is also a physicist at Arizona State, with a decidedly less kindly view toward theologians and philosophers in general than Paul Davies, says, “Lack of comfort means we are on the threshold of new insights.”    He is right.  And he says one more thing with which I like (and I do read his books because he does have much to offer):  “Nature comes up with surprises that far exceed those that the human imagination can generate.”  This is for me the beginning: one I discovered on a high Oregon hillside long ago while studying frogs.

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