Readers Respond

I write to endorse the Rev. Dr. Arvid Adell’s contention that “there is no debate” between science and religion [Fall/Winter 2010 issue]. Arvid comes to that conclusion based on the different “languages” used in these two “worlds.” I support his conclusion based on the different questions these disciplines should ask. My favorite writer on the interface between science and religion, Dr. John Polkinghorne of England, often uses the following example: If someone asks why the water is boiling in the pot on his hot plate, he can answer in one of two ways. He could explain that the water is boiling because the heat has stimulated the water molecules into motion, bringing the water to a “boil.” Or he could simply answer by saying the water is boiling because he wanted a cup of tea. Both answers are valid, but they address different questions. Traditionally, science attempts to answer “how” questions while religion attempts to answer “why” questions. When either discipline tries to answer questions inappropriate for its tools, trouble starts. Dr. Tim Johnson, Marblehead, Mass.

As a North Park Seminary graduate in 1967 and ordained in the Covenant in 1968, I transferred to the United Methodist Church in 1969-70. I’m retired now and doing interims and co-leading, with my wife, work teams to the Caribbean and Central America. I’ve been reading Pietisten of late, and it is super!Dennis Glad, St. Francis, Minn.

I have always liked Pietisten! The new one, though, is so super. Layout is good, articles are amazing!

My life has been touched in so many ways by so many people and circumstances: including the same three trips as Pietisten! From Sweden to Minnesota, to North Park and to Seattle, and many places in-between.

I am happy to have the opportunity to add to the publication of Pietisten, and also the new upcoming book “Singing the Story.” Glen and Jane Wiberg have been close friends of ours for many years, and it will be a joy to have another book by him. Dorothy Balch, Seattle, Wash.

The issues discussed in Pietisten never fail to start much pondering and reminiscing. The range of books discussed that were reacting to the “new atheists” was intriguing. I guess I was most impressed by Terry Eagleton’s contention that Christianity has been forgetting the radical character of its beginnings and of its teachings, providing we don’t either ignore or turn them into “bland recommendations for self-improvement.” (And don’t think there aren’t churches that do just that!) A recognition that science itself doesn’t insist upon freezing of its current stances would help to clear our thinking. Marilynn Robinson’s always incisive comments rightly pointed out the complexity of even our knowledge of the human brain are good to remember. Her reminder that it is a question whether “science can give an adequate account of human existence” could be illustrated by the success of Watson, the synthetic “brain” which completely ignores human emotions, seeming to reduce the human brain to only intellectual activities.

A sentence in Joel Ulrich’s column “From the Choir Loft” was rich with personal resonance for me. (“Our songs are our identity and we can sing for hours and hours.”) It was coming back to the old Swedish hymns that made me re-think my own spiritual wandering. The messages of the old familiar hymns hit at a level far below intellectual thought and they remain a touchstone with the faith of generations of my family.

Rarely has Penrod written a column without imparting some real, though seemingly modest, wisdom. In that latest message his illustration of the power of patient, positive student discipline, likening it to the “power of grass growing up through concrete and cracking it,” beat lengthy lectures on good discipline. Do encourage him to continue his messages.

Do keep up the great work of Pietisten. There are a lot of us with even tenuous ties to the Covenant Church who benefit from it. Marilyn Ford, Spring Park, Minn.