Side Comments on Christians in Science

My hypothesis of cowardice was never meant to apply to more than a small minority of Christian scientists, i.e., to some who are involved in groups like BioLogos or the ASA. I never meant it as a characterization of Christian scientists generally, and would never argue for its general application. You are talking about a bigger picture – which I agree is worth talking about – whereas I was talking about a particular local problem.

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Agree, that’s what I’ve seen as well, and why I mentioned above it seems some are not ready to affirm until they are also ready to defend. And you are right, the lack of training in ethics, philosophy and theology plays a huge role.

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Ok, sounds good. I’m just trying to make sure I comment on the right issue/question, so would love to hear your thoughts.


Amen to all of the above, totally agree.


I’m not sure this belongs in this thread but I’ll throw out another “wrinkle” that relates to this conversation.

I’m not a scientist, not in academia, not a theologian and not clergy. I’m a lay person who has been involved in youth groups and working with young adults, both in the church and as outreach. But I’m a “thinking” Christian, who while reasonably well read in theology and science, must rely on the experts for accurate information.

In the church environment I’m in, all the the churches around me that I’m comfortable with theologically are YEC. In fact in real life every Christian I know is YEC, and it’s simply assumed there is no other option.

To even start a conversation about other options, I need scientists would are Christian and “solid” and vocal in their theology who I can use as starting points for discussion with the Christians around me. This discussion is important, as we are currently throwing kids out into the wider world who have never been exposed to anything other than YEC is good and science is wrong (and in many cases scientists are dishonest). This is a recipe for causing kids to doubt their faith when then find out what they’ve been taught about science and scientists doesn’t match reality.


How close am I to what you think you need?

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Very :grinning: The articles you posted from confessing scientists are also excellent. I am considering starting up a young adults Bible Study for our area as there is nothing like that around, and there seems to be a need, and I’ve been thinking about how I might use some of what’s posted here in that group.

The bigger question, is how I talk to my pastor so that he knows where I stand, before he hears through the grape vine that I’m a heretic. I don’t really care much about that, other than would have a big impact on my wife and kids and the way people in the church perceive them.


This is a good thread to participate in to navigate this challenge: One Example of Engaging Parents of YECs.

This is text that I helped @JSmith craft for their mission statement. They have a different ministry than what you are proposing, but the same notes might be useful:

A Community of Teachers and Scholars. While our staff, board, and speakers all adhere to the essential doctrines of historic Christianity, we believe early exposure to a wide range of Christian thought helps students to work out their own Christian convictions. Additionally, students are better prepared for a university setting after being exposed to a wide range of answers to a wide range of questions while emphasizing sound Biblical hermeneutics, sound Biblical exegesis, and the centrality of Jesus to the Christian faith. Note: The word “university” is derived from the Latin universitas magistrorum et scholarium , which roughly means “community of teachers and scholars.”

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What about John Polkinghorne or Arthur Peacocke? Anglican priests and extremely well-noted scientists.


Hmm… That’s not necessary restricted to science. Not too long ago, that’s what people called ‘being polite’. In some parts of the country, at least on the northern half of the east coast, most ‘polite’ people didn’t discuss politics or religion with people they didn’t know well. That’s because these could turn out to be very divisive topics that simply never resolved. So, you might know which of your colleagues or neighbors were of your faith or political party if they happened to attend to same church or registered to vote at the same time. But for most, people didn’t advertise what their religions were and most didn’t ask.


One more question you.might have to ask yourself is

  • How do I deal with the historical baggage affiliation to any position brings.

Being supportive of evolution,ID,YEC,TE all carry certain amount of historical baggage as well as associations with individuals you might not agree with. For example, any champion for evolution would stand alongside people like Dawkins who have used evolution as a propoganda tool for atheism.(this has been happening for decades and hence stamped quite strongly in the public consciousness).
This is especially critical when it comes to engaging with the general public.

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My answer to this, provisionally, is to learn from the past, and forge a new way. I think we are reaching a point where the best move is to clear the slate, take an inventory of what has been learned, and start again without baggage on a better path.

Respond to the poll at the top of the thread.

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Tough Job to do.
Frankly, I don’t blame any scientist who decides to keep his/her head down. Everybody is not a crusader.
Anyway, clearing the slate might be easier in academic circles than among the general public. This includes people who have been swayed by TE/EC,ID, as well as the new atheists.


There are trailblazers. If we blaze the right trail…well, maybe scientists won’t have reason to keep their heads down.


I thought the poll was only for scientists. I would go with ID.
the reason in my perspective is that they clearly affirm God’s role in creation and also recognise the importance of philosophical positions that underlies science and leave theology to theologians.
I am comfortable with reasons to believe also for the same reason.
No to TE/EC- They don’t respect philosophy or theology as disciplines and yet dabble in it and create a big mess.
YEC- Again same reason as TE/EC. Incompetent (or at least closed minded) theologians.

Disclaimer: The above are personal impressions formed from interaction/reading articles from all groups… and are not expert opinion in any way.

I hope you can address, at some point, the fact that many (perhaps) most Christians have vastly different mental models for different branches of science. They think that God must be miraculously and maybe even visibly intervening at every step of biological evolution. But when they talk about what causes a hurricane, they are completely comfortable referring entirely to “natural” factors (heat, moisture, temperature gradients, etc.)

Both weather systems and evolution are stochastic processes, but they seem to get treated very differently. Why is that? How can that be changed?

My $.02,


If YEC is a doctrine in your church, be prepared for a cold reception from the pastor. And other church members may interpret it that you don’t “really” believe the Bible, so you could expect things to get quite unfriendly. I like your enthusiasm for helping young people in the church understand science, but some churches would see that as a threat.


I also wonder what legal issues could be involved when you have discussions about religion in the work place. When I was at Wash. U I didn’t even talk about faith issues with the other Christians in my lab.


Many of these sorts of questions get back to the “framework” question. A good framework would quickly admit effective answers. :slight_smile:

I got pinged by @swamidass in the other thread, so I thought I will provide the standard Catholic teaching on divine action (note: while standard, this is not de fide, i.e. one can refuse it and still be considered Catholic). This teaching came from at least Thomas Aquinas, but might be older.

God upholds and sustains all of creation (Catechism of the Catholic Church: 301): This means that in addition to creating the universe, God also keeps it going. Indeed, God sustains the laws of physics, and thus objects simply following the laws of physics are considered examples of divine action.

Importantly, God is not a domino toppler who built a universe with its laws, started it and left it going independently of him. God is also not an author who wrote in a book every single events, as then God can go to sleep and the story sustains itself - existing without the need of God. The closest analogy I can find is a game master in Dungeons & Dragons: the movement of the Universe is contingent on God playing, and when God stops playing, the Universe ceases to be.

I hope this also explains why typically Catholics disagree with Methodological Naturalism (at least the ones that do not hold that MN is tautological to begin with).

An extension of the classical teaching in the previous paragraph is the additional demand that God created the natural world to be complete (Genesis 1:31 - And God saw all the things that he had made, and they were very good), and changing it is against his nature (Divine Immutability, from e.g. Lateran Council IV: DS 800). He does not change the laws of physics to perform miracles. All miracles have natural explanations.