Feature

Missing Links: On Faith and Science

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Multnomah Biblical Seminary was recently awarded a national grant  that addresses the missing links between faith and science in a seminary education. MU seminary professor Paul Louis Metzger, Ph.D., comments.

All truth is God's truth

metzger_mainIt is well known that Evangelical Christianity has often experienced a difficult relationship with science. The Scopes “Monkey Trial” in 1925 left an indelible mark on the psyche of many segments of the movement. As George Marsden wrote, “It would be difficult to overestimate the impact” of the trial “in transforming fundamentalism.” George Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth-Century Evangelicalism — 1870-1925 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980), p. 184.

Ironically, the Evangelical movement has benefited greatly over the decades in various ways from implementing scientific and technological advances in communication and media for gospel proclamation and archeology for apologetics. Given the widespread Evangelical conviction that all truth is God’s truth as centered in Christ and Christian scripture, it is incumbent upon Evangelicals, including their universities and seminaries, to extend the interface of faith and science to other spheres.

They live in two universes

At its home in the Pacific Northwest, Multnomah Biblical Seminary serves numerous thriving Evangelical churches that draw people from diverse backgrounds and vocations, including science, medicine, and technology. Still, one wonders how well the pastoral leaders in these Evangelical congregations integrate faith and science in service to their parishioners and their vocations. All too often, these parishioners feel like they live in two universes — one of faith and one of science. Links are missing that will help us make these two universes one. If church leaders are not able or prepared to help young people make constructive connections, what will happen to the next generation of Evangelical Christians and beyond?

David Kinnaman addresses this concern and many others in You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church...And Rethinking Faith (Baker Books, 2011). Kinnaman quotes a young man named Mike, who says: “I knew from church that I couldn’t believe in both science and God, so that was it. I didn't believe in God anymore” (p. 138; italics added). While Mike’s statement may seem to some a bit rash, still, it points to a growing sense of need among many for pastoral leaders to help equip their congregations to engage in serious discussion and the integration of faith and science. Such equipping will also include vocational preparation for people in their congregations entering scientific fields.

We have a responsibility

Seminaries have important roles to play in equipping pastoral graduates for effective ministry in a scientific age. But are they seizing the opportunity? It makes sense for pastoral and missional reasons that institutions become more intentional in preparing its pastoral candidates and alumni to engage science in constructive ways. Just look around. The scientific realm is expanding. Take for example my region, the Greater Portland Area in Oregon. Intel, Tektronix, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, and Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), as well as other organizations dedicated to scientific progress, are located nearby.

Portland prides itself on its attentiveness to scientific concerns and progress. For all the talk of alternative forms of spirituality in addition to Christianity that flourish in the region, there is also a great deal of antagonism on the part of certain sectors in the scientific community to faith of any kind. Secularism, including the New Atheism, is very robust in Portland and in other places in the Pacific Northwest. Given Multnomah Biblical Seminary’s commitment to preparing our graduates for effective ministry in a very diverse culture, we have a responsibility to assist the churches we serve in cultivating a thoughtful, irenic and comprehensive approach to the integration of faith and science.

Effective ministry in our scientific age

For these various reasons, I am delighted to report that Multnomah University’s seminary was awarded a National “Science for Seminaries” grant. Multnomah Biblical Seminary is one of 10 seminaries nationwide selected by The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for a combined $1.5 million in grants to incorporate science into core theological curricula. The grant will provide resources to integrate science into select core courses, such as systematic theology, biblical studies, church history and pastoral theology. It should be noted that the AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion does not advise on theological content, but only provides support for science through resources and mentor recommendations. The courses will be developed and implemented over the next two years and provide seminarians with solid, science-focused instruction.

“Many people look to their religious leaders for guidance on issues relating to science and technology, even though clergy members may get little exposure to science in their training,” said Jennifer Wiseman, director of the AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion (DoSER). The Science for Seminaries grant for “Integrating Science into Core Theological Education” through AAAS in collaboration with our accrediting body, the Association of Theological Schools, will make it possible for our seminary to focus energies on equipping pastors and pastoral candidates for more effective ministry in our scientific age.

The theater of God’s glory

Through Multnomah University’s Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins’ oversight and coordination, Multnomah Biblical Seminary faculty will integrate subject matter pertaining to astrophysics, human cognition, and macro-biology in select seminary courses. A New Wine conference and Cultural Encounters journal issue will help make the findings available to the community at large. The aim is to help our seminary graduates increase their scientific awareness of pressing issues and integrate faith and science in constructive ways as they equip their congregations for truthful and meaningful witness in the twenty-first century. This scientific pursuit will assist us in discerning more clearly how the whole creation is the theater of God’s glory.

In closing, I should add that my seminary colleagues have joked (perhaps half-joked!) about their ulterior motives in their research for this grant: the grant will provide them the opportunity to prove their long-standing hypothesis that I am the “missing link” in the evolution of species. So much for the age old tension in Evangelical circles between faith and science!

 

Paul Louis Metzger, Ph.D. is a Multnomah University seminary professor, director of its Institute for the Theology of Culture, and project leader for the grant initiative at Multnomah Biblical Seminary.

