We’re starting 2024 with a second installment of the newsletters from last year that, based on open rates, you liked best. This batch comes from the latter half of the year. It begins with Drew reflecting on his amazing sabbatical in Africa and then Ed and I nerding out on two of our favorite theologians and how they viewed science.
Sabbatical adventures were without a doubt the highlight of 2023 for the Rick-Miller family. That trip began in South Africa with our very first day spent at the Cradle of Humankind in the hills northwest of Johannesburg. In the cave systems under those hills, scientists have found one of the most important troves of hominid fossils anywhere in the world.
Sadly, flooding kept us out of the caves, but our tour and the main museum told a story about which both the Bible and science agree. There is a unity in our species—we are all one in Christ and we all share 99.9 percent of the same genetic information. And as the site’s name indicates, our species appears to have originated in Africa.
This message was told throughout our days in South Africa, in museums and memorials and in our tours of both Robben Island and Soweto. Sadly, later in our travels to post-Holocaust Germany and Northern Island, this was not part of the message we found on tours and at the sites remembering those countries’ difficult histories.
Nor do we hear it much in church. My prayer is that we can begin to change that through what we do at Science for the Church. – Drew
I wrote my dissertation on Karl Barth and Alfred North Whitehead, with particular emphasis on their views of God and how God relates to the world. Barth does his work “from above,” that is, from revelation, i.e., from the Word of God. Whitehead proceeds “from below,” that is, by reflecting on science and philosophy. My research was a way of bringing together science and theology through focusing on a Reformed theologian and an English scientist-philosopher.
In the process of answering the question, “What’s your dissertation about?” I kept hearing the response, “Karl Barth? He didn’t have anything to do with science, did he?” This piece is a distillation of my answer. If we listen to Barth’s words—especially in his early years—the answer is pretty much, “No, Barth doesn’t have much to do with science.” But when we see how he actually does his later theology, when Barth intensifies his focus on God’s coming in Christ, we have much to learn.
I’ll close with the final words of the piece, “What we learn from Barth is that we can grow—we might even say, evolve—in understanding how to bring science to theology. And when we focus as Christians on how God reconciles all creation through Christ, we realize, like Barth, that we have a good deal to bring to this conversation.” – Greg
One of the perks of working at SftC is the sustained opportunity to banter with my friends from a Reformed perspective about the virtues of a Wesleyan approach to science and theology. While Greg geeked out about Barth’s dialectical method, I had to provide my articles of remonstrance as an answer built around Wesley’s orthodoxy (i.e., correct doctrine), orthopraxy (i.e., correct living), and orthopathy (i.e., correct affections). Thus, this piece focused on how these elements come together to provide a matrix of Wesleyan ecology that is incarnational at its core.
As a student of Wesleyan theology, I am amazed at his brand of holistic ministry. Wesley’s ministerial efforts focused on attending to the individual’s spiritual, social, and physical needs as tangible representations of divine mercy, love, and justice. Therefore, by lifting the brokenhearted, feeding the hungry, and fighting unjust systems, the church is building an ecology that addresses the body, mind, and soul of each member of society. For Wesley, this type of ministry maps to the biblical tenet of being good stewards of the resources God has entrusted to us.
Consequently, the call to build a Wesleyan ecosystem is a call to establish a sort of incarnational ministry that aims at attending to the physical needs of those suffering under unjust systems to enact God’s transformative presence and power. By utilizing all available resources, we can unleash a sort of revival that will revitalize the local congregation and will, in turn, transform its social context. The exciting news is that the results obtained by Wesley’s ministerial efforts in 18th-century England can be achieved today. – Ed
Blessings to you and yours in 2024! Greg