'Darwin feet' project an attention-grabber for campus church

Saint Andrew’s Lutheran Campus Center on the campus of University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, has a newly improved bike rack that is making distinctive statement.

Drawing the attention of the student newspaper The Daily Illini and the local campus television station, the rack was transformed from its original shape of the ancient Christian symbol of a fish and was given “Darwin feet” by students, who recognized the image as that used to signify a theological perspective of evolutionary creation.

Although some online forums questioned the ability of the rack to still hold bikes, Saint Andrew’s congregational leaders felt the bike rack enhancements makes an appropriate statement regarding the interaction between faith and science.

“Scientific and faith communities have a lot of overlap and can be mutually supportive. Religion and faith can be a great motivator for trying to objectively understand the world around us and for using what we’ve learned for the betterment of society as a whole,” said Lisa Pogue, a University of Illinois graduate student and scientist who attends Saint Andrew’s.

The timing was important too in that the Rheticus Forum affiliated with the church hosted a discussion with Lutheran theologian Rob Saler of Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis on the topic “If I love science, do I have to be an atheist?”

Attracting students from other Abrahamic religions in addition to the wider local church community, the event featured a lecture from Saler and set aside time for an informal Q&A.

Saler said that the Forum was an invitation to think about the “kinds of truth we talk about in theology that can interact fearlessly with other kinds of knowledge whether that knowledge that comes from literature, philosophy, art and also science.”

Saler is the executive director of the Center for Pastoral Excellence and his research interests encompass both historical and systematic theology. He has published numerous articles in a number of areas including ecological theology. He is a member of the American Theological Society (Midwest division) and the American Academy of Religion.

“At St. Andrew’s, we hope to interrupt and challenge the popular narrative that says faith and science are mutually exclusive and should therefore be antagonistic toward each other,” said Saint Andrew’s pastor Amy Thoren. “We believe respectful dialogue, probing questions, mutual desire to learn from each other, and common affirmation of the mysteries of this life can bear much fruit in a world of misunderstanding and distrust. By putting feet on our Christian fish bike rack, we hope to pique interest, stimulate desire for conversation, and express our willingness to forge a path less traveled. We also hope others will join us on that path.”

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