AAAS “Science for Seminaries” Program Entering Phase 2 – CSL News

In November 2016, the committee for Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion of the American Association for the Advancement of Science issued their final report on the “Science for Seminaries” program.

Concordia St. Louis was one of the Seminaries selected by AAAS in partnership with the Association of Theological Schools (the group that accredits our seminaries and colleges) to participate in the pilot program.

According to the final report, “Pilot seminaries were required to propose fresh content and not merely maintain a status quo of pre-established science engagement. Faculty from each institution were asked to propose at least two revisions to ATS-defined core course areas—systematic theology, biblical studies, church history, and pastoral theology—while additional ideas could be proposed for popular elective courses.”

“Funded seminaries began planning and implementing revised curricula in the 2014-2015 school year. Other new courses and additional revisions have now been implemented into second and third years, into the spring of 2017.” (Source: http://www.scienceforseminaries.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/ScienceforSeminariesFinalReportPublished-1.pdf)

For the 2016-2017 academic year, CSL submitted information for four courses:

Problems in Preaching (Prof. Robert W. Weise): The highlighted content related to the science topics of History & Philosophy of Science, Life Sciences was a class discussion “Preaching in this 21st Century Biotech World” led by Prof. Weiss. (Source: http://www.scienceforseminaries.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Concordia.Weise_.ProblemsInPreaching.2015-.pdf)

Pastoral Theology (Prof. Robert W. Weise): The highlighted content related to the science topics of Neuroscience, Brain, & Mind, was an October 30th, 2016 lecture focusing on “working with God’s people of all ages who have specific disabilities,” presented by Christina Ruzicka, Adjunct Professor in Applied Behavior Analysis, St. Louis, MO. As well as classroom discussion about “Aging and Congregational Care” focused around H. Nouwen’s book, “Aging, the Fulfillment of Life” as well as Mueller/Kraus’ “Pastoral Theology” by CPH. (Source: http://www.scienceforseminaries.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Concordia.Weise_.PastoralTheology.-2014.pdf)

Psalms and Writings (Prof. Timothy E. Saleska): The highlighted content related to the science topics of History & Philosophy of Science, Physics and Cosmos was an untitled lecture by Joel Okamoto (Chair of Systematics at CSL) as well as an optional project to, “Read the Chapters and Chapter Excerpts provided by the instructor and write a 5 – 6 page paper interacting with them and reflecting on how the viewpoints they present might affect your Christian vocabulary and the way you tell the Christian story.” (Source: http://www.scienceforseminaries.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Concordia.Saleska.PsalmsWritings.2016.pdf)

Exodus and Torah (Prof. Timothy E. Saleska): The highlighted content related to the science topics of History & Philosophy of Science, Physics and Cosmos was two readings in preparation for two days labelled, “Genesis (Special)” for which students were to prepare by reading the assigned readings. The first reading was authored by T. Longman and was entitled, “What Genesis 1-2 Teaches (and What It Doesn’t).”  The second reading was authored by J. Walton entitled, “Reading Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology.” (Source: http://www.scienceforseminaries.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Concordia.Saleska.Exodus-and-Torah.2016.pdf  NOTE: More information about T. Longman’s teachings can be found in a review of his Genesis commentary [http://theaquilareport.com/longmans-new-genesis-commentary-a-critical-review/].  Christianity Today ran an article about J. Walton’s book, The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2–3 and the Human Origins Debate. [http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2015/march/lost-world-of-adam-and-eve.html])

The “Science for Seminaries” program was such a success that it has been expanded with the help of a $6,182,109 grant provided by the John Templeton Foundation.

The Templeton Foundation web page announcing the grant enthusiastically states, “By focusing on core seminary courses, we guarantee that all students at target institutions will be exposed to science and its many implications for religion. It ensures that more seminarians will graduate with an appreciation of science and its relevance to their future ministries. Those congregations will benefit from an atmosphere that is conducive to thoughtful engagement with science, allowing a larger number of parishioners to encounter science constructively. The religious public will increasingly find less conflict and more confluence between science and their faith. Finally, they will be better equipped to engage life’s big questions.” (Source: https://www.templeton.org/grant/science-for-seminaries-phase-ii)

On their web site, the Templeton Foundation describe their enthusiastic support for the Issachar Fund and the Biologos.org initiative by saying, “In partnership with the Issachar Fund, the John Templeton Foundation has provided continuing support for The BioLogos Foundation, an organization exploring the harmony of evolutionary biology and the Christian faith.” (Source: https://www.templeton.org/partners)

Biologos proudly states, “BioLogos invites the church and the world to see the harmony between science and biblical faith as we present an evolutionary understanding of God’s creation.” (Source: https://biologos.org)

About Pastor Matthew Dent

I’m a life-long Lutheran who, prior to formal preparation for the ministry, learned most of my theology from good preaching, solid hymnody, and the consistent pattern of sound words found in the church’s liturgy in a small church in Western, NY.

