Madison is home to the flagship campus of the University of Wisconsin, with more than 42,000 students and many thousands of researchers. In 2008, more research dollars were spent at UW-Madison than any college in the country except Johns Hopkins University, and recently the annual research expenditures have topped $1 billion, with top-ranked stem cell research viewed as the jewel in the crown of the university.
Science is certainly an important sphere within Madison, and there are many thousands of scientists and students aspiring to be scientists who live here. How can we as a church engage with people in science?
Phil Reinders, a pastor at Knox Presbyterian Church in Toronto, has some encouraging words on being friendly towards those in science fields:
The perceived conflict between faith and science is so commonplace that it’s a given in popular culture. Caught up in this false choice, churches are sometimes inhospitable places for people trained in the sciences.
So how can congregations create a welcoming space where people celebrate God’s scientific truth, and where all those involved in the sciences (including engineers, teachers, lab technicians, researchers, health care professionals and others) can grow as disciples and embrace their work as a holy vocation?
Although some might think of a hospitable attitude toward science and faith as an option package, it is an essential facet of the church’s witness. It is vital to the spiritual formation of those who are engaged in the sciences. It is critical for a compelling Christian witness in a culture where the dogma of the scientific worldview mostly goes unchallenged. And it is integral to developing a robust faith centered on the God who reveals His glory within the created world.
Becoming a science-friendly church is not so far out of reach - it doesn’t require a conference or a shiny new program. Most congregations and pastors can draw on Christ-centered practices and postures cultivated over centuries, mindfully extending them toward the sciences. Following are a few of those practices and postures that might be helpful.