CHURCH CURRICULUM

GROW YOUR FAITH BY ENGAGING WITH SCIENCE

84%

Of church members report growing in their faith through engaging with science

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Honest consideration of faith and science helps us benefit individually and collectively as the church.

WANT TO SEE A SAMPLE LESSON?

Scroll down for a free sample lesson from our SCIENCE IS TELLING THE GLORY OF GOD curriculum.

SAMPLE LESSON FROM

Science is telling the glory of god

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LESSON 1:

A conflict between science and religion?

Historical photo of a man sitting at a long table with a microscope and textbooks in an academic laboratory

The heavens are telling the glory of God,
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
—Psalm 19:1
(All Bible texts are NRSV unless otherwise noted.)

INTRODUCTION

Today we will explore the popular misconception about the historical relationship between science and religion as one of conflict or contention. This conflict can be traced back to two so-called historical books from the 19th century and is not reflective of the actual relationship between Christian theology and scientific inquiry.

Target Crosshairs IconLEARNING OBJECTIVES

  1. Create an awareness of the rich history of science and its connection to the Christian faith.
  2. Reframe the tension many feel between the Christian faith and mainstream science.
  3. Develop well-informed believers who see science not as something to be feared but as a potential ally to their faith.
  4. Validate and promote science as a Christian vocation and a priestly calling.

icon of a person leaned over prayingPRAYER

Almighty God, you are our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. You are a God who has set the planets in their orbit but also promised to be with us whenever we gather in your name. As we gather to consider what is all too often a contentious issue, we ask that your Holy Spirit be with us. Help us to be gracious and humble in our conversation and to learn what you would have us know today about the ways your heavens are telling us of your Glory. We pray in Christ’s name, Amen.

icon of a question markOPENING QUESTIONS (10-20 MINUTES)

Reinforce the class norms: Remind participants that this is a safe space where we are to be open, honest, and kind.
Discover how your group understands the relationship between faith and science.

PROMPT:

Do you think most people believe there is a conflict between the church and science? If so, why is there a conflict? If not, why isn’t there one?

Hint: Research has shown that most of us perceive a tension in the church and our wider culture; but far fewer feel it personally between their Christian faith and their understanding of science.

PROMPT:

Now consider science and your personal faith—do you feel a conflict between them? Again, consider why or why not but seek out differences in how people answer these two questions.

For groups where there may be resistance in sharing personal views publicly, invite participants to write down their reflections for consideration later in the class. Hint: For folk in your group that perceive the tension in the wider church culture but don’t feel it personally, help them to understand that surveys show this to be a common experience.

icon of a video play button triangleVIDEO (2-5 MINUTES)

READ:

Psalm 19:1.

PROMPT:

If the heavens, part of the natural world and the subject of scientific inquiry, are telling of the glory of God, how can there be a conflict?

The idea of a clash between science and religion comes from two late 19th century books that claimed, conflict or warfare to be the true relationship between science and faith. The video will unpack some difficulties in these books and the true historical relationship between the narrative they established of an inevitable discord between science and religion.

A bookshelf with a collection of old classic volumes

icon of a divers mask with bubblesDIVING DEEPER IN DISCUSSION (10-20 MINUTES)

As leaders, identify something new you learned from the video.

PROMPT:

Invite others to share new understandings that came from the video.

As the video notes, you can develop a narrative of enduring warfare or harmony if you cherry-pick your evidence. The actual history is complex and messy with examples that suggest discord, accord, and others that are quite neutral.

PROMPT:

Invite discussions of examples past and present where participants have seen discord, accord, or even neutrality between science and religion.

icon of a divers mask with bubblesOPTIONAL:

Share some examples using the Additional Resources. For example, Galileo or Darwin afford opportunities both for and against the narrative of conflict. Invite scientists in your group to reflect on how they see the relationship between faith and science. Encourage them to reflect honestly whether—and in what situa- tions—they feel accord, discord, or something else. Hint: Putting their comments into the framework of Ian Barbour’s four-fold typology for how science and religion relate—(1) conflict, (2) independence, (3) dialogue, and (4) integration—may offer the class a helpful framework for relating faith and science. If you don’t have scientists available to you, consider these video options (all under five minutes): April Cordero, Francis Collins, Tom Rudelius, or Rosalind Picard.

Share Dr. Lawrence Principe’s closing words in the video: once we realize the conflict is not between science and religion, but instead about the difficulty in understanding, then we will have “a much more positive alliance rather than warfare between [science and religion]. Without the detriment to either but the benefit to both.”

Revisit the opening questions, considering how this session alters how you would answer them:

PROMPT:

Do you think most people believe there is a conflict between the church and science? If so, how can the church respond to that sense of conflict? If not, what are some ways a more positive alliance between science and the church can be of benefit to both?

PROMPT:

Now consider science and your personal faith—do you feel a conflict between them? Again, consider why or why not?

icon of a thought bubbleClosing thoughts (2-5 MINUTES)

It is hard to have a productive conversation about science in the church if conflict is our fundamental starting point. In this session, we have tried to question the validity of that understanding and offer the possibility that in as much as science seeks knowledge about the natural world, it can reveal something of God’s glory.

Over the coming weeks, we will consider astronomy, cosmology, biology, genetics, and neuroscience and sit in awe of God’s amazing creation and seek to understand what the heavens are telling us about our world, ourselves, and our Creator.

icon of a divers mask with bubblesOPTIONAL:

Invite the class to identify aspects of nature, specifically those revealed to us by science, where they see God’s glory expressed.

icon of gear wheelassessment exercise (5 MINUTES)

A MINUTE PAPER:

Ask the participants to write for one minute on the most meaningful thing they learned today.

You can use prompts like:

  • What are three things you learned, two things you’re still curious about, and one thing you did not understand?
  • How would you have done things differently today if you had the choice?
  • What I found interesting about this week was…
  • Right now, I’m feeling…
  • Today was hard because…

icon of a divers mask with bubblesOPTIONAL:

Invite members of the group to share their responses either before you close this session or at the start of the next session.

REREAD

Psalm 19:1 and close with prayer.

Creator God, we seek to know you in all the ways you are revealed to us. Help us understand the Scriptures and to understand how you are also revealed to us through nature and through our interactions with one another. Help us to find ways we might pursue a more positive alliance between the church and science as we seek to share the good news of the gospel with all of creation. In Christ’s name and for His sake, we pray. Amen.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

END OF SAMPLE LESSON

Your Guide to Engaging Science

Tested in nearly 100 Christian ministries, The Standard Model is a six-step guide to help churches engage science for the benefit of congregations.

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