‘Look well on these skies’
Amazed by Science, illumined by Religion
Exploring the Debate on Science and Religion
Booklet may be dowloaded here
Hard copies are available free of charge (including postage) from the church office at Mayfield Salisbury Parish Church.
The idea of writing this booklet on science and religion began in 2014, when St Mary’s College, St Andrews, funded by a grant from the Templeton Foundation, set up the Scientists in Congregations Scotland project with the aim of 'encouraging conversation about faith and science within congregations across Scotland - conversation that will excite constructive engagement between the church and the scientific world' (www.sicscotland.org). This followed the successful Scientists in Congregations programme in US and Canada (scientistsincongregations.org).
Mayfield Salisbury Church joined 25 other congregations, from several denominations across Scotland, who signed up to this new initiative. In the past 18 months these churches have arranged workshops and developed programmes of readings, talks, discussions and debates to explore ways to reintegrate science into the daily life and worship of congregations. Other activities have been two residential conferences in St Andrews and a series of public lectures and the launch of podcasts of lectures by eminent theologians and scientists. These resources are available at www.sicscotland.org.
When a group in this congregation, mostly with backgrounds of teaching and research in different areas of science, began to meet, a brief survey was carried out among members of the congregation to find out about the topics in science and religion that interested respondents the most. Clearly highlighted themes were: responding to the claims of prominent atheists that religious beliefs and practices are products of a less enlightened bygone age that has been overtaken by advances in physics and discoveries in neuroscience, and the 21st century challenges of greatest concern were climate change and questions around DNA modification used in medicine and for the production of GM crops.
The booklet has thus taken shape around the theme of origins, bringing together scientific and Christian understandings of the start of the universe, the origins and evolution of life and the emergence of human consciousness, in terms that are generally accepted as fundamental to modern astronomy, physics, biology and medicine. In particular, it aims to explore ways to read the Bible so that the language and imagery of faith remains at the heart of a scientific view of the world.
The title 'Look Well on these Skies' is taken from the poem by Revd Margaret Nuttall which expresses a main theme of the booklet, as the scientific understanding of our world expands, so too does our spiritual wonder at the creativity of God. Poems, several written by members of our congregation, are included throughout the booklet, because poetry is a way of expressing feelings and spiritual insights brilliantly and memorably while also capturing some of the mysteries of science.
Evolution is accepted by most people but still raises some difficult questions, and these are discussed in the booklet: 'in an evolutionary world, how can bad things happen to good people if God is an all-powerful creator?'; 'Does an evolutionary explanation of human behaviours threaten to explain away religious belief?'; 'What can we make of the biblical story of the ‘Fall’ of Adam as the origin of suffering?'; 'How should we respond to conservative Christians who campaign to stop the teaching of evolution in schools because they claim it goes against the Bible?' Furthermore, climate change, organ transplantation and DNA modification for the production of new crops and treatment of disease are three more areas of public discussion, where Christian faith can shape our responses to changes taking place in the scientific understanding of our world.
Prayers and Reflections are included, and a list of books, articles and websites is a resource for anyone inclined to look more into any of these questions.
'Look well on these skies' may thus be useful for discussions and reflection, but above all it is to be enjoyed and we hope it will encourage others, in a shifting world, to be truly amazed by science and illumined by religion.