Beliefs Culture Institutions

Seminaries awarded $1.5 million to include science in coursework

The chapel at Lutheran Theological Seminary on Seminary Ridge, Lutheran Theological Seminary campus in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

(RNS) Responding to a real or perceived gap between science and faith, 10 U.S. seminaries will receive a combined $1.5 million in grants to include science in their curricula, the American Association for the Advancement of Science announced Wednesday (Oct. 8).

A diverse set of Christian seminaries will be awarded grants ranging from $90,000 to $200,000 provided by the John Templeton Foundation, which has funded various efforts to bridge science and faith, including $3.75 million to AAAS for the project.

“Many (religious leaders) don’t get a lot of science in their training and yet they become the authority figures that many people in society look up to for advice for all kinds of things, including issues related to science and technology,” said Jennifer Wiseman, director of the AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion.

Indeed, evangelical Protestants are more than twice as likely as other Americans to say they would turn to a religious text, a religious leader or people at their congregation if they had a question about science, a study released by AAAS earlier this year suggested.

The selected seminaries represent broad denominational, demographic and geographic diversity, including Regent University School of Divinity, which includes Pentecostal/charismatic theology, and Howard University’s School of Divinity, a predominantly African-American seminary in Washington, D.C. Other participating schools include:

Andover Newton Theological School (Newton Centre, Mass.)

Catholic University of America (Washington, D.C.)

Columbia Theological Seminary (Decatur, Ga.)

Concordia Seminary (St. Louis)

Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg (Pennsylvania)

Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara University (Berkeley, Calif.)

Multnomah Biblical Seminary (Portland, Ore.)

The chapel at Lutheran Theological Seminary on Seminary Ridge, Lutheran Theological Seminary campus in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Photo courtesy of Smallbones (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The chapel at Lutheran Theological Seminary on Seminary Ridge, Lutheran Theological Seminary campus in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Wake Forest University School of Divinity (Winston-Salem, N.C.)

Working with the Association of Theological Schools — the main umbrella group for U.S. seminaries — organizers received 28 letters of interest from seminaries interested in the pilot program.

The grants will cover faculty, events, science resources, guest speakers and other related costs. Seminaries could incorporate applicable issues of modern technology, methods of science or the history of science into courses seminary students already take, such as church history, ethics, pastoral counseling or systematic theology.

“There are interesting intersections of all these types of courses with either modern science or the history of science or the philosophy of science that would be very useful for these students to become acquainted with,” Wiseman said.

AAAS will provide seminaries with resources, including a series of short science-education videos. The association will help to recruit scientist-advisers from nearby science research institutions.

The new project, Science for Seminaries, will also organize conferences for Catholic, mainline Protestant and conservative/evangelical Protestant seminaries.

The survey from AAAS also suggested potential conflict between religion and science. Twenty-two percent of scientists (and 20 percent of the general public) say religious people are hostile to science. On the flip side, 22 percent of the general population thinks scientists are hostile to religion, and of those who feel science and religion are in conflict, 52 percent sided with religion.

A survey earlier this year by The Associated Press found that religious identity — particularly those who are evangelical Protestant — was one of the sharpest indicators of skepticism toward key issues in science.

Jennifer Wiseman, director of the AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion, who is also a NASA astronomer.

Photo courtesy of Deryck Chan, via Wikimedia Commons

Jennifer Wiseman, director of the AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion.

Of those surveyed, 51 percent of American adults, including 77 percent of evangelicals, have little or no confidence that “the universe began 13.8 billion years ago with a big bang.” And 36 percent overall (compared with 56 percent of evangelicals) doubt that “the Earth is 4.5 billion years old.”

Those who are religious are often interested in learning how science can be used for the common good, Wiseman said.

“Having these conversations is important, but developing the platform and architecture for them is sometimes complicated,” Wiseman said. “Science can be unifying to many people in society, both people of faith and people who don’t share that faith, and yet through what we’re learning in science, I think we can come together to use that knowledge for great good.”


About the author

Sarah Pulliam Bailey

Sarah Pulliam Bailey is a national correspondent for RNS, covering how faith intersects with politics, culture and other news. She previously served as online editor for Christianity Today where she remains an editor-at-large.


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  • No matter that it is using the disguise of science, no public funding should be used for religious schools at any level. That action is one more evasion of the First Amendment constitutional requirement for separation between religion and government, church and state.

    This is no different than the unconstitutional cheating that has been slipped into our public school systems, robbing them of funds, by supporting charter schools and disguised voucher systems. It is all unconstitutional. It is sneaky. It is anti-democratic. It is wrong.

