Re: [asa] pastors knowing science (was: Youth leaving churches because of old earth)

From: Gregory Arago <>
Date: Mon Aug 10 2009 - 15:05:46 EDT

Hello John,

As someone who has lived in (3) countries with majorities of Catholics, Protestants (Calvinists), and Orthodox, I tend to agree with Cameron's assessment about the challenges for clergy to study 'more science'. While I agree you with that it would be helpful for more clergy to aquaint themselves with 'science and religion' discourse (and of course I promote the inclusion of philosophy with 'science and religion' as you know), the reality is that there are other pressing issues than this one. It is the IDM and *not* TE/EC that has most successfully contributed to making 'science and religion (and sometimes philosophy of scie and relg)' much more visible on the American landscape. Would you give them credit for this, John?

It is one thing for this ASA listserve and the ASA movement to promote 'science and religion' discourse and education, but it is another thing for the topic to be embraced by non-academics. And if there can be no consensus here on the list about, for example, TE/ID/YEC/OEC/EC/Biologos, etc., then it is hard to imagine any consensus if it were taught to divinity students. When one looks at the 'debate' about ID and (neo)-Darwinian evolution in the USA, there is not much good balance upon which to build a program of teaching clergy 'good science'. That's a simple reality check.

As for your pardonable dismissal of "other studies and disciplines", it just reflects your colours, but is quite obviously not 'objective'. How do you 'know' "where the modern battle lines are drawn"? Who told you about them? Where are they written down that you learned them? Could there be others that you didn't learn about already? What if they are more important than what you currently think are 'the battle lines'?

In my view there are some who participate on this list who are straddling certain lines and probably don't even recognize it (the "non-natural agency" discussion not long ago revealed ths, as have others). Or are you *just* speaking, John, about 'natural-physical sciences' again? If so, this would be to ignore ASA's statement of inclusion of *other* sciences and types of knowledge in the Academy which surely do have much to contribute. Indeed, it is quite evident that anthropology, culturology, sociology and psychology are *much* closer to theology than are physics, chemistry, biology and zoology. As an ensouled person, don't you think so too, John?

To suggest that ministers ought to 'get their science and religion right first' would be ridiculous for a minister in Nigeria or priest in Chile, for example. Are you just speaking of the USA?

Are you willing to listen to some *new* voices, John? You seem to think others need to hear new voices. What about you? Maybe a little anthropology, psychology or history training?

from a still-almost youth,

--- On Mon, 8/10/09, John Walley <> wrote:

