Increasingly more students are accessing Wartburg Theological Seminary’s classes remotely via Zoom, which will be integral to widening the reach of the new “Science, Technology and Being Human” project that seeks to engage students and faculty at the intersection of science and religion.
This digital classroom outreach will also be integral in the year-long project which is funded through a grant that the Iowa-based seminary was one nine institutions to receive through the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion (DoSER) program.
Wartburg’s classrooms span 30 states and out of the 150 students approximately only 1/3 are residential now, according to Rev. Dr. Craig Nessan, academic dean and professor of contextual theology and ethics at the school.
His ethics course in the fall will incorporate science. Geared toward final year students, the course will look at scientific arguments that inform and enlighten theology and specifically scientific views of the human person and using a scientific lens to look at ELCA social statements.
“A credible interpretation of Christian faith in our time means integrating consensus findings from the sciences into our witness,” says Nessan. “This AAAS grant lends support to the faculty of WTS to equip church leaders to be conversant with science by incorporating it into their teaching and to equip our graduates to engage more capably the urgent ethical issues in our society.”
Nessan says he has always sought to incorporate evolutionary biology into his course work, and previously has been awarded grants from the John Templeton Foundation for that curriculum development.
Tim Snyder, Wartburg’s director of digital teaching and learning and instructor of practical theology, is the leader of the AAAS grant project, will be incorporating science into a leadership course that will be taught via Zoom.
The digital learning curriculum was launched in 2016 as part of a revised distributed learning program. The AAAS grant’s yearlong theme will provide an opportunity to reflect theologically on the possibilities and limits of technology for theological education and the wider church, according to the seminary.
“Through this grant we have a unique opportunity to partner with thought leaders from around the country,” says Snyder. “Over the next year we will invite over a dozen scholars, theologians and scientists to come and engage the seminary community.”
Another component of the grant is to incorporate into the seminary’s monthly convocation topics related to science and theology. As part of the AAAS grant, officials are provided access to scientists and over the summer Nessan and Snyder will gather with advisors from other US seminaries and local scientists to work on the grant initiatives.
The seminary also plans on hosting community events through the year to encourage informed dialogue relating to science and religion.
Also in the early planning stages is a conference that will be held at Wartburg in the spring semester.
Susan is an author with a long-time interest in religion and science. She currently edits Covalence, the Lutheran Alliance for Faith, Science and Technology’s online magazine. She has written articles in The Lutheran and the Zygon Center for Religion and Science newsletter. Susan is a board member for the Center for Advanced Study of Religion and Science, the supporting organization for the Zygon Center and the Zygon Journal. She also co-wrote Our Bodies Are Selves with Dr. Philip Hefner and Dr. Ann Pederson.