Thursday, February 17, 2011

It's Okay to Evolve--last Sunday's sermon

This past Sunday, I preached on my belief that it is not only possible to reconcile faith with science but essential.  I chose the topic, because it was Evolution Sunday--a day when clergy around the country who believe the same spoke on science and faith.  I shared my firm belief that when Jesus declared the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul and mind--he really meant the mind part just as much as the heart and soul, but unfortunately for many Christians in America there is a divorce between what their heart and soul experience at church and what their mind experiences elsewhere.

In my sermon, I made use of several sources.  First, I found it helpful to share about how Darwin's own experience of his daughter's death shaped his personal beliefs about how God seems to work in the world--namely that God has given not only humanity freedom but also the forces of nature.  Darwin's scientific and theological work is a gift to us, because if we heed it, then we can spare others who are suffering the insult of declaring their dead children are dead because a supposedly loving God could have intervened but just didn't feel like doing so.  I gained my own insight into Darwin's experience of his daughter's death thanks to a sermon by a good friend of mine, Jeremy Rutledge, pastor of Covenant Baptist Church in Houston.  In another sermon on the subject, Jeremy made use of a taxonomy by William Murry from his book, Reason and Reverence: Religious Humanism for the 21st Century.  Murry lists three responses of religious people to science: opposition, parallelism and a scientifically informed religious perspective. 

I also drew from an essay by Paul Wallace, an astronomy and physics professor who is now attending seminary, who described the difference between churchgoers who seek answers and those who seek mystery.

I did not get to it in the sermon, but in my preparation, I was spurred to some great thinking by an interview with British theologian and physics scholar, John Polkinghorne, on the public radio show Being (formerly Speaking of Faith).  Polkinghorne has written widely on the intersection of science and faith.  I especially liked his point about the weaknesses of a "God in the Gap" argument for navigating a relationship between faith and science.  My simplified explanation of it is if one wishes to argue that God is still a necessary belief on the grounds that there are so many things that science cannot explain about the universe, then you end up with a very small place for God in the universe as science explains more and more about how the universe works.  Each new advancement in our understanding of the universe leaves less room for God or even less need for God if you insist that God can be found only in what we don't know.  (If that didn't make sense, listen to the interview.)

No comments: