Lecture series seeks accord of science, faith

By Meghan Hendrickson

Galileo. Copernicus. Evolution. Stem cell research.

Science and faith have been viewed in opposition throughout history, said Jim Coston, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church. Coston hopes to change that view with a series of guest lectures to be held at the church in April.

“Historically, there has been some tension between science and faith,” Coston said. “There has been a fear that science is going to knock down our faith world view, or that faith and science can’t coexist, but I don’t see that as the case.”

This month, the church will be hosting a four-part series of weekly lectures called “Science and Faith: Breaking Down the Wall.” The lectures, which are free and open to the public, will take place from 6:45 to 7:45 p.m. on Wednesday nights throughout April, beginning Wednesday. They will be held in the sanctuary of the church, located at the corner of 18th Street and Bosque Avenue.

Coston said Calvary is a church that likes to ask questions and science need not shake a believer’s faith.

“I don’t have a real good aptitude for science, but I’ve always found it fascinating in terms of the radical and increasing knowledge being discovered,” Coston said. “It seems really mysterious and complex, and it really gives me a greater appreciation for God creating this complex, mysterious stuff. It makes me appreciate my faith more and creation more.”

The first lecture, titled, “What’s God Got to Do — Wish it? Why Theology and the Physical Science are not in (Epistemic) Competition,” will be given by Barry Harvey, professor of theology in the Honors College at Baylor.

Harvey will speak about understanding and interpreting the Bible so that faith and science are consistent and supportive of one another, said Dr. Gerald B. Cleaver, associate professor of physics and another one of the lecturers.

The second lecture, “Does Life Have a History?” will be given by Dr. Phyllis Tippit, a former lecturer in the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core who retired last year.

Tippit said she will discuss scientific discoveries she believes Christians cannot ignore.

“In my opinion, a faithful Christian doesn’t ignore fact because it makes them uncomfortable,” Tippit said. “We’re worried that if we discover something, maybe it will make God go away. Of course it won’t. If we believe God is who we say he is, then we won’t be scared to discover new things.”

Tippit said she believes Christians are called to be informed about modern scientific discoveries.

“From a standpoint of being able to be active in the world as a Christian, we need to have a very clear understanding of what’s happening in the world of science, or else we’ll look foolish,” Tippit said. “And I don’t think we’re called to look foolish, because we don’t serve a foolish God.”

The third lecture, “Faith and the New Cosmology,” will be given by Cleaver, who is a member of the church.

Cleaver said he will present a brief overview of the universe’s 14- billion-year history.

“Basically, I talk about modern cosmology, what we know about the history of the universe, its modern form and what we predict about the future,” Cleaver said.

Over the course of the last 20 years, scientists have been discovering the number of universes that likely exist at any given time is “almost uncountable,” he said.

“In terms of faith and Christianity, we’ve very much put God as Creator in too small of a box,” Cleaver said. “Science is helping us realize the grandness of creation. It’s far larger, far more exotic, far more beautiful than we ever imagined.”

Cleaver said he enjoys demonstrating the consistency between science and faith by relating the findings of modern science to the general public — especially Christians.

“Scientific discoveries and understanding can inform our faith,” Cleaver said. “We shouldn’t see it as a threat to faith, but it may help us to develop our faith more and make it deeper, and to give us a truer understanding.”

The fourth and final event in the lecture series will be a question and answer panel discussion featuring all three of the speakers: Harvey, Tippit and Cleaver.

Jason Whitlark, assistant professor in the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core, is a member of Calvary who said he is planning to attend the lecture series.

“I am interested in attending the lectures because they obviously raise interesting questions about how we understand science, and its relationship to our faith and religious beliefs and interpreting scripture in light of our understanding of science and everything we know,” Whitlark said.