This is to call attention to a new organization which is making useful contributions to the faith-science dialog. “Disciple Science” is a crowd-funded nonprofit that is exploring the interface between science and faith, aiming to be faithful to both the core messages of the Bible and to what is discernable in the natural world. Their platforms include YouTube videos, a podcast, a blog, and interactions on Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter. The key person driving this effort is Dale Gentry, who I met at the 2019 American Scientific Affiliation annual meeting. In my description of that meeting, I gave a short summary of his presentation there. Dale is an ecologist and professor of biology at a Christian liberal arts college in Minnesota.
DISCIPLE SCIENCE YOUTUBE VIDEOS
Dale notes that many young people drift away from the church because of a perceived conflict between modern science and their Christian upbringing. He also notes that his students often go first to YouTube for information, rather than reading books or articles. His vision in response was to make available a series of engaging videos on YouTube which explore the relation between science and faith. The format of these 5-6 minute animated videos is modeled after the wildly popular The Bible Project video series.
It takes time and money to produce videos to high standards, so there are only four videos to date in the Disciple Science YouTube channel. These brief videos cannot go into details, but they give a good overview of the key issues. These four titles, with their descriptive blurbs, are:
Before we dig into science, scripture, history and philosophy, we need to address the nature of the relationship. Science approaches the world seeking cause and effect; religious traditions are a search for meaning. What is behind the tension between science and Christian faith? Can they coexist?
( 2 ) The Two Books of God
Can you know an artist through their art? Scripture tells us that we can know the creator through creation. Hear more about the two books of God and consider what role science and nature can play in your journey of faith and your understanding of God.
A pervasive theme in Disciple Science, which has a long pedigree in Christian theology, is that that the physical creation is a second “book” of revelation about the Creator, complementing the Bible. Two screen shots from this video are shown below. The second shot shows Dale himself, on a chilly Minnesota day.
( 3 ) Christianity & Evolution
Evolution has been a topic of debate since long before Charles Darwin. This video introduces the issue and gives us a framework for how to move forward on our search for understanding of when and how God created.
As human activity continues to change the climate, drive mass extinctions, and degrade soil, water and air, human activity is needed to reduce and reverse these impacts. Christians could and should be deeply interested in mobilizing to help. But Christianity has a tense relationship with the environmental movement which has led some to question whether Christians should be involved in environmental stewardship at all. This video explores the Christian Gospel and considers if it informs environmental stewardship.
A list of proposed future videos is given here. Areas include further exploration of the general topic of discerning characteristics of God and his ways from nature (natural theology), the origins debate (Adam, the Flood, evolution, etc.), and how a biblical worldview should impact out treatment of the environment. Further productions naturally hinge on ongoing donations.
DISCIPLE SCIENCE PODCAST
Dale and his team are able to go into more depth on various topics in their podcast series. These episodes are typically around thirty minutes long. They invite interaction via the comments section on YouTube, on the Facebook page, Instagram or Twitter. The podcast episodes are accessible at the link above, and also on mobile devices.
The first thirteen or so episodes deal largely with general questions of how we might encounter God through observing and contemplating the physical world. They note that Jesus (e.g. in his parables) and Biblical authors commonly used analogies from the natural world to enhance our understanding of God and his ways. Further episodes continue these themes, but also deal more specifically with issues such as evolution and ecology.
The podcast includes interviews with a number of authors who have published in the faith/science area. These include Greg Cootsona, author of Mere Science and Christian Faith: Bridging the Divide with Emerging Adults, and Gregg Davidson, who is professor and chair of Geology and Geological Engineering at the University of Mississippi. I reviewed Gregg’s excellent book Friend of Science, Friend of Faith .
Two podcasts cover an interview with biochemist Sy Garte. Sy was raised in a militantly atheistic family, but eventually came to follow Jesus in part because his training in science led him to question his materialist worldview. He tells his story and describes his thinking in these episodes and in his recent book Works of His Hands.
The episode titled “Images of Divine Things: A conversation with Dr. Lisanne Winslow on her forthcoming book, A Great and Remarkable Analogy” draws on the writings of Jonathan Edwards to address questions of why God created a physical world at all, what are legitimate ways to discern the meanings or messages that God may have embedded in creation, and what is the place of death and catastrophe that we observe in nature. Dr. Winslow is something of a polymath, with a PhD and an active research program in cell/marine biology, and also a PhD and rich professional activity in systematic theology. She has published in these areas, plus authored nine books of poetry, and has served in pastoral roles.
A recent podcast episode, “Faith, Science and the Coronavirus”, addresses the coronavirus pandemic, and invites us to integrate science’s ability to understand how the world works and Christian faith’s framework for hope, meaning, purpose, ethics and relationship.
DISCIPLE SCIENCE BLOG
For those who prefer a quick read versus listening to podcasts, there are three short articles on the Disciple Science blog site.
I have been favorably impressed with all that I have heard and seen from Disciple Science. The tone is gracious, and the content addresses key points of controversy in helpful ways. They spend proportionately less time than, say, Biologos on what specific physical evidence may support evolution or an old earth, and give more attention to the basic questions of how God might reveal himself in nature. Their overall point of view, namely a high view of both the results of modern scientific investigations and of the New Testament teachings, is one that I share, so it is not hard to endorse their efforts.
I have been engaged in reading and writing about faith/science issues for over ten years now, and so I did not expect to run across much that was new to me. However, I got a lot out of several podcasts. In “Episode 11: What tools do you need to find God in nature?” Dale shares some questions he has wrestled with, such as: “If God embedded messages or meanings in nature that point to spiritual truths, why aren’t these truths more obvious to everyone?” Dale notes that one can find a rich typology of Christian themes in the Old Testament scriptures, which may not be obvious in a simple, literal reading of the texts; maybe the same hermeneutical principles apply to discerning spiritual analogies in the natural world. The seeming obscurity invites us into intentional contemplation and relational encounter with the Creator. Those who seek will find, while those who don’t seek won’t find. This involves exercising our faculties of intuition and imagination, which is something that has been often devalued since the Enlightenment.
The January 31 podcast episode with Lisanne Winslow mentioned above (“Episode 13: Images of Divine Things: A conversation with Dr. Lisanne Winslow…”) covers these issues, plus much more. Listening to her is like drinking from a firehose. It would take a whole article to summarize the material in that one interview. If you want a strong, fresh perspective of how God is revealed in nature, I highly recommend listening to that episode.