Colossian Blog

Displaying all posts tagged "Evangelicalism".
Schools Bridging Faith and Science
May 17, 2017 | Jennifer Vander Molen
Schools Bridging Faith and Science
This article originally appeared on May 8, 2017, in Convivium, a publication of CARDUS: www.cardus.ca. Thanks for the mention! Controversy over religion and science is nothing new. That’s certainly true in the world of education. Indeed, a recent commentary in the Washington Post lamented 60 examples of what the author called “anti-science education legislation” that could affect what American students are taught regarding the evolution-creation debate and global warming. We may even see the odd flare-up of such conflict in Canada. So, it’s not surprising that public skepticism abounds regarding the ability of religious schools – evangelical Christian schools in particular – to teach science. However, new research by the Cardus Religious Schools Initiative (CRSI) at the University of Notre Dame offers evidence that such skepticism is ill founded. In their newly released paper, Blinded by Religion? Religious School Graduates and Perceptions of Science in Young Adulthood , researchers Jonathan Schwartz and David Sikkink examined religious school graduates’ orientations toward science. Using the latest Cardus Education Survey data from Canada and the United States, they analyzed graduates’ views on a range of subjects, including science, creation vs. evolution, and the number of science courses taken. They found that graduates of religious schools do sometimes hold distinct views on science as compared to public school graduates. But these distinctions aren’t uniform across the board. Neither are they the kinds of distinctions that would inspire popular caricatures of religious school grads as simpletons who believe in a flat Earth. In fact, when it comes to taking science courses, you’d be hard-pressed to find much difference between Canadian religious and public school graduates. Controlling for family background and parental education, Schwartz and Sikkink found that “students at private religious schools enroll in science classes at a similar rate to public school peers in Canada.” The distinction in the United States, meanwhile, is that only homeschoolers (religious and non-religious) were the least likely of all students to have taken courses in biology, chemistry, or physics, or to have had at least three science courses throughout high school. There was little to distinguish American graduates of private Christian schools from their public school counterparts in that regard. What about attitudes toward scientists? You might expect some animosity towards them from religious grads, but you wouldn’t find it in Canada. “Generally speaking, Canadians hold scientists in similar esteem regardless of their high school educational context,” say the researchers. It’s a slightly different picture in the United States. There, graduates of evangelical Protestant schools tend to be less trusting of scientists and assign a lower value to their social contributions than public school grads do. That’s a difference to be sure, but hardly a unique or problematic one from a social point of view. The battle over whether to teach creationist critiques of evolutionary theory is certainly sharper in the United States than in Canada. And that seems to emerge in the research as well. “In Canada, school sector does not on its own increase an individual’s belief in literal versions of creationism, but the U.S. case differs,” write Schwartz and Sikkink. American grads of evangelical Protestant high schools were found to be “more likely to adhere to a literal version of creation than their public high school peers.” What they couldn’t determine, though, was whether this was the result of teaching in science class, or an indirect result of the students’ religious and social lives. In short, it will take more research to draw conclusions about whether these schools actually make much difference in graduates’ creationist views. What about perceived conflicts between religious beliefs and science? On this question, both in Canada and in the U.S., there is little evidence to show that the type of school a student attended affects their likelihood to sense a science-religion conflict. However, the researchers did find that the more high school science courses Canadian students take, the more likely they are to perceive a conflict between science and religion. Notably, though, that holds regardless of which type of school they attended. So, this could be the result of a cultural difference between Canadians and Americans. While the science-religion conflict does not come up in a big way in this research, that’s not to say that perceptions of conflict don’t exist. Some educators are taking steps to equip themselves to handle such issues in the classroom, as evidenced by the creation of the FAST (Faith and Science Teaching) Curriculum developed by the Kuyers Institute and The Colossian Forum. The curriculum aims to help teachers lead their students into studying the intersection of faith and science, possibly reducing perceptions of conflict in the process. Meanwhile, William T. Cavanaugh, DePaul University theology professor, and James K. A. Smith, editor-in-chief of Cardus’s public theology journal Comment , have co-edited a new book that tackles related issues from a different angle. Evolution and the Fall examines the implications for a Christian understanding of creation and the entry of sin into the world if the widely accepted view of humanity’s evolutionary origins are true. Its provocative premise lays bare issues that Christians will inevitably have to deal with. All in all, we do see some differences between graduates of private Christians schools and public school graduates. But they aren’t all that stark or as shocking. If anything, this latest piece of CRSI research is perhaps our strongest indicator yet that Christian schools in Canada and the United States don’t have as troubled a relationship with science as many would expect. What’s more, there are efforts within the wider Christian community to bridge what perceived gaps do exist between faith and science.  In time, the research and bridge-building efforts may increase understanding and support for the vital place that religious schools hold in the education systems of both Canada and the U.S.