> From: John Walley <>
> Subject: Re: [asa] pastors knowing science (was: Youth leaving churches because of old earth)
> To: "Cameron Wybrow" <>,
> Received: Monday, August 10, 2009, 9:59 PM
> Yes all these other studies
> and disciplines are important and valuable but they are not
> where the modern day battle lines are drawn. For ministry
> leaders to be effective today they have to get this right
> first. The rest are the equivalent of angels dancing on the
> heads of pins in my opinion.
> We agree though that protestant reformation has reaped
> a whirlwind and boils down to spritual anarchy.
> Thanks
> John
> From: Cameron
> Wybrow <>
> To:
> Sent: Monday,
> August 10, 2009 1:28:16 PM
> Subject:
> [asa] pastors knowing science (was: Youth leaving churches
> because of old earth)
> #yiv2030357319 DIV {
> MARGIN:0px;}
> A couple of points re John Walley's
> remarks:
> Yes, it would be good if pastors were
> more educated about science.  It would be good if they
> were more educated about everything.  Educated pastors
> (outside of university towns) are extremely rare these days,
> for a variety of reasons.  However, I cannot imagine
> fitting any significant science education into the typical
> 3-year M.Div. degree, which is the highest level of
> theological education that 90% of Christian clergy has
> these days (if even that, in some fundamentalist
> churches).  The clergy are not getting nearly enough
> fundamental theology in the M.Div. programs now, and
> theology is their basic business.  How then can adding
> science to the curriculum be justified?
> Perhaps something could be done at the
> other end, i.e., one could require that one or more genuine
> science courses be taken in the Bachelor's program that
> leads into the M.Div. program.  That would be feasible,
> because someone doing a four-year B.A. in History or
> Philosophy or Political Science (or whatever else
> people take before entering M.Div. programs) has
> "elective room" in which the science courses could
> be taken.  But once you get into the M.Div., the slate
> is nearly full of compulsory courses, and already not nearly
> enough of them are in Greek, Hebrew, systematic theology,
> individual books of the Bible, history of Christian thought,
> etc.  Plus, you have all kinds of constituencies within
> the seminaries, each of which would like to see some
> *other* courses made compulsory, and this
> puts pleas for a science course at the back of a long
> line.  So the idea of adding a "science for
> pastors" course is, from an administrative point of
> view, a non-starter.
> I myself am much less offended by a
> minister or priest who doesn't know much about
> evolution, than I am by a Catholic priest (very common
> nowadays) who cannot read Latin and neither knows nor cares
> anything about Augustine or Aquinas, an Anglican priest who
> neither knows nor cares anything about Richard Hooker, a
> Presbyterian minister who has never read the original
> writings of Calvin, or a minister of *any* denomination
> whose Greek is so minimal that it is largely forgotten by
> the time he leaves the seminary, and who has never taken
> even introductory Hebrew (such defects in language training
> being typical of most Baptist, Gospel, Pentecostal,
> Methodist and other clergy).  How can one be a leader
> and a teacher within the Christian church if one cannot
> fluently read the texts and does not know the
> tradition?  I would say, let's get the theological,
> philological, historical and philosophical training of
> clergy up to the
> level it should be, and then, if the clergy have any time
> or energy to spare after that, teach them some
> science.
> It would be nice to have a world in
> which there were theological experts that all would defer
> to.  I am sure that Rome expected deference to the
> Magisterium from Luther and Calvin.  Similarly, Luther
> and Calvin apparently expected deference to their
> "magisterium" from the Anabaptists.  The
> difficulty is that once you unleash "the Protestant
> principle", you're on a slippery slope and
> travelling downhill fast.  If Luther was justified in
> defying Rome on the grounds of "conscience" and
> his own conviction about the meaning of the Bible, and if
> Calvin was as well, why wasn't a liberal like Van Till
> justified in defying orthodox Calvinism on the grounds of
> "conscience" and *his* own reading of the
> Bible?  Why weren't the Anabaptists
> justified in rejecting infant baptism, since adult
> baptism is what they sincerely found in the
> Bible?  Etc.  It seems to me
> that
> Protestantism has been a great self-contradiction from the
> outset.  On the one hand, no one has been more
> concerned about theological correctness, orthodoxy,
> discipline, the policing of morals, etc. than
> Protestants.  Protestants have often been the
> "control freaks" of the Christian world.  Yet
> their very principles -- the right of believers to interpret
> Scripture for themselves, the pitting of Scripture against
> tradition, the tendency to downplay or even deny the
> theological authority of clergy, in some denominations
> the abandonment of the requirement of Apostolic
> succession in the Ministry, etc. -- have all militated
> against the maintenance of steady theological tradition,
> church discipline, and morals, and have invited further
> schisms and heresies.  Thus, putting Protestantism into
> one great orthodox and stable theological unity is like
> putting Humpty Dumpty back together again.  I don't
> think it can be
> done.
> This is not to say that the Catholic
> tradition is beyond criticism.  Nonetheless, the
> Catholics, in looking upon the two thousand or so
> denominations that dot the American landscape, and the
> endless wrangling that occupies their time and
> energy (dispensationalism vs. non-dispensationalism,
> Calvinism versus Arminianism, wine versus grape juice, young
> earth creationism versus a less literal reading of Genesis,
> etc.) can, upon hearing John Walley's complaint, with
> some justification smile and say:  "We told you
> so." 
> Cameron.

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Received on Mon Aug 10 15:06:57 2009

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