Science for Ministry Institute
The Science for Ministry Initiative is built around this set of fundamental assumptions:
1. That the public portrayal of science and its bearing upon religious belief is generally insufficient.
It is insufficient for a number of reasons. It can be inaccurate, for example whenever it is claimed that science spells the inevitable end of religion, or conversely when it is claimed that true Christians must renounce science in the name of faith. The popular media portrayal is also incomplete, because it tends to focus on the vocal extremes and largely ignores the productive dialogue between theology and science. It is also overly simplified, because the complexities of both good science and good theology cannot be communicated through sound bites. Finally it is unhelpful, because the popular conversation around religion and science does not equip leaders in ministry to navigate this complex space.
2. That some scientific ideas do nevertheless present serious challenges to Christian theology.
Even though the public portrayal of inevitable conflict is overblown, it is still the case that certain claims of science do pose fundamental challenges to traditional Christian beliefs. For example, how should we understand creation, given what science says about the age and beginning of the universe? If human beings have evolved from some other species, what does it mean to be made in the image of God? Is there a soul, given what we know about the human brain and its deep connection with the body? In light of the evolutionary and genetic makeup of the human brain, how should we understand sin and morality? These are just some of the legitimate questions posed by a serious consideration of science today.
3. That pastors and other ministers of the church are generally ill-equipped to deal with the complexities of these challenges.
Thoughtful Christians, some of them scientists themselves, pay attention to the advancement of science and its potential impact upon their faith, yet the insufficiency of the popular conversation regarding religion and science does not adequately equip Christian leaders to assist people in this regard.
4. That pastoral education is an important part of the solution, but not the whole solution.
Given the complexity of the subject matter, and the challenges involved in bringing theology and science together, many ministry professionals will benefit from a focused program that provides further education on these matters. However, science and its dialogue with theology is an ever-changing thing, so pastoral education is only a first step.
5. That when a minister partners with a scientist, they can assist one another and together more effectively work toward creating a productive dialogue between theology and science in their ministry context.
Although we no longer require partners to apply for the program, we still believe strongly that a long-term solution to the theological challenge of science in ministry is more likely to be achieved through a model of pastor-scientist cooperation. Such a complementary partnership can hopefully relieve some of the pressure on the minister to be an expert on the science, and conversely on the scientist to be an expert theologian. With the proper knowledge and resources, each partner pair can work together to transform ministry cultures around issues of theology and science. We therefore continue to encourage applicants to find a ministry partner, even though it is no longer required for admittance.