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Science for Ministry

Princeton Theological Seminary Awarded "Science for Ministry" Grant from the John Templeton Foundation

Princeton, NJ (July 6, 2009) – Princeton Theological Seminary has been awarded a $346,988 grant over three years as part of the John Templeton Foundation's inaugural "Science for Ministry" Initiative. The purpose of this broader program is to "support effective science education programs and resources for people active in ministry."

Dr. J. Wentzel van Huyssteen, the James I. McCord Professor of Theology and Science at Princeton Theological Seminary, will serve as codirector of the initiative with Kenneth Reynhout, a Ph.D. candidate in theology and science at the Seminary. The initiative is part of the Seminary’s continuing education program.

"This initiative,” says van Huyssteen, “is intended to address a common experience of ministers and scientists of faith who struggle to develop a constructive dialogue around issues of theology and science in their ministry contexts. We are seeking to equip leaders in ministry with the knowledge and tools to confidently respond to these fundamental challenges, and to do so in ways that encourage a transformational impact on their church communities.”

Bianca Robinson, a 2005 graduate of Princeton Seminary and youth pastor at Zion Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia, is excited about the program. "Science and religion help us as human beings understand who we are in the universe, and go hand-in-hand to give us a greater understanding of our purpose. They help me understand better why I believe what I believe as a unique and particular creature made up of matter and meaning," she says, anticipating applying for the program.

Princeton Seminary’s program is designed for 144 participants from 72 Christian faith communities. Each community will send a scientist and a theologian to participate in a five-day introductory program that focuses on the two essential questions shared by theology and science: questions of origins and questions of human nature. Participants will then choose from a series of three-day and one-day events that focus on different facets of these questions, including topics such as evolution in both cosmology and biology, and cognitive science, neuroscience, and the human person. Each pair of scientist and theologian will return to their community equipped to further the dialogue between science and theology.

Kirsten Griffin, who graduated from Princeton in 2008, represents both halves of the science-ministry partnership. She credits her class on theology and science taught by van Huyssteen with her decision to study science after seminary. "The class propelled me to enroll for classes in chemistry, physics, and biology at the University of Minnesota and I hope to apply to medical school. I am very interested in the Science for Ministry initiative," she says.

"Princeton Seminary’s service to the church does not end with graduation. The twofold focus of our continuing education efforts is on the continuing formation of pastors and on the lives of congregations. Intentionally bringing together congregational partners in ministry and science is an example of our service to the church," says the Reverend Raymond Bonwell, director of programs for the Erdman Center of Continuing Education, who will administer the initiative.

The grant will be used to subsidize the majority of the costs for the participants and to create content for the program. The first program will be November 2–6, 2009, on the Princeton Seminary campus. Additional information, including applications, is available at www.ptsem.edu/scienceforministry, or by telephone at 609.497.7990.

Princeton Theological Seminary was founded in 1812, the first seminary established by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. It is the largest Presbyterian seminary in the country, with more than 600 students in six graduate degree programs.

The mission of the John Templeton Foundation (www.templeton.org) is to serve as a philanthropic catalyst for research and discoveries relating to what scientists and philosophers call the Big Questions. The Foundation supports work at the world’s top universities in such fields as theoretical physics, cosmology, evolutionary biology, cognitive science, and social science relating to love, forgiveness, creativity, purpose, and the nature and origin of religious belief. The Foundation also seeks to stimulate new thinking about wealth creation in the developing world, character education in schools and universities, and programs for cultivating the talents of gifted children.