John Templeton Foundation to support psychology of religion studies

A new grant effort underway at the John Templeton Foundation: A planning grant structured to support the rare study of religion within psychology doctoral programs.

The effort includes a workshop for early career scholars, and seed grants to support their research. Also funded is the initial stages of preparing a highly engaging undergraduate textbook in the psychology of religion area.

“Religion is a central aspect of being human, yet has largely been ignored within academic psychology since the behavioral revolution in the early 20th century,” according to the foundation’s website. The grantmaking team add that there are roughly a dozen people in tenure-track or tenured positions in research oriented universities who are willing to take graduate students who want to study religion.

The initiative is led by three prominent scholars in the psychology of religion: Adam Cohen (University of Arizona), Kevin Ladd (Indiana University) and Azim Shariff (University of Oregon). Part of the work will also be in the planning and writing of the $2.5 million field-building effort, to include funding of post-doctoral fellows and emerging faculty grants to make them competitive at top flight jobs.

New Fuller Seminary project gaining “STEAM” in promoting faith and science dialogue

More than 30 universities, organizations and churches across the United States are housing new faith-and-science oriented activities thanks to a grant project called STEAM, which stands for Science and Theology in Emerging Adult Ministries.

The project is a partnership between Fuller Theological Seminary in California and the John Templeton Foundation. The idea is to catalyze the integration of Christian faith and science among 18-20 year olds, i.e. those considered to be emerging adults, organizers say. This year project teams including scientists and pastors and other volunteers will develop and implement projects they designed engaging science and theology within their communities. The following year, 2018, the project will wind down and resources created from STEAM will be publicly disseminated.

The STEAM project has awarded grants to 31 organizations to date, including: Gustavus Adolphus College, Harvey Mudd College, Samford University, First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, Washington University in St. Louis, Lipscomb University, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, and the Arizona Center for Christian Studies.

ELCA congregation Holy Trinity Lutheran Church and Campus Ministry in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, is seeking to engage students through small groups to determine if and why they feel tension between the practice of faith and the study of science. They plan on bringing in outside speakers to address the students’ concerns and to also form a mentorship network between local ministers and university scientists.

Participants at Gustavus Adolphus, an ELCA college in Saint Peter, Minnesota, are working on creating a digital storytelling platform by and for college students who are studying in STEM-related programs that will serve as a vehicle for vocational reflection, narrative theology and discussion about why and how science as a Christian vocation. A team of four science majors, mentored by a chaplain and a science professor, will create content and cultivate conversations both online and on campus with peers.

Dordt College in Iowa recently received a $25,000 grant to create online resources and multi-session learning modules that will be made available to college and post-college ministries to equip Christian young adults in tackling the complex questions at the intersection of faith and science.

Dordt Biology professor Robbin Eppinga will lead a team of college faculty, area pastors and a senior Dordt biology major. The resources will help Christian young adults anatomize questions related to cloning, medical ethics, evolution through natural selection, GMOs, climate change, and many others. However, studies will not be limited to the “hard” sciences, the team adds. Studies will also cover topics in “soft” sciences like psychology and sociology, as well as the scientific aspects of disciplines in the arts or humanities, according to Fuller Seminary website.

“The evidence suggests that as Christians, we’re not always engaging these questions very well—in our churches, in Christian schools, within families,” says Eppinga. “Many young Christians have never had a safe place to wrestle through challenging issues at the interface of faith and science, and these resources are intended to help people create that safe place to ask questions, examine evidence, and explore implications.”

Change of date for Goshen Religion and Science Conference

Organizers of the Goshen College Religion and Science Conference have pushed back to April 7-9, 2017, the dates for the annual event that attracts students, professors and others from across the Midwest to the college campus in Goshen, Indiana.

The theme is “Deep Incarnation: From Cosmos to Commitment” and the speaker will be Niels Henrik Gregersen of the University of Copenhagen. Gregersen’s three lectures are: “The Cosmic Christ: God in a World of Mass, Energy and Information;” “Christ and Biology: Creativity and Suffering in a World of Biological Agency;” and “Christ and Culture: The Jesus Story and the Cultivation of Commitment.”

Professor Gregersen received his Ph.D. in theology from the University of Copenhagen in 1987. Between 1986 and 2004 he held various faculty positions at Aarhus University, from 2000 to 2004 as research professor in Theology and Science. Since 2004, he has been professor of Systematic Theology at the University of Copenhagen.

From 1992 to 2003, he was a leader of the Danish Science-Theology Forum; 1998-2002 vice president of the European Society for the Study of Science and Theology (ESSSAT) and responsible for its publication program. In 2002, he was elected president of The Learned Society, Denmark. He is a founding member and trustee of International Society for Science and Religion (ISSR) 2002-2007.

First held in 2001, the Goshen conference has hosted well-known religion and science scholars including Philip Clayton, George Ellis, John Haught, Nancey Murphy and Phil Hefner.

New online course taught by Marcelo Gleiser brings together religion, philosophy and science

Renowned physics professor Marcelo Gleiser is teaching a new massive open online course (MOOC) named “Question Reality!”, which explores the intersection between philosophy, religion and science.

The course began on January 31 as part of DartmouthX, an initiative dedicated to expanding Dartmouth’s collection of MOOCs since 2014, in collaboration with the nonprofit online learning consortium edX.  In an interview with the Dartmouth student newspaper, Gleiser said that the course idea came from a book he wrote, “The Island of Knowledge,” that was well received. He proposed a traditional course on the interface between science, philosophy and religion and it was approved. Later on he received a grant to start the Institute for Cross-Disciplinary Engagement and had funding for two MOOC productions.

While Gleiser has taught at Dartmouth for 26 years, this is his first MOOC. The course material is taught via video and then there are interviews with experts from many fields – from a classics professor talking about Lucretius to a CERN physicist talking about the search for ultimate particles of nature. Students answer multiple choice questions to make sure they are actually learning the material. MOOCs can accept thousands of students, which can make such an undertaking a unique challenge even for an experienced professor such as Gleiser. The course itself runs for six weeks and is self-paced as other MOOCs traditionally are.

Gettysburg professor named visiting scholar at Zygon Center in Chicago

Dr. Leonard Hummel, professor at Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, will be a visiting scholar for the next year at the Zygon Center for Religion and Science housed at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.

Hummel’s academic work has been in field of pastoral theology and prior to joining the faculty at Gettysburg he taught at the Divinity School of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. An ordained member of the ELCA he also holds a PhD in the area of pastoral psychology. He also brings extensive experience in medical and mental health clinical settings.

“God’s word conveys many challenges and promises for the pastoral care of the world and of souls,” said Hummel, and “I am excited by the challenges and promises offered me by the call to teach pastoral theology at Gettysburg.” Hummel teaches in the area of pastoral theology and pastoral care, including counseling, grief and suffering, pastoral leadership and other topics related to pastoral work.

In a Living Lutheran article that he co-authored last year with Ann Pederson, Hummel wrote, “Similarly, we suggest that when bad science is promulgated, it can visit disaster upon the Christian community in many ways—in the forms of bad medicine or bad environmental science. Inviting the insights of scientists is part and parcel of good pastoral practice.”

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