As America has become more pluralistic and secular, Marsden argues, Christian higher education has failed to make an appeal to this broader audience.[1]  The rise of specialists helped put an end to the generalist approach once held in high esteem and the place for theologian-scientist was marginalized.[2] This challenge is addressed by physicist turned Anglican priest John Polkinghorne argued the need to accept dialogic engagement from those who venture outside their expertise to undertake the risk of interdisciplinary study.[3] The Bible must be allowed by Christians to be confronted by science without fear of exposing evangelical theology to criticism.

A genuine integration of faith and science must eschew Presuppositionalism and superficial accommodation which treats science as simply a set of beliefs appended to a common statement of faith which is easily dismantled when science changes and comes into conflict with long-held beliefs.[4] This penchant for superficial accommodation was dominant in American Puritanism that accepted the findings of science but lacked a deep integration of its findings with their faith eventually led to two camps of pragmatism and positivism.[5] The superficial integration of science and religion in American can be seen in the embrace of Newtonian physics and the frenzied rejection of Darwinian philosophy; both rooted in the same basic mechanistic philosophy that was not properly considered by theologians. This eventually led to the marginalization of religion in general. The door to meaningful engagement was opened with the science of quantum mechanics. The cosmos was no longer a static machine, but a dynamic world once again open to new metaphysical realities explored through different methodologies. The new science has opened the door, but Christians must engage science with a thoughtful philosophy that understands the implications of various theorems and the undergirding presuppositions.

Consequently, the Dialogue Model is the ideal framework for understanding the historic relationship between science and religion and for advancing higher education. This approach allows both science and religion to maintain their unique approaches to epistemology while allowing them to interact in their common interest to describe reality.

[1] George Marsden, “The Collapse of American Evangelical Academia,” in Faith and Rationality: Reason and Belief in God, ed. Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstoff (Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame University Press, 1995), 220.

[2] Ibid., 221.

[3] J. C. Polkinghorne, Belief in God in an Age of Science, Belief in God (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998), 83, Logos.

[4] Marsden,  in Faith and Rationality: Reason and Belief in God, 223.

[5] James Ward Smith, “Religion and Science in American Philosophy,” in The Shaping of American Religion, ed. James Ward Smith and A. Leland Jamison (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1961), 414.

Dr. J.R. Miller is a Professor of Applied Theology and Leadership & Dean of Online Learning at Southern California Seminary. Outside work, he is a church planter. Dr. Miller has a diverse educational background and authored multiple books on church history, biblical theology, and Leadership. Joe and his wife Suzanne enjoy the sun and surf with their 3 sons in San Diego, CA.

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