We are following the science?
A healthy relationship with science is vital for the Church today in its mission of making disciples of Jesus, deepening faith, enriching worship, and enabling evangelism in a sceptical world.
One way of developing such a relationship is through Christians in Science, a network that brings together anyone interested in science and faith issues. By Dave Gregory and Paul Ewart
“We are following the science.”
A constant - if at times controversial - phrase, often heard on the lips of ministers and chief scientists at government briefings throughout the Covid pandemic. The Covid pandemic has highlighted the important place science has within our society and world, although this can often go unrecognised.
The explosion of the internet, social media and video conferencing, which has been vital through this past year and a half when we have not been able to meet, is the fruit of over 100 years of scientific curiosity and creativity. These have helped to connect and grow the church, drawing new people to join our virtual gatherings and leading some to come to know God’s new life in Jesus.
Science is a gift which weaves divine and human creativity together and we should be grateful for that. The roll-out of the Covid vaccine nationally and globally is gradually allowing us to begin to dream of moving towards fuller life once again. Advances in bio-medical and genetic science over the past 50 years, which have often raised controversial ethical and theological questions, have contributed massively to the rapid development of vaccines which are proving successful in preventing serious illness from Covid for most people - another reason we should be thankful for science.
Properly understood, science helps us to understand more fully the glories of God’s Creation and to use it wisely in His service; it enhances our worship and enriches our faith. The fact that so many of the founders of modern Science were committed Christians and a sizeable number of world-leading scientists today are also Christians, debunks the myth that one cannot believe in God and Science at the same time. It is no accident that modern science developed in a Christian culture where committed Christians saw God as revealing himself in the book of his World as well as the book of his Word, the Bible.
“We are following the science” certainly speaks of an assumed confidence in science as a source of trustworthy guidance. Yet, as Baptists is this true? Are we a community that values science? In the past, there have been moments when engaging with science has been seen as important for mission among Baptists. Today in our Baptist colleges you will find teaching on the dialogue of science and faith. Yet in the mid-1800s ministerial students at The Stepney Academy - later to become Regents Park College in Oxford - attended actual science courses at University College London as well as studying theology, a recognition of the important way science was beginning to shape the wider world.
Yet despite the important developments that science has brought over the past century and during the pandemic, suspicions remain. It can feel to some that science tests our understanding of faith and undermines our trust in the Bible. Is it a foil against which we need to sharpen our apologetic arguments and from which we need to protect the growing faith of our young people, as they study science through their time at school? Are we sowing seeds of hesitancy that lead some to conclude that science is not for them? And in our churches, some scientists have felt marginalised, even distrusted, rather than being valued for their insights into some of the big issues that shape our world and needing support as their own whole life discipleship takes them into challenging arenas.
As Christians we have a calling to help those outside the Church to understand what it means to have faith in Jesus Christ and to remove any obstacles to faith that science may appear to present. In a culture so strongly influenced by a scientific worldview it is vital that the Church acts “wisely to those who are without, making the most of the time.” (Colossians 4:5) Through the pandemic, both science and faith are both enjoying a higher profile but the connection between them is not so obvious. Bringing the two together is the fundamental aim of Christians in Science, CiS.
CiS is a network of people who work in different areas of science, from research scientists in universities, laboratories, and hi-tech companies across to students and school science teachers, and anyone interested in the interaction of science and the Christian faith. Its members embrace mainstream Christianity as well as mainstream science, seeing the latter as a gift from God. CiS is a rich source of support for church members who may be uneasy about science or afraid it might undermine their faith. Its resources help people to understand that science and faith teach us different things about God and that together they strengthen faith and equip us to answer the objections from our friends and neighbours.
The wide range of resources available from CiS including YouTube videos for both professional scientists and non-specialists. These cover key scientific topics that interact with issues of faith that are useful to pastors, youth leaders and members of churches. More than 20 local groups throughout the UK have people who can provide advice on science-faith questions that arise in church life. CiS also organises national conferences, the coming autumn one this year focusing on a Christian response to the climate emergency. Information on all resources can be found on the CiS website - www.cis.org.uk.
CiS exists to support Christian faith in the modern world so profoundly influenced by a scientific worldview and offers itself as a partner in mission to the Church. Individuals can join as a Friend of CiS or as a member. An important way for local churches to partner with CiS is by becoming a CiS Affiliated Church. Affiliation signals the church’s sympathy with the aims of CiS and its desire to support the work by prayer and financially as it feels able.
Affiliated churches enjoy the benefits of regular communications from CiS on national and local events including monthly updates, a quarterly newsletter including prayer topics, access to a range of resources on science and faith issues, advice regarding online materials on science and faith, guidance and advice on special science-based events for churches, children’s and youth groups, Sunday Schools, men’s and women’s groups and, not least, access to a list of highly qualified and distinguished speakers on science and faith.
One of the first churches to become affiliated to CiS was Kidlington Baptist Church, near Oxford. The church’s minister, the Revd Phil Durrant writes:
'Navigating the many moral, theological and ecological implications of modern scientific discoveries and advances in technology is a perennial challenge for disciples in today's world. Becoming a CIS affiliated church has been a great step for us. It's enabled us to access great resources, as well as benefit from some fantastic guest speakers.
'Being equipped to tackle these issues intelligently and to better articulate a Christian response to them, has also been an aid to our church's outreach. CIS has helped us to share the gospel more credibly in a world that often thinks faith is just a hangover from a more ignorant and superstitious age.'
Affiliation with CiS has also assisted other aspects of the church’s life, as Phil adds,
'As part of our church vision we've also been working towards becoming an Eco Church. CIS speakers have helped us to better understand the scientific context of the current climate change emergency, and therefore better shape our response to a defining issue of our time.'
This is one example of how a church in partnership with CiS can enhance both its ministry to those within the congregation and its sharing in God’s mission to the local community. This is a time of opportunity for the Church and CiS is keen to work with churches across the UK to help everyone see how Science and Christianity are friends, not foes.
Developing a healthy relationship with science is vital for the Church today in its mission of making disciples of Jesus, deepening faith, enriching worship, and enabling evangelism in a sceptical world. Further details of how to support the work of Christians in Science or through becoming a CiS Affiliated Church can be found on the website or contacting the CiS Executive Officer, Mary Browett at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image | CDC | Unsplash
Dave Gregory is a Baptist minister and convenor of BUEN - the Baptist Union Environment Network.
Paul Ewart is the Chair of Christians in Science and member Kidlington Baptist Church
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