The Skeptic Pastor: The Church Needs Scientists

How can someone believe everything (including mankind) was really made in six days?  With the only ages for the universe that have any scientific consensus reaching into the billions of years, how on earth can anyone trust the Bible?

I don’t think there are many Christians alive today who do not have to answer some form of those questions, and I am one of them.

For some, it’s easy to simply dismiss these challenging discrepancies with a “The Lord works in mysterious ways,” or a simple dismissal of the scientific community at large, but that doesn’t work for me.  Why?  Because I love science.  For me, it doesn’t get much better than when Stephen Hawking or Brian Greene writes about the origins of the universe.

However, every time I read any of their works, I am saddened with the knowledge that they, and many of their scientifically-minded peers, are not believers, and I believe its our fault.

For some reason hundreds of years ago we decided to pick a fight with science and tell Galileo that his telescope was wrong and the earth really was the center of the solar system.  We lost that one, but we lost much more than an argument, we lost the souls and voices of a whole population, a whole personality type.

Those with a hunger for the empirical, those who thirst for data that confirms a hypothesis, those who are overjoyed when some hitherto misplaced piece of the theoretical puzzle is found, are often absent from the church because we have made it clear that their data has no place in our theology.

In the time of Galileo it was the celestial spheres and in our time it is the theory of evolution, but the problem is not evolution or celestial spheres, it is an unwillingness to grow and question long-held beliefs as a result of new data (a trait at which science excels).  As a result, we lose the people who possess that which we lack and the Kingdom of God suffers.

It turns out that if we imagine that maybe God created science like he did everything else (Adam was a Taxonomist after all right?), then maybe science is a theological endeavor. Maybe science is the study of how God acts in the world. If we can situate our self with this theological view of science, it transforms the field into an ally rather than an enemy.

What if the science of the origins of the universe were not looked at as heresy, but theology?  What if we opened ourselves up to seeing these people as revealing to the church how it is that God created the universe?  What if these works were read with the reverence of theology and the heart to allow them to teach us about our creator?

Even more, what if the church recovered the long-silenced voice of the scientist?  What if those same people began to study the Word of God with the same rigor they do the works of Darwin?  What amazing things would come from the church who had both the quadrilateral AND the scientific method!

The Rev. Jeremy Steele is the Next Generation pastor at Christ United Methodist Church in Mobile, AL and a regular columnist for The United Methodist Reporter

Jeremy Steele, UMR Columnist

The Rev. Jeremy Steele is the author of Reclaiming the Lost Soul of Youth Ministry and the Next Generation pastor at Christ United Methodist Church in Mobile, AL and a regular columnist for The United Methodist Reporter. You can find more of his writing and a list of all the places he contributes at his website: JeremyWords.com

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5 Comments on "The Skeptic Pastor: The Church Needs Scientists"

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
 
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catholicknight
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I'm surprised at the presentation of erroneous "popular history of science". Galileo was wrong, and it was he who "picked a fight" with the Church. Galileo insisted that the Church make he "observation" that the sun in the center of the universe Church doctrine, Catholic Church doctrine. Now since the Catholic Church developed the scientific method (see Roger Bacon) it also understood that by that method it could not admit any scientific theory as doctrine as all scientific hypothosises are subject to further refinement and ultimate falsification. And, this was the case with Galileo as the sun is ultimately not… Read more »
christian soldier
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This is a thought provoking, albeit simplistic, article which blames Biblical literalists for alienating the scientific community. It implies that the debate over evolution vs. creation is the only major sticking point for atheist or agnostic scientists. But that is just the tip of the angst iceberg that some of these folk have with the Bible. In order to embrace the theology of science, as the author suggests, the creation story isn’t all we must dismiss. The family who built a boat big enough to hold two of every sort of animal, the man who parted the sea and later… Read more »
methodistpie
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I wonder how many United Methodist pastors are as "anti-science" as Reverend Steele seems to be suggesting? Granted, I'm one of the old guys, but I get concerned, sometimes, that some of our "next generation" pastors don't want to give their elders much credit. The Baby Boomer clergy came of age as skeptics–and the faith vs. science issues were mostly in the rear view mirror even then.

john
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It is sad that folks like Rev. Steele know so little about the history of science. Science developed because of the Christian faith, not in spite of it. The church didn't pick a fight with Galileo. Galileo chose to personally insult the Pope and pick the fight. Most early scientists, like Newton, were devout Christians. Until the "enlightenment" the commonly held view was that science was the daughter of theology. See, for example, "For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery" by Rodny Stark. (http://www.amazon.com/For-Glory-God-Reformations-Witch-Hunts/dp/0691119503/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1376060358&sr=8-6&keywords=Stark%2C+science+Christianity). With regard to the creation story… Read more »
Ken Sommerville
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Not all scientists are non believers, even though they tend to be in a vast minority. Donald Knuth, often called the father of modern software design, is a believer and has written several books based on his belief. Gerald Schroeder celebrates his Jewish faith while continuing to study cosmology and physics. He has even published a few books that work to resolve the "creation in 6 days" v. "the universe is billions of years old" puzzle. I attend church with two retired college professors, one from the math field and the other from the computer science field, and both are… Read more »
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