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Lutheran Mission Matters Articles — November 2016

Inside this Issue: Science and Technology

Lutheran Mission Matters coverModern science and technology are the themes for this issue of Lutheran Mission Matters.

What we call “science” and “technology” have been pursued since ancient times. But modern iterations of science and technology have proven remarkably successful and useful, and so their impact has been vast. For countries like the United States, science and technology are essential to economics, healthcare, and communications. But because the wealthiest and most powerful nations depend so heavily on science and technology, they also have a global impact. And for these reasons, they can shape thinking and expectations.

So it is simple to say that science and technology are important for Christian witness and evangelism. But saying how is complicated. The articles in this issue offer a range of answers to this wide-open question.

Timothy Dost offers an answer grounded in the history of the Church. It is common to think of tensions and challenges when considering the relationship between science and technology and the Church. But Dost highlights several instances in which Christians readily embraced science and technology and used them to spread the Gospel and to show love to neighbors, and he encourages us to adopt the same attitude today.

Gary Locklair, Michael Knippa, and John Juedes consider various aspects of modern technology and their bearing on Christian witness. Locklair considers the theologically challenging question of artificial intelligence. Can a machine be intelligent? Yes, he says, but this does not compromise the concept of humanity or the Christian mission. Knippa explores the wide-ranging thought of Marshall McLuhan. He told us decades ago “the medium is the message” and spoke about the “global village” and the “electric age.” Now that what he foresaw is everyday life, McLuhan’s thought is worth reflecting upon for insights into evangelism today. Juedes reflects on technology in music and worship. Technology and worship music are nothing new, as the Psalms show. But both technology and worship music have changed over the centuries, and Juedes points out that we still should ask about their relationship to each other and to our witness.

John Kenney, Gillian Bond, David Berger, and I reflect on modern science and its relationship to the Christian faith and Christian witness. Kenney offers a personal reflection and testimony on faith and science, based on his own life and his calling as a chemistry professor. Bond also draws on her experience in teaching and research as she explores the intersection of faith and science as “an opportunity for cross-cultural outreach.” The intersection of faith and science is Berger’s theme, too, and he looks into the ways that often-unspoken assumptions shape the situation. My article looks at science as a “natural philosophy,” a descendant of pre-Socratic Greek thinking, and asks what this might mean for the message and witness of today’s Christians.

As I noted before, these articles offer a range of responses to a wide-open question. So think of them as contributions to a varied and complex conversation about matters that matter to the life and witness of the Church.

 

Joel P. Okamoto
Editor for the Science and Technology issue
Lutheran Mission Matters

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"Copyright 2016 Lutheran Society for Missiology. Used by permission."
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Articles

God, the Gospel, and Modern Science: Reflections on the Church’s Witness and Message in a Scientific Age - Joel P. Okamoto

Abstract: Science is certainly important to the contemporary world, not least because it is indispensable to economics, health care, transportation, and communications. But it matters also for Christians because it is often taken as a natural philosophy with a definite ontology (account of what there is) and epistemology (account of knowing and knowledge). This natural philosophy is not only highly successful and influential, but also challenging to Christian faith and life. This article traces out the basic features of science as a type of natural philosophy, and suggests how it matters for faithful Christian witness.

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Odd Bedfellows? Churchly Employment of Science and Technology - Timothy P. Dost

Abstract: Although there are exceptions, the church has generally used both science and advances in technology seamlessly to spread the Gospel and promote the Word of God more generally. This article explains this through several examples: the use of technology in spreading information through visual art and architecture, and eventually printing; the use of science to affect the world view and argue for who was right, given the evidence from the creation, particularly in the structure of the solar system; the use of science to prove that there was logic and order to the creation, supported by a mathematical foundation. In addition, the article briefly touches on other topics such as education, healthcare, and other areas the church has used to carry out its work and foster its message, that also support science and technology.

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Intelligent Computers in a Christian Worldview - Gary Locklair

Abstract: Thinking Machines! The inflection given when speaking these two simple words can invoke fear, excitement, concern, wonder, skepticism, or hope. This article explores the question of intelligent computers from a Christian worldview perspective. Both the origin and purpose of artificial intelligence are reviewed with an emphasis on how the field should be viewed and shaped within a Christian perspective. Answers to two fundamental AI questions will be presented: Can/will computers be intelligent, and can/will computers be equivalent to human beings?

