We have arrived at the final edition of 2021, which means it’s the time of year for staff picks!
I’ve put together the pieces that the Science for the Church team particularly enjoyed. You may have missed some of these, and that’s something we didn’t want to let happen.
As I ponder the turmoil and chaos we have experienced throughout the past year, Fujimura’s ideas around art, science, beauty, and justice connect with me on a deep level. His commitment to a gentle care for our culture in ways that tangibly demonstrate love, peace, and other values highlighted in the Bible is both refreshing and inspiring.
Fujimura’s approach to the integration of faith and science as interconnected elements of God’s love and beauty set the stage for a better understanding of God and for a faith that is grounded in his beauty and justice. “We Christians,” Fujimura says, “should be culture care-ers and stewards of culture helping the nonbelieving world, who has lost hope, to hope again.”
With Francis Collins stepping down last week from his post at NIH and our family planning a trip to see my mentor, Wentzel van Huyssteen, in South Africa (likely to be delayed to summer 2023 due to the surging Omicron COVID-19 variant), I’ve been thinking much about the pioneers who have paved the way for Science for the Church. In 2021, we lost a giant, on whose shoulders so much of what we do has been built. I’m speaking of John Polkinghorne. So, I am selecting our attempt to recognize his exceptional contributions back in April. May our efforts to support the church through serious engagement with science continue to honor his amazing legacy.
Greg introduced Polkinghorne by describing his first (and only) direct encounter with this iconic figure in science and religion: “‘Dr. Polkinghorne, my name is Greg Cootsona. I love your work.’ Being a polite English gentleman, he nodded and gave me room to speak. And so I did: ‘You’re so intelligent. I’ve read so many of your books. You’re amazing.’ Not knowing what else to say, I remember then hurriedly handing him one of my books, walking away, not entirely sure he wasn’t saying to himself, ‘Who was that bloke again?’
I was then—and still am now—in awe of the achievements of Polkinghorne.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about change this year. Why is it that our culture tends to deride people who change their minds as “wishy-washy” or worse, traitorous? Why is it that my faith has changed so much from the traditions I grew up in while my brother’s remains similar? When do we celebrate and when do we grieve change?
I appreciate Greg’s insights—and this quotation in particular—because it sums up so much of what matters to me about the ways my faith has shifted: “[Boundary pioneers] show us that scientific evidence has actually opened up their faith to mystery and awe. They show us that faith doesn’t have to equal certainty; faith can include or coexist with doubt, with critical questions, and with shifts in perspective as more information comes to light.”
As editor, I’m going to pick two. (Why? Because I can.)
Amy Julia Becker’s “Becoming Like Trees” is a theology of nature (i.e., she reflects on the natural world from the perspective of faith, namely, that it is God’s creation). It is also simply brilliant writing. There’s something peaceful about her perspective that mirrors my experience—and what’s true for many of us—being in the natural world both calms and elevates our spirits.
“Recent scientific discoveries about trees have only amplified the richness of the metaphors that the biblical writers employed when they compared human spirituality to trees. When we connect to other people who know the love of Christ in their own lives and begin to practice giving and receiving that love, we can hold one another up and share nourishment with one another. Together we can become like trees, planted by streams of water, whose leaf does not wither, who never fails to bear fruit.”
Drew also wrote a brilliant piece, “Make Your Face to Shine Upon Us,” which combines personal story in presenting his perspective on why the COVID pandemic is challenging for us. In doing so, he offered new insights into the God we worship. (If I were to choose one other, by the way, it’s his “Scientists Matter to the Church.” But I’ve already gone over my self-imposed limit.)
“Like our masked smiles, God’s grin is not one we see directly. We only see evidence on the edges of it. We see its edges in the stories of God interacting with us in Scripture as well as in our experiences of God in creation and with one another. So as we gather, some of us still masked in certain contexts, we too must look to the edges of our masks to see our faces shining upon one another.”
As 2021 comes to a close, let’s not forget to let our faces shine with the joy of knowing God through the two books of nature and of the Bible, and thus recognizing God as Creator and Redeemer. And before our God, we can take off all masks, material and psychological, so that “all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18, NRSV).
Maybe, in the year to come, we can even bring a bit of that transformation to the world around us.