FASTLY - Faith & Science Teaching

Activity Map: Unity and Diversity

Overview

What's the Focus

Cultural debates around controversial issues, including those focused on faith and science, often present a stark choice between pursuing truth and condemning those who disagree  or engaging graciously with others and letting truth slide. Controversial issues within the church also cause fear and division, and it is tempting to imagine “unity” and “diversity” as mutually exclusive options. Yet the Christian gospel announces that we can be both reconciled to God and reconciled to each other without erasing our individual differences. This gospel offers and promises unity that is found in Christ and grounded in love.

This activity map helps students see how an emphasis on reconciliation-with-diversity helps us learn to live with disagreements, tensions, and uncertainties. It explores this question in relation to several biblical themes before connecting what has been learned with the way we interact at the intersection of faith and science. Is diversity of viewpoints on faith and science inherently a bad thing? How can we engage with tensions in contemporary faith and science discussions without sacrificing Christian unity and the call to reconciliation? What practices should we adopt as we seek truth and peace? How do we need to be formed in order to handle disagreement well?

Teaching FASTly involves focusing not only on right answers in faith and science discussions, but also on what virtues are lived out or abandoned along the way. It means affirming that both truth and grace, both faith and love, are relevant to these discussions. This activity map explores how thinking well about unity and difference can help us with this challenge when learning about the Bible.

It is not necessary to use every activity in your class. This activity map offers a range of possibilities to enrich your existing teaching resources. While some of the activities form a possible sequence, you can select the ones most suitable for your context and adapt them to connect to your own plan for learning.

Discover activities offer brief ways into the topic and are designed to set the stage and get students thinking.

Delve activities promote more extended learning. This is where the main substance of the lesson unfolds.

Debrief activities bring the sequence of the study to a thoughtful close by helping students reflect on how they have been invited to see science and faith anew.

You can mix and match these activities as you wish. It is not intended that all these activities should be used with the same class.

Quick Stop Lesson Plan

The best way to use this activity map is to explore all the activities and see which ones fit in your particular teaching context. If you just need a quick way to explore the themes of the map, you can use the links below to preview and download a sampler of three activities selected from this activity map.

PreviewDownload Files

Discover Activities

Discover activities offer brief ways into the topic and are designed to set the stage and get students thinking.

  • Activity

    25 min

    Pentecost and Affirmation of Differences

  • Activity

    25 min

    A Good Debate

Pentecost and Affirmation of Differences

In Brief

The story of Pentecost helps us see that diversity is central to the gospel and its proclamation and prompts us to ask what diversity is for. This activity engages students in exploring how affirming diversity can also mean affirming the unity of God’s people in Christ rather than simply leaving each person to go their own way. The activity also models the practice of reading individual passages of Scripture in the larger context of the overall biblical story.

Goals

Students will consider parallels between Babel and Pentecost in relation to the themes of unity and diversity.

Students will understand that unity and diversity appear in the Bible in more complex ways than as a simple opposition.

Thinking Ahead

This activity prepares the way for later activities that will consider the degree to which reaching unanimity on faith and science questions matters. Does thinking FASTly require uniformity? The activity encourages students to see Acts 2 as part of the larger biblical story by looking at connections with Genesis 11. The Babel story is often read as a story of an original unity being cursed by the introduction of different languages. Yet other commentators see it as a story in which an idolatrous unity makes way for the renewed possibility of blessing through a return to obedience.

The initial unity, which may refer not to speaking the same language, but rather to everyone speaking about the same project, “come let us…”, is focused on securing power and fame without God. God intervenes not to destroy, but to prevent ultimate destruction by turning people back to the call in Genesis 1–10 to spread out and fill the earth. This makes sense of why the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost results not in a return to uniformity, but in an affirmation of diversity. Each people group hears the gospel in their own language, rather than Israel being regathered after the exile at Jerusalem as one people under one king.

