Re: Leading science-and-faith discussions at our churches

George Murphy (
Sat, 14 Feb 1998 08:21:57 -0500

Loren Haarsma wrote:
> I suspect that quite a few of us would be willing to lead science-and-
> faith discussions or Sunday school classes at our churches, but we are
> daunted by the barriers in getting such a class going. I'd like start a
> thread of ideas on how to overcome those barriers.
> Ideas on...
> 1) How to announce and arrange such a class.
> 2) Getting materials and time to prepare.
> Others barriers?
> ----
> 1) How to arrange a class? I think you have to start by talking to the
> pastor. Simply tell him or her that you've spent time reading and
> thinking about science-and-faith issues, and you're willing to be a
> "resource person." (For example: to recommend books on specific topics
> and help answer questions a church member might bring to the pastor; to
> talk to young people thinking about a career in science and wondering
> how that fits with a Christian life; and perhaps to lead a short series
> of discussions or adult Sunday school classes on science-and-faith
> issues, or maybe a single talk on a mid-week evening.) If your church
> has an adult Sunday school coordinator, tell him or her also.
> After that, it's up to the pastor. The pastor and council must decide
> whether or not anything further happens, because they are the ones
> charged with leading the church. (However, most likely *nothing* will
> happen unless the idea is planted.)
> Other ideas?

A few comments from the pastoral side:
1) The pastor is supposed to be the chief theologian of the
congregation, but certainly shouldn't be the _only_ theologian, and
doesn't need to pretend to be an expert on everything. A format in
which the pastor as well as experts in other areas are invloved in
teaching & leading discussion is a possibility.
2) However the class going to be taught, there should be
discussion with the pastor about his/her theological views on the topics
under consideration.
3) You can start off with a SS class, adult forum, or whatever,
with a relatively non-threatening survey of "science and religion"
without getting too detailed, or making a lot of commitments, on
especially controversial topics. Then it's likely that there will be
enough interest to develop some spin-offs on specific topics like
cosmology, creation and evolution, bioethics, environmental theology,
AI, &c. Depending on the congregation, there may be expertise in
various of these areas.

> 2) Preparation time can be drastically reduced if you start with
> prepared material. Unfortunately, I don't know of any commercially
> available.

Few members of an adult SS class will do lots of homework. 1 or
2 pages a week is probably enough. I generally do just some notes of a
few of the important topics, important quotations, biblical & other
references &c. (Using different colors of paper can relieve drabness -
as all elementary school teachers know.) More detailed resources are
probably more helpful for the leaders than other participants, though
they should be made available to all who are interested.
FASE (The Faith & Science Exchange) in New England has an adult
curriculum for a general science-theology class. I don't have my copy
at hand, but they can be reached via
The Boston Theological Institute
210 Herrick Road
Newton Centre MA 02159 .
My own book _The Trademark of God_ is specifically for the
creation and evolution topic for adult laypeople. It has a fairly
extensive leader's guide. (My apologies if I always seem to be shilling
for this book but it is true that there aren't many resources designed
for this niche.)

> But I will gladly give out the notes from the classes my wife and I
> taught at Park Street Church last year. It was a six-week class, and
> the notes are quite detailed (including a bibliography and handouts).
> Does anyone else have similar notes that they're willing to share?
I have sets of handouts for several classes I've led at St.
Mark, including a general survey, creation, and bioethics.

George L. Murphy