    When church groups cannot support the activities they use to lure members, those activities should be allowed to fail. When it comes to public education and public health care, religion should never be allowed to interfere.

    This unconstitutional behavior was allowed with the Bush/Cheney action regarding Faith Based Communities. The Obama administration, in spite of his promises to end it during his 2008 campaign, not only continued it, he has assigned church leaders to manage it.

    This is no different than Cardinal Dolan of New York and his collection of Catholic bishops, Hobby Lobby, and our Catholic Supreme Court intruding on the Affordable Care Act and daring to require everyone to submit to their religious beliefs regarding contraception and abortion. Look what has been done to destroy access to abortion in Texas because of all these invasions of religion into our government.

    Catholic hospitals and other hospitals that are unable to function separately because of economic conditions must never be allowed to assert their religious beliefs and/or ethics into their merged operations. If they do, they should never receive a cent in public funding.

    This unconstitutional behavior is a step-by-step erosion of our Constitution and the democracy it is supposed to assure and protect. It is being blatantly supported by our Catholic Roberts-Scalia-Kennedy-Thomas-Alito Supreme Court. It must be stopped–now and permanently.

    The only way to prevent the continuation of federal judges from acting like the corrupt politicians so many of them are is to put a screeching halt to the way they are appointed without any public input and, even more importantly, by ending life tenure for federal judges. One of the worst examples of political corruption is that we limit the terms of the Executive of our federal government, but not the Legislature or the Judiciary.

    Because so many of the electorate do not fulfill their presumed obligation to become informed about issues and politicians before they vote, it is necessary to protect democracy by limiting the opportunity of corrupt politicians to make careers of destructive and/or do-nothing government.

    We cannot have a democracy without an informed electorate, or with a lazy electorate that does not even vote. So measures must be taken to constitutionally protect against those destructive weaknesses. Those conditions were not realized by the Framers of our Constitution in 1787.

    The Framers presumed all the people would eagerly jump at the opportunity to install and maintain democracy–even with the weaknesses of the original Constitution that legalized slavery, counted slaves as 2/3rds of a person to increase the political power of slave holders, and not allow women, half to the voting population, to vote.

  • Glad our Lutheran synods seminary’s not involved in the bribe..
    not surprising that Concordia Lutheran and the other one is ..
    both have a lot of problems with liberalism..

    Many Christians Familys have been Christian century’s before
    the united states of America even came into existence. and will
    be Christians long long after their is no more a united states .

    most Christian church’s don’t lure people into there church memberships ..

    I think you got the united states mixed up with Christian church’s .. it was the united states that lured immigrant children here with its lying promises of citizenship..

  • @ Gilhan

    the only constitution you know about is you morning one..

    The constitution is there to guard our religious rights .. .

    its not there to guard your non religious rights.

  • @ Gilhan
    and if you don’t believe what I wrote Just ask
    the newly sainted by all Christians
    supreme court
    St ,Anthony Scalia

  • Actually according to the article, the grant comes from something called the “John Templeton Foundation”, a privately funded organization, not the government. So the entire rant above is a bit out of place.

    If it WAS publically funded, it would be a problem, but as a privately funded foundation grant, it is no risk to our liberty.

  • The AAAS is not a government organization. It is a private organization which promotes science education combats junk like creationism in public education. They are well respected among scientists and educators.

  • Because you don’t want to have things mucked up with notions of science, objective credibility and education!

    If your religion feels threatened by science education, it is most likely promoting ignorance, dishonesty and stupidity.

  • @ larry

    Larry get real if we wanted to promote ignorance, dishonesty, and stupidity we would invite you to teach..

  • @ Fourth Valley.

    REAL Lutherans are super sinners that Jesus was merciful for .. so yes im the worst of them..

  • @
    Fourth Valley.

    im so Lutheran I even come with a song
    want to hear it..
    the fellow who wrote my theme song even looks a lot like me..

  • The money is coming from the Templeton Foundation, who are well- respected by some scientists (particularly those willing to accept their hefty grants and awards) and not so well-respected by others.

    As for creationism, they have been known to fund creationist sources (under the euphemism “intelligent design”), then turn around and claim they don’t support it. They are pretty shady, in my opinion.

  • Oh?? What was with the “newly sainted” thing then?? Or do you not know about how sainthood works in the Lutheran Church??

  • If they fund creationism, they are doing it very much on the sly. At least according to the link you sent.

