Reconciling Faith and Science
Although he chose ministry as a vocation rather than becoming a scientist as originally intended, U.S. missionary Dan E. Guenther has spent the past 12 years combining the twin obsessions. His efforts culminated this year with the publication of the book Epic Science, Ancient Faith: Essential Attitudes for Studying Nature and the Bible in a Noisy World.
Guenther, Chi Alpha area director for 17 campuses in Washington, Northern Idaho, Oregon, and Alaska, launched his quest because he found many Christian students seemed ill-equipped to know how to talk about fossils, the climate, or the age of the earth.
“Some are confused about where to start — or worse, feel like no discussion is safe,” says Guenther, 50. “And others wonder if they have the knowledge to be in a conversation about science at all.”
With Guenther’s text, Christians have a rich resource for answering unresolved questions about creation, modern science, and the Bible.
It has been well-received in AG academic and collegiate circles.
“Dan has produced an august resource to assist university students in processing the timeless questions that always arise in higher education,” says E. Scott Martin, 59, national Chi Alpha Campus Ministries senior director. “His decades of ministry to university students uniquely qualifies him to know the questions they are asking.”
Former AG General Secretary James T. Bradford has a unique science-theology perspective. He holds a doctorate in aerospace engineering from the University of Minnesota, where he led a Chi Alpha campus Bible study that developed into a church. Bradford today is lead pastor of Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Missouri.
“At a time when the culture is making science into the enemy of faith, and science itself is being widely used as an excuse for deconstructing faith, this book is wonderful,” says Bradford, 69. “I am impressed with Dan’s ability to develop a framework for faith and science without deifying science or denigrating Scripture.”
Initially, Guenther thought the project would take a year to finish. But he spent 12 years — including a pair of sabbaticals — perfecting the work. All Chi Alpha personnel who attended the quadrennial Campus Missions Conference in July in Phoenix received a copy. Guenther is encouraging leaders to use Epic Science, Ancient Faith in small group discussions.
Guenther isn’t advocating one specific point of view on issues such as how old the earth is. His goal is to make young Chi Alpha attendees evaluate what they’ve learned in the past and not to be afraid to engage in conversations with newfound knowledge.
“Many Christian students have a rigid posture toward science when they come to campus,” Guenther says. “They are too inflexible in how to communicate faith in a science setting and they distrust many aspects of science they don’t need to distrust.”
For instance, some young adults have been taught if they don’t adhere to a certain age of the earth position, they really aren’t following God. Guenther believes Christians must develop a more flexible posture and not make the issue an essential doctrine of the faith.
“When we sound ill-informed in our science, nonbelievers end up rejecting the gospel,” Guenther says. He’s also found a plethora of students who want to compartmentalize their faith and science, as well as an abundance who choose to be unengaged on the topic because they are confused or scared.
Guenther earned both physics and mathematics bachelor’s degrees at Washington State University (WSU), plus a master’s degree in theological studies from Regent College. At WSU, he attended Chi Alpha events and met weekly with director Steve K. Barke to talk about the Bible and faith. After 13 years on the Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship staff at Central Washington University, he became area director in 2011. His wife, Becky, earned an environmental science degree at Western Washington University. The couple, married since 2000, are both U.S. missionaries.
“We want to see Christian students who arrive on campus be mobilized,” says Becky, 47. “We want to help them see themselves as disciple makers and Kingdom workers.”