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A new kind of conversation
The Colossian Forum sponsors scientist dialogue for Christianity Today
CT The Colossian Forum (TCF) underwrote the interviews of two scientists, Todd Wood and Darrel Falk, conducted by Christianity Today senior writer, Tim Stafford. These interviews resulted in the July/August 2012 cover story for the magazine entitled, A Tale of Two Scientists: What really happened 'in the beginning.' 

TCF Junior Fellow Matt Dodrill's wrote a follow-up blog post on Tim Stafford's article and first chapter of an upcoming book, which is commissioned and underwritten by The Colossian Forum. Included in this blog post is a video of Stafford discussing science as a gift.

Our blog also features TCF Senior Fellow James K.A. Smith's blog post about a new kind of conversation playing out on our website between Todd Wood, a young-earth creationist at Bryan College, and Dennis Venema, a geneticist and evolutionary creationist at Trinity Western University. The Colossian Forum exists to foster space for just such a conversation.
A message from the President

Dear Friends of The Colossian Forum,

 

It is hard to believe, but TCF has now been up and running for 18 months!  In this short time, we have already successfully engaged hundreds of key figures in the faith and science conversation - from college presidents, provosts and professors to high school administrators and teachers, as well as many pastors and laity.

 

I'm amazed by how these conversations continue to unfold. That's why I want to share with you the kinds of things that happen - even with completely different audiences - when we unpack the implications of our essential message-"All things hold together in Christ" (Col 1:17).  In other words, as Christians we don't hold everything together by fending off or defeating all those who disagree with us.  Rather, because of the reconciling work of Christ, all things already hold together in him!  This frees us to explore and embody together, across our differences, how this is the case.  What a remarkable invitation!

 

I gave one lecture in the Northwest to a group of Christians intent on teaching evolution to conservatives.  I delivered the other in the Deep South to an organization concerned with reviving the Young Earth Creationist movement as a legitimate scientific enterprise.  Because one of the invitations came at the last minute, I didn't have time to write two different lectures.  Against my best judgment, I ended up giving the same talk in both venues. 

 

Expecting the worst, I gave a simple talk: we need to grasp the stunning truth that all things already hold together in Christ-including us.

 

I went on to say that we are reconciled now, but too often we are in the grip of fear that separates us. Fear asks the question, "What must I do to secure myself in the face of conflicts?" But in Christ, our conflicts, real and deep as they may be, are not as real or deep as the reconciliation he has already accomplished. And this changes the basic question to "What must I do to understand and show that we are one in Christ?" The answer is that Christians should not only seek the right information but also share in practices of prayer, hospitality and worship in order to become the kinds of people who put our unity in Jesus first.. Then we can engage each other in real conversation, even difficult conversation, based not on fear but on our family unity in Christ.

 

I gave the same message to each group. Each time, when I finished, I waited for the ax to fall.

 

But in both places, I was overwhelmed by the audience's response. One group invited me back to lead a chapel service; the other actually broke out in applause (a first for me).  Each group followed up with open-hearted observations and (sometime painful) questions. Both groups expressed a deep hunger for a way out of deadlock and forward into a new kind conversation rooted in the hospitality of Christ that grows from mutual prayer, Scripture reading and worship.

 

Something new is really happening out there. Christians on the left and the right are recognizing that their shared desire to witness to Christ together is stronger than the desire to "win" the debate at all costs.  And it is precisely this shared desire that creates the necessary space in which the Holy Spirit can lead us into all truth - even at the difficult intersection of faith, science and culture!  All it takes to get things moving is a reminder and an invitation!

 

Again and again, we've found this real hunger for hospitable conversations on hard topics. That's why we are poised to dramatically expand our efforts.  Since July, our staff has grown from one full time employee to four .  We have moved to a new, larger office  .  And in 2013, we intend to triple our number of forums, launch a major initiative to develop teaching resources at the intersection of faith and science, launch a major research project on Creation, Evolution and the Fall, and expand our scholarly, ecclesial and educational networks. 

 

My staff and I are thankful to God that we get to be part of this work. And I'm thankful to you for helping launch and support TCF. You and many other friends have generously shared your time, wisdom and resources - dreaming, praying and even working alongside us to create new possibilities and new hope at the difficult intersection of faith, science and culture.

 

Now, as we expand our outreach, I want to ask for your help.  For us to continue our work we need to widen our support through new partnerships.  We have big goals, and funding those goals will be a big task. That's why we want to bring it before you. If you want to help Christians out of the deadlock and participate in a new kind of conversation, prayerfully consider partnering with us by:

 

1)    Committing to pray for the work of The Colossian Forum regularly

2)    Sharing with us your experiences at the intersection of faith, science and culture

3)    Participating in or hosting a forum

4)    Offering a year-end gift

5)    Committing to a monthly pledge ($10, $50 or even $150 per month)

6)    Helping underwrite a local high school or church forum ($500-$1000)

7)    Helping underwrite a scholars forum ($1000-$5000)

 

Thank you so much for whatever you are able to give. We are confident that God will provide us all with what we need to be faithful.

 

Peace of Christ.

Michael Gulker

 

P.S.  To contribute now, just click the link to donate online.  If you're inspired to further support our long-range funding needs, want to share your experiences or participate in a forum, please contact us by email or by phone at 616-328-6016. We want to hear your ideas!

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Upcoming
Calvin
Cornerstone Clock Tower
Forum with Calvin College Students
November 29, 2012
Forum with Cornerstone University Students
December 7, 2012 

Genesis Across 
The Centuries (preview here)
January 2013 

Hot off the Press
"Come & See" by Mark A. Noll - A New TCF Booklet
Noll

In his landmark book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (1994), evangelical historian Mark Noll encouraged Christians to pursue Christian scholarship on the basis of their theological convictions, particularly the biblical affirmation of the goodness of creation. If God created the world, and declared it "very good" (Gen. 1:31), and if God has given us the task of ruling that creation as his image-bearers, then it is our gift and responsibility to explore and understand creation in order to realize its potential under God. Such scholarship and exploration would include the good work of scientific research and technological innovation. Thus Noll motivated and grounded a call for Christian pursuit of science (and Christian scholarship more broadly) in a theology of creation.

 

In reply, some critics noted that appeals to a theology of creation often seem to be unhooked from Christ and the cross. In other words, a theological affirmation of science rooted in creation is not robustly "Christian," but merely "theistic," and too easily slides towards a functional deism.

 
Noll seems to have heard those concerns and thus in his follow-up book, 
Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind (from which this pamphlet is excerpted), he ramps up the theological rationale to a properly Christological argument. In other words, if the earlier affirmation of science was rooted in the conviction that God's creation is "very good," his more recent argument is rooted in the conviction that "in Christ, all things hold together" (Col. 1:17).

 

In the course of that argument, Noll does two very important things. First, he provides a nuanced historical account of how we got to where we are by concisely pointing out that the terms of contemporary debates-between Christians and New Atheists, or between young earth creationists and evolutionary creationists-are the products of shifts in western thinking that radically changed how Christians talked about "nature" and God's relationship to creation (what philosophers call "metaphysics"). Read the entire article here.

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