The Carl F. H. Center for Theological Understanding at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School has invited me to participate in a one semester research residency as a part of its Creation Project. Read on as I explain why this is great news for our ministry in Slovakia and how it will affect our home assignment this summer.
About the Henry Center
First off, what is this Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding? On their web site, the Henry Center says,
We want to help bridge [the] gap between the theological academy and the church through the promotion of biblical wisdom.
Basically, the Henry Center is a theological institute at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School that serves the church by connecting pastors and lay people with the theological resources of the seminary. The goal is to help believers better understand and apply Scripture to their every day lives.
About the Creation Project
Last year the Henry Center announced the receipt of a $3.4 million grant from the Templeton Religion Trust for an initiative entitled “Evangelical Theology and the Doctrine of Creation.” Through the Creation Project the Henry Center is seeking
to recover the meaning and importance of these grand themes [e.g. the goodness and orderliness of creation], and to re-articulate a doctrine of creation that is faithful to revealed truth and in open and earnest dialogue with the insights of modern science.
Getting the grant for this project was a big win for Trinity and for the Henry Center. In the press release the President of the University pointed out that this is the largest grant in the 118-year history of the school.
It’s easy to see that evangelicals sometimes find it difficult to navigate between science and the Word of God. On the one hand, evangelicals take God’s Word to be his authoritative revelation and so without error in all that it affirms. But in our “plain reading” of the text, especially the creation text, we find it very difficult to reconcile the teachings of Scripture with the findings of science. Scripture seems to say that the universe is perhaps 10,000 years old. Science says it’s 13.8 billion years old.
So the goal of the Creation Project is to reaffirm the doctrine of creation without giving up the truthfulness of Scripture and all the while in humble dialog with science. The project is divided up into three years with a different focus each year. During the first year of the project, which starts this fall, the theme is “Reading Genesis in an Age of Science.”
My Role in the Project
With the approval of the seminary here in Banská Bystrica and ReachGlobal, I applied for the Resident Fellow position for the fall of 2016 and was recently informed that my proposal was accepted along with three other Research Fellows and two Senior Research Fellows. It’s going to be very cool working with this group! The residency starts September 1 and lasts until December 18. During that time I’ll be assigned/suggested specific research projects (toward completing my too ambitious proposal) to complete during my residency on campus at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
My own research and writing proposal sets out to help evangelicals solve the creation conundrum by understanding how to better read Gen 1-2 in the context of modern science. What are the theological claims of the text? How are those claims supported by the text? How do they intersect with scientific claims about the origins of the universe? What are the points of potential conflict? Also, if we read Gen 1-2 differently today than we have all through Christianity (as some claim), how can we justify that difference?
Needless to say, it was very exciting for me to receive this research fellowship because it has the potential of transforming our ministry here in Slovakia.
The Impact of this Project on our Ministry in Slovakia
As a Genesis scholar, I have to admit that I was trying to avoid this topic. It seemed to me the whole discussion was producing more heat than light and I like to avoid heat. Also, I felt like my own area of interest could go happily in a more constructive direction. The problem is, when people find out you study Genesis the first questions always have to do with creation. And so I first started answering those questions in some blog posts you may be familiar with.
Gradually, my reluctance to engage this issue has softened and I have come to believe that my particular area of research provides a missing link that could help evangelicals take a step or two forward on this issue. So now I see this as an amazing opportunity to use the particular situation that God has placed me in, in order to build God’s kingdom.
For such a time as this?
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Potentially, this project could open doors to expand my ministry in Slovakia, and Europe, and beyond. My passion for ministry is to help people learn to read the Bible better and apply its wisdom to every area of life. I’m convinced that as evangelicals we have to do better at this than we have. I see my work in Genesis as helping us move in this direction and this project could give me a larger platform for that service to the church.
Besides helping me with my own personal ministry, this project helps our seminary in Slovakia. Many people may not realize that the quality and impact of the seminary depends not only on the teaching and mentoring skills of the professors but also on their writing and research activities. Professors who are well established in research and writing are better teachers and they attract better students for ministry in God’s kingdom. Quality research also offers the seminary a larger platform from which to impact the church and culture of Slovakia. The leadership at our seminary sees this research project as a rare opportunity that could help us move up to the next level.