 

Contact: Kristina Rhodes, Communications Specialist, 503-251-6469 or krhodes@multnomah.edu

Service with a smile: Students build friendships off campus

A cloudy sky and thin veil of rain greeted more than 130 Multnomah University students as they left campus to participate in Day of Outreach on September 23.

Once every spring and fall, students volunteer at several locations in the Portland community in need of their time and energy. A volunteer site can be anywhere: a nonprofit organization, a school, a community center. Even a neighbor's home. MU cancels classes for the day so students can devote their whole morning to service.

OutreachFall2014_1"Now we get to give"

The living room at ElderPlace Laurelhurst, a care facility for seniors on Glisan Street, is a bright space filled with round tables where students talk and laugh with elderly men and women over cups of juice and coffee. Colorful flags hang from the ceiling and a giant white teddy bear looks down from an old piano.

Senior Olivia Morud is chatting with Phyllis, a curly-haired woman with blotchy hands and tiny glasses. The two have just finished playing a card game. Morud, an English major from Scappoose, Ore., says she loves being able to listen. "They have so much to say, so many stories," she says. "As students, we are given so much in the classroom. Now we get to give."

Volunteering is important, she says, because Jesus was a servant. "He would be doing this if he was here today," she says."It's close to his heart."

OutreachFall2014_2"A real picture of the Gospel"

Volunteers at Harrison Park School on 87th Avenue, their shoes caked with soil, are constructing a community garden. Some students build raised garden beds while others clear away debris and pull weeds.

Freshman Kimberly Marshburn and junior Maggi Schlosser are filling a garden bed with dirt. Marshburn, a Bible and theology major from Bakersfield, Calif., has been attending MU for only a month, but she's excited to serve the community so soon.

"I was talking to some students the other day who were concerned that we'd become secluded at MU," she says. "But this day shows me that we're living what we say we are. School is the practice zone and then we get to go out and live life together. It's a real picture of the gospel."

"A desire to serve"

OutreachFall2014_4Just a few blocks from campus, senior Cory Howatt is starting a lawnmower in front of a small pink house. Dotty, an wispy woman with hunched shoulders and worn moccasins, looks over her property.

"I've lived in this house for 66 years," she says. "My husband died 30 years ago, and this yard is too much for me to keep up." She smiles. "You guys have been coming to see me for a long time now."

Several volunteer sites, including those featured in this story, are permanent fixtures on the sign-up sheet. That way, students can nurture
friendships over time.

OutreachFall2014_3Howatt, a pastoral ministry major from Koloa, Hawaii, says the day shows people who Christ is through students' service. "Who we get to work with is the best part," he says. "I get to meet people like Dotty."

"We serve out of a desire to serve," he adds. "We may not benefit from any compensation, but we benefit from building relationships."

Check Out Our New D.Min. Track: Global Evangelism

We sat down with Dr. Derek Chinn, director of MU's Doctor of Ministry program, to find out more about the degree's latest track, global evangelism.

Space is still available, and classes start June 2. If you have questions about this track or want to register, contact Dr. Chinn by emailing dchinn@multnomah.edu or calling 503-251-6732.

What's the purpose of the global evangelism track?

Dr. Luis Palau

Dr. Luis Palau

This track is in line with Multnomah’s goal of equipping its students for global mission. The education our students receive is biblically-grounded and academically rigorous, and it deliberately integrates what's learned in the classroom with ministry that takes place in the real world.

How will the track prepare students for missional work?

The majority of the students are already evangelists. They are currently doing the very thing God has gifted them to do, and they will continue to evangelize to those who don’t know Jesus and train local congregations to share the Gospel.

Getting a D.Min. degree will give them the opportunity to study more in-depth the theological underpinnings of evangelism, learn about different strategies and methodologies for evangelism, develop a better understanding and appreciation for the work that builds and sustains evangelistic ministry, and learn from fellow evangelists serving in different contexts.

How is this track distinct from programs offered by other seminaries?

evangelism_tim

Dr. Tim Robnett

Students participate and study with instructors who are actively engaged in evangelism around the world. The faculty mentor, Dr. Tim Robnett, is president of Tim Robnett Ministries, and he actively trains and mentors evangelists, locally and internationally. International evangelist Dr. Luis Palau is the senior lecturer for this track and will participate in the instruction. Guest lecturers are respected educators and practitioners in evangelism.

How is the track enriching in terms of professional, spiritual and personal development?

Students will use their professional ministry skills in the church and for the community to equip believers in the ministry of evangelism. They are expected to nurture their personal relationship with God and mature in personal character. Participants in this track will have ample opportunity to reflect on and develop a process of adaptation and application of biblical principles in the area of evangelism.

What makes this program stand out?

The experience that Dr. Robnett and Dr. Palau bring to the classroom is outstanding, and I can't think of any program that brings these types of skills and experience to bear. Dr. Robnett’s deep understanding of how evangelists are gifted and wired significantly shapes how instruction will occur, what coursework is assigned, and what topics will be covered.

Want to find out more about Multnomah Biblical Seminary? Check out our seminary page