A “first generation” pastor in my family, I took the “long route” to seminary, working in startups and small companies in the technology and internet sector for 10 years before completing my Bachelor of Arts at Concordia University, Ann Arbor in December of 2004 and continuing my studies at Concordia Theological Seminary, graduating with my M.Div. in 2008. I completed additional residential studies toward an S.T.M. at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, and was ordained and first installed in July, 2009. Since January 2014, I have been serving Jesus’ Church as pastor at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Standish, Michigan where I live with my wonderful wife, Kelli, and my two kids, Jonathan and Natalie.


Comments

AAAS “Science for Seminaries” Program Entering Phase 2 – CSL News — 9 Comments

  1. This is very exciting news. I can hardly wait for the information to trickle down to the lay level of the church. In the meantime I will follow the links. Fascinating.

  2. It’s encouraging to see Biologos involved in this. They can be quite helpful. For instance, their teachings helped one of my friends reject a biblical view of creation and totally buy into Big Bang cosmology and Darwinian evolution, from whence he went on to deny pretty much every teaching of orthodox Christianity.

    Not to worry, though. He’s a member of the Episcopal Church, where he has the liturgy and a supportive environment to nurture his progressive liberalism.

  3. In a nutshell, this new posting about the AAAS and CSL shows that the AAAS and the Templeton Foundation and their allies consider the “Science for Seminaries” program to be a great success precisely for the reason that they see this as a way to get future pastors and their parishioners to accept  evolutionary biology as completely compatible with Christian faith.
    It is about convincing Christians that the Bible and neo-Darwinian evolution are not contradictory as long as you re-interpret the Bible to fit the “fact” of evolution. In other words, for them God’s Word does not determine the truth. Man’s fallible and ever-changing ideas determine the truth. They define science as meaning that molecules to man evolution over millions of years is fact and therefore the Bible is wrong and must be re-interpreted to fit what they call scientific fact.

  4. Additional proposed curriculum courses:

    Your life illuminated: becoming the new Petros of radioactive dating

    In pursuit of the heavens: bridging NASA’s nascent and unremitting credibility gap

    Congregational chaff no more: Techniques for separating the ‘doubting Thomases’ of ordained paleontology and astronomy

    Numbers: The only canonized book you’ll need and the triumph of math over the scientific method in establishing scientific thought

    The pastor transformed: from law and gospel expositor to liaison of subsidized science

  5. Arand and Okamoto, “Concordia Seminary and the Science for Seminaries Grant” in Concordia Journal (Summer 2017), p. 77-78:

    Science in the Curriculum and Classroom
    One of the goals of the Science for Seminaries grant is to acquaint our students with science that touches on theological/anthropological topics. We did this with a pastoral theology course taught by Dr. Robert Weise, and Dr. Timothy Saleska explored related issues within the context of his Psalms course. As he put it in his syllabus:

    “The question that I was interested in having the students think about is, “What does it mean to be human?” Obviously, it is a big question and there are many ways we can try to answer it. In class, for example, we usually study Psalm 8, one of the psalms in which the poet reflects on the marvel that is the human creature. At one point, reflecting his own understanding of what it means to be created in God’s image, the poet says, “You made him lack a little from God, that is, with glory and honor you crowned him. That is, you made him ruler over the works of your hands. Everything you put under his feet.” For God’s people, this insight into who we are in relation to God and in relation to the rest of creation has continuing relevance for thinking about how we should be living our lives in this world. Of course, many other texts direct our thinking on this question as well.”

    Saleska noted the relevance of the question for today.

    “Scientists, philosophers, artists, and authors offer various perspectives, and some of them are very challenging. Advances in science and technology have challenged the conventional boundaries of what it means to be human. What once seemed to be clear lines no longer seem so clear. As a result, important moral and ethical concerns coalesce around the question of what it means to be human. Therefore, it is good that our students have some understanding of what various scientists and philosophers say about this question. In the light of other perspectives, how might they give a winsome Christian witness? The project is designed to give students an opportunity to do that.”

    Saleska wanted the students to provide a scientific perspective on the question, “What does it mean to be human?” From there, “what are possible implications for human life as it is lived in this world that the answer may suggest? What are some of the problems that others have raised in response to the scientific perspective?” Then the students were to develop a project in which they articulated “a winsome Christian vision in answer to this same question” without resorting “to pious platitudes or Sunday-school answers.” They were “in an honest and open way, to identify some questions or problems that their accounts raised or left unsolved.”

  6. For my part, I do not want to call into question all the teachers and all the teaching at Concordia Seminary. Nor do I wish to say that the fact that CSL accepted money from AAAS and the Templeton Foundation automatically means that they are corrupt and are now teaching false doctrine. However, the articles in the summer 2017 issue of the Concordia Journal and the faculty’s apparent defense of them seems to show that, despite assurances that they hold to the Brief Statement, some apparently think that “six days” does not mean “six 24-hour days in a seven-consecutive-day week” and that the rejection of “a process of evolution . . . in immense periods of time” (Brief Statement) does not mean that we cannot still believe, teach, and confess a process of evolution over a period of millions and billions of years (with suffering and death built into a creation that God declares “very good”). I would say that is intellectually dishonest. Clearly, the adoption of the wording of the Brief Statement (and subsequent statements) was meant to exclude such false teaching. It is mere sophistry to try to argue otherwise. Perhaps, still more statements will be needed to address this.

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