Faith and science: Sunday, July 7th.

My church… Downtown Baptist, at 212 South Washington Street, Alexandria VA… has an absolutely terrific pastor, the kind of guy you’d follow to distant corners of the earth[1]. Each Sunday his sermons both challenge and encourage.

But he can occasionally show lapses in otherwise sound judgment. Most recently, for example, he asked me to fill his pulpit on Sunday morning, July 7, a weekend he’s out of town for a combined family-reunion-vacation and also presiding over a marriage ceremony for Ty Cobb (yes, really the groom’s name… but that’s another story). Dan’s been running a sermon series for more than a month on tough issues for Christians… family, death, worship and money, etc. And his words to me were, “Christians shouldn’t be asked to check their brains at the door when they enter the building. I’d like you to speak that Sunday on faith and science.”

And he’s not alone when it comes to lapses in judgment.

I said yes.

The topic in many ways reminds me of the current climate change debate. People are often asked to choose sides. We’re told we must either believe climate change is real, caused in large part by human activity, and poses serious challenges to humanity… or be labeled climate-change deniers. Pick one.

Similarly, faith and science are frequently held up as diametrically opposed. In seems that almost from the earliest days in school we’re encouraged to believe we can only choose one or the other. This is especially true when it comes to the Earth sciences, astronomy, biology, and ecology (in other disciplines, like mathematics or civil engineering or nanotechnology we might be allowed to sweep the issue under a rug).

You and I aren’t invited to develop a nuanced understanding of these two dimensions of human experience and how they weave together so much as we’re asked where we stand on evolution vs. creationism, young-Earth vs. old-Earth, and other similarly unhelpful false choices. Pro? Or Con?

But what might it look like to take matters of faith and science at face value? To fully embrace both? To see them as mutually enhancing and supportive, rather than in opposition? What’s involved in integrating the two rather than compartmentalizing them? And why might it be more important than ever in the 21st-century world to make the attempt?

I try not to trumpet my talks. But this one is a bit out of the ordinary. Okay if you know about it and choose not to come. A world of alternatives beckon. But I don’t want to hear anyone say, “Gee, I wish I’d known…”

Don’t expect a lot of scholarship on July 7. Far better and more-focused minds have spent years and penned thousands of words on these topics, far more thoughtfully (and certainly more divisively) than I ever could. [Fact is, I’m as curious about what I’m going to say as you are. Likely to be more questions than answers. ]

You undoubtedly have already thought of, or can quickly conjure up (given this alarming and threatening alternative) better uses of your time. But if you’re interested in these matters, and the experience “on-the-ground,” as it were, then feel free to come and join in July 7th. Two bites at the apple: 9:30-10:30 a.m. and 11:00-12:00. In between the food for thought, real refreshments.

[1] And I did once… to Rwanda, this past January.

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7 Responses to Faith and science: Sunday, July 7th.

  1. Melissa Fernau says:

    Hi Bill, I can’t really say I am sad to pass up an invitation to be in Virginia in July, but this northern gal hopes your thoughts on faith and science continue to make their way into this blog, and maybe into the book I hear is in the works? Thanks for offering sensible alternative thoughts to bridge the cultural divide so many are eager to see (and to actively dig) between faith and science. -Melissa

  2. Praj says:

    Sounds great! Wish I could attend.

  3. Rolan Christofferson says:

    Wish I could hear your talk. You are always worth listening to. Will the talks be taped?

  4. Bill Cullo says:

    Bill – there’s quite a buzz pulsing thru the church in anticipation of your guest spot. I, for one, am really looking forward to it.

    Remember the best way to sound like you know what you’re talking about is to know what you’re talking about.


  5. Ron DeWitt says:

    Am I to gather from all of this that you are no longer a card-carrying Presbyterian?

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