The new Israel, in which the twelve apostles echo the twelve tribes, is commissioned to go out into all the world, speaking different languages and spreading the good news that Jesus is King. In Revelation 5 the different people groups are gathered in reconciled worship, and their differences are not erased. Consider how you can use this activity to help students see that individual passages relate to the larger biblical story. Do your teaching practices lead students toward connecting biblical verses to the larger story?

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

  • Bibles

Directions:

Students will use Bibles in order to compare the Tower of Babel story with Pentecost.

Teaching the Activity

Tell students that this is an introductory activity that will begin an exploration of how the Bible views unity and difference. First, to bring students’ assumptions to the surface, ask students to discuss briefly in pairs or small groups the following question:

  • Are differences between people, such as language, culture, and perspective, a result of sin and therefore something God wants to remove?

After time for brief discussion, collect opinions as a class while steering students away from simplistic affirmations or denials. Point out if necessary that on the one hand, diversity of perspectives could mean that some people are dangerously misled and may lead to conflict and even violence, but on the other hand, unity of perspectives can mean thoughtless conformity or coercion and does not guarantee truth.

Encourage students to consider some of the positives of diversity such as compensating for limited individual perspectives with a richer picture, which forces us to acknowledge the true complexity of an issue. Among the benefits of unity is a concern for truth and justice which will have us seeking some kind of convergence on many issues. Keep the discussion brief. The goal here is just to introduce key questions. Ask students: Is it possible to live in unity with people who differ from us even knowing that at least one of us will eventually turn out to be mistaken?

Next have students read Genesis 1:28, 11:1-9, and Revelation 5:9-10 and consider the following questions:

  • Genesis 11 has often, though not always, been read as presenting diversity in languages as a curse. In Genesis 11, what is hindered by this diversity? (A disobedient, unified push for power.) Does the diversity push the people in the story toward or away from what God asked of them in Genesis 1? (They return to spreading over the earth).
  • In Acts 2, does the arrival of the Spirit create uniformity or affirm diversity? (The disciples begin speaking different languages rather than the crowd being enabled to speak one language.) How is this story similar to, and different from, Genesis 11?
  • Do you think the new believers at Pentecost, who were coming from different cultures, agreed about everything? What unified them?
  • In Revelation 5, how does the vision of future hope relate to human differences? What kinds of differences remain and what kind of unity is established?

If you have time, ask students to plot the progression of unity/difference themes through these passages with their own choice of a diagram or flow chart. Close by reading Revelation 5:9–10 aloud together as a class.

Optional Extra

Ask students to consider this question: Do you think Christians who died believing that the sun circled the earth and those who knew that the earth circles the sun have a different status in the gathering pictured in Revelation 5:9–10? Why/why not?

A Good Debate

In Brief

Students debate a random topic together and then step back to consider how we engage with one another about areas of disagreement.

Goals

Students will reflect on whether engagement between people who hold differing views has to be seen in terms of a winner and a loser.

Thinking Ahead

This activity is designed to engage students in debating a topic of their choice and then challenge them to discover a different, better way of dialoguing with people who disagree. Teaching FASTly involves considering not only what ideas are at stake in faith and science conversations, but also the manner in which we engage with others when we disagree. When we engage with others, what do our practices  say about our values? A discussion and evaluation of what makes a debate good or bad and whether certain disagreements should or will eventually have a “winner” and “loser” follows. Note that the debate itself is not the real focus and should not be allowed to run for too long; the goal is to help students see that there is more than one way to engage with different views.

Related Book Review: The Language of Science and Faith: Straight Answers to Genuine Questions by Karl W. Giberson and Francis S. Collins.

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Directions:

Set up desks or tables to be conducive to a whole class debate that will involve at least two separate “sides.”

Teaching the Activity

Tell students that this is an introductory activity that begins an exploration of how the Bible views unity and difference. Either informally by a show of hands, or by using an online polling activity such as www.socrative.com, have students nominate and vote on a particular topic that they would like to debate. The topic does not matter but it should be one that interests and is desired by a majority of students. It could be something as trivial as “What is the best part of an Oreo cookie? The cookie or the cream?” The activity will be better if the topic is not too serious, since the goal is to move quickly from the debate itself to discussing how we debate.

