Can A Christian Witness Be Heard in Academia: 1999 Brown Lecture Series | First Presbyterian Church Dallas, TX

Today’s lecture concerns the question - “Can Christians witness in Academia?” I want to talk about witness to Christ in “the real world.” By that I mean in the extra-sanctuary, outside world. I am going to talk about scientific academia, first because that is where I work and second, because that arena is widely perceived as resistant to religion. I want to begin with a comment made by William Stringfellow. He was a very perceptive, radical Christian. He never conformed to the environment in which he found himself. He simply witnessed in it by his lawyer skills and his Christianity. I take the following statement from one of his books, An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land: “Incarnational theology regards this real world, in the fullness of its fallen state, as simultaneously disclosing the ecumenical, militant, triumphant presence of God. The Bible deals with the sanctification of the actual history of human beings, in this world, as it is being lived.” That is what I want to talk about in this lecture. Jacques Monod, who received the Nobel Prize in 1965 for his discovery of the formation of Messenger RNA seems to speak for those in academia who appear to be resistant to religious interest. He wrote, “The ancient covenant between God and humans lies in pieces. Man at last knows he is alone in the unfeeling immensity of the universe, out of which he emerged by chance.” Now that is a tough statement, and one probably held by a large number of those in medical science. What I want to say this morning, as hopefully an encouragement to you, is something about my experience in this scientific social environment. And what I want to say is that to be a member of this environment does not preclude witness being made on behalf of Christ and the Church. There are two reasons that this can be done. First, there is a serious flaw in evolution that is widely recognized by scientists. The evolutionary process is so clear and positive in physical and intellectual life – we adapt and run faster and think clearer. Yet, it is so failed in human behavior. There is this dichotomy which everybody is aware of. Scientists will say, “There is nothing we can’t do” – we will solve cancer, etc. And the second phrase is, “There is nothing we can do” – about crime, about drug use, about greed, about the absence of ethics, about illiteracy. And the second reason is that life events occur, causing serious questions to arise unbidden. And those events strip away the security and uncertainty of this empty and uncaring universe.