It will always warm my heart to see a Protestant church denomination putting on a conference about science that isn’t actually designed to make a mockery of virtually everything science stands for. Last month, I made mention of such an event hosted by none other than the First Baptist Church of Dayton, Ohio (yeah, that’s right: I said “Baptist”).
Today, I’d like to briefly plug the second Faith & Science Conference to be organized by the Assemblies of God USA (the first was in 2011). The conference’s noble mission is to provide “ministry leaders, teachers, students and lay people with numerous resources to deal with these issues at a time when congregations are becoming more and more scientifically literate.” The event’s theme, “Genesis and genetics,” looks interesting as well, and topics that will be up for discussion include embryonic and adult stem cell research, prenatal genetic testing, genetic influence on human behavior (such as same-sex attraction), Christian theories on origins and environmental stewardship.
I’m sure Tony Jones, at least, will be glad to see the agenda includes more than “Did evolution really happen?” and rightly so. As far as the conference’s take on “Christian theories on origins,” I’m guessing a range of viewpoints will be presented. Stephen Meyer, author and director of the Discovery Institute’s Center for “Science” and Culture, is among the lineup of speakers after all, but it also includes ASA president and astronomer Jennifer Wiseman; Baylor University professor of psychology, neuroscience and biomedical studies Matthew S. Sanford; Evangel University biologist Michael Tenneson and Fermilab lead engineer Steve Krstulovich, who came to faith in God one night at the Argonne National Laboratory (which is kind of awesome, by the way).
Like the Baptists, I don’t believe AG congregations are widely known for their liberal tendencies, and yet they don’t seem to have any problem openly discussing the compatibility of an evolutionary view with biblical Christian faith. A friend of mine, Phil Wala, presented a paper a paper at the first Faith & Science Conference, and he called it a “a bold and positive move by the Assemblies of God leadership.”
“Although there was a strong presence of YEC and ID participants, I was encouraged by the enthusiastic acceptance of evolutionary creationism at the highest leadership levels of the denomination, even if anti-science attitudes still prevail at the local church level,” which is one of the reasons he left the denomination four years ago, he said.
Wala, an electrical engineer who holds 26 patents in the industry, also wanted to make sure I let my “scientifically literate” readers know that next year’s conference is looking for abstracts to be presented. You can find details here.
These efforts to present peace, love and harmony between faith and science will always find critics among fundamentalist Christians and the fundamentalist unaffiliated. But as long as they’re seeking truth and not presenting information that is objectively false or deliberately misleading, I applaud the efforts.