I had the privilege of being in Oxford last week (UK! not OH or MS). The picture to the right was taken from the top of the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin. You can click on the image for a larger version. I’d never been to Oxford before and the town and University are impressive. The highlight of the week, though, was not the place but the people. I was in Oxford for a workshop with grantees from the Evolution and Christian Faith program administered by BioLogos. It was nice to see Scot and Kris as well as a number of other people I had met at the first workshop last year.
My job (or one of my jobs) at the workshop both this year and last was to moderate a group where grantees discussed their projects and the progress made to date. The creative effort involved in the broad range of projects underway is impressive. In one project The Author of Life now nearing completion Diane Sweeney (a high school biology teacher) and Joshua Hayashi (a school chaplain) are producing a multimedia curricula with seven short videos (about 6-7 minutes) to encourage high school students (and others) to think deeply about God’s role as Creator. Their collective experience as chaplain and teacher shapes the approach they take to reach students, either Christian or non-Christian who have questions and concerns about the relationship between science and faith.
The questions are provocative – The first episode challenges students to think about the tendency to compartmentalize things like school, biology and faith. And it isn’t just students – adults do the same thing all the time, looking at the world through different glasses at church and at school, at church and at work. This isn’t the way it should be. As Christians we should be able to integrate all areas of our life together and see things differently. “Jesus himself was fully God and fully man. He was theology and biology integrated. He is the Author of Life. Studying his creation can only bring us closer to him.”
These are shot in Hawaii and the scenery is stunning. Josh talks about the way living with two sets of glasses can make doubts, fears, and questions seem immense and unanswerable. The Sermon on the Mount turned things around for him. Two sets of glasses are unnecessary. God sent his son as a human, material of this world, biological mechanisms and all. Quoting C.S. Lewis he concludes:
I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.
Have you ever felt the need to where two sets of glasses? One for church and one for the rest of life?
What impact does this have?
The second episode brings the integration of science and faith home with a poetic comparison of the scientific and Biblical narratives of creation of the universe. It is meant to capture our imaginations and create a deeper sense of awe for our creator.
The Psalmist tells us
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world. (Ps 19:1-4)
Science tells us about the glory of God in concert with our understanding from scripture not opposed to scripture. In the video Diane concludes:
The Genesis story tells us in a powerful, meaningful way about our magnificent creator God who created this incredibly complex beautiful universe we live in. The point of this poetic comparison is not to show that the Genesis account follows the scientific account perfectly. In fact the verses from Genesis are quoted out of order. The passages in Genesis do not tell us the details of how the universe was created, but it does tell us who are creator is.
I believe it is just as incorrect to contort this beautiful passage into a scientific narrative as it is for the scientific narrative to be twisted into a belief system. They are both true and complement each other. They are two ways of understanding the same beautiful story of creation.
Should we expect the scientific and biblical narratives to follow each other in detail?
What is the purpose of the biblical narrative?
How and when does the scientific narrative go off track?
Diane and Josh are great educators with a heart for the students they interact with. I enjoyed meeting them and talking with them last year and this and seeing the results of their efforts.
The eight videos (seven episodes and a leaders introduction) have been completed and are freely available on YouTube and Vimeo through links on The Author of Life website. You can download the videos through the Vimeo site in three different sizes: for a mobile device, as well as in SD or HD for use in small groups, youth groups and churches. The first video is an introduction for leaders, followed by seven self-contained episodes concentrating on specific questions and ideas relating science and Christian faith. Diane and Josh are in the process of completing printed study guides to help facilitate guided small group discussion (I will post more on these when they are all available). These videos and the accompanying material can be great conversation starters – in both agreement and disagreement.
And the scenery is phenomenal.
Take. … Use. … Start a conversation.
If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail [at] att.net.