Conduct a debate around the topic for five to seven minutes, selecting a student on each side to give a strong, short opening statement of their side’s position before allowing free debate between the two sides. Since the debate is designed to engage students in inconsequential argument, be careful not to let it run on too long; move on to the next steps when you think enough debating has occurred to make the following discussion meaningful.

After closing the debate, ask students to form smaller groups and discuss what made the debate a good or bad one. Ask them to consider:

  • Was there a clear “winner” or “loser”?
  • Was having a winner or loser necessary for the debate to be a success or for us to learn from it?
  • How respectful were students when disagreeing with others?
  • What makes a particular topic good for debate?
  • What kinds of topics lend themselves less well to debate? Why?
  • What sorts of topics are worth debating?
  • What does love have to do with debating?

Ask students to use these questions as a guide for reflecting on the overall success of their debate. Let students know that they will be moving on to explore debates and differences of viewpoint on important topics in the Old and New Testaments. Use their evaluation of their own debate to point out that it will be necessary to consider not only who is right, but also how well people treat one another amid disagreements.

Optional Extra

If time permits, repeat the initial activity with the same or a different topic, but this time frame it explicitly as a dialogue in which students are to look for the good in their opponent’s view, with the goal of mutually understanding the strengths and weaknesses in each other’s positions. Close with a brief discussion of how this version went differently from the first, and what was gained or lost.

Delve Activities

Delve activities promote more extended learning. This is where the main substance of the lesson unfolds.

  • Activity

    50 min

    Moabites: Friend or Foe?

  • Activity

    35 min

    Samaritans, Eunuchs, and Gentiles: Insiders or Outsiders?

  • Activity

    5 min

    The Jerusalem Council

  • Activity

    This activity occurs over multiple class periods

    Paul’s Missionary Journeys

Moabites: Friend or Foe?

In Brief

This activity focuses on the question of how Moabites are viewed by Israel in the Bible — are they enemies only, or can they become part of God’s people? The activity engages students in exploring how different conclusions can be drawn from different passages and how the apparent disagreements might be resolved within the Bible. This continues the focus in this activity map on helping students explore the nature of disagreements among people of faith.

Goals

Students will study Israel’s relationship to the Moabites as an example of the Bible’s approach to differing perspectives.

Students will understand the range of perspectives present in various biblical passages on Moabites and the importance of consulting multiple sources.

Thinking Ahead

This activity explores a topic on which biblical passages seem to offer differing perspectives. Think ahead about how you will balance helping students to see that the authors of Numbers and Ruth seem to have different perspectives on Moab than the Bible’s overall movement toward an inclusion of all tribes and nations in the kingdom of God. The aim is to actively involve students and help them see that God’s people needed to wrestle with this issue over time and that basing a view on one or two passages can miss the overall thrust of Scripture. The connection to teaching FASTly is implicit: considering how tensions and disagreements are handled within Scripture helps students frame how to approach differences around faith and science questions, which also often require patient engagement over a long period of time. The activity demonstrates through its specific practices the value of considering multiple perspectives before reaching a conclusion.

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Directions:

You will need to print Moabites: Friend or Foe, which contains four different group response sheets. If possible, copy each of the four sheets on different colored paper to help you keep track as the groups’ findings are circulated in the second phase of the activity.

Students may read the relevant passages from classroom Bibles or from the sheets provided. If your class is too large for four groups to be practicable, consider whether you can double the number of sheets and have two groups for each passage, making eight groups.

Teaching the Activity

Tell students that this activity relates to the larger theme of how the Bible handles unity and difference. Introduce the activity only by saying that the class will be studying how Israel viewed its neighbors. Divide students into four groups without mentioning that each will read a different passage. Give each group a response sheet to make group notes related to the questions provided and using the assigned passage(s). See Moabites: Friend or Foe which has the four passages listed below, each with a response sheet. Have each group appoint a scribe to write their findings on this sheet.

