A weekly dose of science for the church
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Over the past three years, I thought I was researching science and religion in America. I thought the outcome would be uncovering new insights and then write an academic book to contribute the body of knowledge. Along the way, I found a history of racism expressed, intensified, and even weaponized, through science.
All Christians, including high school students, are capable of being and becoming science-informed theologians through reflecting on their experiences with God in their own lives and engaging in conversation with scripture, reason, and the people and traditions within their faith communities.
One of my convictions, learned over decades of working in this niche, is that both Christian faith and modern science have much to contribute to most pressing issues of our day, including race.
Scripture and science agree: It is not good for us to be alone. Researchers have certainly pursued the connection between technology and well-being. But now our COVID-19 world is involved in a literally global experiment: because of social distancing, our relationships are not primarily direct and in-person… How is that experiment going? What are we learning about our inherent drive to be with others and what this drive means when it’s channeled through technology?
I desperately wanted to pursue a life of science, but thought that I couldn’t because of my faith.
When church becomes the one place that’s either silent or hostile about science, young people learn the implicit lesson that it’s not just the church that can’t handle their tough questions. God can’t either. The way we interact with science provides young people with a template for how God views science. So we have an opportunity. In our engagement with science, will we lean in and lead or lose out and be led?
When they engaged science early, youth demonstrated a deeper, more resilient faith—a faith they could lean on as they matured and moved on from our congregations. Isn’t that exactly what we want for them?
At Pentecost, the Spirit gave the church two fluencies. The first is in the fundamentals of the Good News about God’s work in Jesus Christ… the Spirit’s strategy is also for the church to speak to various people in their own “mother tongues.” The focus of this newsletter is on that second fluency with a particular accent: speaking the languages of technology and science.
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.