Science and religion

Ekklesia publishes an essay by Savitri Hensman on the history of the use of scientific evidence within Anglicanism and the way the current issues are pulling the church away from the traditional Anglican understanding.

In 1958, the Lambeth Conference gratefully acknowledged ‘our debt to the host of devoted scholars who, worshipping the God of Truth, have enriched and deepened our understanding of the Bible, not least by facing with intellectual integrity the questions raised by modern knowledge and modern criticism’, and ‘the work of scientists in increasing man’s knowledge of the universe, wherein is seen the majesty of God in his creative activity. It therefore calls upon Christian people both to learn reverently from every new disclosure of truth, and at the same time to bear witness to the biblical message of a God and Saviour apart from whom no gift can be rightly used.’

At that time, scientific knowledge and theological reflection on human sexuality, including close reading of the Old and New Testament, were developing rapidly. Attitudes among Anglicans to contraception had changed radically, and theologians were beginning to question whether the Bible had been correctly interpreted and whether same-sex partnerships were always wrong. The growing visibility of lesbian, gay and bisexual people in many urban centres throughout the world made it harder to ignore their concerns and the issues for faith communities as they prayed, worshipped, cared for those in need and sought to discern God’s will


Read it all here.

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  1. This raises an important question about that phrase thrown around with such confidence, “the faith once delivered to the saints.” Some have pointed out that Biblical scholarship and archaeology have been affecting our understanding of Scripture for more than 150 years. Incorporation of the studies of physics into our theological reflection have been going on even longer. To what extent are those reflections part of “the faith as this Church has received it?” To what extent is it contrary to “the faith once delivered to the saints?”

    Much has been said about the teaching ministry and authority of bishops, and yet many of our most important teachers have been scholars and not bishops, or scholars before being bishops. It was Cranmer’s scholarship that got him his appointment, and not the other way around. Neither Hooker or Jewell were bishops when they wrote their foundational works of the Anglican tradition. That tradition continued down through F. D. Maurice in England and William Porcher DuBose in the United States. Are these voices not part of “the faith as this Church has received it?” They certainly used to be.

    Marshall Scott

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