I was excited to see that my church minister was running a course called “Test of Faith” which aims to help believers address issues raised by science. Excited because the impression is growing that faith and science are at war, with Richard Dawkins and the “new atheists” locked in mortal combat with creationist Christians for the right to present their view of the world as real. This is not a hot topic in most churches but has had the worrying effect that rational debate about many issues has been sidelined in order to avoid offending anyone.
Is God against science?
The course tackles this problem head-on. Its format is one of group discussions based around extracts from the “Test of Faith” documentary, in which Christian Scientists introduce questions such as:
- Are science and Christianity in conflict?
- Has the big bang pushed God out of the universe?
- Is evolution compatible with Christian faith?
- Is cloning ethical?
- Are humans no more than biological machines?
“Test of Faith” project leader Dr Ruth Bancewicz says ‘This documentary goes way beyond the black and white entrenched views of atheist science versus faith. Our aim is to help people to engage with some of the most important issues that confront us today in an interesting and intelligent way”.
Christians excitedly discussing science
Sitting in the first session of our local course was, for me, a fantastic experience. There were 30-40 people there from local churches (and at least one agnostic) intelligently discussing issues ranging from the big bang through our attitude towards science to whether the fine-tuning of the universe proves the existence of God. I have waited a long time for this to happen and it was worth it! Next week we are discussing creation and evolution (which I expect will stimulate a range of interesting reactions) and further down the line cloning – perhaps I’ll report on how those go in another post.
I think I need to point out that this is not a science course or a theology course – no prior scientific knowledge is required and you will not come out of the sessions with your head full of facts – it is more about discussion of ideas and addressing our current thoughts and beliefs. It is suitable for anyone who is willing to put their thinking head on and who is not scared of having their thoughts challenged. I have a suspicion it could be suitable for Christians to take non-Christian friends to so that they can be challenged together – I would be interested to hear of any experience of that.
Take a look at the clips
There are many clips from the film on the website http://www.testoffaith.com/ and also on YouTube. I recommend a visit to the site and at suggest you start by taking a look at the trailer on the front page. They also have information there about the course. They also supply speakers for events and have developed material for use in schools, and they say there is kids material coming soon.
Test of Faith is an initiative of the Faraday Institute in Cambridge. On the launch of Test of Faith the Christian press gave it a fairly factual coverage – as in this Christian Today piece. It got a warm reception from many bloggers – see Maggi Dawn. One interesting blog you might like to read if you are a church leader is this one discussing experience of running the course in an English village church, which is followed by discussions including how the atmosphere in UK/European churches differs from that in the US. Interestingly, Test of Faith have developed a US version of the course.
I’m am very excited by this course. I’ll let you know if that continues!