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Pensmore Dialogue on Science and Faith Speaker Profiles: Vern Poythress

February 24th, 2014

By Hannah Zarr

Originally appeared in PHC's Herald 02/21

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Dr. Vern Poythress

"The whole of science is exploring the mind of God,” said Dr. Vern S. Poythress, professor at Westminister Theological Seminary, the author of over 20 books, and one of the speakers for the upcoming Pensmore Dialogue at PHC. Poythress is trying to understand God’s thoughts not only through the Bible, but also by the way that God has determined to govern the world through science and mathematics.

Steve Huff, founder of the Pensmore Dialogue, said the Poythress was the “nucleus of the Pensmore Dialogue.” He helped Huff initiate the conferences and has spoken at each one.

With both a Ph.D. of Mathematics (which had overlap with science courses) from Harvard University and a degree of equal standing in New Testament studies, Poythress is able to help people integrate the fields of science and mathematics with theology. He will be discussing the “culturally hot and disputed topic” of science and design at the Pensmore Dialogue, he said. “My own desire is to understand the whole of the scientific enterprise from the God I’ve come to know through Christ,” Poythress said. He believes that understanding science as a whole is subordinate to what we do with Darwinism.

Looking at the whole of science makes clear the fundamental difference between the Christian’s view of science and the mainstream’s view of science. Poythress explained that while the main-stream sees scientific laws as the product of God’s speech that reveals the wonder and wisdom of His character. In this day and age, everyone has to form some kind of opinion about how science and technology fit together. If we do not form our own opinions, Poythress said, we will end up with an impersonal conception of science and technology and believe we live in a machine. Faith will just be something we do on Sundays, and then the rest of the week we will live as if we are in a machine. However, Poythress said we do not live in a machine, but in a universe run by a personal God who knows how many hairs are on our heads and knows when the sparrows fall.

“This is a world where God is involved,” Poythress said, but if the world continues to press us into the mold of an impersonal machine, God will be pushed into the periphery of life.

As Poythress speaks about these issues at the Pensmore Dialogue, he said his talk will be understandable even to those without a scientific background. He will not be dealing with scientific details, but will be speaking about the nature of God and science as a whole enterprise, which is more of a humanities question. Thus, he thinks that PHC students and faculty will be able to identify with it. The conference, he said, is “oriented to everybody with an interest in what kind of world we live in.”
Poythress will be speaking about these engaging issues at 3:15 p.m. on Friday, April 4.