lunes, junio 08, 2015

Guidelines for an Evangelical missional model for relating Science and Faith in Latin America

Ciencia y Dios. Source: Elnaveghable.cl
César Navarro, Guatemala

There are different perceptions of meaning and sense when claims of scientific knowledge are proclaimed within a contrasted worldview.1 There is a great amount of work in regards to science and faith that has been built under Western Christianity; although, an obvious lack of unified vision persists.2 Willem B. Drees thinks that the disagreement is due in part to the lack of consideration of the context. 3 Both science and religion are social practices4 and the reflections of them take place in social and cultural contexts.5

Why a missional evangelical model

This essay presents “a missional model” for science and faith issues precisely because it is written from a Latin American (L.A) context and from a Christian evangelical heritage. Michael Roberts considers that the evangelicalism can be defined by the following characteristics: activism, bible, conversion, death of Christ, enthusiasm and fellowship.6 Alongside this, its elevated growth in the world suggests that talking about evangelicalism is to talk about missions.7 Therefore, the seed for a progressive and fruitful development about science and faith issues, at least from the Latin American evangelical perspective, should be planted and cultivated in the land of the missionary worker.

Mission for Science in a Context of Faith

Latin America presents a low average of scientific production unlike Europe, the United States and including some countries of Asia. The Organization of Ibero-American States for the Education, Science and Culture (OEI) reported that 5.3 % of the students of this geographical region, graduate from natural and exact sciences, 2.5 % engineering and technology, while 14.2 % graduate from humanities and 56.4 % from social sciences.8 This demonstrates the great interest in social sciences as opposed to the natural sciences.

This pattern seems to be reflected in Christianity in L.A. The contemporary academic evangelicalism in L.A, as well as the promoters of liberation theology, has made important contributions to Christian missions from social sciences. Interestingly, almost there not have been academic contributions from the natural and exact sciences.9 From this panorama, the evangelicalism in L.A does not present a propitious context for the fruitful development about science and faith issues.

In comparison to the scarce scientific context, L.A is extremely religious. There were 498 million Christians in 2005 and it is expected to be the second largest continental block of Christians in 2025 in the entire world.10 The context for L.A is prominently religious and superstitious, where the universal asseverations of sciences often are refused in favor of spirituality and faith. In this context, science and religion issues can serve as apologetics for sciences.11 Consequently, this model is a mission for science in a context of faith.

A Missional Christian Model from and for Nature

A missional model in L.A for science and in a context of faith needs to have as a starting point a theology of nature. The theology of nature starts from a religious tradition based on religious experience and historic revelation; although, at the same time holds that some traditional doctrines need to be reformulated in light of current science.12 This type of theology attempts to demonstrate that the encounter with the God of the Christian faith takes place in and through the observable world.13 This God is known for the events of human history and also through the phenomena and the drama of nature by virtue of Christ's incarnation.14

From this theology of nature can give birth for a theology of the mission that is useful for science and faith issues in a Latin American context. Five features to consider in this model of mission from and for nature, are:

1. A mission for science and faith: The work of scientific investigation as well as the reflections of faith in the light of encounters with nature, as Robert Boyle argued, should be appreciated as a sacred work. The implication is a direction needed of missionary efforts to the development of the scientific knowledge.

2. A glocal mission: a missionary mindset that focuses on nature brings a focus on the global and local mission.

3. An educational mission: The order and the comprehension that it is obtained from the nature combined with the Christian mission of making disciples and teaching the doctrine of the Christian faith, invite us to promote a mission of science and faith with a strong educational emphasis.

4. Interdisciplinary mission: It is true that in the matter of science there are declarations that claim to be approved in any context. However, the nature itself manifests a stratified reality that leads us to assume multiple sciences and models to better apprehend nature.15 Believing that any one discipline can explain everything is a notion of imperialism without an empire.16 This invites us to create an integration and interdisciplinary mission.

5. An evangelical reformulated mission: If anyone takes the evangelical characteristics proposed by Roberts and reformulates, one would derive an implication and goal of the model. The reformulation would be: a) a fervent activism for this type of mission; b) a Biblical centralism from new literary approaches; c) Christ's death, but also incarnation, work and resurrection; c) a conversion that includes the dimensions of restoration and redemption of everything; d) an enthusiasm to experience new encounters with nature; and e) a fellowship of faith that feeds the spirituality, the significance and sense of the natural world as we suppose that was founded from God's reality that in Christ and through the Holy Spirit, makes all things new17.

This article was translated by the author and reviewed by Cecia Millán.

__________
  1. John Headley Brooke and Ronald L. Numbers, Science and Religion around the World (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 2.
  2. Willem B. Drees, Religion and Science in Context: a Guide to the Debates (New York: Routledge, 2010), 2.
  3. Ibid. Other factors that he sees necessary are purposes, criteria and views of what religion might be.
  4. Mikael Stenmark, How to Relate Science and Religion: a Multidimensional Model (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004), 12.
  5. Drees, Religion and Science, 3.
  6. Michael Roberts, Evangelicals and Science (Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2008), 9-10.
  7. It can be found literature in Spanish with development and status of the missionaries societies of the past in Christian Protestants western contexts, even the creation of new evangelical missionaries organizations from Latin American origin. Justo L. González y Carlos F. Cardoza, Historia General de las Misiones (Barcelona: Editorial CLIE, 2008). Arturo Piedra, Sidney Rooy, H. Fernando Bullón, ¿Hacia dónde va el protestantismo? (Buenos Aires: Ediciones Kairos, 2003).
  8. The scientific status, 2010, publication from The Organization of Ibero-American States for the Education, Science and culture, graph 4.1. <http://www.oei.es/salactsi/el_estado_de_la_ciencia.pdf
  9. There exists exceptions as the Catholic Brazilian theologian Leonardo Boff that point out a great interest in his books about the relationship between ecology, ethics and theology.
  10. David B. Barrett and Todd M. Johnson Annual Statistical Table on Global Mission: 2004 <http://www.internationalbulletin.org/system/files/2004-01-024-barrett.pdf>
  11. Drees, Religion and Science, 3.
  12. Ian G. Barbour, Religion and Science: Historical and Contemporary Issues (San Francisco: HarperCollins Publishers, 1997), 100.
  13. John F. Haught, Cristianismo y ciencia: hacia una teología de la naturaleza (Cantabria, ESP. Editorial Sal Terrae, 2009), 67.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Alister E. Mcgrath, The Science of God (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004), 146.
  16. Mario Bunge, Mitos, hechos y razones: Cuatro estudios sociales (Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 2004), 65.
  17. John F. Haught, Cristianismo y ciencia, 36.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
César Navarro has a B.Sc. in Chemistry, graduated from The University of Panama, with specialization in Experimental Spectroscopy. With an Teaching degree in Biblical studies and Theology from the Central American Theological Seminary, Guatemala, he currently does a Master degree in Theology in the same institution. He is the director and founder of the Latin American Educational Society for Faith and Science (SELFYC).
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