Bremer discusses Scottish scholars, church unity at SAU Roundtable
Laurinburg, N.C. - Dr. Randy Bremer presented the first Religion and Science Roundtable of 2014 at St. Andrews University Tuesday evening.
“I wish to express heartfelt appreciation to St. Andrews University and to (event facilitator Dr.) Allen Dotson for this gracious invitation to address the Religion and Science Roundtable,” said Bremer. “Thank you for this opportunity. It is wonderful to be back in this are and see friends from Old Laurel Hill Presbyterian Church as well as Westminster, Fayetteville and First Presbyterian.”
Bremer shared the stories of theologian T.F. Torrance and physicist James Clerk Maxwell.
“Torrance really wanted to understand science at a deep level, particularly 20th century science,” said Bremer. “He studied it and grasped it at a good level. He had several conversations with Albert Einstein and his 1978 work The Ground and Grammar of Theology was even more well received by physicists than theologians as it gave them a language to deal with the relationships within physics.”
Clerk Maxwell served as one of the inspirations for Torrance’s work, in part because of the former’s deep faith shaping his perspective in scientific exploration.
“What Torrance observed was that Clerk Maxell took his theology seriously,” Bremer said. “He was a physicist who studied the trinity at a deep level. His faith gave him a platform to think these new thoughts.
“You’ve heard the thought of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts,” Bremer continued. “That is a different way of thinking in a linear world. Clerk Maxwell became convinced that relation is the most important thing to know and it was viewed as mystical thinking to his contemporaries. But then he was able to create differential equations to explain the concepts to his fellow scientists.”
One of his key scientific works was to create a solution for the 200-year-old puzzle regarding the stability of Saturn’s rings.
“His solution to the puzzle was award the Adams Prize and was considered one of the most remarkable applications of mathematics to physics they had yet seen,” said Bremer. “His work represented the authoritative word on the subject and his theories were confirmed precisely by the Voyager flybys of the 1980s.”
As he ended the presentation, Bremer addressed one of his largest concerns regarding the current state of religion.
“One of my concerns, particularly prevalent in American Protestantism, is a commitment to a literal translation of Genesis,” said Bremer. I am afraid we are doing something very damaging to young people by setting up a false conflict that I don’t see as necessary.”
When asked how to approach a literal Bible scholar, Bremer responded, “Starting with respect has to be the beginning. We want to help them see that they are erecting unnecessary barriers to the gospel. They are very passionate to make the gospels relevant at this time and I share that passion. Perhaps that shared passion can serve as a starting point.”
Dotson closed the event by referencing one of the works of the recently deceased Ian Barbour that was utilized with the creation of the Roundtable events at St. Andrews.
“There are four ways to think about the connection between religion and science,” Dotson said. “There is conflict, integration and dialogue and I believe dialogue is part and parcel between Clerk Maxwell in physics and his utilization of religion.”
The second Roundtable of the semester will take place March 18 with a presentation by Larry Taunton, executive director of the Fixed Point Foundation. To reserve a space at this free event, send an email to email@example.com or call 910-277-3968.
The Religion and Science Roundtables at St. Andrews are related to the annual McNair Lecture on Science and Theology. The McNair lecture was established by the 1857 will of John Calvin McNair who asked that “the object of which lecture(s) shall be to show the mutual bearing of Science and Theology upon each other...”