Scientists in Congregations Home


Project Summary

 A joint proposal between the Samford University Center for Science and Religion and Dawson Memorial Baptist Church resulted in receipt of a Scientists in Congregations grant (funded by the John Templeton Foundation) to provide the Dawson congregation with opportunities to engage big questions of science and religion through a variety of activities. The effort at Dawson was the prelude to a conference to  help leadership and members from other congregations explore science and religion issues with the hope that they would be better motivated and equipped to implement similar programs in their respective churches. As part of the grant, the Center for Science and Religion produced a set of web-based materials that can be used by churches and other interested parties to foster education and dialogue on several critical issues. Primary grant activities were conducted between September, 2011 and February, 2013.     

Project Leadership

 This project was led by Dr. Steve Donaldson (Associate Professor of Computer Science at Samford, Senior Fellow in the Center for Science and Religion, and a longtime Dawson member) and Dr. Todd Harrington (Minister of Spiritual Formation at Dawson). Dr. Donaldson and Dr. Harrington were being supported Dr. Tom Woolley, Dr. George Keller, and Dr. Wilton Bunch—all Senior Fellows in the Center for Science and Religion and all coming from different Christian affiliations (Catholic, Presbyterian, and Episcopalian).   

Anticipated Project Impact 

 Science has provided a picture of the world that is in many respects radically different from the one that people had during the period of time in which the Bible was written. This has led to the appearance of several supposed problems:

  1. It makes it appear that there is a conflict between what is read in the Bible and what is learned from science.
  2. It seems to remove the need for God in terms of creative or supportive action.
  3. It raises (new) questions about how God is involved in daily life.
  4. It can make one wonder about the origin and definition of meaning and purpose.
  5. It can cause individuals to abandon belief in God (but can also point them to God).

The goals of this project were to equip members at Dawson and other churches to:

  • Become more aware of the many issues that arise in the context of science and religion
  • See the relevance of science and religion to each other
  • Consider how responses from religious people are perceived by those outside the church
  • Experience new ways to think about the relationship of science to their religious faith
  • Learn how to explore those issues without fear but with anticipation of insight and growth
  • Improve the rational foundation for their beliefs

Pursuit of truth is an essential part of Christian responsibility and activities such as those undertaken in this project are important components in that endeavor. Use of this approach to further engage the church in the intellectual life of its members and prospects is thus an important means of supporting its overall mission to save the mind as well as the soul.    

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” (I Peter 3:15)