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Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Science and Worship ... and a New Series on Evangelicals, Evolution, and the Church

Last Friday I had the opportunity to attend Jennifer Wiseman’s lecture and presentation “Universe of Wonder, Universe of Mystery” at McMaster University. Wiseman is Chief of the Laboratory for Exoplanets and Stellar Astrophysics at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center – meaning she get’s to play with the Hubble whenever she wants. (Disclaimer: I believe she describes her job somewhat differently). This was a thoroughly enjoyable experience to not only see how “the incredible tools of modern astronomy are revealing a universe of staggering beauty and baffling mysteries”, but also to hear anecdotes from someone “on the inside” studying this staggering beauty and helping to answer some of these baffling mysteries.

Science should be an Instrument of Worship

Biologos recently published Wiseman’s paper “Science as an Instrument of Worship” which asks the question “Can recent scientific discovery inform and inspire worship and service”? The obvious answer is “of course”; Christians have always been inspired to worship God because of his creation. However, as Wiseman notes, Evangelicalism’s ambivalence toward science has in some sense muted our praise rather than, as advances in science should, enhance it. This is due to a combination of factors, including a) our general ignorance of science (the standard Evangelical is relatively uninformed in this discipline) b) the controversy over science within evangelicalism (many voices are trying to “inform the uninformed” but these voices do not agree on the correct information), and c) the uncertainty of church leaders on how to approach the topic, a timidity to address scientific issues when “there is no clear way to bring closure to the discussion”. On the last, Wiseman notes that:

There is simply no easy theological answer for why genetic codes get fouled up, why the plate tectonics that continually shape our continents also drive earthquakes and destruction, which technologies are ethical, and whether God may sustain and redeem life in other star systems. The fact that the “natural processes” that God has created can sometimes enable and sometimes destroy life is difficult to explain when you are facing someone suffering directly from disease or natural disaster. The idea that human life has only been around for a small fraction of the history of life on earth or an even tinier fraction of the history of the universe is hard to address, given that our Scriptures focus on God’s relationship to humans.
But these uncertainties and difficult questions should not make us timid; God never promised to answer all our questions, only that he is in control and that all things will be right in the end. And the controversy over the “how” of creation (even though to many of us, this “controversy” is manufactured) should not stop us from joining in unison in praise for the Creator. As to the lack of scientific knowledge, and an unhealthy view towards science? Well, many of us are trying to address this.

Dealing with Science in the Church

This unhealthy view of science within the evangelical church is a very personal problem for many evangelical Evolutionary Creationists (ECs). How do we let our Christian family see that creation is even more amazing than they currently imagine? How do we deal with hostility towards certain aspects of creation within the local church? Within our denominations? How can we ensure that science, all of science, is an instrument of worship rather than a distraction from worship, or worse, an instrument of disunity?

Starting next week, a new series called “Evangelicals, Evolution, and the Church” will be published on this blog. The series will include guest contributions from 8 other Evangelicals who have grappled with (and in most cases are still grappling with) some of these questions. But each of these participants will also provide answers to some of these questions, answers that I think will be helpful to other ECs grappling with these questions. These ECs come from a wide variety of denominational backgrounds and include scientists, pastors, church leaders, and ordinary “evangelicals in the pew”. But all of them share a passion for promoting a positive relationship between science and the Christian faith. In the end, we want our church family to appreciate God’s creation for what it is, and not for what we think it should be.


Irenicum said...

Steve, Thanks so much for posting this. I look forward to what y'all have to say. Our voices together can help to speak to Christ's church what is true and good. I look forward to having the various voices available so that evangelicals can appropriate scientifically appropriate voices to our betterment and God's glory. God is good, we just take time.

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve,

Noticed a typo:

"meaning she get’s to play"

has no need of that apostrophe.

Feel free to delete this comment.