Future Conference on Science and Faith at Northeastern Seminary, Rochester, NY (October 25–26, 2019)

This is a heads up about a special conference on science and faith that will take place October 25–26, 2019 at Northeastern Seminary in Rochester, NY.

Every other year Northeastern Seminary co-sponsors a Fall theology conference with the Canadian-American Theological Association.

In 2019 the conference will have another co-sponsor—the Canadian Scientific and Christian Affiliation. Other co-sponsors might include the American Scientific Affiliation and BioLogos.

Keynote Speaker—William Brown

Our keynote speaker has already been booked—William P. Brown, professor of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary.

Brown is an excellent biblical scholar and teacher, who has always had an interest in science. He is the author of many books on biblical interpretation that I have found helpful.

One of his best, which is directly relevant to the theme of the conference, is The Seven Pillars of Creation: The Bible, Science, and the Ecology of Wonder (Oxford University Press, 2010). In this book Brown examines seven different creation accounts in the Old Testament and imaginatively links them to his reflections on various aspects of the natural world that we have discovered through scientific exploration.

In my 2017 essay on the relationship of the Garden of Eden narrative to the evolution of humanity (“Reading Genesis 3 Attentive to Human Evolution: Beyond Concordism and Non-Overlapping Magisteria”), I cited Brown’s methodology in The Ten Pillars of Creation book as my model for how to think about the possible relationship of the Bible and evolution.

Brown and Middleton Essays for a Future Book

Brown and I are writing two chapters on the Old Testament for a volume entitled Christian Theology and the Modern Sciences, edited by John Slattery. I will be writing on Genesis 1–2, while Brown will write on the wisdom literature. We will each address how our assigned portion of Scripture relates to matters of ecology and science.

Interestingly, I was originally asked to contribute a chapter on the New Testament, based on a paper I gave in 2017 on the relevance of New Testament eschatology for ecology at the Society of Biblical Literature. When I explained that New Testament was not my primary expertise, I was offered a chapter on the Old Testament instead.

A tentative Table of Contents for the entire volume is as follows:

1. Introduction

Part 1: A History of Christian Theology and Science

2. Hebrew Bible (Middleton)
3. Hebrew Bible (Brown)
4. New Testament
5. New Testament
6. Augustine of Hippo
7. Cappadocian Fathers
8. Maximus and John of Damascus
9. Hildegard of Bingen
10. Francis of Assisi
11. Thomas Aquinas
12. Hesychast Controversy and Gregory Palamas
13. Post-Reformation Catholic Figure
14. Luther/Melanchthon
15. Calvin
16. Newman
17. Wesley
17. 20th and 21st Century Catholic Voices on Nature and Science
18. 20th and 21st Century Protestant Voices on Nature and Science
19. 20th and 21st Century Orthodox Voices on Nature and Science

Part 2: Reconsidering Theology and Science Narratives

20. HB and Race/Gender
21. NT and Race/Gender
22. Theological & Scientific Origins of Misogyny
23. Theological & Scientific Origins of Racism
24. Linnaeus and Human Stratification
25. Exemplar Chapter on Theology, Science, Race, Gender in 19th/20th/21st
26. Exemplar Chapter on Theology, Science, Race, Gender in 19th/20th/21st
27. Exemplar Chapter on Theology, Science, Race, Gender in 19th/20th/21st

Part 3: Broadening the Possibilities for Theology and Science

28. Physical Sciences
29. Biological Sciences
30. Medical Sciences
31. Social Sciences
32. Psychological Sciences
33. Environmental Sciences

Christian Theology and the Modern Sciences will be published in the “Companions” series by Bloomsbury / T&T Clark.

An Interview with Brown and Middleton

Back in May 2015 Brown and I were interviewed together in a live streaming event on Google Hangout by Matt Lynch of the Westminster Theological Center in the UK.

The focus of the interview was on themes arising from our most recent books, Brown’s Wisdom’s Wonder: Character, Creation, and Crisis in the Bible’s Wisdom Literature (Eerdmans, 2014) and my A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology (Baker Academic, 2014), along with and my earlier book The Liberating Image: The Imago Dei in Genesis 1 (Brazos, 2005).

You can watch a recording of the interview here.

Don’t Forget the Science and Faith Conference

Remember to make a note to reserve October 25–26, 2019.

There will be a Call for Papers sent out from Northeastern Seminary and from each of the co-sponsoring organizations.

So stay tuned for more information about the conference as the time draws near.

 

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Origins, Self, & the Soul (Cornell University, September 21, 2018)

I’ll be joining with biology professor Dr. Praveen Sethupathy to give a public lecture at Cornell University on Friday, September 21, 2018.

Having done joint-presentations on similar topics in the past, we have found that our perspectives are helpfully complementary.

The lecture, entitled “Origins, Self, & the Soul,”  is sponsored by Chesterton House, a Christian study center near the Cornell campus, and is part of their Friday Conversation series.

The event is co-sponsored by the Cornell Graduate Christian Fellowship and by BioLogos, an organization of orthodox Christians who take seriously both the biblical revelation of God as Creator and the science of evolution. Both Praveen and I are members of BioLogos Voices, and often write and speak on behalf of the organization.

