“Hearing God’s Voice in Nature” was the theme of this year’s annual meeting of our broader group, the American Scientific Affiliation. It was held at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa Oklahoma, from July 24 to 27. The campus was a very intriguing setting. As usual, the ASA staff efficiently carried out their duties, seeing that all ran smoothly. Program Chair Dominic Halsmer and Local Arrangements Chair Wes Odom worked hard and graciously to ensure a productive and spiritually enriching time. The contingent from Canada and the CSCA (pictured) numbered about 20, including the foursome from the Sikkema Family from Langley B.C.
The theme verse was taken from Psalm 11:2 “Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them”, and it was evident throughout how respectfully participants hold this verse close to their hearts, life, and work. It is my observation as well, that two, perhaps unintentional subthemes developed as the meeting progressed. One comes from “the darker side” of nature, the other from the constraints of science as a discipline.
The first subtheme was skillfully defined in the opening plenary talk, given by “our own” Bethany Sollereder. It was entitled “Blood, Fire and Fang: Listening for God in the Violence of Creation”. Bethany shared how, if we really look around, and we really want to hear God’s voice, we need to discover it also in the violence, extinction and suffering that has been an inherent part of our created world for a very long time. There is an ambiguity in creation’s witness wherein we can also discover God. It is not simply “all things bright and beautiful”. The voice of God is still there, if we listen, in part because God cares, because God’s love is limitless, and because, intentionally, divine love is vulnerable.
This theme emerged again in other talks. CSCA vice president Janet Warren presented a talk entitled “Through a Glass Darkly: Human Hindrances to Hearing the Voice of God”, and noted the complexity of listening for God through innate and acquired obstacles which are part of our humanity. Canadian Denis Lamoureux, in his talk entitled “The Cosmic Fall and Natural Evil: Biblical Considerations”, faced the topic of the cosmic fall with exegetical skill, and the theodicy as fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
The second subtheme was developed primarily by the second plenary speaker, Dr. Alister McGrath from Oxford. He was present through a video presentation and in virtual time for the question and answer period. As he reviewed the topic of Natural Theology, ( subtitled “Seeing God’s Footprints in Creation”), McGrath focused on the fact that science doesn’t answer all the questions, particularly certain aspects of the truly big questions. A Christian perspective provides a special and unique lens by which we can understand our place in the universe. McGrath’s comments and insights were picked up or affirmed in a number of other talks. For example, long time ASA member Walter Bradley, in his talk on “The Mystery of Life’s Origin”, noted how it is impossible to prove or disprove the existence of God with the tools of science. This was underscored by Ted Davis’ talk as well. He noted science’s inability to answer the basic questions concerning the “first and last things.
Other Canadian contributions included Alan Dickin’s talk entitled “The Need to Re-examine Noah’s Experience of the Flood”. Please note that all of the talks, in audio and abstract form, are available via the ASA website www.asa3.org. You will also see some of the other activities, such as the discussions from the Faith, Gender, and Career Panels, the other plenary talks etc.
As an aside, my wife and I decided to explore mid America by road on the way there and back. This meant taking some time to cover the historic Route 66, with its museums and restored gas stations, and also spending a day in Kansas City. I highly recommend the American Jazz Museum. It is very interactive.
A highlight of the meeting itself is in seeing old friends and meeting new ones. I have always experienced the love of God, the energy of the Holy Spirit, and the embrace of Christ at every ASA meeting, and this one was no exception. Thanks again to the ASA staff and local organizers. Start planning for Azusa Pacific next year, when the ASA will celebrate their 75th anniversary. We are.