Sunday, October 31, 2010

Vibrant Dance Symposium

Opportunities for gracious, Christ honoring dialogue related to the intersection of science and Christian faith extended over three days last week in Austin, Texas. I was privileged to attend. The mission of “The Vibrant Dance of Faith and Science” symposium was to provide pastors, church leaders, scientists, and interested lay people with quality, accessible explanations of the relationship between science and Christianity.

Gathering the best minds together in a single venue offers an unparalleled opportunity for exchanging ideas in the crucible of a lively and respectful personal exchange. Participants were able to discover each other’s personal paths to faith as well as their reasons for embracing various locations along the faith/science interface.

Three main positions were represented by the invited speakers: (1) Concordism, (2) Intelligent Design, and (3) Theistic Evolution. Intelligent Design and Theistic Evolution are generally well understood. Randall Isaac, executive director of the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA), a diverse group of Christians in science professions, states that Concordism “seeks to equate the interpretation of biblical passages with scientific observations.”

Concordists were represented by Hugh Ross and Fazale Rana from Reasons to Believe. Intelligent Design proponents were Discovery Institute’s Stephen Meyer and William Dembski. Theistic evolutionists were represented by BioLogos Foundation president Darrel Falk and biophysicist/theologian Alister McGrath. There were at least twenty other well known scientists and theologians on the roster of speakers. Dinesh D’Souza spoke on a variety of related topics.

I find myself generally in agreement with William Dembski who had stated last summer, “It’s perhaps unfortunate that no young-earth creationists were invited to this event. Young earth creationism is a very widely accepted position among conservative Christians, so by not inviting any of its proponents, any attempt at theological unification will accordingly be limited.” Perhaps symposium organizers sought to avoid rancorous exchanges which sometimes characterize discussions related to creation time scales. All symposium participants accepted the responsible findings of mainstream science with respect to the vast age of our earth and universe.

Old earth, Day-Age creationists and Intelligent Design advocates respectfully disagreed with the theistic evolutionists on how changes in earth life have occurred over the geologic timeline. The former groups see occasional creative, transcendent interventions within earth history. Theistic evolutionists tend to view such changes as naturalistic events occurring under divine providence.

My judgment is that the goal of achieving collegiality and respect for one another as members of the body of Christ was successfully fulfilled. In particular, personal testimonies offered by several presenters were well received. The speakers are gifted, articulate communicators. Our moving, collective worship sessions were enhanced by music and visuals which heightened our love and awe for the Creator and Sustainer of all things. The same Creator and Sustainer is also the Redeemer of mankind (Isaiah 54:5).