The Future of Evangelicalism: Difference and Reconciliation
December 30, 2013 | Lori Wilson
The Future of Evangelicalism: Difference and Reconciliation
As 2013 comes to a close, our friends over at RespectfulConversation.net conclude their seven-month project with an exploration of the future of American Evangelicalism. Throughout the series, contributors have offered a wide range of perspectives – and of course this month is no different. There is, however, a recurring theme in this final set of posts that resonates with the work of TCF. As these writers look toward the future of evangelicalism in America, many of them express a deep hope that the church will find ways to pursue reconciliation across difference. Amy Black writes longingly of a church that, in its unity, presents a compelling vision of God’s love for the world. A church united, she suggests, will create a welcoming space for the many young people who are leaving the faith. She suggests: Our faith communities should seek to build the strong and lasting multigenerational friendships that are so essential for helping young people learn the faith and continue to follow Christ into adulthood. Sarah Ruden calls the American church to pursue unity with the church worldwide. She describes the ways in which US Christians might learn from – and be challenged by – their brothers and sisters in the majority world. In a similar vein, Amos Yong writes of the impact on the church of globalization, migration, and post-denominational Christianity. He suggests that as the body of Christ comes together to pursue obedience in the face of these significant shifts, the church will continue to grow and bear much fruit. Kyle Roberts contributes the final post, in which he calls on the Evangelical church to find both its identity and vocation in the Gospel – the “unparalleled story of God’s project of reconciliation.” He writes: The vocation of evangelical Christians, then, is to proclaim by word, deed, and life the story of reconciliation and to witness to that story of redemption. On the corporate, communal level, reconciliation with God becomes, by natural extension, reconciliation with others. For us at TCF – a ministry of education and reconciliation – these posts present a hopeful call to the church. Differences abound, to be sure – but ultimately, the call on our lives is to respond to God’s love. We do this by pursuing the truth in love, and while this is no easy task, it does indeed hold out hope for our future together.
Evangelicalism and Higher Education: New Topic at RespectfulConversation.net
November 6, 2013 | Lori Wilson
Evangelicalism and Higher Education: New Topic at RespectfulConversation.net
Around TCF, we devote quite a lot of attention to the ways in which we can develop an “unanxious presence.” By this we mean simply the ability to live faithfully, trusting in God’s goodness and redemption. This does not mean that we ignore our worries or stifle our fears—but that we entrust these to God in such a way that we can live in freedom and peace in their very midst. This theme surfaces repeatedly in RespectfulConversation.net’s topic for November: “Evangelicalism and Higher Education.” Professors, administrators, and church leaders write about ways in which they are working to sort out a healthy relationship between robust evangelical faith and the challenges of rigorous academic pursuit. In the comments section of Sarah Ruden’s post, she describes the capacity of Christian students to resist the temptation of academic hubris, instead humbly acknowledging their human limitations: [A] great strength in Evangelical institutions seems to be a student attitude along the lines of “I'm just a person, but God is God; so it doesn't shatter me to admit when I'm wrong or need help.” As these students acknowledge their dependence on God, they are freed up to take risks and admit their mistakes—their egos aren’t tied up in the obligation to get everything right. Ruden explains that in her experience at secular institutions, her students are less likely to exhibit this sort of “unanxious presence,” as they lack the robust foundation provided by a vibrant—and humble—faith. On the administrative side, John Hawthorne provides a striking example of “unanxiousness” as well. Whereas the questions and challenges of young students can often be perceived as threats, he chooses to interpret these instead as gifts to the institution: Christian universities need postmodern students because they will help us address the central questions these students have. This is not to provide them with easy answers but to enable them to engage the questions with the complexity the world sees. This means that Christian universities will have to wrestle with all of the difficult questions the broader society is wrestling with, maybe even wrestling harder and earlier than the rest of culture. In a sense, Hawthorne explains, evangelical schools are equipped with the resources to lead our society in working through difficult cultural issues. And he suggests that among the key assets are students themselves: thoughtful, honest, and question-asking young people who can encourage their institutions to fearlessly engage academic and cultural challenges. It takes remarkable “unanxiousness” on the part of an administrator to invite students into such a role! As we at TCF work to foster a sense of “unanxious presence,” we are grateful for these brothers and sisters who willingly engage difficult issues with humility and grace. Their embodied “unanxious presence” transforms potential conflicts into striking opportunities for the church and academy to pursue the Truth together.