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Features of Human Anatomy: Marshall McLuhan on Technology in the Global Village - Michael Knippa

Abstract: Technology is reshaping our individual human experience and wider society on a near daily basis. An interesting, and useful, source through which we can examine these changes is Marshall McLuhan. In particular, his famous phrases “The Medium is the Message” and “The Global Village” can illuminate both our inseparability from technology alongside the deep extent to which various technologies shape us and our world far more than we often realize. The gift of this point of view is a deeper awareness of pervasiveness and ongoing influence of technology, which raises many dangers, challenges, and opportunities for the Church.

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Music Technology, Worship, and Missions - John P. Juedes

Abstract:Church leaders debate about the use of music in churches and missions. This is often framed in terms of theology and practice. Actually, music technology, not theology, both causes and provides answers to the debate. Music technology, that is the kinds of instruments and how they are used, is constantly changing and strongly affects music used in the church. The different types of music technology used in various cultures and the trend toward globalization of music present special challenges for missions. Understanding how music technology works and changes provides a basis for answering questions, such as, “What music is ‘sacred’ or ‘secular’ now? What will be in twenty years? What music is too secular for church use? Are refined hymns better than simple choruses? How is music influenced by, and used to spur open air evangelism? How has recent music technology expanded worship options and weakened denominational control? What valid and competing values have, and always will, drive conflict over church music?”

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Privilege, Tragedy, Doubt, Science, and Faith—a Personal Story - John W. Kenney, III

Abstract: This is a personal autobiographical essay by a Lutheran college professor who is also a practicing research scientist, but who is neither theologian, nor philosopher, nor pastor. If you are looking for rigorous, sophisticated, and compelling arguments regarding the interface between the Christian faith and science, the existence and character of God, the divine inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible, and the veracity of Christ’s claim to be Lord and Savior, let me assure you that these arguments do indeed exist and are well worth reading and pondering, but this is not the place to find them. What I’ve written is intended to be a personal account of my encounters with and explorations of the faith-science interface over the years set against the unfolding backdrop of my life.

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Where Faith and Science Meet: An Opportunity for Cross-Cultural Outreach - Gillian M. Bond

Abstract: How should we as Christians respond to science? How should we interact with scientists and others whose worldviews are shaped or impacted by science? These are important questions if we are to equip Christians to nurture the faith of other believers and to share the faith with unbelievers. All too often, however, responses within Christendom range from shifts away from sound theology, to attempts to change science, to fear and/or hostility. However well-meaning, such approaches are detrimental and are based on fundamental misunderstandings of science. A clearer understanding of science is necessary for a faithful alternative based on cross-cultural communication.

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Science vs. Religion or Religion vs. Religion? - David O. Berger

Abstract: Metaphysical assumptions underlying science vary through time and by culture. Perceived conflicts between “modern” science and Scripture are most likely to involve theories of origins of life and the universe. Basic to the issues at hand is understanding that certain underlying assumptions and philosophies, such as uniformitarianism and materialism, are not science but belief systems. Christians do well to draw attention to the ever-changing paradigms of origins, contrast them with the unchanging Word found in Scripture, and let the Spirit do the “heavy lifting” of creating faith.

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Pastor, what about . . . ? - John F. Perling

Abstract: People in conversation about the promises of God in Jesus Christ wonder whether these promises can be reconciled with commonly accepted scientific natural laws. Their faith leader seems an obvious resource from whom they feel they ought to be able to get integrated answers to questions which overlap science and faith. Pastors, however, are amateurs relative to science. Apologetic approaches among Christian faith leaders are complicated by various approaches the Word of God as well as their facility with scientific approaches to knowledge. Current apologetic resources do not attempt an integrated approach to knowledge. Such approaches prose mission challenges today. The article presents one experience as a case study attempting to retain a lively conversation with a family struggling between life in the church and holding a scientific worldview.

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