Passages:

  • Numbers 25:1–13 and Deuteronomy 23:3: Israelites are seduced and led into idolatry by Moabite women, provoking God’s anger against Israel. No Moabites may enter the assembly of the LORD.
  • Numbers 22:1–12 and 24:17: The Moabites attempt to use divination to curse Israel, but instead reap a prophecy that they will be destroyed by Israel.
  • Judges 3:12–30 and 2 Samuel 8:2: Israel becomes subject to Moab for 18 years until an Israelite hero slays the Moabite king and Israel subjugates Moab. Later David conquers the Moabites and forces them to pay tribute.
  • Ruth 1:3–5, 16-17; 2:3–8; 4:9–13, 17: As a result of the Israelites emigrating and marrying Moabites, Ruth, from Moab, becomes part of the family line of David.

Questions:

Make as many notes as you can on the following, being sure to base what you say on the details of the text:

  • What does the Bible say about Moabites? What are they like?
  • How did Israelites view Moabites?

After giving students a few minutes to complete this task, collect each group’s response sheet and give it to the next group, moving clockwise around the room. Ask the groups to first read the ideas of the group whose sheet they have received and decide whether they agree with them or are surprised by them. After they have done this they should read the passage that was assigned to the group whose sheet they have to see how they arrived at their conclusions. Repeat this step until each group has seen the responses of all of the other groups.

Debrief by discussing the process with the whole class. Draw attention to how an issue can seem clear based on one passage, but may become more complex when other passages are brought into play and how disagreements might arise because different groups are basing their conclusions on different parts of Scripture. Discuss also whether there seem to have been varying views about Moabites among the Israelites. Consider with the class whether these differences were eventually resolved, and what turns out to be most important. Have the class consider Matthew 1:1–5 in which the New Testament begins by showing that Ruth of Moab belongs to the ancestry of Jesus. Read Genesis 12:3 where Abraham is promised that all nations will be blessed through him. Finally, consider Revelation 5:9–10 in which people of every tribe and nation are found joined in worship.

Ask students:

  • What we can learn from this activity about navigating conflicting views? For example, it is important not to develop one-sided conclusions from a single source. It can take time for issues to unfold. Reconciliation is a Christian goal.
  • Can you think of any current issues on which Christians have divergent perspectives that might fit these patterns?

Optional Extra

In a similar manner guide students through the different viewpoints toward the people of Nineveh as represented by the minor prophets Jonah and Nahum.

Samaritans, Eunuchs, and Gentiles: Insiders or Outsiders?

In Brief

This activity engages students in an analysis of the changing relationship in the early church between both Jews and Samaritans, and Eunuchs and Gentiles. It focuses on the shift from hostility to a new welcoming of former outsiders. It offers another opportunity for students to see tensions and disagreements as matters that the church has had to work through in ways other than simply defending existing boundaries.

Goals

Students will study texts about outsider groups as an example of the Bible’s approach to differing perspectives.

Students will understand the range of perspectives on outsider groups present in various biblical passages as the New Testament movement toward inclusion.

Thinking Ahead

This activity offers a follow-up to Activity 3: Moabites: Friend or Foe? It explores a similar issue, but this time using the context of the New Testament. It does not deal directly with faith and science issues, but is part of a larger set of activities focused on how we deal with disagreements over complex issues. As you prepare for class discussion, consider how Christians today can benefit from early Christians’ example of engaging with difficult issues involving where the boundaries of the community of faith lie. Consider also how these activities need to be supported by your own classroom practices.

Are there individuals, groups of students, or perspectives that you tend to marginalize or dismiss too easily as you teach? Are there any students in the classroom who find it more difficult than others to access what you are teaching? Intentionally devising and employing inclusive strategies will help you avoid practices that may subtly undermine the point of these activities.

