Tuesday, 30 September 2008

View From the Pulpit

I was asked to write about my book for the diocesan newsletter (4 sides of A4) and wrote as below.

Evangelicals and Science

Michael Roberts, Greenwood Press, 2008, ISBN: 978-0-313-33113-8, Hardback

Michael writes;
Can evangelicals and science walk together? For 250 years evangelicals have interacted with science, from Charles Townes' discovery of the laser to suggestions of a Creation park in Blackpool. In this book, which is in a series on science and religion, I have given a snapshot of evangelicals and science, which is part history, part contemporary and part theology.

Today, thanks to Richard Dawkins, many think that Christianity opposes science, especially as some evangelicals claim (unsuccessfully) that the earth is 10,000 years old. Founding evangelicals like John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards were fascinated by science. Contrary to popular ideas, several early geologists in the 1800s were evangelicals like Adam Sedgwick of Dent in Yorkshire (my particular hero) who gave us the Cambrian system. The first to use Darwin's evolution in a scientific article was H.B. Tristram an evangelical vicar, and Asa Gray who introduced Darwin to the USA was evangelical.

The modern aspects are more controversial like Creationism and Intelligent Design with their unfounded attacks on geology, evolution and global warming. In contrast to that we have Townes and his lasers and Sir John Houghton, who has alerted us, and even George Bush, to global warming. These, along with members of Christians in Science, combine a robust biblical faith with good science. I share that perspective.
This book is based much research and personal involvement as I have sought to integrate my faith and my science. It is both critical and appreciative on how evangelicals have interacted with science for several centuries, and may be controversial to some.

A month or two later a letter appeared on my church vestry table , and had been brought by a parishoner . The letter showed the writers sadness for my article and tried to call me away from my heresey. A copy of a booklet by Henry Morris was enclosed. The writer lived five miles away and was not an anglican but worked in schools and that is how we once met.

I responded with this letter and was aware it would be circulated
Dear xxxxxx
Thank you for your letter and booklet. I am surprised you were saddened by the article in the See, as what I hold is standard Christian belief about science and Christianity.

My book is one of a series for college textbooks. In it I focus on evangelicals and deal very positively with their engagement with science. Much of it is historical and I point out how evangelicals were at the forefront of geology in the 1830s and fairly quick to accept some kind of evolution in the 1860s. I also deal with the recent growth of creationism and how many evangelicals have no problem with science, including geology and evolution.

I first read a book by Henry Morris in 1971 and was horrified at the way he misrepresented geology and since then I have found none of his books give an accurate or honest portrayal of what he calls evolution. This is not what a Christian should do. I am very familiar with Ken Ham and have met him. I am afraid his material is no better than that of Morris and his sniping of fellow Christians is hardly Christian. The biblical interpretation of Ham, Morris and others is questionable and overlooks the fact that none of the churches have ever (except for "creationist" churches in the last few decades) insisted that Christians should believe in a young earth created in 6 solar days.

I, in fact, hold most strongly to our Lord's death and resurrection and that is what I preach. I have no truck with watering down the Gospel. You are rather questioning of my beliefs, describing it as some halfway position in a way which is rather unloving and judgmental. That is the poison which "creationism" has introduced into Christian churches.

I have no problem with science and rejoice in how it has made our world more wonderful rather than less wonderful. I spend much time in the countryside here or abroad and I find that my geological understanding helps me to see how the natural world points to the glory of God. (Psalm This was especially so when I walked the Grand Canyon eight years ago and saw all the strata laid down over millions of years revealed in a dramatic way. I also see it when walking on the Lune estuary where I observe different patterns of erosion and deposition. It evokes my awe and wonder of God.

It is very sad that some Christians are creating a faith problem for themselves and others by an insistence of a young earth. This will destroy the faith of some, or, rather, has already done so for many, and will impede the progress of the Gospel. I cannot go along with such ideas because they are false in every way and totally divisive.

There are some very good books and articles on science and religion by fine Christians who are scientists. Some of this is on the web www.cis.org.uk Christians in Science, www.asa3.org, which are both evangelical sites. These are well worth looking at and give the thoughts of Christians who have studied science and Christianity deeply.

This is from a recent discussion thread on our forums which you can see here.

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