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Displaying all posts tagged "Origins".
TCF partners with Union University
August 10, 2013 | Michael Gulker
TCF partners with Union University
TCF staff members Michael Gulker and Rob Barrett were recently invited to participate in a forum hosted by Union University and co-sponsored by TCF at a retreat center in Memphis, Tennessee. This event was part of an ongoing project at Union and continues a two-year old partnership with TCF. The Union faculty group regularly convenes scholars from a variety of disciplines in order to explore questions related to faith and science. This particular gathering focused on issues of origins (of the universe, of the earth, and of human beings) in light of three questions: 1. What are the main difficulties and sources of tension in faith-science questions? 2. What might a resolution look like? 3. What would it take to change your mind? The event was characterized by the sorts of relationships that can flourish only in the context of ongoing interactions. In this sense, TCF was grateful to observe and participate in the development of relationships which have withstood – and continue to withstand – moments of significant misunderstanding and differences in positions and perspectives.  As the faculty group continues to fold in new members, these scholars “catch” the approach from the longstanding members and contribute their own unique perspectives and passions. The group is diverse and willing to probe controversial topics, so participants regularly encounter difficulties in their exchanges. But controversy is contextualized, finding its place within the group’s common commitment to one another in Christ, and to the common pursuit of truth in love. An important instance of this came at a juncture when one member called attention to the Apostles Creed as a unifying confession held in common by the entire group. Another recurring theme was the necessity of relying upon expert knowledge in these discussions. Participants acknowledged 1) the vast amount of knowledge we simply don’t yet possess and 2) the particular challenge of expertise. This last consideration reveals significant humility, as participants frankly discussed the narrowness of any field to which a scholar might actually claim mastery. The increasing range of knowledge available necessarily requires intense specialization, leading to experts with quite precise limitations on their fields of proficiency. This, in turn, highlights the need for communal discernment, as only in the interaction of experts will truth fully come to light. Union University has worked to foster charitable faith/science conversations for longer than TCF has been in existence. We are grateful for partners like Union who work to build strong networks of scholars who are willing to enter into discussions in the midst of sometimes difficult differences. We are privileged to support their work, and to learn from their ongoing efforts to foster relationships for the purpose of discerning the truth together.
"Origins" Panel Discussion with Friends of TCF
August 9, 2013 | Lori Wilson
"Origins" Panel Discussion with Friends of TCF
Over the course of four days in July, TCF convened a small group of scientists – including Darrell Falk, former president of BioLogos, and Todd Wood, president of Core Academy – to explore the range of Christian perspectives as regards the origins of human existence. We specifically selected participants whom we know to differ markedly on the issues, with the intention that we practice together disagreeing well. We also invited Harold Heie, of RespectfulConversation.net, to facilitate the discussions. In their time together, the group spoke openly about differences in scientific understanding – specifically working to identify not only different positions, but also the underlying motives that individual participants might share. These driving forces were varied and ran the entire gamut from philosophy and theology to educational formation and intuition. It has become increasingly clear in TCF’s work that certain fears and loves inform our thought processes, and in this forum – as in most others – we set aside time to identify and discuss these. As these unspoken concerns come to light, participants tend to find it easier to extend understanding and even respect for their conversation partners, despite the fact that they may still profoundly disagree with each other’s scientific conclusions. Some prime examples of this surfaced in the exchanges between Wood, a young earth creationist, and Falk, an evolutionary creationist. Both scientists broadly agree on why the scientific consensus lines up the way it does. However, their underlying concerns and intuitions point them in different directions for their own work and varying expectations for where the science will go as the work continues. Coming to an understanding and respect for each other took time and hard work over the course of the four days, but it was noteworthy—perhaps even astounding—that at the end of the meeting they could endorse one another as Christian brothers and as biologists doing important work both for science and for the kingdom of God. As part of the gathering, TCF also hosted a larger event for local friends of the Forum, featuring a panel discussion with the invited group of scientists. The panelists each took time to identify their own positions, but then – importantly – to engage intentionally with the other panelists who hold very different views. Significantly, the public discussion revealed an interpersonal dynamic that had pushed past the divergent scientific understandings. While panelists openly disagreed, they corrected one another graciously (when needed), affirmed the underlying faithful impulses which they share, and even apologized for previous misevaluations of one another. Many guests who attended this event expressed no small surprise at the generous and gracious tone of the panel. In the words of one attendee:  “The honest and rich interaction between [panelists] was utterly remarkable.”
