Church of England (2008)
The Anglican Church marks Darwin’s contribution to science as bicentenary approaches
The Church of England has developed a new section of its website at www.cofe.anglican.org/darwin to mark the approaching bicentenary of Charles Darwin’s birth in 1809, and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species in 1859. Below are some excerpts.
Scientific insights and Christian belief are meant to be companions not competitors
Theology and science each have much to contribute in the assertion of the Psalmist that we are "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139). I hope that this site will not only provide a source of information and knowledge about Charles Darwin and his work, but that it will prove to be a resource for growing in wisdom and understanding. Full-text
Rt Revd Dr Lee Rayfield SOSc, Bishop of Swindon
Nothing in scientific method contradicts Christian teaching
Darwin was, in many ways, a model of good scientific method. He observed the world around him, developed a theory which sought to explain what he saw, and then set about a long and painstaking process of gathering evidence that would either bear out, contradict, or modify his theory. As a result, our understanding of the world is expanded, but the scientific process continues. In science, hypotheses are meant to be constantly tested. Subsequent generations have built on Darwin’s work but have not significantly undermined his fundamental theory of natural selection. There is nothing here that contradicts Christian teaching. Jesus himself invited people to observe the world around them and to reason from what they saw to an understanding of the nature of God (Matthew 6: 25–33). Christian theologians throughout the centuries have sought knowledge of the world and knowledge of God. For Thomas Aquinas there was no such thing as science versus religion; both existed in the same sphere and to the same end, the glory of God. Whilst Christians believe that the Bible contains all that we need to know to be saved from our sins, they do not claim that it is a compendium of all knowledge. Jesus himself warned his disciples that there was more that he could say to them and that the Spirit of truth would lead them into truth (John 16: 12–13). There is no reason to doubt that Christ still draws people towards truth through the work of scientists as well as others, and many scientists are motivated in their work by a perception of the deep beauty of the created world.
Charles Darwin: 200 years from your birth, the Church of England owes you an apology for misunderstanding you and, by getting our first reaction wrong, encouraging others to misunderstand you still. We try to practice the old virtues of 'faith seeking understanding' and hope that makes some amends. But the struggle for your reputation is not over yet, and the problem is not just your religious opponents but those who falsely claim you in support of their own interests. Good religion needs to work constructively with good science – and I dare to suggest that the opposite may be true as well. Full-text
"Good religion needs good science" by Rev Dr Malcolm Brown, Director of Mission and Public Affairs, Church of England
United Methodist Church
General Conference (2008)
We find that science's descriptions of cosmological, geological, and biological evolution are not in conflict with theology. ... We find that as science expands human understanding of the natural world, our understanding of the mysteries of God's creation and word are enhanced. Petition 80050
Let the General Conference of the United Methodist Church go on record as opposing the introduction of any faith-based theories such as Creationism or Intelligent Design into the science curriculum of our public schools. Petition 80839
Science and Technology (2004)
We recognize science as a legitimate interpretation of God’s natural world. We affirm the validity of the claims of science in describing the natural world, although we preclude science from making authoritative claims about theological issues. We recognize technology as a legitimate use of God’s natural world when such use enhances human life and enables all of God’s children to develop their God-given creative potential without violating our ethical convictions about the relationship of humanity to the natural world.
In acknowledging the important roles of science and technology, however, we also believe that theological understandings of human experience are crucial to a full understanding of the place of humanity in the universe. Science and theology are complementary rather than mutually incompatible. We therefore encourage dialogue between the scientific and theological communities and seek the kind of participation that will enable humanity to sustain life on earth and, by God’s grace, increase the quality of our common lives together.
From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church - 2004. Copyright 2004 by The United Methodist Publishing House.
See also, Thomas Jay Oord, Divine Grace and Emerging Creation: Wesleyan Forays in Science and Theology of Creation (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2009). Wipf and Stock Amazon
Presbyterian Church USA
General Assembly of the PCUSA (2002)
The 214th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA)
1. Reaffirms that God is Creator, in accordance with the witness of Scripture and The Reformed Confessions.
2. Reaffirms that there is no contradiction between an evolutionary theory of human origins and the doctrine of God as Creator.
3. Encourages State Boards of Education across the nation to establish standards for science education in public schools based on the most reliable content of scientific knowledge as determined by the scientific community.
