Summer Reading Group: The Language of Science and Faith


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The controversy over creation and evolution has brought the relationship of faith and science into sharp distinction within our Adventist community. Our traditional literal interpretation of the creation account in Genesis is in direct conflict with the increasingly strident new atheists who assume a purposeless origin of life through purely naturalistic evolutionary processes. If these extreme positions are the sole options, then the only possible outcome is outright war and whichever side gains supremacy must drive the other to extinction in a peculiar twist on Darwin’s survival of the fittest.

It may be true that the only way out of the morass of conflict into which we have descended is doing away with the evil fools and uninformed idiots on the other side. However, a more constructive way to accomplish this is to stop believing others are fools or dangerous. If we recognize that there are genuine reasons for other’s questions, beliefs and opinions, perhaps we can discover more nuanced, interdependent approaches to science and faith which could allow the two perspectives to reconcile and once again embrace.

In order to facilitate a conversation on these issues, we have chosen The Language of Science and Faith: Straight Answers to Genuine Questions (InterVarsity Press) by Karl Giberson and Francis Collins for our summer reading group. This book is written from the perspective of BioLogos, a term developed by one of the authors in hopes of avoiding the negative connotations of theistic evolution or, as some prefer, evolutionary creationism. Therefore, many Adventist readers will not agree with the authors’ conclusions. However, we should be familiar with the questions the book addresses. Our bloggers will include familiar voices as well as new contributors to Spectrum, including, among others: Roy Benton, Matthew Burdette, Robert Jacobson, Ryan Bell, Karen Ong, Ron Osborn, Zane Yi, and Lisa Clark-Diller. A post on each book chapter will be available sequentially over ten weeks beginning July 15.

While an idealistic goal for our summer reading group is for participants on either side of the debate to achieve recognition of their interdependence and thus open the way for true reconciliation, a more practical goal, given our deeply entrenched positions, is simply improved mutual understanding. Therefore, all interested parties are encouraged to purchase and read the book and join the conversation. We only ask that as you emphasize your own viewpoint you will also demonstrate through your comments a respectful understanding for the perspectives of those with whom you differ.

One of the book’s authors, Francis Collins, is well known from his work heading up the Human Genome Project and his current appointment as head of the National Institutes of Health. The other author, Karl Giberson, is perhaps a less well known author and scholar in the field of science-and-religion. In a recent post discussing the purpose of The Language of Science and Faith, Giberson writes, “the most desired outcome or effect of this book is a reduction of the tension and hostility between science and religion.” He goes on to point out that as a teacher he has the pleasure of regularly engaging with college-aged Christians, noting, “The most consistent message these young people bring is that they are tired of intramural squabbling among fellow Christians.” Confronted with those with whom we disagree, Jesus’ example demonstrates that the only proper approach is through consistent love – even or perhaps especially for our enemies.

Instead, we often treat those with whom we disagree much more harshly than those with whom we agree. This heavy-handed approach often employed in our intramural arguments alienates many in the new generation of Christians. As exemplified by the students in Giberson’s classes, there is a growing desire among young Christians to appreciate our differences and celebrate what we can learn from those with divergent perspectives.

One of the rising voices for this new generation of Christians is Rachel Held Evans. In a blurb for the book, she writes, “For too long, followers of Jesus have been told they have to make a choice--between science and Christianity, reason and belief, their intellectual integrity and their faith. The Language of Science and Faith is a readable and comprehensive resource for the thoughtful Christian who refuses to choose. Giberson and Collins tackle difficult topics with charity, accessibility and integrity, moving the origins conversation forward in a way that honors God and builds up the church. This is a must-read for those who want to love the Lord with their heart, soul, mind and strength."

Faced with the awesome scope and mystifying detail of creation, humility is the only appropriate response. When reading the Scriptures, it is important to remind ourselves that they testify to God as both creator of the natural order, as well as the faculties and minds we use to comprehend that order. When making and discussing scientific observations and theories, one must be open to discovering a deeper purpose beyond the data and scientific interpretations. While many of us are highly invested in our positions on creation and evolution and rightly concerned about the implications for our faith as a whole, maintaining an open and humble confidence expressed through love is the surest way to demonstrate the truth of our faith.

Brenton Reading writes from Shawnee, KS where he lives with his wife Nola and their three children. He is a pediatric interventional radiologist and a member of the Adventist Forum board.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/3254