Saturday, June 14, 2014

Science, Faith and Christian Ministry

On Thursday I was back at Spurgeon's College for my first College Conference in 14 years.  Conference is the fellowship of Spurgeon alumni, faculty and significant others which meets annually to induct a President from among their number, who chooses the theme for a day's lectures.  This year the President is Mike Elcome (a friend and neighbour) who was a science teacher before becoming a Baptist minister.  So, bravely, he took the theme science and faith.  I say bravely because many with non-scientific backgrounds find the subject intimidating and, sadly, the subject often descends into battles between evolution and faith - a contemporary phenomenon.

Unfortunately. Carol's rush into A&E for 10 hours meant I only shared in half the day. (I gladly report she is making progress, though slow, from a serious allergic reaction).  But I was there long enough to rejoice in renewed friendships and expressive worship which happily reminded me of my service in the college in the 90's.  However, many issues hit me as worthy of further thought including:
  • Celebrate Science.  I heard this plea at the end of Mike's address which encouraged us to see science and faith working in partnership.  Yes, big expected themes sounded out such as the rejection of 'The God of the gaps' and the complementary 'narratives' of science describing the 'how' and theology the 'why'.   Evolution was carefully considered with Denis Alexander of the Faraday Institute.  But the overriding theme called for renewed willingness to integrate science into life.  Mike made several proposals including turning the old 'Harvest Festival' into celebrating local projects like water treatment plans or even hospitals and research establishments.
  • Beware naivety.  The challenge to pastors was acute as we heard how sometimes our 'church mindset' makes the world seem so small.  Too often we cause confusion with little meaningful response to a markedly changing world and simplistic reading of Scripture
  • Tell stories. Mike mentioned giving a children's talk the week after the Higgs-Boson, the God particle was in the news.  He asked if anyone in the church could explain what this was all about. A diffident man eventually got to his feet and proceeded (to everyone's surprise) to give a brilliant, understandable and succinct explanation which Mike says he could never have managed to do!  Apparently, this man was a research scientist who worked at Cerne, Switzerland.  Mike wondered whether he had ever been noticed in church before?  How much this resonated with me in my concern for more collaborative preaching that incorporates the mission of congregational members so that the church mindset becomes a 'kingdom mindset'.
I was reminded of Torrance's: Preaching Christ Today: the gospel and scientific thinking (1994), written by a scientist/philosopher/theologian before aggressive new atheism.  He praised the impact of Einstein's special/general relativism with its overthrow of dualism, bringing the conceptual and empirical together.  How he exults in Science's discarding of the rationalistic, historical scientific method opening up ways to view Jesus' humanity and deity and the power of the cross! Oh, how big our world is and how glorious the gospel.

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