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It is surprising how many people are unaware of how many faith denominations accept the findings and theories of modern science. These denominations and faith groups seem to fully understand how we come to know things through science, and they accept the methodology and the results. They show this acceptance in different forms of doctrinal declarations and social statements.
This is not a recent phenomenon, and in fact, science and the church go back hundreds of years regardless of how rocky that partnership has been from time to time.
One can draw a pretty close correlation between denominations that do not insist on total Bible literalism and inerrancy and their acceptance of science. Please find below some references to the national faith-based organizations and their declarations about their acceptance of science, along with some highlights.
A highlight –
“Is it proper to speak of an evolving creation?
Yes. When astronomers look out into space they look back in time. Thus, they are able to see our universe at many stages of cosmic evolution since its beginning in the Big Bang. Here on earth biologists, paleontologists, geneticists and other scientists are showing that life has evolved over four billion years, and are reconstructing evolution’s history. None of these scientific discoveries and the theories that explain them stands in conflict with what the Bible reveals about God’s relationship to the creation.”
A highlight –
“According to the widely accepted scientific account, the universe erupted 15 billion years ago in an explosion called the ‘Big Bang’ and has been expanding and cooling ever since. Later there gradually emerged the conditions necessary for the formation of atoms, still later the condensation of galaxies and stars, and about 10 billion years later the formation of planets.
In our own solar system and on earth (formed about 4.5 billion years ago), the conditions have been favorable to the emergence of life. While there is little consensus among scientists about how the origin of this first microscopic life is to be explained, there is general agreement among them that the first organism dwelt on this planet about 3.5 – 4 billion years ago.
Since it has been demonstrated that all living organisms on earth are genetically related, it is virtually certain that all living organisms have descended from this first organism. Converging evidence from many studies in the physical and biological sciences furnishes mounting support for some theory of evolution to account for the development and diversification of life on earth, while controversy continues over the pace and mechanisms of evolution” (Pope Benedict XVI, International Theological Commission, July 2004)
“Today, almost half a century after the publication of the encyclical [encyclical Human Generis, Pope Pius, 1950], new knowledge has led to the recognition of more than a hypothesis in the theory of evolution. It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge. The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favor of this theory. – (Pope John Paul II, speech to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on October 23, 1996)
“…the Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter—for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God.
However this must be done in such a way that the reasons for both opinions, that is, those favorable and those unfavorable to evolution, be weighed and judged with the necessary seriousness, moderation and measure, and provided that all are prepared to submit to the judgment of the Church, to whom Christ has given the mission of interpreting authentically the Sacred Scriptures and of defending the dogmas of faithful.
Some however rashly transgress this liberty of discussion, when they act as if the origin of the human body from pre-existing and living matter were already completely certain and proved by the facts which have been discovered up to now and by reasoning on those facts, and as if there were nothing in the sources of divine revelation which demands the greatest moderation and caution in this question.” – (Pope Pius, from the encyclical, Human Generis (1950))
The Assemblies of God
A Highlight –
“The advance of scientific research, particularly in the last few centuries, has raised many questions about the interpretation of the Genesis accounts of creation. In attempting to reconcile the Bible and the theories and conclusions of contemporary scientists, it should be remembered that the creation accounts do not give precise details as to how God went about His creative activity. Nor do these accounts provide us with complete chronologies that enable us to date with precision the time of the various stages of creation. Similarly, the findings of science are constantly expanding; the accepted theories of one generation are often revised in the next.
As a result, equally devout Christian believers have formed very different opinions about the age of the earth, the age of humankind, and the ways in which God went about the creative processes. Given the limited information available in Scripture, it does not seem wise to be overly dogmatic about any particular creation theory.”
The United Methodist Church
A Highlight –
“WHEREAS, The United Methodist Church has for many years supported the separation of church and State (¶ 164C, Book of Discipline, 2004, p. 119);
Therefore, be it resolved, that the General Conference of The United Methodist Church go on record as opposing the introduction of any faith-based theories such as Creationism or Intelligent Design into the science curriculum of our public schools.” and”We find that science’s descriptions of cosmological, geological, and biological evolution are not in conflict with theology
Presbyterians A Highlight –
“Our responsibility as Christians is to deal seriously with the theories and findings of all scientific endeavors, evolution included, and to enter into open dialogue with responsible persons involved in scientific tasks about the achievement, failures and limits of their activities and of ours. The truth or falsity of the theory of evolution is not the question at issue and certainly not a question which lies within the competence of the Permanent Theological Committee. The real and only issue is whether there exists clear incompatibility between evolution and the Biblical doctrine of Creation.
Unless it is clearly necessary to uphold a basic Biblical doctrine, the Church is not called upon and should carefully refrain from either affirming or denying the theory of evolution. We conclude that the true relation between the evolutionary theory and the Bible is that of non-contradiction and that the position stated by the General Assemblies of 1886, 1888, 1889 and 1924 was in error and no longer represents the mind of our Church.” (Presbyterian Church (USA), Selected Theological Statements – Evolution and The Bible)
United Church of Christ (Congregationalist) A highlight –
“For too long, science and faith have had a combustible relationship. But even churches evolve. In the UCC, we’re not afraid of science and technology. In fact, we embrace it.
We are a bold, thinking church. We want to make clear the UCC’s belief that science and religion are not mutually exclusive, and we extend our unequivocal welcome to persons who devote their lives to scientific inquiry.”
Also see a pastoral letter form the USA national organization called:
A New Voice Arising: A Pastoral Letter on Faith Engaging Science and Technology
ELCA Lutheran A highlight
“Lutheran tradition has respected the work of the natural sciences in investigating phenomena in the natural world and explaining how they work and how they originated. Because our knowledge both of God and of other things is partial (I Corinthians 13:9), what is accepted at any one time as valid scientific knowledge and theory can be either added to or corrected by further scientific investigation and better theories to explain the phenomena we see in the world.” – (Ask A Scientist, ELCA Alliance for Faith Science and Technology website.)
Orthodox Church in America
A highlight –
“At the same time Orthodoxy is not literalist in its understanding of the accounts of creation in Genesis, and I have encountered writings by Orthodox Christians which attempt to balance the creation accounts with a certain ongoing—evolutionary, if you will—process which, on the one hand, affirms that while humans may have evolved physically under the direction and guidance and plan of the Creator, their souls could not have evolved any more than the powers of reasoning, speaking, or the ability to act creatively could have simply evolved.”
Church of the Nazarene
A highlight –
“We fully affirm the biblical doctrine of creation which proclaims God as the sole Creator and sustainer of the world and life. Therefore, we enthusiastically endorse the Manual statement of the Church of the Nazarene regarding creation. We recognize that great emotion and misunderstanding surround the use of the term evolution. We acknowledge that this is intensified by extreme voices from both science and faith communities. It is important for us to strive together in Christ-honoring ways as we explore evolution.
We affirm the value of science as a way of exploring the revelation of the Creator God in nature. We think that the theory of evolution can be seen as a scientific explanation of the diversity of life on earth, rather than as a godless religion that denies God’s hand in the processes of creation. We encourage you to join us on this intellectual journey as we too seek to understand and engage the latest findings of science with our faith, understanding God as Creator.” – (Joint Statement on Creation / Theistic Evolution, School of Theology and Christian Ministry and the Department of Biology Olivet Nazarene University, October 2007)
The Clergy Letter Project
A highlight –
“We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. “
Links to other statements of science acceptance on the website of the National Center for Science Education.
Category: Science and the Church