The following PowerPoint slides and accompanying notes are freely available for use and/or modification by individuals and groups to promote understanding and dialogue in science and religion with the stipulation that they may not be sold or traded for any form of financial or material gain. Credited images or other materials must be so noted with proper attribution in any use or derivation of these materials.The contents of these notes and the accompanying slides reflect the views of the respective authors and should not be assumed to represent the position of Samford University or its employees.
General Considerations on Science and Religion Resources
These materials have been prepared for use in group or individual study. Specific expertise is not expected or required but an individual with some general knowledge of any of the particular topics should be able to productively use them to make a presentation or lead a group discussion.
It is always wise to know one’s audience. This makes it possible to best address group and personal needs but also to prepare for encounters with individuals having diverse opinions, differing educational and spiritual backgrounds, etc. This is particularly so when it comes to traditionally contentious issues such as evolution and Biblical interpretation but can also be a source of concern with any topic at the science and religion interface.
Unfortunately, there will always be those who are more concerned with protecting their current turf than with analyzing whether their beliefs are true and how they can have reasonable confidence in them. Helping participants consider that (1) any mechanism is potentially within the purview of an all-powerful God, (2) that many science and religion issues are not central to a Christian worldview, and (3) that humility is easy to talk about but hard to practice can sometimes help soften the realization that one's current views (religious or scientific) might stand in need of some revision.
Opening the door to science and religion dialogue within churches offers the possibility to engage people with topics they may have suppressed due to fear of what they could find or for which there has not been a suitable venue for discussion and study. Often there will be a significant contingent within a church that is open and eager to participate in further conversations but gains in understanding and tolerance for positions not currently one’s own can be slow in coming. Gains will be most likely to occur when there is strong pastoral support (and ideally leadership) in this area and where ministers within a congregation communicate with one another about objectives and methods. The conversation should cross over into multiple ministry areas and age groups if it is to deepen and impact the congregation over a longer time frame.
A blend of large and small group presentations, classes, and reading/discussion groups can be productive for reaching the widest range of people in a congregation but in many (if not most) congregations it will be important to promote science and religion as a conversation and not necessarily the church’s stance on a particular topic. Churches might productively view this as an opportunity to develop in a way that can more effectively engage the world and bridge the gap to those with differing cultural biases and backgrounds. This suggests that this conversation can, therefore, have an evangelistic function. Certainly it offers the chance for dialogue that would otherwise be difficult or impossible, encourages individuals to become better listeners, helps minimize the use of unproductive religious jargon, challenges members toward rational support for their faith, and contributes to personal and group transformation.
For this to occur, ministers should be prepared to walk with individuals (members and others) down a new path as they face the prospect of evaluating and perhaps changing perspectives on issues thought settled or never previously considered. This may even come to be seen as an important component of discipleship training. The goals are congregations that are more inviting, hospitable less fearful of various perspectives, opinions, and beliefs yet which remain true to their distinctive Christian calling.
What is the Relationship between Science and Religion?
The relationship between science and religion has typically been characterized as one of conflict, especially on the issue of origins (creationism vs. evolution). The historical reality is that science and religion have more often been complementary to each other, and the relationship has been dynamic. Science and religion are both important facets of modern life, and many of the questions in this series deal with issues that are at the intersection of science and religion. The purpose of this unit is to expose participants various ways that others have categorized science and religion and to provide some strategies for evaluating the big questions of science and religion.
Can There be Purpose in a World of Chance?
Everywhere we look in our culture we see the fingerprints of chance or randomness. Obvious examples include the gaming industry (including lotteries), stage plays, movies, literature, television shows, historical scholarship, weather forecasting, the economy and music. Chance is also a fundamental component in many scientific theories such as evolution and quantum mechanics. It is somewhat ironic to note that both atheists and Christians use the possible existence of chance as evidence that there can be no God and as such it has become a favored weapon for those viewing science and religion as locked in mortal combat. However, what is chance, really? Science has shown us many examples of how order emerges from randomness and vice versa. In fact, we humans use random processes to achieve any number of purposes. Might God do the same? That is, use chance to achieve his purposes? There have been a number of Christian responses that attempt to incorporate chance into the traditional view of God.
Where Did We Come From?
This presentation concerns cosmology (the beginnings of the universe) and evolution (the beginnings and changes within the biological portion of our world). Cosmology presented the church of several hundred years ago with an interpretive dilemma that today seems rather pedantic even to many current church members who now struggle with evolution. It is suggested here that explanations which seem to be contradictory might both be true, that sometimes description is all one can achieve, that one need not necessarily be embarrassed by gaps in explanation (either scientific or religious), and that any conclusions are always best couched in humility.
What is the Relationship Between Mind, Brain, Consciousness, Soul?
The relationship between mind, brain, consciousness, and the soul may not be the first thing one thinks of with respect to science and religion issues but it is actually one of the oldest and, because of its intensely personal nature, also one of the most relevant. This is particularly true given the constant production of new scientific insights from those sciences devoted to a better understanding of brain and behavior. This study is therefore geared to help participants think about mind, brain, consciousness, the soul, and personal freedom from the perspectives of both modern science and Christian theology. The assumption is that enhanced understanding in this area is important to improved conceptions of God, the Bible, self, and others.