It’s been one of the serendipities of the past year to have met the Rev. Dr. Edgardo Rosado, pastor, scholar, community leader, and (from what we’ve heard) a rockin’ electric bass player. Here he provides us with fresh insights on connecting faith and science for Hispanic Christians—who, by some estimates, number 45 million in the US. This Thursday, June 24 at 11am Central, he and Greg Cootsona, SftC co-director, will have an online conversation, “Science, Race, and Faith: Insights from Hispanic Congregations.” Edgardo Rosado is associate project director at Esperanza’s Ciencia, Fe y Esperanza initiative, adjunct professor at Nazarene Bible College, visiting scholar at European Nazarene College, and executive pastor with the Church of the Nazarene in Media, PA. He holds a PhD and MA in pastoral leadership and a BA in biblical studies, all from the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico.
Let’s start with a bit of your biography, especially how you became interested in Christian faith and in science.
I grew up in a Christian family on the northern coast of Puerto Rico. I had dreams of becoming a medical doctor, so I followed the normative path to fulfill that goal. However, as I was working my way through my pre-med program/studies, I felt God’s call to ministry and followed him. I became an ordained elder in the Church of the Nazarene and have worked with multicultural congregations for about 22 years. Although my intellectual, ministerial, and academic pursuits led me to complete advanced degrees in theology, I have always been interested in science, particularly in how science and theology work together to provide us with a better picture of how God works and reveals himself to us.
Tell us about Esperanza and your role there.
I direct the Ciencia, Fe y Esperanza (i.e., Science, Faith, and Hope) project (CFE). The John Templeton Foundation funds the project, and it is designed to help Hispanic communities of faith across the Greater Philadelphia region to reconcile their religious beliefs with modern scientific principles. We have gathered a panel of theologians and faith-based scientists to guide us through a conversation centered on neurotheology, artificial intelligence, and health and wellbeing. Our primary focus is to create a sacred and safe space for pastors, congregations, and young people to change their perceptions about the confluence of faith and science and to help them see science (i.e., STEM-related careers) as a vocational call.
You’re ordained in the Nazarene Church and a Wesleyan theologian. From those vantage points, what resources do you see in the Nazarene theological tradition that invite engagement with science?
The Church of the Nazarene comes from humble beginnings. During a time of spiritual awakening, a couple of Methodist pastors decided to start a church focused on a holiness message the central tenets of which included loving God by tangibly loving our neighbor. This emphasis arises from a Wesleyan (i.e., a Christian) preoccupation with physical well-being and calls us to do everything in our power to provide for our neighbors’ needs. Therefore, our theological understanding includes a strong anthropological drive that moves us to attend, not only to the spiritual needs but to the temporal needs of our brothers and sisters. We have created a significant higher education network composed of 11 higher learning institutions (a total of 51 worldwide) dedicated to preparing men and women to serve God. We build schools, hospitals, water treatment plants, and help build the needed infrastructure to transform society through education, science, and a spiritual transformation on the mission field. Thus, our Wesleyan roots help us build a better world by engaging fully with God’s creation.
- From the Christian Post, “Black, Latino Churches Face Struggles, Shifts in COVID Culture.” COVID-19’s disproportionate effect on these communities led Esperanza to open a vaccination site.
- For a global perspective, this BioLogos article discusses evolution and creation in Latin American churches, and the Gospel Coalition in Latin America produces this Spanish-language faith-science podcast.
- Edgardo Rosado interviews Nilsa Granciani on her faith as a scientist.
- For more on the Ciencia y Fe program, check out their podcast, and this video of their November 2020 summit.
- Christianity Today outlines “20 Prayers to Pray During This Pandemic“, also in Spanish.
How common is it for Hispanic churches to engage with science or scientists, and do you face roadblocks?
The truth is that the conversation between science and faith is not that common within Hispanic church circles. By and large, science is perceived as opposed to the fundamental tenets of faith and, as such, should be only engaged in cases that do not challenge or interfere with normative theological positions or interpretations. In our context, Hispanic communities of faith tend to focus all their attention and resources towards a more evangelistic or militant approach to the gospel. The focus is on the eternal, saving souls, fulfilling God’s salvific work, and everything else (i.e., the temporal aspects of life) is not that important.
Are there resources available for connecting with Spanish-speaking scientists or with specific Spanish-language resources for the church? Are there particular questions that would interest Hispanic churches?
We do not have many Spanish-speaking scientists within our churches, and, therefore, we do not have a significant reservoir of materials addressing this space. In fact, this is one of the deliverables for the CFE project. Our engagement with communities of faith has revealed that a significant number of Spanish-speaking pastors and lay members are interested in questions around creation, genetics, ethics, and around Covid-19 and vaccination. A significant number of Hispanic pastors and parishioners look at the creation metanarrative and understand it in a literal way. Thus, we find a natural interest in how scientific principles relate to their doctrinal position to address this perceived friction more effectively and to protect what they hold as sacred. The same could be said about genetics. By and large, Hispanics understand the benefits derived from genetic research. However, together with many evangelical Christians, Hispanics focus on the ethical and moral concerns attached to the use of stem cells harvested from what they see as aborted fetuses, as it goes against their position regarding the sanctity of life as normatively understood. Interestingly, some of the more outlandish issues surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine have captivated a considerable part of the discourse among Hispanic congregations. From microchips that will track you, to the vaccine as “the mark of the beast,” taking the vaccine has been reinterpreted as a theological declaration of not trusting in God’s provision among some of our congregations.
Any final words for the church’s engagement with science and why it’s important?
I had the opportunity to interview Rev. Luis Cortés, Esperanza’s founder and CEO, as part of CFE’s science and faith podcast. He talked about the remarkable transformation that science is bringing to our modern context and discussed the need for Hispanic students to enter into this conversation by embracing STEM as a vocation. Although this is a pressing need for the Hispanic community, it is also a need for the Christian church. Why? Because science and technology are taking us to places we never thought were possible. Because there are moral, ethical, and theological implications that our faith must inform. More importantly, because we are called to be salt and light (Matthew 5:14-16) in this present context.