What You Liked Best: The Top Six Newsletters from 2023, PART ONE

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We’re ending the year by highlighting the 2023 newsletters that, based on open rates, you liked best. This batch comes from the first half of the year. It starts with Drew taking on some difficult issues in bringing together faith and science in congregations, then moves to Ed’s foray into Artificial Intelligence via Chat GPT, and finally a more speculative piece I wrote on change, our world, and where God fits in all this.

A Hard Question from Scientists in Our Churches

A black woman in a yellow shirt and lab coat sitting on a tall stool talks to a colleague who we just barely see on the left side of the image. A medical screening image, perhaps from a PET scan, appears on a computer in the background. The title words say "A Hard Question from the Scientists in our Churches" encouraging us to think about a scientist's perspective on "What do I do if my church does not accept me as a scientist?"

What do I do if my church does not accept me as a scientist? There are many tough questions we hear about engaging science (and being a scientist) in church. I find this to be one of the hardest (and saddest). I fear that most pastors are completely unaware there are members of their congregations who feel this way. Together, we need to change the way our churches treat scientists because the best way to address this question is to always welcome science professionals in our churches.

Until that happens, we must find ways to support scientists of faith. They are, after all, the hands and feet of Christ in the halls of science. If we don’t support them, the massive industries of science, technology, engineering, and healthcare will lack Christians that can witness to the Good News of the Gospel.

Jesus’s final words to his disciples were, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). I’m certain the ends of the earth include the halls of science and that suggests the church must find a better way to address this question. – Drew

The Crucifixion: A Scientific Perspective

A black and white image of a carved-stone Jesus on the cross, his head lifted towards the heavens. The sky behind his head is lit by sun through the clouds. The title words say "The Crucifixion: A Scientific Perspective" referring to our use of ChatGPT on the science of the crucifixion.

In the spirit of true scientific inquiry and following the most recent trend, we decided to use Open AI’s ChatGPT to tackle the capstone of our Lent series. So, after some trial and error, I loaded a few prompts, and watched as the chatbot weaved this fantastic piece. While I was amazed by the historical approach sprinkled with scientific facts about Jesus’s crucifixion, I ultimately found that the piece lacked the depth of theological reasoning and the sensibility brought to bear by the human heart and mind.

One of the most exciting things underscored by this article is that there are no inherent conflicts between science and faith. One of the conclusions reached by the chatbot is that science and faith are complementary ways of understanding the world rather than two opposing forces trying to cancel out each other. This conclusion is interesting because it reflects the importance of reading from the book of nature and the book of Scripture (one of SftC’s central tenets) to arrive at a deeper understanding of God’s transformative actions.

The piece reached its climax by giving a detailed account of Jesus’ crucifixion, together with plausible medical explanations for the cause of death. The stark brutality of this process provides a jarring juxtaposition to the loving actions of a God who sends his only begotten Son as the vicarious sacrificial lamb for the forgiveness of sins. All these elements come together to remind us of the historical death of Jesus as a central element of faith that cannot be discounted by science. I am certainly looking forward to the future of these kinds of technological advances. – Ed

The God Who Creates Our Future

A black and white photograph shows two hands reaching from the darkness behind a cello to pluck the strings of the instrument. The title words say "The God Who Creates Our Future." The image is an allusion to the connections Greg makes between quantum physics, jazz improvisation and God's action in the world.

For a few years now, I’ve been musing about the interrelatedness between jazz performance (which I do), the philosophical implications of quantum physics, and the theological hope that flows from our eschatology. In my mind, this fairly disparate group of ideas has some intriguing connections.

This piece came together as one brief expression of those connections, partly because I remembered something I learned from Ted Peters while I worked on my doctorate. (And I quote) “To be is to have a future. Here is the implication for the Christian doctrine of creation: the way God gives being to creatures is to give them a future. Each moment, God gives the cosmos the next moment.”

I’m fascinated by what all this means personally. I tend to be a person who likes change, probably because change is essential to jazz improvisation. (In fact, the chord structure in jazz is called “the changes.”) I find that when we are open to change, life makes sense because—whether we like it or not—change is a constant. When I am open to change and thus to the changing, evolving world around me, I find myself resonating with what Louis Armstrong sang (and whom I quote in this piece), “What a wonderful world!” – Greg

And with that, let us at Science for the Church wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

A black and white headshot of Greg's face with the words Greg Cootsona, Contributing Editor


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