“Praise the Source of faith and learning”: On science and Christianity

This Friday Thursday (apparently i can’t count) will mark the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Darwin, and this year the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the publication of his On the Origin of Species

The past few decades have seen a great deal of controversy at the interface of science and faith, particularly Christianity.  i don’t want today to focus on that, or to comment on Darwin or on evolutionary biology, but rather to prepare for future comment and perhaps forestall a certain brand of comments by quoting three verses from a hymn called “Praise the Source of faith and learning” by Thomas H. Troeger, a pastor, author, hymnwriter, and professor of Christian Communication at Yale Divinity School.  (The hymn is sung to the tune Hyfrodol by Rowland Prichard.)

Praise the Source of faith and learning
Who has sparked and stoked the mind
With a passion for discerning
How the world has been designed.
Let the sense of wonder flowing
From the wonders we survey
Keep our faith forever growing
And renew our need to pray:

God of wisdom, we acknowledge
That our science and our art
And the breadth of human knowledge
Only partial truth impart.
Far beyond our calculation
Lies a depth we cannot sound
Where Your purpose for creation
And the pulse of life are found.

As two currents in a river
Fight each other’s undertow
Till converging they deliver
One coherent steady flow,
May we blend our faith and learning
Till they carve a single course
And our seeking and our yearning
Join in praising You their source.

(Copyright 1994 Oxford University Press)

i was first introduced to this hymn by Dr Francis Collins, who was formerly director of the National Human Genome Research Institute and headed up the Human Genome Project.   In 2006 he presented a keynote lecture titled “The Language of God: A believer looks at the human genome” to the American Scientific Affiliation, a fellowship of Christians in science; he also published a book under the same title.  At the end of the lecture, Collins led the audience in singing this hymn– listen to it at the end of the video.

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