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Teaching the Activity

Tell students that this activity relates to the larger theme of how the Bible handles unity and difference. First read or display John 4:9, 8:48 and Luke 9:51–55. Ask the class what the passages suggest about Jewish attitudes toward Samaritans. Explain that Samaritans shared some ancestry with Jews dating back to the time of the exile, but that they challenged the legitimacy of the temple in Jerusalem, recognized only the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures, and in the past had been the target of Jewish military action.

Next tell students that you are going to broaden the focus to encompass some other outsider groups. Hand out copies of Insiders or Outsiders and ask students to work with a partner or in a small group. Give students time to read the passages and answer the questions about each passage before discussing their findings together as a class. Make sure that students note how former enemies and excluded peoples were invited into the one Body as the church grew to understand its own identity and embrace change. Consider how the first Christians could justify both hostile and welcoming stances toward Samaritans and other outsiders by appealing to the Scriptures.

Look briefly at Nehemiah 4:1–2, 9:2, and 13:1–3 and at Genesis 12:1–3. You could also mention that the origins of “Samaritans” as a people group followed the fall of Israel to Assyria, as recorded in 2 Kings 17. Ask students to consider whether there are any groups regarded with suspicion or hostility in their own communities that might need to be viewed in a new way as the early church did with Samaritans. It may be helpful to have students respond by journaling privately about any groups they themselves are tempted to see as beyond redemption or to be shunned and about what the passages studied might say to them personally.

Optional Extra

You could extend this discussion by having students read Luke 10:25–37 and consider how Jesus’ story undermines the scribe’s initial question about who is in and who is out and confronts Jewish attitudes toward Samaritans.

The Jerusalem Council

In Brief

This activity focuses on a key disagreement in the early church about the basis for belonging in the Christian community. It engages students in viewing the debate from both sides to see how the concerns of the side that “lost” the argument were taken into account. The activity aims to help students see the argument as about more than winners and losers, since both sides will have to live together in community. After the Jerusalem Council the church officially included both Jewish and Gentile believers who were called to unity, but not to uniformity.

Goals

Students will learn how diversity and significant disagreements were handled in the early church.

Students will reflect on how this could inform present day Christian debates.

Thinking Ahead

This activity focuses on the early church’s decision to welcome Gentiles into “the Way” of Christ without demanding either circumcision or strict Torah observance, resulting in diversity of religious practices within the church. Consider whether the maturity of your students will make circumcision an awkward topic.

It will be helpful as you prepare for this activity for you to work through the questions and notice how the passage balances the need to arrive at a true answer with the need for both parties to remain in fellowship while the matter is being resolved, as well as afterward. Consider how this relates to your own classroom practices as you teach controversial issues — do you imply that the goal in debate is  only to establish the correct answer, or do you also emphasize that how we treat one another as we disagree and whether we can live well together as we process disagreements are also important? How do you work to keep everyone included?

Related Book Review: After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters by N.T. Wright.

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

  • Bibles

  • Jerusalem Council presentation slides or handouts

Directions:

Students will need Bibles and you will need to provide the presentation slide and/or handout in Jerusalem Council (slides) and Jerusalem Council (handout).

Teaching the Activity

If possible have students read Acts 13–15 for homework to give them a sense of context before using this activity in class. Read Acts 15 aloud together at the start of the activity. You may need to explain to the students why circumcision was such an important symbolic issue, referring them back to Genesis 17:10.

Divide the class into two groups, assigning one group to take the perspective of the pro-circumcision group and the other to take the perspective of the anti-circumcision group. Have both groups complete the following tasks which are provided as a presentation slide and handout:

  • State clearly the terms of the disagreement in Acts 15. What exactly is at stake? What arguments are used? What does each group care about?
  • Read Matthew 5:1–20 and find any ways in which your group might draw support for its position from the teaching of Jesus.
  • Examine the decision reached by the Jerusalem Council and the way it is communicated to the church. In what ways did the Council take your group’s concerns into account?

