April 2013 -
A few months ago, at a meeting of the Social Justice and Environment committee (also known as the Saving the World Committee, or SWC for short) Gayl Koster read an op-ed piece from the Inquirer called “Our Tiny Enclave,” written by Paul Halpern, Professor of Physics at University of the Sciences. The op-ed pointed to several scientific discoveries: the vast, nearly unimaginable size of the universe, the amazing diversity of life on earth, and the overwhelming genetic commonality among human beings. Dr. Halpern suggested that these truths, and an appreciation of the science on which they’re based, might inspire us to work together for peace on this fragile planet.
We on the SWC loved the article, and commissioned Gayl to contact Dr. Halpern to see if he might speak at Summit. She found out that he knew Summit, would be delighted to visit, and was also a member of Mishkan Shalom, our neighboring synagogue in Roxborough. So (consulting Session) we invited him to speak at our Sunday Earth Day service, and also invited Rabbi Linda Holtzman of Mishkan Shalom to join us.
Before saying yes, Dr. Halpern wanted an assurance that he wouldn’t have to speak about religion, but could stick with his area of expertise! We said yes, but that may raise some questions for you: Does a scientist belong in the pulpit, even for one day? Shouldn’t we speak about religious truth on Sunday morning, and save science for the classroom or at least an after-church forum? Are the two really compatible?
These are good questions, as science and religion often seem at loggerheads. They ask different questions. Their methods of inquiry, testing and discernment are different, and their methods can’t be combined (as “creationists” suggest) without creating a mess of falsehoods that does a disservice to both. But they are compatible. For as Christians we believe in one God, creator of the heavens and earth, giver of curiosity, shaper of intellect. We believe that God is revealed primarily through Jesus Christ as attested in scripture, but also that God is revealed in the handiwork of creation, and that God speaks through the Holy Spirit in diverse and manifold ways. We needn’t be afraid of the truths that science reveals – and may find that insights from both science and religion can unite us in a common purpose: working together to care for this wonderful planet and all life upon it.
So on Sunday, April 21st, we will celebrate the resurrection, as we do every Sunday. We’ll also celebrate and give thanks for the gift of science, and pray for peace on earth. The final verse of our final hymn – For the Fruit of All Creation – says it best:
For the harvests of the spirit, Thanks be to God.
For the good we all inherit, Thanks be to God.
For the wonders that astound us, For the truths that still confound us,
Most of all that love has found us, Thanks be to God.
Grace and Peace,