Here is the Chesterton House summary of the September 21 event:

Join us for a Friday Conversation with Dr. Praveen Sethupathy and Dr. Richard Middleton. What better way to engage the historic conversation between science and faith than to feature thoughtful, renowned scholarsone a scientist and the other a theologian. Listen and join in as they discuss and examine the study of genetics and human origins from scientific and theological perspectives, exploring the implications for human identity as the image of God.

The event will be held in the Rhodes-Rawlings Auditorium in Klarman Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, at 5:00 pm on Friday, September 21, 2018.

Focus of the Joint-Lecture

Having presented with Praveen Sethupathy before, I expect that he will recount in a wonderful way his own journey of faith in relation to science and will explore ways in which scientists have attempted (and failed) to isolate what is distinctively humans about us. His suggestion is that we need to attend to what the Bible says about human distinctiveness, namely, that we are made in God’s image (imago Dei).

For my part, I will focus first on what the Bible says about the similarity or kinship of humans with the non-human and then explore the meaning of the imago Dei as the distinctive human vocation or calling, concluding with some (tentative) thoughts on how this might relate to the current scientific picture of human origins.

Both Praveen and I are committed, orthodox Christians, who take seriously the biblical teaching about what it means to be human and what science is telling us about our evolutionary history. We don’t think there is a necessary conflict between them.

Our presentation (sure to be controversial) will be followed by at least half-an-hour for open discussion, accompanied by free pizza for all.

If you are in the area, please join us on the evening of September 21 for this important discussion.

Praveen Sethupathy Bio

Praveen Sethupathy is an Associate Professor of Biomedical Sciences at Cornell University. He received his BA degree from Cornell and his PhD in Genomics from the University of Pennsylvania.

After completing a post-doctoral fellowship at the National Human Genome Research Institute under the mentorship of Dr. Francis Collins, he moved in 2011 to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Genetics. In 2017, he returned to Cornell University as an Associate Professor.

Praveen has authored over 70 publications, and has served as a reviewer for over 30 different journals. Recent honors include a faculty merit award for outstanding teaching and mentoring. He lives in Ithaca, NY with his wife and three children.

If You Need Directions

For directions to Cornell, including a campus map, click here.

For more information, including directions to the location of the lecture (the Rhodes-Rawlings Auditorium in Klarman Hall), you can email Chesterton House.

Chesterton House link for the event.

BioLogos link for the event.

 

Death and the Curse in the Garden of Eden—and Beyond

A new online article that I wrote on the topic of death in the Garden of Eden has now been posted to the website of the Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding.

Here is a summary of the article:

It has been a common (though not universal) assumption in the history of Christian thought that humans were created immortal, and only lost their immortality with the entrance of death as the consequence for sin. This is, however, a misreading of the biblical data, which suggests that humans were created mortal with the possibility of attaining eternal life—a possibility that was lost through sin and is now realized in Jesus Christ.

Were Humans Mortal before the Fall?

The article is published in an online journal of the Henry Center called Sapientia, in the Areopagite forum (the Aereopagus was the meeting place in Athens where Paul preached in Acts 17).

My piece is the first in a series of blog posts that were invited to respond to the question Were humans mortal before the fall? Each blog post will give a different author’s perspective on this issue.

The Creation Project

I’ve been involved for three years now with the Creation Project of the Henry Center, which has explored the themes of Reading Genesis (2016), the Doctrine of Creation (2017), and Theological Anthropology (2018).

Each summer (in June) the Creation Project has run a conference (called Dabar, Hebrew for “word”) on the topic for the year, held on the site of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, near Chicago.

At the first two Dabar conferences I gave paper responses, first to a paper on Genesis 1–11 (2016) and then to a paper on God as an Agent (2017).

Death, Immortality, and the Curse

This year (2018) I was invited to write a paper for the conference, which will have two respondents (one by a theologian, the other by a biblical scholar). I’ve been asked to give a brief response to my respondents.

My paper is entitled: “Death, Immortality, and the Curse: Interpreting Genesis 2–3 in the Context of the Biblical Worldview.”

It’s an expansion of the shorter Sapientia article, attempting to connect the discussion of death and mortality (from that article) with the broader “ecological” picture of how humans affect the non-human world for good or ill, which is first articulated by the “curse” on the ground because of human sin (Genesis 3:17).

The shorter article, entitled “Humans Created Mortal, with the Possibility of Eternal Life,” is available online.

My Ambiguous Relationship with Carl Henry

For those interested, you can check out the blog post I wrote in anticipation of attending the first Dabar conference (2016), where I recounted my initial (unpleasant) encounter with Carl Henry over twenty years before.

Luckily, my experience with the Henry Center has been much more positive than that early encounter. In my evaluation of the 2016 conference, I wrote:

“I found the atmosphere of the Dabar conference to be collegial and open. While the presenters, respondents, and other participants did not agree on everything, there was a welcoming hospitality between everyone, regardless of viewpoint.”

I later recounted my experience of the second Dabar conference (2017), where I was a respondent to philosopher Billy Abraham.

I’m very much looking forward to this year’s conference.