Circulate the classroom and make sure the pro-circumcision group is able to identify verses 20–21 as showing concern for the sensibilities of Jewish believers as Gentiles are admitted. After students have had ten minutes to take notes as a group on these questions, have the two groups switch roles so that each group now takes the opposite perspective from their first assignment. Have them repeat the exercise with the same questions. This may go a little quicker than the first time due to growing familiarity with the passages.

Finally draw the class together for a discussion of what they have learned about how this strong disagreement in the early church was handled and resolved.

  • Discuss with students how Matthew 5, as an example of Jesus’ teaching that might have been referred to in the early church debates, could have been used in support of both sides. It includes an emphasis on not setting aside even the least of the commandments, yet it also emphasizes showing mercy and loving enemies even at the expense of familiar commands. Talk about the kind of conversation that would have been needed to discern the intent of Jesus’ teaching.
  • Draw students’ attention in particular to how, after the decision has been made, believers will coexist in the church with different cultural identities and sets of religious practices because the Council does not require Gentile believers to become in every way like Jewish believers. Both parties to the disagreement will have to live together in community after the debate, so winning or losing is not the only concern. Focus on this question of how to disagree and take seriously the issues at stake, yet still aim for continued fellowship.

If you have used Activity 3: Moabites: Friend or Foe? and/or Activity 4: Samaritans, Eunuchs, and Gentiles: Insiders or Outsiders? from this map, discuss whether there are similarities in the approach to conflict. How do truth and love relate? How do these debates offer us a model? Give some time to discuss whether the early church’s approach to this disagreement resembles or differs from common Christian approaches to disagreements today. This may be a good time to begin to consider faith and science disagreements as examples, looking ahead to Activity 7: Christian Differences Today: Creation and Evolution. Ask students to consider the parallels to current debates about faith and science issues within the church, and how what they have learned might apply to how these debates should be conducted.

Optional Extra

Have students research the viewpoints and reasoning of early Christians who disagreed over whether to emphasize the humanity or the divinity of Jesus Christ. How was this diversity of opinion resolved at the Council of Chalcedon?

Paul’s Missionary Journeys

In Brief

This activity continues the learning from the last two activities about how difference and unity were approached in the early church. Here the focus is on Paul’s missionary journeys. It engages students in collaborative investigation and moves them from learning about this topic to drawing conclusions and then presenting them to others. It also asks them to see the context of their learning in the way they work together, relating the challenge of how the early Christians lovingly handled differences to the students’ own experience in class.

Goals

Students will relate what they have learned about community to the task of working collaboratively with others.

Students will learn about how differences were handled during Paul’s missionary journeys.

Thinking Ahead

This activity asks students to investigate one of Paul’s missionary journeys. There are several possible approaches, such as designing a poster or display or video, constructing a web page or blog, or preparing an oral presentation with visuals. Decide what kind of outcome you would like students to work toward, and whether you would like to give them options. Think through how to distribute the work evenly so that the main cities Paul visited are researched and that the contributions of individual students are not disproportionate to the group work.

Encourage students with artistic interest to use pictures, drawings, and other visuals, but make sure the time investment implied does not become too large (remember that good artistic work takes a lot of time and those who care most about art want to do good work). Also, make sure that students working on illustrations do not become detached from the other aspects of the investigation.

The activity may go better if you carefully define a range of roles for students to assign within each group rather than just asking groups to collaborate, which could result in a subset of students taking on too much or too little work. It is not uncommon for group work to generate small resentments, so consider how your classroom practices in this activity can help students to work together fruitfully. Also help them reflect explicitly on the connections between examining how Paul struggled with differences and their own learning interactions. Clearly address at the outset the importance of learning to work together fruitfully. Teaching FASTly often involves explicit attention to how we interact, as well as to what we are learning; here the focus prepares for a shift to looking at present-day disagreements in Activity 7: Christian Differences Today: Creation and Evolution.

