Written by Blake Thomas
Baylor’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary has received a $75,000 grant from the American Association for the Advancement of Science for a project that integrates science content into existing seminary curriculum. The grant is awarded through Science for Seminaries, a project of the AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion (DoSER) program, in consultation with the Association of Theological Schools (ATS).
Kimlyn Bender, Ph.D., a professor of Christian theology at Truett, says the project is intended to help equip seminary students to speak about science in a responsible and positive way in their ministry careers.
“Science is a big part of our world today,” says Bender, the grant’s principal investigator. “Churches have struggled to understand how science pertains to ministry and Christian life and how faith and science are related. That includes everything from the way we understand miracles in scripture to comparing scientific descriptions of the origin of our world to texts like Genesis.”
To help address this shortcoming in ministers’ preparation, the grant will bring Baylor faculty in science fields into three core seminary courses where they will lead panel discussions and guided readings on issues including the history of science and its impact on religion, questions of human origins and psychological perspectives on mental health in pastoral counseling. The courses, each part of the required curriculum for all Truett students, are taught by Bender as well as Roger Olsen, Ph.D., professor of Christian theology and Angela Reed, Ph.D., associate professor of practical theology.
The grant will also support the creation of a two-day conference entitled “Science and Christian Ministry” on the Baylor campus. The conference will feature speakers, workshops and opportunities for students and faculty to present their research. Truett will play host to the conference on Feb. 24 and 25, 2020.
The project will also include an essay contest for students with prizes for those who best incorporate science with biblical or theological topics. Contest winners will receive travel grants to attend a conference or annual meeting of an organization that supports dialogue on issues of faith and science.
While some people see science and faith as mutually incompatible ways of viewing the world, Bender hopes that increased familiarity with scientific principles will help seminarians grasp the ways in which scientific inquiry illuminates the depth and breadth of creation.
“Science and Christian teachings are not intrinsically at odds with one another. In fact, science is a gift of God that helps us to understand the natural world that we live in and that God has given us care for.”