Throughout the United Kingdom, there is an assumption that Science and Christianity are incompatible. Even when people are willing to move past this confusion, they often end up drawing a separation between the world of science and the world of faith: Christian faith concerns a person’s inner “spirituality” whereas science concerns the concrete reality of the natural world. When this happens, science and Christianity are seen as non-competitive because they concern two very different spheres. The Church is called to challenge this dynamic. It is called to proclaim that the Gospel message concerns every facet of reality, including the created world that is the arena for scientific study. This means two things. First, the Church is called to think about what it means for the Gospel to speak into the natural sciences. But, second, the Church is called to listen to what the natural sciences have to tell us about the creation we inhabit.
Our understanding of God’s creation is massively informed by the insights of the sciences. So much of what we know about what it means to be human is informed by modern science. Also, scientific developments have proved fundamental to our understanding of what it means for us to function as an international community: a community that looks after one another and works together to take care of its natural environment.
A major problem currently facing the Church is that it has become isolated from the developments of contemporary science. Indeed, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the sciences to find a place within the ministry of the Church. This has undoubtedly contributed to the perception that science and faith are incompatible.
Another reason for this integration is that scientists in the Church seldom have the chance to contribute their expertise to the mission of the Church. Meanwhile, many atheists declare that the sciences undermine belief in God: one might think of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and the late Christopher Hitchens. But this message is not only communicated by a handful of well-known atheists; it is also promulgated by film and literature, popular journalism and social media.
This apparent friction is easily challenged by giving scientists, as scientists, a voice in the ministry of the Church. Many scientists in the Church have thought deeply about how their vocation relates to their life of faith. Yet they are rarely given the opportunity to help foster a constructive dialogue about science and faith. As such, these scientists have been present in churches as a vital but often latent resource for helping to create an environment where science and faith can be seen to have a positive relationship.
A programme that has been encouraging scientists to contribute their expertise to the life of the church is Scientists in Congregations, Scotland (www.sicscotland.org). By helping to give scientists a role in ministry, this programme is creating a conversation that is not only stimulating for congregations themselves but also for their surrounding communities. SICS is giving churches an opportunity to repudiate the myth that science has made the Church redundant and, at the same time, demonstrate that the Church is a centre for meaningful intellectual dialogue. In the midst of this conversation, the gospel is being proclaimed in new ways that are highly fruitful for the mission of the church: particularly to those who are skeptical about the notion of a positive relationship between science and Christianity. Faith vs science? “A major problem currently facing the Church is that it has become isolated from the developments of contemporary science.”
Dr. Andrew Torrance
Project Leader, SiC Scotland