    “Charles L. Harper Jr., senior vice president at the Templeton Foundation, as saying “They never came in” and that while he was skeptical from the beginning, other foundation officials were initially intrigued and later grew disillusioned. “From the point of view of rigor and intellectual seriousness, the intelligent design people don’t come out very well in our world of scientific review”, he said”

    “In March 2009, the Discovery Institute, a supporter of intelligent design, accused the Templeton Foundation of blocking its involvement in Biological Evolution: Facts and Theories, a Vatican-backed, Templeton-funded conference in Rome.

    On the lack of involvement of any speakers supporting intelligent design, the conference director Rev. Marc Leclerc said, “We think that it’s not a scientific perspective, nor a theological or philosophical one…This make a dialogue difficult, maybe impossible.”At the conference, Francisco Ayala, an evolutionary biologist, former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and longtime advisor to the foundation, said intelligent design and creationism were “blasphemous” to both Christians and scientists.”

  • You guys are doing fine all by yourselves. You don’t need pointers from me. 🙂

    Besides, I am not the one whose beliefs feel threatened by objectively credible scientific evidence accumulated for over a century. Nor am I one who would feel the need to lie about the basis of my belief in public.

    Creationists do both. Their view shows a lack of understanding of both science and religion.

  • gilhcan,
    Your rant is entirely out of place and wrong. Did you just want to rant or are you interested in the facts in any way?

  • Larry,
    I’m a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship minister who agrees with you.
    I earned my D.Min from Columbia Seminary, Decatur, Ga. which is one of the pilot seminaries involved. I hope their will be a component for Alumni.

  • The courts have ruled against these claims. The Bill of Rights does not mention separation of church & state anywhere, and neither does the Constitution. Amendment I:
    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
    As the courts have ruled, many times, the establisment clause states that the government will not create a state religioun. It does allow the government at local, state, and federal level to help fund religious schools, hospitals, universities, etc. as these funds are used for various religious groups. Many charter schools are not even religious. With that, free expression is allowed, even by elected officials, in public. Free expression allows those of faith (to include Pagans, Gnostics, and Athiests-yes, the goverment recognizes Athiests as a faith group) to speak out for and against laws when it comes to issues such as abortions/infantcide/euthanasia, contraception, funding, the Affordable Health Care Tax (or Act, I use the official term as listed in the law and by the courts). For more information, read the actual court documents and the works of the Founding Fathers. I used Jefferson as the basis of my response.

  • Dan, your take on the Establishment Clause is dishonestly reductive.

    The separation of church and state is the concept behind it. It is an idea which predates the founding of our nation by about a century as espoused by the founders of Rhode Island and Pennsylvania, Roger Williams and William Penn. The term (which Thomas Jefferson alluded to) came from a speech Williams made in 1644.

    The avoidance of creating a state religion means avoiding entanglements between the apparatus of government and religion. A wall of separation between church and state was PRECISELY what was meant when they drafted the Establishment Clause. Its basis and the urge for its inclusion was the doctrine of religious separation which existed in those 2 states at the time.

    The separation of church and state is REQUIRED in order to safeguard free exercise of religion. Government which is entangled with religion inevitably engages in sectarian discrimination. As well noted by the ancestors of the founders. When governments do so, it undermines any protection to religious expression. We require laws to have a rational and secular basis to them because those of an entirely religious motivation are ALWAYS discriminatory in nature.

    To attack separation of church and state is to declare that you want to attack free exercise of religion as well. The people who make the patently dishonest claims that separation of church and state does not (or should not) exist also want to attack religious freedom for all in favor of their own faith and sect. They want to engage in religious discrimination under the law but don’t want to say it in public in such an obvious fashion.

    “For more information, read the actual court documents and the works of the Founding Fathers. I used Jefferson as the basis of my response.”

    That is highly doubtful if you came to such a conclusion.

    Jefferson was extremely skeptical about religion in general. You probably relied on David Barton derived misrepresentations on the subject. Try reading about Roger Williams, Thomas Paine and James Madison.

  • @Dan,

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”


    Atheism is non-belief in a God. That is all it is.

    And the US Constitution is still the only Constitution in the world which forbids the blessing of a god AS A GOVERNMENT ACTION.

    No God would allow such a clause in any Holy Book – so there is your evidence that the Establishment Clause is SECULAR.

    The US Government cannot have a religion, but it cannot forbid others from having a religion. Sounds like my own Atheist household!

    I will not establish any religion over the rest of my family, AND I will not forbid my children from having a religion on their own if they want to.

    The US Constitution behaves exactly like an Atheist’s Household!