 

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Directions:

The kind of preparation needed will vary depending on the kinds of products you assign, so consider what products to permit and what resources students will need for each. You will need at least one copy of Paul’s Missionary Journeys per group.

Teaching the Activity

Divide students into small groups and either assign or allow groups to choose one of Paul’s three missionary journeys in Acts 13-20. (It is a good idea to require students to read this section as a homework assignment before this activity). Provide at least one copy per group of Paul’s Missionary Journeys. Tell students that they are going to work together to create a final product in the form of a poster, display, online resource, or oral presentation that offers insight into how differences were handled during Paul’s journeys.

It may help in structuring group work if you offer students a list of roles to assign within the group, such as an editor responsible for gathering and editing/proofreading contributions to the final product, an illustrator, a moderator to lead discussion and make sure it stays focused on the questions under investigation, and a scribe to take notes as discussions unfold and keep track of what information needs to be included in the final project.

Ask each group to investigate:

  • What kinds of differences are encountered during this missionary journey (e.g. opposition, disagreements, cultural and theological differences)?
  • How are these differences handled? What can we learn from these historical situations to help when we wrestle with differences in our own contexts?

Allow time for both investigation and for creation of the visual product. Set aside enough class time for students to present their work to each other, with time for questions and answers. Consider having students also present their research to another audience such as a Sunday school class at church.

At the end of the project set aside some time to debrief and have students discuss whether any differences emerged among them as a group during work on the project. Did anyone feel at times as if they were contributing too much or that others were being unreliable? Did they have any differences of opinion about what to conclude from the readings? Did they find anyone uncomfortable to work with? Discuss whether what they learned from the texts was relevant to how they should think about their own differences. You may wish to allow time for students to journal about this.

Debrief Activities

Debrief activities bring the sequence of the study to a thoughtful close by helping students reflect on how they have been invited to see science and faith anew.

  • Activity

    25 min

    Christian Differences Today: Creation and Evolution

  • Activity

    This activity occurs over multiple class periods

    Where Do We Go from Here?

Christian Differences Today: Creation and Evolution

In Brief

This activity connects what students learned about differences and unity from previous activities to a contemporary faith and science controversy. It engages students in actively thinking outside their own assumptions and challenges them to see the views of others with patience and humility. Students are asked to reflect on how differences in the early church relate to present-day struggles over differing Christian perspectives and on the question of Christian unity.

Goals

Students will reflect on the challenges of respecting those who hold different views.

Students will understand the connections between the early church disputes studied in previous activities and current faith and science debates.

Thinking Ahead

Up to this point this activity map has focused on building understanding of how differences were handled in the early church, with a focus not only on true belief as a way of stating the correct answer, but on lived truth exemplified by living well with one another amidst difference in order to maintain both truth and unity.

The goal of this activity, which focuses on origins, is to use this learning to expand students’ focus from the question of whose view of origins is correct to the question of how we live with differences and honor those with whom we disagree. It uses the simple practice of requiring students to voice a position they do not hold and to attend to their implicit attitudes as they do so. Consider how this relates to your own teaching and what you model in your teaching practices. Are you careful to speak respectfully of positions you do not share? Teaching FASTly challenges us to model how to live well while engaging in the big questions at the intersection of faith and science.

Related Book Review: Mapping the Origins Debate: Six Models of the Beginning of Everything by Gerald Rau.

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

  • Google Presentation

Directions:

You will need to create a blank Google Presentation titled “What we believe about origins?” and share it with all students in the class. You may wish to use Christian Differences Today.

Teaching the Activity

Before class discussion, ask students to share anonymously in a sentence or two their personal, present view of creation/evolution and/or their interpretation of Genesis 1-2 which will be included in a Google Presentation. Either be sure that the settings allow anonymity when sharing the presentation for editing, or have students send you their sentences before class. Each student’s views should be on a single slide. If the views presented are homogeneous, you may need to seed the slide show with some contrasting Christian viewpoints. Let students know that you are doing so. Some examples of differing viewpoints can be found in Christian Differences Today.

