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Kwise1 - Christian Doctrine & Science - Syllabus2 2008 Fall

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Christian Doctrine and the Natural Sciences

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Course No. 28960

Fall, 2008

Professor: Kurt P. Wise; Norton 270; 897-4219;

Course Purpose: From the inception of modern science, Christian doctrine has been impacted by science.  As respect for science has grown, its impact on theology has also grown, many times in subtle ways to which believers are unaware.  Although our society commonly believes that that impact is always negative, science has also offered valuable insights.  This course is designed to investigate many of the major impacts science has and does have on Christian theology and determine what the proper Christian response should be in each case.

Course Description: An introductory exploration of the impact of modern science upon Christian theology.  Areas of consideration include astronomy on human centrality, natural law on miracle, geologic time on theodicy, geological uniformitarianism on global judgment, evolution on special creation, medicine on divine healing, relativity on absolutes, quantum mechanics on determinism, cosmogony on creatio ex nihilo, molecular biology on the soul.

Learning Objectives: By the end of the course the student should be able to

1.      List a variety of ideas of modern science that impact Christian doctrine.

2.      Recognize doctrinal consequences of a variety of modern scientific theories.

3.      Constructively discuss issues where science and faith inter-relate.

4.      Begin working out his/her own response to the sciences which impact their faith.

Disabilities: Any student with a disabling condition requiring special accommodations (e.g. tape recorders, special adaptive equipment, special note-taking or test-taking needs) is strongly encouraged to discuss the matter with the professor at the beginning of the course.

Behavioral Policies:

1.      Food/Drink: As per institutional policy, food or drink (except for water) is not allowed in the classroom.

2.      Paper Guidelines: Guidelines for papers submitted in this course are found in the Southern Seminary Manual of Style.  This manual is available in the LifeWay Christian Bookstore located in Honeycutt Center.

3.      Dress Code: As per institutional policy, male students are not to wear hats in the classroom.

4.      Electronic Devices: Electronic devices must be set on silent mode during the class session.  Accepting phone calls inside the classroom is not allowed.

Required Texts:

Stannard, Russell, editor, 2000, God for the 21st Century, Templeton Foundation, West Conshohocken, PA, 194 p. [ISBN: 1-890151-36-X] [GC]

Copan, Paul, and William Lane Craig, 2004, Creation Out of Nothing: A Biblical, Philosophical, and Scientific Exploration, Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, MI, 280 p. [ISBN: 978-0-8010-2733-8] [ON]

Wolfson, Richard, 2003, Simply Einstein: Relativity Demystified, W. W. Norton, New York, NY, 261 p. [ISBN: 978-0393325072] [RD]

Miller, Keith, editor, 2003, Perspectives on an Evolving Creation, William B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI, 528 p. [ISBN: 978-0802805126] [EC]

other readings posted on ecampus (Augustine; Fantoli; Cooper; Wise)

Assessment: A total of points can be earned in the course of this course.

  1. Class Participation: Each student is expected to participate in class discussions.  The student’s engagement in class throughout the semester can earn them up to 120 points.
  2. Biblical Essays:  Each week of class will focus on some aspect of science which impacts Christian theology.  Due at the beginning of each Tuesday class will be a 400-word essay on what position Scripture requires on that issue.  Each essay can earn 20 points each, for a total of 260 possible points, and is expected to be richly sprinkled with Scripture references.
  3. Science and Doctrine Paper:  Due on December 3 is a 7-10 page research paper.  This paper can earn up to 200 points.  Any one of the biblical essays can be expanded into this paper.  Other paper topics are possible upon the approval of the professor.

Late Work.  Every assignment (biblical essay or research paper) is due at the beginning of the class period on the day it is due.  20% of the possible point value of the assignment is taken off for each 24 hours late (beginning 1 minute after the beginning of the class in which the assignment is due), including days that the class is not in session.


Grading Scale:

92-100       A

90-91.9     A-

88-89.9     B+

82-87.9     B

80-82.9           B-

78-79.9           C+

72-77.9           C

70-71.9           C-

68-69.9           D+

62-67.9           D

60-61.9           D-

<60            F


Tentative Schedule

1st Week (Aug. 19 & 21): Length of the Creation Week / Greek Time. Essay: How long was the Creation Week? (Could it have been an instant?) Reading: Augustine.

2nd Week (Aug. 26 & 28): Significance of Man / Cosmic Position of Earth. Essay: Is humanity central/insignificant? (In what way(s) is/are humanity central or insignificant?) Reading: Fantoli; GC: 22 (2nd paragraph); 15 (2nd paragraph); RD: chapter 3; EC: 98-100.

3rd Week (Sept. 2 & 4): Significance of Man / The Anthropic Principle & Extraterrestrials. Essay: Do/Can extraterrestrials exist?  Reading: Cooper; GC:8 (last paragraph), 16-20, 57-70; EC: 124-6 paragraph spanning 33-34.

4th Week (Sept. 9 & 11): Supernatural Intervention / Natural Law. Essay: Does God intervene in the creation?  Reading: GC: 39-42, 147-9; EC: 72-5, 83-94.

5th Week (Sept. 16 & 18): Theodicy / Deep (Geologic) Time. Essay: Did animal death precede man’s sin? Reading: Wise; EC: 9-10, 102-3, 136-151.

6th Week (Sept. 23 & 25): Global Flood / Geological Uniformity. Essay: Was Noah’s Flood global?

7th Week (Sept. 30 & Oct. 2): Special Creation / Biological Evolution. Essay: Could all organisms have been descendant from a single common ancestor? Reading: GC: 4-5, 28, 39-54, 77-79, 147-9; EC: chapters 8-12, 15-16; ON: 10-14, chapter 4.

Oct. 7 & 9 are in Fall Break (NO CLASS)

8th Week (Oct. 14 & 16): Supernatural Healing / Modern Medicine. Essay: Are demons responsible for human disease? Reading: GC: 103-114.

9th Week (Oct. 21 & 23): Absolutes / Relativity Theory. Essay: Do absolutes exist? (What is absolute and what is not?) Reading: RD: chapters 2-15.

10th Week (Oct. 28 & 30): Determinism & Predestination / Quantum Mechanics. Essay: I God in control of all things? (Can true randomness exist?) Reading: GC: 147-156; EC: 8-9, 75-7.

11th Week (Nov. 4 & 6): Ex Nihilo Creation / Big Bang Theory. Essay: Did God Create Out of Nothing? Reading: GC: 3-12, 22-5; ON: chapters 1-3, 7; RD: 229-232; EC: 103-7.

12th Week (Nov. 11 & 13): Soul / DNA and Body. Essay: Is the soul non-physical? Reading: GC: 80-5, 92-5, 117-9, 131-6; EC: 502-514, 520-3.

13th Week (Nov. 18 & 20): Spirit & Mind / Body & Brain. Essay: Do humans have a non-physical mind? Reading: GC: 119-123, 131 (1st couple paragraphs), 137-144; EC: 514-523.

Nov. 25 & 27 are in Reading Week (NO CLASS)

Syllabus Modification Disclaimer: This syllabus is intended to accurately reflect the course description, learning objectives, policies, requirements, evaluation methods, etc. for students to successfully complete this course.  The instructor reserves the right to modify any portion of the this syllabus as deemed necessary to maintain the integrity of the learning experience as a result of events and circumstances that occur in the course of the course.

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