4. Calls upon Presbyterian scientists and science educators to assist congregations, presbyteries, communities, and the public to understand what constitutes reliable scientific knowledge.
United Church of Christ
A New Voice Arising: A Pastoral Letter on Faith Engaging Science and Technology (2008)
Through the scientific advances of our time, we are seeing nature with new eyes, and what we see fills us with wonder and praise. Stunning images of deep space are like new windows on creation. Microscopic details of living cells show us the unexpected intricacies of our biology. Mathematical equations unravel the secrets of the first seconds following the birth of the universe. Through these gifts of science, we look across ever-expanding vistas of cosmic beauty, almost to the beginning of time itself. What we see evokes wonder and humility, and we hear within ourselves a new voice arising and singing an anthem of praise that reverberates through the whole creation.
Science shows us a cosmos that gives birth to stars, galaxies, planets, life, mind, and self-consciousness, all emerging one after the other, each stage giving birth to what follows, each playing its part in the interactive dance of cosmic self-generation. Through these discoveries, science reveals a new picture of human beings as tiny creatures in a vast cosmic sea. We are filled with amazement and awe, and we are brought face to face with new questions about ourselves and our place in the universe. Are we alone? Does the universe have a purpose? What does it mean to be human?
Questions like these are as old as scripture and as new as the latest discoveries of physics and biology. For many people today, old answers to these questions are no longer credible. Science is sometimes unsettling because it destroys old foundations without providing new ones. Yet because of science, many today are on a new search for meaning. Can our church address the seekers of today? Can we offer a word for our time, one full of hope and encouragement, one taken seriously for its keen insight and honest comprehension? Can we dare to seek, to wonder, and if necessary to doubt until we believe anew, confident that in the end we will be filled with a fresh faith that engages the hunger in so many hearts and minds? Full text >>
Not Mutually Exclusive
For too long, science and faith have had a combustible relationship. But even churches evolve. In the UCC, we're not afraid of science and technology. In fact, we embrace it.
Check out their informative webpage called Not Mutually Exclusive.
Evangelical Lutheran Church of America
Mission and Vision
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is committed to encourage - from a perspective of faith - conversation about issues facing our society and church related to science and technology. The ELCA Alliance for Faith, Science & Technology assists this church in carrying out its mission at the intersection of faith and science and technology.
In a world profoundly influenced by science and technology, this alliance will aid the church in its mission by expanding awareness, encouraging conversation, and promoting action pertaining to the relationships between science and technology and the faith and life of Christians.
Since 1988, the ELCA Alliance for Faith, Science, & Technology, made up of over 2,000 scientists, pastors, and lay leaders, have continued this conversation. Join with us in exploring these important issues.
The Challenge of Telling the Story of Creation in a Scientific and Technological World
Evolution: Cosmic and Biological
Lutheran Partners Magazine (vol 25, no 6; November/December 2009) published a collection of 6 essays that explore the constructive interface of science and faith. Link here
by George L. Murphy, Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, OH, 2004.
How are Christians to view the scientific realities of cosmology and biological evolution? We need to know the basic facts and theories of physics and biology, but we also need an adequate theological standpoint from which to view science. I must be brief here, and will eschew all the scholarly apparatus of footnotes etc. Let’s begin here with an appropriate context in which to put these matters, the theology of the cross.
Calvary is where we know God in the greatest depth. Luther said that the true theology is that of the cross because that is where we recognize the true God. But God is paradoxically hidden even in the revelation in the cross, so we should expect that God’s presence and activity in the world will generally be hidden. And if that is the case God will not be observable by scientific means, and will be unnecessary for scientific explanations of the world, even though God is continually present and active. God, Bonhoeffer said, is willing to be pushed out of the world and onto a cross.
What are the implications of this view for God’s action in the world, the subject of traditional doctrines of providence? There are three components of a view of divine action which is in accord with such a theology.
First, God cooperates with natural processes. Creatures are the instruments with which God works. In scholastic language, God is the Primary Cause who works through secondary causes.
Secondly, God limits divine action to what is within the capacities of creatures. That is, God acts in accord with rational laws (which themselves are God’s creation). Thus creatures are not only God’s instruments but, in Luther’s phrase, masks of God which hide God from scientific observation. Science does not study God but the tools God uses. This is the distinctively cruciform aspect of divine action because it means that God is willing to be considered unnecessary for our understanding of the world.