Launch of new interdisciplinary project
July 16, 2013 | Lori Wilson
Launch of new interdisciplinary project
Beyond Galileo – to Chalcedon: Re-imagining the Intersection of Evolution and the Fall "If humanity emerged from non-human primates—as genetic, biological, and archaeological evidence seems to suggest—then what are the implications for Christian theology’s traditional account of origins, including both the origin of humanity and the origin of sin?” In late June, TCF helped convene a gathering of Christian scholars to explore some of the knotty issues which arise from questions like these. This gathering launched a three-year project designed to help the church wrestle with the theological implications of contemporary scientific models. The starting point for this project is a respectful engagement of scientific research, while maintaining the primacy of a profound commitment to theological orthodoxy. The project creates a context for interdisciplinary work, rooted in Christian commitment and developed for the benefit of God’s church. It proposes that theological investigation flourishes in conversation with the rich Christian tradition and in dialogue amongst friends. Differences of interest and opinion, in this context, are not seen as threats, but as gifts to enliven and clarify theology and ultimately, to build up the resources of the church. In this way, the broad range of expertise represented by participating scholars can be brought into generative interplay, resulting in fruitful theological collaboration. This event, therefore, was uniquely designed to foster relationships that will underlie the project in the coming years. Participants were invited based on their shared interest in addressing doctrinal concerns relating to human origins and the nature of sin. In order to facilitate the possibility of fruitful collaboration, this first gathering created space in which new relationships could be forged and healthy interactive dynamics established. The structure of the event was perhaps more slow-paced than most, allowing the group to focus less on deliverables and more on one another. The pace practically reflected the Christian virtue of patience, rooted in the assurance that comes from TCF’s core conviction that “in Christ, all things hold together.” The pace of the colloquium was furthermore framed by the practice of prayer. Morning and evening prayers formed a crucial aspect of the event, as participants worshiped together and remembered the significance of their work for the sake of the church. Academic purposes aside, this project has profound implications for the lives and practices of Christians worldwide; prayer situated the work properly, as service to God and the church. Prayer furthermore reminded participants of the rich heritage available in the traditions of the church. Though the questions under consideration are weighty ones, this is not the first time the church has confronted difficulties – nor will it be the last.  Over the course of time, however, the church has worked out controversies and emerged the stronger for them, and our confidence in God’s goodness allows us to anticipate the same for these issues. The intentionally relational and ecclesial frame positioned the team to tackle some of the difficult questions that lie ahead.  Current scientific understandings of human origins undoubtedly challenge our conceptions of several fundamental Christian doctrines. These include questions about the goodness of God, the goodness of Creation, and the historical nature of the Fall.  We believe that by taking these basic beliefs as the creative confessional constraints within which the Christian imagination operates, new possibilities for understanding God and his world will emerge. In this sense, this project will faithfully extend the Christian intellectual tradition. As team members explore these issues– or others like them – they will  share their work as it progresses. This in turn will allow for feedback and input between participants, sharing ideas and refining one another’s proposals.  The group will convene again in 2014 to discuss these questions in light of continuing research. And once again, the event will be structured to promote friendship, unite Christians in worship, and foster a specifically ecclesial approach to difficult questions.
