Session One: An Introduction
I grew up in a Christian household and attended conservative Lutheran schools my whole life (K-12). I was taught the “one right answer” to most questions, especially as they pertained to faith. That is to say, my pastor and teachers answered the endless questions of young minds with absolute authority. It never crossed my mind to question from where their authority came. Like a math problem or a historical fact, the answers to my faith questions had “right” answers.
In my adult life, especially since coming to seminary, a world of answers has been opened up to me, and I sit in awe of the thoughts and writings of brilliant theologians and scholars. As a former teacher, I fully embrace and truly love the opportunity to learn from all of them and explore the strengths and challenges of their ideas, teachings, and theologies. I share this backstory as an opening to offer perspective on my stance...or lack of a stance on where science and religion meet.
And so we journey together, and we engage in readings that will help us explore our understanding of the relationship between science and religion, between scientific and theological thought. A book I will refer to often and from which I got the title of this series is Ian Barbour's When Science Meets Religion. While we will be using a number of different readings and resources, I would highly recommend purchasing and reading this book...it has influenced much of my understanding of the relationship between science and religion. Of course, I encourage you to complete all the readings that are suggested in each session, as they will help you more fully engage in meaningful reflection and discussion. I want to give a big thank you to my professor, Dr. Allison deForest, for teaching the course which sparked my interest and curiosity on this subject. Much of what we will be exploring comes from my learning in her course, Where Scripture and Science Meet.
Each session offers new readings to engage, scripture readings that connect to the topic, a video sharing my thoughts and insight, guiding questions to spark your individual exploration, and additional resources to help you dig deep into the topics that you find particularly interesting. Comments below each session are always welcome and will help express diverse perespctives on each topic. You can keep an eye out for when I will be presenting these sessions in a face-to-face forum at my congregation, Lake Park Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, WI.
OK...enough introduction! Let’s get started!
God of Wisdom...reveal yourself in our learning this day. Give us eyes to see you in the physical world. Give us ears to hear you in the language of science. Give us minds to know you in new and unexpected ways. Amen
Ian Barbour, Where Science Meets Religion, Chapter 1
"For learning about wisdom and instruction for understanding words of insight, for gaining instruction in wise dealing, righteousness, justice, and equity; to teach shrewdness to the simple, knowledge and prudence to the young - Let the wise also hear and gain in learning, and the discerning acquire skill, to understand a proverb and a figure, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction." - Proverbs 1:2-7
In which category of Ian Barbour’s do I stand? None of them, all of them...it’s not that I don’t agree or disagree with certain aspects of all four, but I am cautious to firmly plant myself in any one category. Faith does not have one answer. Throughout my seminary career, I have found meaning and power in exploration, in remaining open to how I can experience the Divine in all ideas, especially in those which at first I strongly oppose. I find that I initially connect with Barbour’s thoughts on the Integration, a partnership of science and religion. His views of a theology of nature align with my understanding of starting with theology which is expanded by scientific evidence. Yet, to dismiss the other side of the spectrum, Conflict, as foolishness would be to miss an opportunity to understand different perspectives of God. The faith of a biblical literalist fascinates me. In the face, of what seems like scientific impossibility, they hold firm in a faith of an all-powerful God. Does this faith allow them to experience God more fully, or does it simply blind them to God working in and through scientific discovery? In the same breath, I cannot understand how someone can understand the complexities of the natural world and not be led to faith in a high power. What is it like to truly have no faith, reliance, or belief in God? Both sides of the Conflict thesis are too often dismissed, yet I believe hold needed insight. Faith and science are about exploration, being willing to venture into the unknown and the uncomfortable. Absolute certainty is the enemy of growth and learning, it prevents discovery, and limits our understanding of God.
- What is your initial thoughts and feelings about the bible? About science?
- Which category of Ian Barbour’s do you view as the most common relationship between religion and science?
- Which category do you view as the least common relationship between religion and science? How can you work to remain open to the perspective of this relationship?
- James Kugel, How to Read the Bible Then and Now: A Guide to Scripture Then and Now, Chapter 1.
- “The Science and Religion Relationship” by Peter Doumit
- “The Relationship Between Science and Religion” by Karl Giberson