Finally, it is faith, our trust in the God revealed in Christ, that enables us to “see” God at work in the world. Our belief that God supplies our daily bread is something different from our knowledge of the processes that enable grain to grow, farmers to harvest it, and the economic system to put the bread in the store.
So now in order to talk about the big bang, evolution, or the early chapters of Genesis do we need to move from the subject of divine action to “creation”? Not exactly. We’ve been talking about creation. As Luther explains in the Small Catechism, belief that God is the creator means that God has made me and everything else. Then Luther lists all the things that God is doing now – preserving my life, providing food, etc. What God does in the world today is creation. God has always been active as the creator. What we want to do now is to move on to the special aspect of the doctrine of creation that deals with origins – of the universe and of living things.
Consider first the way in which science has moved. When I was in graduate school we talked about four basic interactions - gravitation, electromagnetism, and the weak and strong forces. (The weak force is responsible for beta decay and the strong force holds the nucleus together.) We now understand weak and electromagnetic forces as aspects of an “electroweak” interaction. There are theoretical attempts to combine this with the strong force to give a “grand unified theory” (GUT) and even to unite all four interactions in a “theory of everything” (TOE).
Combinations of these forces make the sun shine, keep our bodies functioning, make things fall to the ground, bring babies to birth, provide our food, and so on. We see them as instruments through which God brings all those things about. Then looking to the past, we see can see those forces at work to form atoms, galaxies, stars, planets, and living things. And again, as Christians we can see those interactions as the means by which God has brought all those things into being. Cosmic and biological evolution can be understood theologically as applications of the doctrine of providence. More >>
The Episcopal Church
A Catechism of Creation
Prepared for study in congregations by the The Committee on Science, Technology and Faith
Through Christ all things were made. “A Catechism of Creation” helps us to think about what that means. It is written in question-and-answer format... Part I builds upon the Bible’s basic doctrine of creation. Part II outlines the modern scientific worldview, including the Big Bang and the evolution of life. Part III presents the biblical roots for environmental care. Each section’s bibliography encourages further study of science, technology and Christian faith.
Part I: Theology of Creation
Part II: Creation and Science
Part III: Caring for Creation
Roman Catholic Church
The Pontifical Academy of Sciences (2008)
The Pontifical Academy of Sciences has published proceedings from their late 2008 Plenary Session "Scientific Insights into the Evolution of the Universe and of Life" in their journal PONTIFICIA ACADEMIA SCIENTIARVM.
Nobel laureate Christian de Duve summarized the plenary session: "The participants unanimously accepted as indisputable the affirmation that the Universe, as well as life within it, are the products of long evolutionary histories," noting that there was also wide agreement among the participants on the common ancestry of life on earth. "Evolution," he added, "has acquired the status of established fact." NCSE has a news brief. The proceedings have been posted online.
Pope John Paul II's Message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on Evolution (October 1996)
In his encyclical Humani Generis (1950), my predecessor Pius XII has already affirmed that there is no conflict between evolution and the doctrine of the faith regarding man and his vocation, provided that we do not lose sight of certain fixed points....Today, more than a half-century after the appearance of that encyclical, some new findings lead us toward the recognition of evolution as more than an hypothesis. In fact it is remarkable that this theory has had progressively greater influence on the spirit of researchers, following a series of discoveries in different scholarly disciplines. The convergence in the results of these independent studies -- which was neither planned nor sought -- constitutes in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory.
What Pastors Have to Say
The Clergy Letter
An Open Letter Concerning Religion and Science
Within the community of Christian believers there are areas of dispute and disagreement, including the proper way to interpret Holy Scripture. While virtually all Christians take the Bible seriously and hold it to be authoritative in matters of faith and practice, the overwhelming majority do not read the Bible literally, as they would a science textbook. Many of the beloved stories found in the Bible – the Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark – convey timeless truths about God, human beings, and the proper relationship between Creator and creation expressed in the only form capable of transmitting these truths from generation to generation. Religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts.
We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that God’s loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris. We urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge. We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth.
As of May 2010, over 12,500 clergy members from dozens of denominations have signed their endorsement of this open letter. More info >>
Rabbis from various branches of Judaism have begun a sister project here.
The Next Section: Creation through Evolutionary Means
- Theology tells us who created and sustains the world...and why. Science begins to explain how. Here various Christians offer their explanations of this integrated model of complementarity.