A weekly dose of science for the church
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I’m grateful for gratitude because, when we practice it, life is better. Paul reminds us, in 1 Thessalonians 5:16, that even when life is hard, we’d do well to “be thankful [grateful] in all circumstances” (NLT). I’m grateful for gratitude because it leads to praising life and to praising God for life.
Outside of holiness circles, John Wesley’s contributions to our theological understanding, his approach to social action leading to transformation, and the use of science as a tool for social improvement have gone unnoticed or altogether ignored. As this introduction hints, my approach to theology is decidedly Wesleyan and, in the same way Greg Cootsona circles back to St. Clive when he writes, I cannot help but talk about St. John Wesley and his contributions to Christian thought.
Leading a church already had its own set of challenges. Add 18 months of pandemic, social upheaval, and political unrest, and it is indeed overwhelming. Part of what makes it so difficult is that both pastors and their congregations are overwhelmed and worn out. The data on depression and mental health bear this out. Our collective mental health is not good.
I’ve found that scientific studies of religious life reveal that we don’t have to give up “religion” to be “spiritual.” In fact, religion at its best makes us more deeply spiritual. For those who care about the vibrancy of the church, particularly those who lead congregations, instead of feeling discouraged at SBNRs walking out the doors of the sanctuary for good, our hope is that engaging science can lead them to the deeper spirituality they seek.
“I often get the question: What’s the relationship between ministry and engineering? Well first, curiosity. And there’s always a people element. We have to communicate in both fields—oral and written. Communicating respect and dignity to other human beings is a leadership principle that transcends race or socio-economic status. It transcends the field of engineering. Those principles should be universal.”
Relationships are central to our work at Science for the Church. We include interviews in this newsletter to introduce you to scientists, theologians, and Christian leaders who have taught us much. Fred Ware, professor of theology and associate dean for academic affairs at Howard University School of Divinity (HUSD), is one such individual. Ordained in the Church of God in Christ, his teaching and research focus on the connection between Pentecostalism and race, culture, healthcare, and religion-and-science.
Here’s what I’d like to hear when I tell friends and others that I bring science to church—“Wow! That’s amazing.”
And yet—to be honest—here is what I often hear—“What? Hmm… I’m not sure what that means.”
I get a little annoyed each time a science and faith conversation gets railroaded by the question of origins, climate change, or some other contentious issue. Sure, these are issues that our churches must wrestle with, but by putting all our attention on areas of felt conflict, we might entirely miss the ways science reveals how God works.
How has science impacted my prayer life? I remain confident that God can still answer my prayers. But I no longer pray the same way today that I did in my early years as a Christian, in part because of what science is teaching us about prayer and meditation.
Since the Enlightenment, a commonplace assertion has been that no one (in light of the lawlike nature of the universe discovered by science) has reason to believe in a God who answers petitionary prayer. I suppose, if we’re not bothered by this apparent conflict, we haven’t really listened to modern science and felt its implications. C.S. Lewis… did listen to these voices and was bothered.
Several years ago, a pastor asked me if the scientific study of prayer is legit. I replied, “That’s complicated.” At the time, I did not fully understand how true this is. Learn more about why in this post.
“I started my studies in pre-med but found myself called to ministry as a pastor. Still, my interest in science never waned; it just kind of became a hobby. Seeing how theology and my faith connect enriched my understanding, and my vision of how God works in the world was amplified.”