It sounded like a good idea at the time … invitations to talk about the ideas in Faith and Wisdom in Science and the new, broader readership, Let There Be Science in Oxford, Malvern, Exeter and Bristol. Joining them all up would be efficient, wouldn’t it? A good use of time? Well it was marvellous, but it WAS exhausting! What made it so encouraging was the deep, broad and insightful questions at each place. There is a huge thirst in the church, across denominations and styles of theology and worship, to grasp a positive understanding of science as God’s gift, to use for a purpose, and to discard once and for all the pernicious ‘alternative fact’ that science and Christian belief are in conflict!
The long week opened with the start of a Lenten Evensong series on ‘New Reformations’ at St. Mary’s Church , Warwick. Vicar Vaughan Roberts had spotted me on the web (!) and thought that the ideas looked interesting. The link to the sermon is here, but the open Q&A afterwards was especially precious. One I recall especially asked why there was not more of an intelligent, Christian voice in the media, refuting the standard and supercilious conflict thesis. The questioner had a point – and half of the answer is that Christians in scientific positions are just not speaking loudly enough. Corporately, the Church needs to acquire a voice on science as gift too. But then that is what the talks, books, and projects like Equipping Christian Leaders in an Age of Science are all about.
Next stop Elim Pentecostal Theological College – Regents College in Malvern. To my eternal shame I had not credited the Pentecostal movement with perhaps the deepest of theological traditions. This visit proved me wrong. A nuanced and thoughtful reception of a Faith and Wisdom talk – with a LOT on Job was very thought-provoking (and they bought all the books, necessitating a rush-delivery for Bristol – no chance for Exeter the next day!). Every theological audience I engage with reminds me that we need to think afresh about the Fall in a way consistent with the Genesis, and NT narratives, as well as what we learn from science about the history of the universe.
Exeter Cathedral is launching a series of talks on Science and Faith funded through the Durham Scientists in Congregations initiative. I opened the series with The Continuing Dance of Science and Religion (now on YouTube) (not really my title – as some readers know I’m more for moving in for the embrace). Again a moving series of questions. One mentioned the problem of young earth creationism. Although normally reticent about this, and keen not to offend, I am increasingly persuaded that this is part of the church’s problem – we have failed to call out this lie. It does untold damage within the church (young people forced into unbearable cognitive dissonance between their doctrinaire churches and the science that they love), and outside (anyone who is made to think that they have to swallow a literal 6-day creation in order to be a Christian is not going to think twice if they have any notion of evidence-based thinking). Enough is enough. I called on the Bishops to make a public and clear stand. Heresies are wrong teachings that prevent people entering the Kingdom, and this is clearly a teaching that does just that. Not in accord with an authoritative and respectful view of scripture, nor of Christian teaching, nor with the whole of God’s gift of science. That got a round of applause!
Final stop Bristol Christians in Science – talk with slides available here, along with others in the series. A powerful question on how to make this message with theological roots in Wisdom, Book of Job, Reconciliation and Healing accessible to a secular world. That is of course the entire task of getting the ‘mising’ narrative of science as the search for wisdom and healing of our relationship with the world, heard broadly. But starting with the Church is no bad place. On the other hand, Dave and I were clear in the writing of Let There Be Science that we wanted this to be what moderate secular scientists needed and wanted to hear to explain to others how deeply and naturally human science is. Several of the positive blurbs are from just those people. Like all the truest Christian messages, they are welcomed by the world when they are recognised as the water in the desert that is so needed.