Faith, science, and encouragement to consider them in tandem were the focus at Bethany Theological Seminary’s Look at Life conference, held April 25-27. More than 100 guests and presenters gathered at the Seminary to receive information and share viewpoints in a space for open dialog.
Scientific scholarship and personal faith perspectives were offered by five professors from the fields of biology, mathematics, philosophy, archaeology, theology, physics, and astronomy. Straightforward presentations on current scientific thinking and findings generated discussion among participants. Questions posed to the speakers were followed by chances to process topics in more depth through small group discussion.
Lectures on the origin of life in the universe—perhaps not limited to Earth—were followed by sessions describing the relationships among life forms, methods of archeological dating, and the field of genome editing. Renowned Old Testament scholar and author John Walton from Wheaton College presented the final lectures on an understanding of creation that incorporates the Genesis account and the theory of evolution. A panel discuss
ion, including Steve Schweitzer, academic dean at Bethany, and Nancy Bowen, professor of Old Testament at Earlham School of Religion, provided a response to these concepts.
Russell Haitch, professor of theology and human science at Bethany, coordinated the event. “We wanted to do a conference that would, yes, deal with evolution but also go beyond the tired talking points and acrimony. I asked myself: How can we bring a biblical understanding and Christian frame of mind to questions of origins? So, let’s look at the start of the universe and the start of humanity but also at human development. There are new reproductive technologies. There are new discoveries in epigenetics—ways that children inherit traits not just from DNA. . . . These areas concern people in ministry.”
The conference was part of a larger initiative at Bethany entitled Binocular Vision: Looking at Life through the Eyes of Faith and Science. In recent weeks, three lunches open to the public were held at the Seminary to present information on current social challenges. Richmond residents in ministry and social service were joined by Bethany alumni, students, and employees to learn about the causes and effective treatments of childhood stress and various forms of addiction. More such events are planned for the coming fall. Haitch is joined by Nate Inglis, assistant professor of theological studies at Bethany, in developing this initiative.
Binocular Vision is being funded by a grant from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) through its Science for Seminaries program. The goal of this program is to support seminaries as they integrate science into theological education and demonstrate its relevance to the life of religious communities. Grant recipients commit to incorporating scientific topics and themes into their core curricula and to hold at least one campus-wide event.
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The Science for Seminaries project was made possible through the support of AAAS and a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The American Association for the Advancement of Science is the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the Science (www.sciencemag.org) family of journals. AAAS was founded in 1848 and includes 261 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million. The nonprofit AAAS (www.aaas.org) is open to all and fulfills its mission to “advance science and serve society” through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education, public engagement, and more.