Faith and Science: The Catholic Approach

Next Session: Jan 04, 2021

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"We need each other to be what we must be, what we are called to be." With these words St. John Paul II offered a wonderful encapsulation of the "relational unity" that, from the perspective of the Catholic Faith, can and should exist between science and religion. And yet most Catholics today, especially young Catholics, assume irreconcilable conflict between the two. Overcoming this misconception requires a background in both history and theology.

In this course, Professor Chris Baglow offers a thorough consideration of the relationship from the theological perspective. Beginning with foundational concepts and the real distinction between scientific and theological ways of knowing the universe, the course treats the historical background to the false "conflict" between science and religion, the relationship between the biblical creation accounts and modern cosmology and between Sacred Tradition/Church history and modern science (including the Galileo Affair), culminating with a closer look at the Catholic doctrine of creation in the light of modern scientific discoveries.

Course Content

Unit 1: Faith and Science: Distinguishing in Order to Unite

  • Science and Faith, How and Why
  • Order and Openness: The Scientific Point of View
  • Order and Openness: The Theological Point of View
  • Paradox and Mystery: Uniting the Perspectives of Science and Faith
  • Marks of the Church

Unit 2: Science and the Christian Faith: Understanding and Correcting Models of Conflict

  • Warfare or Conflict Model of Science and Faith
  • Warfare Model in Historical Context
  • Literal Creationism: Making God in Our Image
  • Credibility and Affirmation: The Catholic Approach

Unit 3: Sacred Scripture and Modern Science: Uniting Perspectives

  • The First Creation Account: A Symbolic Cosmogony
  • The First Creation Account in Context
  • Living Biblically: Is Science in Accord with Scripture?
  • The Whole Picture

Unit 4: Patroness or Persecutor? Sacred Tradition and Scientific Discovery

  • Science and the Witness of Sacred Tradition: The Golden Threads of Theological Insight
  • Great Catholic Moments in Faith and Science
  • A Misleading Moment: The Galileo Affair

Unit 5: The Doctrine of Creation: A Wisdom Wider than Science

  • Philosophy and Existence: The Principle of Double Agency
  • The Christian Doctrine of Creation
  • The Mind of the Maker: God as Playwright

Course Format

  • Six weeks in duration, with one week for orientation.
  • Typically 15-20 students in each course.
  • All lectures and supplemental readings provided online.
  • Written assignments (150-200 words) required.
  • Facilitator-moderated chat sessions with participants in course.

Required Texts

  • All course materials are available online in the course.

Participation Requirements

  • Read assigned texts; keep notes, questions, and comments for class discussion.
  • Participate in the class discussion using the Forums area: post at least 2 comments, questions, or responses per unit.
  • Write 150-200 words in response to the assignment in each unit.
  • Participate in at least 3 scheduled chat sessions throughout the course.
  • Complete the course evaluation.

Time Expectations

3 to 5 hours per week, depending on your learning style and schedule.

Course Certificate

A certificate of completion awarding 30 contact hours will be sent upon completion of all course requirements.

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Dr. Chris Baglow

Dr. Chris Baglow

Dr. Chris Baglow directs the Science & Religion Initiative of the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame. His work includes the creation and direction of programs that assist Catholic leaders in bringing the Catholic faith and modern science into dialogue for the sake of the New Evangelization. He graduated from Franciscan University in 1990, and immediately began a career in Catholic theological education that has spanned high-school, undergraduate, graduate and seminary teaching. After completing his M.A. at the University of Dallas (1996) and his Ph.D. at Duquesne University (2000), Chris was Junior Professor of Theology at St. Joseph Seminary College (2000-2003), the Sue Ellen Canizaro Chair at Our Lady of Holy Cross College (2003-2009) and Professor of Theology at Notre Dame Seminary (2009-2018). In 2005 he began his research in science and religion, and in 2009 published the first high-school textbook on the topic, Faith, Science and Reason: Theology on the Cutting EdgeFrom 2011-2014 Baglow directed the Templeton-funded Steno Learning Program in Faith and Science for Catholic Secondary Educators (SLP), a week-long seminar experience for Catholic science and religion teachers.