Faith and Science: The Catholic Approach

Course Description

"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

  1. Science and Faith, How and Why
  2. Order and Openness: The Scientific Point of View
  3. Order and Openness: The Theological Point of View
  4. Paradox and Mystery: Uniting the Perspectives of Science and Faith

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

  1. Warfare or Conflict Model of Science and Faith
  2. Warfare Model in Historical Context
  3. Literal Creationism: Making God in Our Image
  4. Credibility and Affirmation: The Catholic Approach

Unit 3: Sacred Scripture and Modern Science: Uniting Perspectives

  1. The First Creation Account: A Symbolic Cosmogony
  2. The First Creation Account in Context
  3. Living Biblically: Is Science in Accord with Scripture?
  4. The Whole Picture

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

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

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

  1. Philosophy and Existence: The Principle of Double Agency
  2. The Christian Doctrine of Creation
  3. 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.

Meet the Developer

Dr. Chris Baglow

Chris Baglow

Dr. Chris Baglow is a full professional specialist in the Science and Religion Initiative of the McGrath Institute for Church Life of the University of Notre Dame. He has taught Theology for 18 years and has directed programs of academic integration at two Catholic high schools, including the STREAM™ Program at St. Mary's Dominican H.S. in New Orleans, LA. He is the author of Faith, Science and Reason: Theology on the Cutting Edge (Midwest Theological Forum, 2009), a high-school textbook integrating faith and science. Baglow created and directed the Templeton-funded Steno Learning Program in Faith and Science for Catholic Secondary Educators (SLP), and currently directs Foundations New Orleans, a learning program for high school science and religion teachers with online, laboratory and seminar components. Baglow’s creative work includes the seminary course Emergence of the Image: Human Evolution from Scientific, Philosophical and Theological Perspectives.