Book Review: Mapping the Origins Debate: Six Models of the Beginning of Everything
April 22, 2013 | Lori Wilson
Book Review: Mapping the Origins Debate: Six Models of the Beginning of Everything
Frequently, as we wrap up a Forum discussion on questions of origins, we hear the question, “Where can I read more about these issues?”  A bibliography of all the books addressing this topic would be dauntingly long, and of course many of the books listed in it would be quite technical, addressed to highly specialized audiences. So we try to keep an eye out for books that instead offer a concise, accessible summary of the issues, and then recommend it for further reading. We are therefore pleased to point readers to a newly-published book from IVP, Mapping the Origins Debate.  Author Gerald Rau takes on the daunting challenge of charting a comprehensive overview, informed by his training in genetics, education, and philosophy of science.  This broad range of experience allows Rau to approach the debate from multiple perspectives, thereby offering the reader a variety of entry points to a necessarily complex subject matter. Rau’s approach to the questions of origins is, as far as I am aware, a unique one. Charting a continuum of six models (ranging from naturalistic evolution on one end to young earth creation at the other) he stresses the internal coherence of each approach to its own standards and criteria. He explains that, while scientific evidence is crucial for investigating questions of origins, it is our underlying perspectives that help select which evidence to admit, and how to interpret it accordingly.  Given the subjective nature of scientific interpretation, then, he writes, “Each model rests on and is inextricably connected with particular philosophical presuppositions” (p. 30) Rau’s intent here is not to minimize or relativize the scientific process.  Instead, his goal is to map the evidence – and our accompanying assumptions – in such a way that might lead to fruitful dialogue between ‘proponents of different positions.’ (p. 35)  He is therefore careful to use neutral language and respectful explanations of each model – reminding his reader time and again that each approach in fact makes logical sense within its own stated parameters.  We are, in a sense, each playing well by the rules – but unfortunately, it’s the rules we can’t seem to agree on. The point of this approach is to help us understand those who hold to a different model, and to respect the process of reasoning that has led to their conclusions. Though we may ultimately disagree about models, we come to recognize that our thought processes share striking similarities. The book is structured as an investigation of the origins of the universe, of life, of species, and of humans.  For each chapter, he lays out a brief summary of the scientific evidence, and then explains the ways in which each model selects and interprets the evidence.  Finally, he offers an overview of the theological and philosophical implications of each approach. In the final chapter, Rau surveys the philosophical presuppositions inherent in the practice of science, broadly understood. Critical to the purposes of this book is the recognition that science itself is not a monolithic, uncontested set of facts.  Rau does indeed hold that there is such a thing as scientific truth – and, in fact, that a great deal of it is knowable by us.  However, it is simultaneously true that our philosophical and religious assumptions dramatically impact how we approach and understand that truth.  Rau’s goal is to shed light on this reality “in a way that will promote mutual understanding and thus honest communication about the underlying issues with less animosity.” (p. 190) This book is a significant resource for those who share TCF’s desire to engage in charitable dialogue about contentious issues.  The framework – understanding the perspectives that frame our scientific conclusions – helps set the stage for gracious discussions.  The information it lays out is a helpful introduction to the relevant scientific considerations.  Most especially, the author’s respectful tone effectively models the presentation of opposing perspectives with charity and respect. Mapping the Origins Debate will prove especially helpful for high school or college level educators, or adult study groups.  Rau’s scientific expertise shows through on more than one occasion, and the technical descriptions were occasionally a stretch for this humanities-trained reader. It’s also important to note that his approach necessarily gives equal weight and validity to each of the six models.  This could lead to the assumption that scientific evidence or philosophical inference supports each to the same degree – a conclusion to which some readers may object.  On the other hand, the book has been recommended by the National Science Teachers Association, suggesting that its balanced approach is viewed as a welcome alternative to the all-too-common contentious treatments of the issues. The Colossian Forum welcomes a conversation partner like Rau – one committed to deep respect and charitable engagement. His thorough, even-handed presentation of scientific, philosophical, and theological considerations serves as a tremendous resource for Christians who are looking for the “facts.”  Even more importantly, however, Rau models a gracious, thoughtful approach to interacting with both the information and with fellow believers.  This book provides helpful information in a gracious manner which evidences precisely the kind of formation we work to affirm.

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