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

Jonathan Arm (
Sat, 14 Feb 1998 14:42:18 -0500

At 05:20 PM 2/13/98 -0500, you 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?
I started a faith and science group at Ruggles Church in Boston a couple
of years back. i did it out of my own need to find a forum in which to
discuss these issues in an open fashion in which we were all accepted no
matter what our position.
We were fortunate that the pastor was very supportive and had no
particular issues to grind. We were also fortunate to have a diversity of
iterests in the church - those that participated were physicians, graduate
students in subjects as diverse as galactic dynamics, particle physics,
philosphy of science, and civil engineering, as well as other interested
folks from non-science backgrounds.
We lacked anyone with much experience - so there was not much in the way
of didactic teaching, rather we explored various areas together. The most
knowledgable person was our local graduate student in philosophy of
sciencem - when we could understand him!
In ther first year we identified several areas of interest to us, found
some resources, handed out the reading two weeks in advance (meeting every
2 to 4 weeks) and took it in turn to lead the discussion. We covered
various areas, not all of which come to mind right now, but included - the
general idea of conflict between science and faith; the big bang and the
age of the universe; evolution from the stand point of modern molecular
biology. We looked at one of John Polkinghorne's short books - Faith and
Reason? (can't remember the title). In the second year we studied Ian
Barbour's book "Religion in an Age of Science".
I think it was helpful. It was certainly encouraging to meet with others
struggling with similar issues. And I found the reading and discussions a
useful introduction to the issues that bothered me. And it was good to get
to know the folkd who came a little better. Needless to say the biggest
attendance was for teh creation/evolution discussion which took a couple of
weeks. We invited the pastor to give his theological interpretation of the
early chapters of Genesis in the second week. We had a couple of folks in
the church at the time who were definitely of a YEC pursuasion, and it was
notable that they rarely came.
The group was also a useful way to communicate with the rest of the church
and I made various material from CiS available. - e.g. their broadsheet
"God and the Big Bang", and the book "Real Science, Real Faith".
We have done nothing this year. We all found other committments to
distract us. And I think we did as much as we could with our limited
Not sure this is what you expected or wanted. We used the resources we
had. I had half a committment from someone in the SCICHR list, who is part
of the COG group at MIT, to talk to us on Artificial Intelligence; but did
not pursue that in the end. Of course, on Boston there are a great many
resources we could have drawn on - and perhaps one day we will - and no
doubt the same is true in most other major university cities in the U.S.

Jonathan Arm