Have you ever noticed how much energy Christians invest in "responding to" things? We respond to movies, books, politics, current events, philosophies, and so on. Some days my Twitter feed seems like a long scroll of rash responses. This kind of reactionary posture also surfaces in conversations about science-faith issues. Instead of leading, or even initiating, discussions about science, we often content ourselves with knee-jerk responses to mainstream controversies. Others even avoid science altogether, writing it off as a corrupt atheistic conspiracy designed to keep Christians out. Such approaches usually stop conversations and prevent deeper exploration.
Somehow I find it hard to believe that God's hopes and dreams for His people include us remaining in a posture of responding or avoiding. So, how can Christians start leading the conversation?
One way to transition to leaders is to prepare the next generation of Christian scientists to represent Jesus boldly and effectively in the STEM fields. The scholar team at Reasons to Believe is pioneering a path toward that goal via our youth mentoring program, The Lab. Our vision is to inspire up-and-coming research scientists with a passion for connecting their faith with their future profession and to teach them how to harness their skills for the kingdom of God.
Science can be a legitimate Christian calling and God has specially gifted certain young people with natural abilities in science, mathematics, and engineering. We want to be strategically and supernaturally connected to these future leaders.
Last July marked our first Lab experience. Twenty students and some parents joined RTB scholars and staff for a three-day program that included practical discussions, opportunities to fellowship with like-minded peers, and a visit to nearby Griffith Observatory. Astrophysicist Jeff Zweerink and biochemical engineer Katie Galloway led conversations about the challenges of being a Christian research scientist, understanding scientific discoveries, and addressing science-faith questions. They also held breakout sessions to address specific fields of research. Astronomer Hugh Ross and philosopher-theologian Kenneth Samples supplemented these efforts with additional sessions or by partaking in mealtime Q&As.
The Lab also provided parents with the opportunity to get equipped to help their sons and daughters navigate a STEM education and career. Jeff and virologist Anjeanette "AJ" Roberts talked with parents about how to get their students connected to reliable mentors and involved in campus ministries. AJ also offered her expertise as an academic advisor to parents in informal conversations. Hugh and his wife, Kathy, encouraged parents with tips for staying involved with and supportive of their college students. I was also on hand for a talk about how to use RTB resources to bolster students' faith and answer tough questions.
The inaugural Lab program was a success, with both students and parents expressing gratitude for the practical, applicable mentorship and wisdom they received. One of the best outcomes was the camaraderie built between the students themselves, many of whom thought they were alone in their scientific interests or struggles with science and faith. One student reported The Lab as being pivotal to saving his teetering faith. Another described the event's impact this way: