Upcoming Seminar Will Delve into Blending Science and Faith

Jan. 15, 2010

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When was the last time you heard a sermon that tried to connect the dots between science and faith?

That's a question that Dr. Donald Schmeltekopf asks -- and promptly answers.

"You just don't hear them," said Schmeltekopf, provost emeritus of Baylor University and director of Baylor's Center for Ministry Effectiveness and Educational Leadership.

Pastors tiptoe around the subject, he said, concerned that congregations might get uneasy, or fearful, or outraged.

But that doesn't have to be the case.

The center and First Baptist Church of Austin will co-sponsor an all-day seminar, Science and Faith: Breaking Down the Wall, on Saturday, Jan. 23, at the Austin church, 901 Trinity St.

Faith and Christian effectiveness can be strengthened when clergy and laity take both biblical theology and science seriously, Schmeltekopf said. Seminar leaders hope to show how Christian faith and scientific investigation may be seen as complementary rather than in conflict.

Speaking and leading discussions will be Baylor University faculty members Dr. Gerald Cleaver, associate professor of physics; Dr. Barry Harvey, professor of theology, and Dr. Phyllis Tippit, lecturer in interdisciplinary studies.

"The whole area of science is an area that the church has essentially ignored for a long time," Schmeltekopf said. "But you've got a lot of people in our churches trying to figure out the best way to understand the relationship between science and faith, particularly modern science, with all its specialization.

"There's the problem of misinformation and the other problem, fear," he said. "Many, many churches -- in particular, pastors -- are fearful of the subject because they have congregation members who are going to push back very strongly if the first two chapters of Genesis aren't preached as literally true. You don't have to be a fundamentalist church for that."

Tippit, who teaches Bible, ethics and science, said she will speak about the history of life as a history of change.

"The universe came into being in a process of continual change; the earth came into being as part of that process. When we look around us we see a world in constant change," she said. "There's evidence that life started as single cells, and we know that many organisms that lived in the past aren't here anymore."

Tippit said the many people of faith grew up with the idea of the world being created fully formed and remaining static.

"How does that idea fit into this universe of change and process? We need especially to talk about how our history of change applies to humans," she said. "We think of ourselves as individuals in process and societies in process. Why couldn't God be shaping us as a species as well as individuals?

"The big question for us as Christians isn't just the question of Homo sapiens, but of Homo divinus - man with God," Tippit said. "We can trace back changes in physical and genetic structures, and we shouldn't try to deny or ignore the changes we see, but we cannot scientifically trace the soul and the awareness of God."

She said that with her students, "I like to talk about God not only as an engineer, but as a gardener, a creator who enjoys the process as much as the results. After all, we have always believed God is not through with us. That's part of our theology."

Science and Faith: Breaking Down the Wall, will be from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 23, 2010, at First Baptist Church of Austin, 901 Trinity St., in Austin. Cost is $35, including lunch and refreshments

Fee is payable to First Baptist-Austin. Contact Karen Cappolino at 512-476-2625. For more information about the seminar, contact: Julie_Covington or call (254) 710-4677.

Media contact: Terry Goodrich, Assistant Director of Media Communications, (254) 710-3321

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