A weekly dose of science for the church
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We’re taking a break from our usual newsletter format to interview a Christian leader in the sciences. Ben McFarland is Professor of Biochemistry at Seattle Pacific University, where he studies structural aspects of protein biochemistry and design. Dr. McFarland wrote A World from Dust: How the Periodic Table Shaped Life (Oxford, 2016). I caught up with Ben and posed few questions about his role as a scientist in the church, as well as the coronavirus outbreak.
Like habit formation, self-control is another evergreen topic for the church. It can inform how we resist temptation and live more Christ-like lives. It also is accompanied by a great deal of relevant scientific research. But it’s a difficult topic because that science continues to change.
COVID-19 has forced ongoing Lenten-like discipline on us all even as we enter Eastertide… So what should we do? After exhausting all umpteen seasons of our favorite Netflix series, how do we make good on our remaining days under quarantine?
I know this week is about the science of Easter and resurrection, but it seemed to me that we need to be honest about our life in a COVID-19 world. Because only then can we truly feel the miracle of God’s redemption.
This pandemic threatens to overwhelm our preparation for the day when the church must always proclaim, The Lord has risen! He has risen indeed! So as we try here at Science for the Church to help the church to engage science, facing a Holy Week unlike any in my lifetime, I want to offer three apparent realities coming from the scientific community.
Humans are relational beings. Biologists often refer to us as a social species, one of the most social of all species. Isolation is not in our nature. In fact, most of what nurtures us is interpersonal connections. So what do we do when, for the greater good, we are forced to stay away from one another, to not to leave our homes unless it is absolutely necessary?
If your church is anything like mine, there are leaders—lay and staff—trying to determine how to move forward as a faithful, worshipping community in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
God certainly treasures this earth and its creatures. God created this world and poured beauty and love into it. As Christians, we know that God calls us in Genesis 1:26-28 to value the earth because we “have dominion” over it and over the creatures. “Dominion” is closely related to stewardship, that is, to act as God’s viceroy on earth, to “bear his image” as Genesis 1:27 says.
One of the most important topics—for many the topic in religion and science—is global climate change.
Relationships between ministry leaders and science professionals are a powerful way to engage faith and science. That fellowship often already exists—it is just a matter of acknowledging it and intentionally leveraging it. And then what happens?
These are all activities churches have done. Science is not just a domain of knowledge that churches occasionally put into conversation with Scripture and theology. You can literally bring science to church… Science can inform the praxis of ministry, especially when we invite scientists to become partners in ministry.
Our dream that science no longer be a barrier to faith will require the church to plant new ideas—and recapture some old ideas—in the minds of believers that suggest compatibility rather than conflict. In other words, knowledge and ideas are part of how we seek to strengthen the church through engagement with science.