Dr. Ted Peters: Science in Pastoral Ministry - Day1.org Faith & Science Series

The charge of the parish pastor is threefold: Preaching, Teaching, and Counseling, or, pastoral care. Of course, there is more to the weekly ministry than these three alone. Preaching takes place within a planned worship setting with liturgy and the celebration of the sacraments. Teaching involves administering a Christian education program and overseeing Bible studies. And counseling is only the core of conversation taking place during hospital visitation, home visitation, and numerous other opportunities for inter-personal engagement. A faithful pastor finds precious little time to stop, read, think, meditate, pray, and discern. Yet, this is the inescapable lot for those who feel they have been called by the Holy Spirit to ordained service.

The worldwide dialogue taking place between natural scientists and Christian theologians as well as intellectual leaders in many of our world's religions may appear to the parish pastor like an ivory tower luxury. Dialogue for the purpose of exploring ideas, searching for overlaps and connections between one's faith in God and the scientific understanding of the natural world, look to the busy pastor like a leisure time activity. It looks like armchair speculation. No parish pastor beset with the burdens of an already impossible schedule, it seems, could justify taking the time to indulge in such a speculative enterprise.

Yet, the revolutionary new rapprochement between science and theology provides the parish pastor with a treasure chest of intellectual jewels that could enrich his or her preaching, teaching, and perhaps even counseling ministries. To leave this treasure chest unopened would be to deny oneself a wealth of resources for parish ministry. In what follows, we will identify some areas of the new dialogue between science and theology that could definitely enhance the effectiveness of preaching and teaching, if not counseling and pastoral care as well.

We will first look at pastoral hermeneutics, which includes the prophetic and constructive tasks of biblical preaching. We will then review eight different models of understanding the relationship between science and faith, half that draw upon the image of warfare and half which advocate peaceful cooperation. We will give special attention to the controversy surrounding Darwinian evolution. Finally, we will turn to the frontier of genetic research and the ethical issues surrounding the phrase "playing God," recommending that the pastor demythologize science while appropriating science to a theological understanding of the world in which we live.


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