In class, give students time to read over the responses from their fellow classmates. Ask students to choose one view that they in particular disagree with, and make a list of positive features of that view. Ask them to consider what elements of the view make sense of some aspect of faith or science and show signs of taking both faith and science seriously. Ask students to consider what seems important to those who hold that view.

Next divide the class into groups. Ask each student to present to their group the view they have chosen to disagree with, and to do so in a way that honors its positive features. Ask them to be careful not to imply dismissiveness in their tone.

Finally debrief together:

  • Was this exercise challenging?
  • What made it difficult or uncomfortable?
  • Why is it easier to defend our own positions than to find any good in those of others?

Relate this discussion to what they learned from Activity 4: Samaritans, Eunuchs, and Gentiles and Activity 5: The Jerusalem Council and consider the connections. Ask students to reflect and perhaps journal on:

  • In what ways did this activity shed light on how early Christians had to struggle to see the good in each other, especially as they dealt with important issues with people from a great variety of backgrounds and viewpoints?
  • How does what we learned from studying early church encounters with differences, and they way they were dealt with, shed light on our approach to differences, including those over faith and science issues?
  • How could differences like this provide opportunities to grow in faith and in love as we interact with one another?

Optional Extra

This same approach could be used with other difficult scientific topics on which Christians disagree, such as genetic engineering, in vitro fertilization, climate change, etc.

Where Do We Go from Here?

In Brief

This concluding activity engages students in applying their learning to other contemporary disagreements, including other faith and science questions. It asks them to see such disagreements not only as invitations to take positions, but as calling us to consider unity and the question of how others are being treated. Teaching FASTly involves thinking about differences not only in terms of who is right, but in terms of what virtues are being lived along the way.

Goals

In a study of a current controversial issue, students will demonstrate what they have learned about how differing viewpoints among Christians need to be approached with attention to virtue and unity, as well as truth.

Students will learn to disagree within the context of love for God and neighbor.

Thinking Ahead

The examples of unity and difference covered in this activity map are certainly not exhaustive. This activity is a stepping stone toward further research and appreciation of other areas where Christians disagree and therefore have an opportunity to embody the reconciliation of the gospel at the same time. Consider whether your usual classroom practices tend to imply that arriving at the correct answer is the only good to be sought when studying difficult issues, or whether you also communicate an interest in how we treat others as we seek truth.

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

  • Various resources, as needed for assigned projects

Directions:

Several kinds of projects are possible; students could submit an essay, video, web page, or slide show. Decide what kind of outcome you would like students to work toward and whether you would like to give them options. Consider whether any special resources will be needed. Offer students a list of divisive political and/or religious issues that Christians struggle with today. These might include: abortion, climate change, vaccination, war on terror, poverty, racism, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, predestination/election, Christianity and other religions, responding to evil and suffering, or spiritual gifts.

Teaching the Activity

Ask students to choose a topic on which Christians hold differing viewpoints. Tell them they will prepare a report on this topic. Make clear the range of permitted formats for the final report (e.g., essay, video, slideshow). Instruct students to include the following elements in their report:

  • What exactly is the disagreement? What are the positions that different Christians take?
  • What parts of Christian faith or of Scripture do Christians with different positions appeal to?
  • How might Christians go about using this particular divisive issue as an opportunity to seek both truth and virtue in the way we live together and to grow in grace and unity? How does this issue challenge our ability to love God and love our neighbor?

Emphasize here the theme developed throughout this activity map – how do Christians balance seeking the truth on any issue with seeking to build up unity, love their neighbor, and include others? Is there a danger of a false limit being placed on God’s grace?

Consider ways of allowing students to share their reports. If whole-class presentations are too time consuming, consider allowing students to share their findings within smaller groups.

Optional Extra

As an extension or an alternative, have students write a letter counseling someone who is distressed by the position another person is taking on a controversial issue, showing concern both for truth and for their conscience, and inviting them to think about love and unity.