Church and Scientists: Who? What? Where?

  • Are there scientists at church?
  • Are churches aware there are scientists in their congregations?
  • Are churches sensitive to any church-related issues and challenges scientists might have?
  • Are churches aware of issues that might keep scientists away from church?

My research tries to bring the whole reality of Christians in the sciences with church.  Much has been written on the spiritual journeys of scientists and how many Christians integrate their science and faith, but little has looked at the church connection.  One of the research approaches I have taken is to speak with (1) scientists who are Christians, and (2) pastors and other church leaders to look at the church connections …

What i have found through my interviews is that:

  • Some Christians who are in the sciences are not in churches.   Some have had negative church experiences.  Some have just felt unsupported.  More about this in the challenges section.
  • Many scientists are in churches.  Their relationship with church and church people may have been rocky, but it is still positive.  More about this in the blessings section.
  • Most churches and church leaders have never thought about any unique challenges scientists might feel in church. More about this in the challenges section.
  • Most churches and church leaders have not seriously thought about obstacles or barriers that might exist for scientists who could attend their church.  More about this in the challenges section.
  • Few churches actively provide any positive education or support for young people or others who feel called to or are interested in the sciences.  More about this in the challenges section.

Here are some of my experiences as I talked with church leaders about the challenge of Christians in the sciences:

  1. Less than half of the pastors I talked with were aware of practicing scientists in their congregations.
  2. Of those who were aware of scientists in their church, only two pastors had given intentional thought to the unique challenges scientists might face in their faith and in the congregation.  In both cases the pastors were aware of issues around evolution and/or the age of the universe that might put scientists in their congregation in potential conflict with other members within their church.  At a personal level, they tried to reach out to those scientists to make them feel welcome and appreciated.  No other pastor had given this serious consideration.
  3. No pastor had thought about barriers or obstacles a scientist might face.  For instance, they had not considered any of the formal or informal cultures their congregation might have that might create tension for scientists (literature available, links on website to specific organizations, etc.).  None had “put themselves in the shoes” of a scientist who might attend their church and thought through what their experience might be.
  4. All of the pastors were aware of youth or young adults in their congregation with scientific interests.
  5. Most pastors had never given serious consideration to how to encourage or support youth or young adults interested in the sciences.
  6. Four pastors identified that they actively discouraged youth from pursuing science because (in one pastor’s words), “they will study evolution and other unbiblical doctrines.  Their faith will be attacked.”
  7. (The same ) four churches provided classes/workshops on young-Earth creationism and anti-evolution perspectives.
  8. Only two churches provided classes/seminars for youth or young adults on scientific issues from a positive perspective.
  9. No church provided mentorship for younger people interested in the science with an experienced scientist.