PCUSA News, note 4322

Fri, 20 Jun 1997 21:53:04 -0400

The following came to me and I thought that some non-Presbyterian ASA
members might like to see it. The PC(USA) is holding its annual General
Assembly in Syracuse.

Note 4322 (of 4332) by PCUSA NEWS on June 20, 1997 at 19:03 Eastern (4516

PresbySciTech: The Lunch

by Dee Wade

SYRACUSE-- By virtue of the Creation,
and still more by the Incarnation,
nothing here below is profane
for those who know how to see.

The Presbyterian Association of Science, Technology, and the Christian
Faith (PASTCF) hosted a luncheon on Thursday, June 19, during the meeting
of the 209th General Assembly (1997). The speaker was Dr. James Miller,
senior program associate for the Program of the Dialogue Between Science
and Religion for the American Association for the Advancement of Science
(AAAS). Dr. Miller also serves as secretary/treasurer for the Board of

Miller began his remarks by stating that one of his personal and
professional goals is to help the church "proclaim the Gospel to the
contemporary world in a way that is both compelling and credible." A
hindrance to the credibility side of the equation occurred in 1995,
according to Miller, when the stated clerk of the General Assembly of the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) signed a document, along with other church
officials, calling for the suspension of research which would lead to the
patenting of life forms and genetic structures within plants and animals.

The problem with the letter, in Miller's view, was that the church
was still in a General Assembly-mandated process of developing a study on
the theological challenge of genetic science. Instead of waiting for the
study, Miller declared, the stated clerk acted without having the proper
scientific knowledge or theological language before him.

To this he contrasted the Church of Scotland's reaction to the 1997
news of "Dolly," a sheep born through the process known as cloning.
Because the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has in place a
division of Science, Technology, and Values, Miller said that it was able
to address the "Dolly" story with "a nuanced reflection upon this

Miller offered other evidence of the church's inability to speak
theologically to science or to speak scientifically to theology. One
example given was the normal view of nature expressed by Christians. "Does
our view of nature leave room for the black widow spider and the ebola
virus?" he asked. "Both are just as much a part of creation as we are.
Sometimes we use language which implies that the earth has been handed over
to us, and even if some of us know that we are not creation's CEO, we often
act as if we were its first vice-president."

Miller stated that evolutionary theory "will be the gateway for making
the Gospel credible in the world." By "evolutionary theory," Miller added
that he was not speaking of Darwinism, but the theory "broadly conceived,"
from the big bang to natural selection to microbiology. He stated that
there have been 14 billion years of history before us, and, "as far as we
know, there are 14 billion years ahead of us."

For much of that history, Miller pointed out, human beings didn't
exist. "What makes us think that we will still be a part of the earth when
the last star winks out?" He called for a bit of Christian humility in
light of a universe in which "humanity is a passing life form."

Miller was introduced by Kenneth Hall, president of the Presbyterian
Association on Science, Technology, and the Christian Faith. The
organization, a grass roots one made up of volunteers, states as its
purpose "to challenge and assist the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), _ to
study, understand, discuss, and act upon the implications of science and
technology as they affect the theology, worship, practice, and moral
actions of the church; and to challenge _ Presbyterian scientists [and]
engineers_ to study _ and to act on the implications of the Reformed
tradition for their scientific and technical work." After the dinner
members of the association met for their annual meeting.

Before that, however, Dr. Miller ended his speech with a pair of quotes
from Teilhard de Chardin, the cleric and scientist. One is at the top of
this article, the other is below:

someday, after we have mastered
wind, waves, tides, and gravity,
we will harness for God the energy of love,
and then, for the second time in the world,
humanity will have discovered fire.