Thursday, 01 May 2014 16:24

Living as a Boundary Pioneer

Written by  Bob Crittendon
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There has been debate about the compatibility of faith and science. If anyone perceives that there are relatively few Christian believers working in the scientific fields, then a new survey conducted by sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund and her colleagues at Rice University and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) might call for a rethinking of that position.  Christianity Today reported on the results of the survey of more than 10,000 people, including 574 self-identified as scientists, who responded to a 75-question survey. Among the scientists, 17 percent said the term “evangelical” describes them “somewhat” or “very well,” compared to 23 percent of all respondents.


If you extrapolate these findings, you can conclude, as the article points out, that 2 million out of nearly 12 million scientists are evangelical Christians. If you were to bring all the evangelical scientists together, they could populate the city of Houston, Texas.


This is not the first time that Ecklund has researched the faith perspective of scientists. In her 2010 book Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Believe, Ecklund surveyed 1,700 natural and social scientists at top universities and found that only about two percent identify as evangelical.


This new survey, by contrast, focused on “rank and file” scientists, including those in health care, life sciences, computers, and engineering. In addition to religious identity, the new survey focused on perceptions people have about science and religion. About the same number of people in the general public perceive hostility by religious people toward science as perceive hostility by scientists toward religion—about 1 in 5. But among evangelical scientists, a strong majority (57 percent) perceive hostility from scientists toward religion, which may suggest Christians in scientific fields have negative experiences with fellow scientists in the workplace regarding their faith.


The survey also found that evangelical scientists are more active in their faith than American evangelicals in general. They are more likely to consider themselves very religious, to attend religious services weekly, and to read religious texts at least every week.  For instance, 54.2% of evangelical scientists attend church weekly, as opposed to 42.4% of all evangelicals.


The article points out that AAAS is a partner in an effort  to incorporate science education into seminary classrooms across the country so that future clergy will be better prepared to address questions regarding science, ethics, and religion with their congregations. Scientists at AAAS are hopeful that scientists who are evangelicals will be the ones serving as mediators.


“We ought to maybe think of them as a type of boundary pioneer of sorts, able to live well in both of these worlds,” Ecklund said.


A boundary pioneer?   I like how that sounds, but what or who is it?  In a piece for the website,, Ecklund is quoted as saying, “A boundary pioneer is a scientist who is well respected in the scientific community and does cutting edge research, but is able to openly discuss issues related to faith in their work.  By doing so, they are able to break down what is sometimes thought of as a very concrete boundary between science and faith.”  The writer of that article, Christine Scheller, states that, “I would argue then that a ‘boundary pioneer’ could be a leader in a non-scientific vocation like business, education, or law.”


The CT story states that the data suggests that many Americans, including both scientists and evangelicals, believe that when it comes to science and religion, each can be used to support the other.


This information can help us to think about our approach to our work.  Our relationship with Christ and our occupation are not separate entities.  If we view our work as a calling, then it’s important that we explore ways in which we can live out our faith and apply our faith principles in our vocation.  There may indeed be areas in our jobs where we are being called to be “boundary pioneers.”  We can ask ourselves how we can glorify God in the way we approach our work and in the application of His principles to what He has called us to do.


While exploring those boundaries, we recognize that we lend credibility to the Christian faith by the way we relate to our co-workers.  We may be attempting to engage in faith conversations, but if our character is disconnected from our faith, then we undermine our witness.  I would think that the little things we do help validate our walk with Christ, including: to show respect and courtesy, to demonstrate a strong work ethic, to walk in integrity and make sure that we are being honest, and to present ourselves as an encourager rather than a complainer.  We can seek to be people who attempt to build bridges, not in compromise, but with a dedication to project Christ.




Last modified on Monday, 12 May 2014 16:30
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