As Science for the Church wraps up its first full year, we hope you’ve learned something about us. Are you ready for the test? Not to worry, here’s a handy study guide.
Why do we exist?
Science for the Church exists because the church has too often taken a posture towards science that we believe ultimately undermines the Gospel itself. Whether it is Christians rejecting consensus science or ignoring it altogether, the church is perceived in the wider culture as anti-science at worst or as irrelevant in a scientific and technological society.
Some of you may remember that I wrote in August about what psychologists call “stereotype threats”—the idea that when someone is aware of a stereotype about their performance, they actually perform worse. In the case of the church, the “perception of conflict between faith and science… undermines both Christians in the sciences and the church’s ability to encourage and support them.”
This is particularly damaging to our witness with younger people, whose education is saturated with STEM exposure. This is why in 2020, we wrote about doing this work “For Our Grandkids” and included a spring series on engaging science in youth ministry (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4).
How do we address faith and science?
- Through ideas.
- Through values.
- Through ministry practice.
- Through relationships.
- All of the above.
If you circled 5, you are correct. We clearly value ideas and knowledge. Our newsletters and Facebook posts consider a range of scientific topics and seek to allow those ideas to inform our understanding of Scripture, our knowledge of God, and frankly, to help keep us from sounding stupid in front our congregations.
But as much time as we spend on ideas and as important as they are, we cannot neglect values. As Greg wrote last February, “The cover is ripped off, and we see that ‘the warfare between creation and evolution’ is no longer solely cognitive. Both—and probably all—sides seem to demonstrate that this and other discussions about religion and science concern the soul, and not simply the mind, of America.” We are not merely cognitive beings—morals and values motivate us.
At Science for the Church we also want to demonstrate that science can help the church do better ministry. Imagine the community gathering for a science fair at church. Or staying up after smores and praise songs on a retreat to study the night sky with an astronomer. Or having someone like Rick Lindroth teach you about the local ecosystem and how best to care for it. Or bringing in an educational psychologist to help your Sunday school volunteers teach better. Science can inform and thereby strengthen our ministry praxis.
With all of that said, if you were going to pick one and only one from the list above, we hope you picked 4. As I wrote in The Greatest of these is…, “Relationships between pastors and scientists are what motivates Science for the Church. The formation of these pairs, or small groups, is the single best practice we can recommend for engaging with science in our faith communities.” So, pair up church leaders and scientists. You can help your church by doing ministry together.
Outside of this newsletter, what else do we do? (select all that apply)
- Collect faith and science resources for the church.
- Produce catchy TikTok videos.
- Host events.
- Offer programs and consultation for ministries seeking to engage with science.
- Build a movement of like-minded congregations and ministries.
If you selected 2, you know something we don’t. TikTok is simply not our platform. But all of the other items are very much on our to-do list. A John Templeton Foundation grant, secured late this summer, allows us to continue to produce this newsletter, collect resources and catalog them on our website, and draw your attention to other materials and events via social media (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter).
In 2020, we hosted (really co-hosted) several public events. We had an in-person program in January for pastors and scientists in Madison, Wisconsin, and then three virtual events, two of which were conversations with scientists (chemist Ben McFarland and most recently sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund and religion scholar Cleve V. Tinsley IV). We have a good number of events planned for 2021, some of which we hope will be in person again. Keep reading each Tuesday to learn more.
Greg and I have also done several programs for local congregations—preaching, teaching, and consulting. Over time, we hope our work might create a movement of congregations and ministries that want to change the church’s posture towards science, thereby undoing the perception of conflict.
How can you help?
There are many ways you can help us. First and foremost, tell us how we can help you. Are there topics we should address in this newsletter? Are there particular resources you need for your ministry? Can we offer your church a program or consultation? We don’t accomplish our goals if we are not helping advance your ministries.
Second, spread the word. Forward a newsletter to peer. Publicize our resources and events. Make sure your church and others that you work with know that there is organization working to strengthen the church through an engagement with science.
Lastly, consider a donation. (And to many who already have, we say Thank You!) We are a ministry that supports the work of the church. Like every other nonprofit, we depend on contributions big and small from those who share our vision and want us to help pastors and scientists—and their communities of faith—take science off the list of things that prevent others from considering Christ and His church.
Oh, and now that you have completed the practice exam, your work is done. You can thank Greg for that. After grading 130 papers from his Cal State Chico students, he nixed the idea of an actual exam.