Look well on these skies

‘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.
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The booklet was launched at Mayfield Salisbury on Sunday, March 6, 2016 (see news item.) The preacher at the service was Revd Professor David Fergusson. His sermon is available on this web site here.

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.


Contact Information

Mayfield Salisbury Parish Church,
18 West Mayfield,

0131 667 1522 / 0780 801 1234

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Scottish Charity Number: SC000785


  • Because God is both knowable and unknowable the tension of the symbol, the multilayers of the myth and the openness of the poetic are all vital to our desire to celebrate the Mystery to whom we relate and in whom we have our being.
    Mark Oakley

  • You must love him as he is: neither God, nor spirit, nor image; even more, the One without commingling, pure, luminous ...

    Meister Eckhart

  • The purpose of our life is God's glory. However lowly a life is, that is what makes it great.
    Oscar Romero

  • Faith may justify bigotry or fanaticism, as Church history tragically witnesses. It needs a safeguard. If it is not animated as it were by the greatest of the theological virtues (love), faith can become defective.
    Thomas Norris

  • Dry not, dry not, your tears of love eternal! Only to eyes that fail to weep does this world seem so dull and dead. Dry not, dry not, those long, sad tears of love.
    Johann von Goette

  • The post modern paradigm manifests itself as a unity which preserves diversity and diversity which strives after unity.
    David Bosch

  • There is only one assertion that requires no evidence. Children are a sacred trust...Unless we care properly for our children, we shall never build a better world.
    'A Good Childhood’ The Children’s Society

  • These are only hints and guesses, hints followed by guesses; and the rest is prayer.
    'The Dry Salvages' T.S.Eliot

  • According to strict truth, God is incomprehensible, and incapable of being measured.

  • Myth is a story about the way things never were, but always are.
    Thomas Mann

  • In the darkness ...The child of your love - and now become as the most hated one - the one You have thrown away as unwanted - unloved ..... The darkness is so dark .... I have no faith.
    Mother Teresa

  • I love the Bible. I owe my faith and my life to the Bible and its liberating message. It is in the Bible that I first met Jesus ... I too am included in God's embrace.
    Gene Robinson

  • It is this great absence that is like a presence, that compels me to address it without hope of a reply ....
    R.S. Thomas

  • Faith is not a proud self-consistent philosophy. It involves maintaining oneself between contradictions that can't be solved by analysis. It is therefore a living response to the grace of God as revealed in fragile lives.
    Mark Oakley

  • Any religion which does not say that God is hidden is not true.
    Blaise Pascal

  • The contemporary Church is losing aspects of its wide and generous memory and therefore condemning itself to become a 'swimming pool Church' - one that has all the noise coming from the shallow end.
    Mark Oakley

  • For all your doctrinal headaches take Paradox.
    Mark Oakley

  • The true vision and the true knowledge of what we seek consists precisely in not seeing, in an awareness that our goal transcends all knowledge and is everywhere cut off from us by the darkness of incomprehensibility.
    St Gregory of Nyssa

  • Death, death be hanged, the Lord has promised me that I shall live. This I believe!
    Martin Luther

  • We feel that even when all possible scientific questions have been answered, the problems of life have not been put to rest.

  • Religion is the flight of the alone to the Alone.

  • Stupid clergymen appeal quite directly to a Bible passage directly understood ....
    Soren Kirkegaard

  • What is the point of the arts of reading and criticism as long as the ecclesiastical interpretation of the Bible, Protestant as well as Catholic, is cultivated as ever?
    Friedrich Nietzsche

  • A figure like Ecclesiast, rugged and luminous, chants in the dark a text that is the answer, although obscure.
    Wallace Stevens

  • Myth is the poetry of the soul.
    Sara Maitland

  • Our loss of the ability to think mythically, poetically, allegorically, creatively, theologically, and artfully is a greater threat to our religious experience than anything good scientists have to report ...
    Sara Maitland

  • In general, Zen attitude is that words and truth are incompatible, or at least that no words can capture truth.
    Douglas Hofstadter

  • 'God' is a one word poem
    Rowan Williams

  • What is today? Today is eternity.
    Meister Eckhart

  • Apprehend God in all things, for God is in all things.
    Meister Eckhart

  • The most powerful hunger we have, mostly suppressed and misdirected, is the hunger for God.
    Miroslav Volf

  • We frequently judge that things are as we wish them to be, for through personal feeling true perspective is easily lost.
    Thomas a Kempis

  • Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.
    Rabindranath Tagore

  • God is the beyond in our midst.
    Dietrich Bonhoeffer

  • 'God is not the answer, God is the question.'
    Herbert McCabe