Confidence in the Midst of Conflict
October 31, 2013 | Lori Wilson
Confidence in the Midst of Conflict
As this month’s conversation wraps up over at RespectfulConversation.net, I’d like to point out just a few pertinent issues that have surfaced in the discussion about Evangelical faith and its relationship to science. Karl Giberson writes about the parallels between Galileo’s time and ours – but suggests the comparisons may be different than the ones we typically envision. He writes: Today’s controversy over evolution and the historical Adam is best understood as the ongoing controversy over the Copernican revolution because of the great degree of overlap between the central concerns raised by each—concerns about how the overall Christian understanding of the world and its history, especially the central theological role played by humans, fits with the reality disclosed by science. In other words, the struggle may actually be less about “hard science” and more about its specific significance for people of faith. The “particular concerns” which Giberson references have profound implications for the church, and the conflict surfaced by the evolution/creation debates brings these to the fore. In a sense, however, we might choose to view these controversies as a gift, insofar as they press us to continue the work of understanding God’s work in our world – in both scientific and theological terms, of course. Difficulties of course arise when these two arenas fail to neatly align. In each instance of incongruity, we are confronted with the challenge to faithfully respond: How might we integrate challenging new scientific advances with a robust theological understanding? How will we handle the threats we perceive to our faith or to our intellectual integrity? Might there, perhaps, be another way through? Sarah Ruden suggests one possible alternative: To think of a wound that we can trust God to heal in the fullness of time might be better than insisting that we, with our mere human abilities, can somehow work everything out and soon reach a state where there isn’t considerable distress and dissonance over the issue. This sort of confidence – in God’s ultimate goodness rather than in our human reasoning – grounds the work of TCF. It also serves as the foundation for the difficult work of maintaining charitable conversations, like the one at RespectfulConversation.net. Take a few minutes to visit the site and by all means, join in!
Faith, Science, and Hard Work
October 10, 2013 | Lori Wilson
Faith, Science, and Hard Work
This month’s conversation at RespectfulConversation.net ventures into the territory of faith and science, specifically “Evangelicalism and Scientific Models of Humanity and Cosmic and Human Origins.” Here at TCF, we hear story after story of the painful fallout surrounding these particular issues. We hear of young people, seeking career advice, being warned that they can become scientists or remain Christians – but not both. We hear of awkward holiday dinners, family members doing their best to skirt the antagonisms that have flared over differing perspectives on creation and evolution. All that to say, this month’s topic is near and dear to our hearts. Dr. Peter Enns brings to light a theme we’ve seen surface time and again. The disagreements – ostensibly about the mechanisms by which our world and life came to be – in fact reflect much deeper matters. Because where we line up on these “scientific” positions has significant implications for how we understand God, and our place in God’s world. The two are inescapably intertwined – and our job, as faithful Christians, is to work out how that entanglement might be understood as God’s good gift. We at TCF are convinced that the church can work this out – that in fact, all things already “hold together in Christ,” and what remains for us is to find what that might mean in the arena of God’s creative work. The conversation at RespectfulConversation.net brings together Christians – from widely divergent backgrounds and perspectives – to begin to sort some of this out. Please join in!
Politics and Evangelicalism
September 27, 2013 | Lori Wilson
Politics and Evangelicalism
This month’s topic at RespectfulConversation.com ventures into the potentially hazardous territory of Evangelicalism and politics. As Kyle Roberts writes, “There are no quick and easy answers to the questions of political involvement.” The complexities of Christian involvement in politics stir up conflict in many quarters, and the writers don’t steer clear of these difficulties. Some writers support robust political involvement, others defend a deepened sense of participation in God’s kingdom, rather than an earthly one. It becomes apparent that not all writers share the same concerns, and even where similar issues are addressed, perspectives range from conservative to liberal. Perhaps surprisingly, however, a thread of commonality runs through the majority of the posts.  These writers exhibit a shared and profound sense that, as Amy Black describes it, “The problem is not political engagement in and of itself; the problem is that many Christians fail to demonstrate Christ-like character as they engage in politics.” Evangelicalism’s political strength, these writers suggest, is its continual call to integrity, to reflecting the character of God in all that we do and say. In other words, our political involvement – whatever form it takes – must be grounded first and foremost in our faithful obedience and commitment to a loving God. Any hope of discerning how to wisely engage political controversies will begin here. Black describes the challenge this way: At their worst, Christian political movements become triumphalist and power-seeking; their leaders are arrogant, contentious, and condescending. At their best, however, Christian political movements can offer a powerful witness of Christ’s upside-down kingdom, modeling humility, grace, and repentance in the public square.  TCF envisions a church in which Christians – regardless of their political stance – can offer this powerful witness. We’re grateful to this month’s contributors for modeling such a charitable conversation.