Re: The state of suburban theology

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Sun Jun 13 2004 - 11:51:24 EDT

----- Original Message -----
From: "William Hamilton" <>
To: "Howard J. Van Till" <>
Cc: "ASA Listserver" <>
Sent: Saturday, June 12, 2004 12:58 PM
Subject: Re: The state of suburban theology

> I have from time to time heard pastors complain that they can't teach
> any theology that is informed by science because their congregation
> won't stand for it.

        This may be the case in some congregations but in general the
situation is more complicated.

        1st, how does the pastor know this - especially if he/she has never
made an attempt to deal with scientific realities in a sermon, class &c? It
may be that the pastor is just assuming this.

        Then we have to face the unfortunate reality that a lot of clergy
just don't think things like evolution or the big bang are very important
for what they're supposed to be doing. This is especially the case with an
excessively existentialist emphasis in theology (characteristic, I'm sorry
to say, of some types of Lutheranism). So the pastor thinks, "Sure,
evolution happened but why take the risk of stirring up controversy?" After
I'd taught a class with some fairly elementary stuff about there being 2
creation stories in Genesis, a well educated & very active member of the
congregation - an engineer - asked "Do other pastors know about this?" He
wasn't objecting to the ideas, he'd just never heard them before. I had to
tell him that indeed plenty of pastors did know about such things but they
didn't always talk about them.

        & there often are people in the congregation who _do_ want to hear
about how scientific realities are to be understood in a Christian context
and are frustrated - often silently - by the fact that the pastor never
addresses them. After I made some brief positive reference to evolution in
a sermon, an elderly woman came up to me & exclaimed, "I was so glad you
said that! That other way never made any sense to me." & the sad fact is
that some of these people, especially younger & better educated ones, will
just drift away from the church, in part because of this problem.

        Finally, pastors need to have some guts. Issues like evolution need
to be approached cautiously & with sensitivity, & it needs to be clear from
the outset that evolution isn't church dogma, & that people don't have to
accept it to be members in good standing. I think it's best to address such
matters 1st in a class rather than in a sermon because of the opportunity to
clarify & avoid misunderstandings. ("She's preaching evolution instead of
creation.") But silence - and much less acquiesennce in stuff like YEC -
isn't responsible.

Received on Sun Jun 13 12:36:48 2004

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