The cartoon the pastor projected onto the screen depicted Charles Darwin and Jesus Christ in a physical struggle, on the verge of strangling each other.
The Rev. Tommy Faris, pastor of University Baptist Church near Ohio State University, is tired of the idea that you can believe in evolution or God but not both.
Science and faith are compatible, he said Monday during the first in a series of lectures on combining scientific and theological views.
Not everyone feels the way Faris does. And the rhetoric could ramp up this year since controversial topics — the teaching of evolution, stem-cell research, climate change — often draw attention during presidential campaigns.
Evolution was the topic of University Baptist’s program Monday night. While the scientific community is settled on the theory, some Christians find it troubling because it doesn’t give credit for creating the world and its species to God.
Lawmakers in at least four states are taking steps to hinder the teaching of evolution in schools. A common tactic is to push bills that require the teaching of various theories about the origin of life, meaning a district could require teachers to talk about creationism alongside evolution.
Bills introduced in Indiana, New Hampshire, Missouri and Oklahoma are challenging evolution’s hold on science class. Other groups are trying to stop them.
To Faris, it’s all quibbling. Science and faith are both gifts from God, he told the audience for the first program in the series "Believers Exploring Science and Theology.”
His congregation was one of 37 to receive a grant from the John Templeton Foundation, based in Pennsylvania, to bring scientists into houses of worship. In the coming months, speakers will address stars, ecosystems and nanotechnology.
On Monday, Kerry Cheesman, a professor of biochemistry and genetics at Capital University, presented a lively introduction to the theory of evolution — specifically, Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection.
He said Darwin was a man of faith himself and even took a Bible on his round-the-world voyage on HMS Beagle, a trip that helped him form the basis of his theories.
Evolution "in no way eliminates God as the creator of the species,” Cheesman said.
Faris presented the concept of theistic evolution, or the idea that evolution is the process by which God’s activity happens.
"Remember this: Science cannot prove there is no God,” he said. "But if you’re a person of religion, you have to remember you can’t prove the existence of God.”
But theistic evolution ignores the account of creation in the Bible, said Georgia Purdom, a research scientist and speaker at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky. Purdom holds a doctorate in molecular genetics from Ohio State University.
The problem with Faris’ view is that "God’s word is supreme in the New Testament and not supreme in the Old Testament,” she said. "It’s only going to be a matter of time before other things, like the miracles of Christ, become questionable, too, if we’re taking man’s authority over God’s word."
It’s the fundamentalist, conservative Christians who are at odds with science, not most churches, said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. The group of secularists advocates for the separation of church and state and a limited religious influence on public life.
Science debates will come up in the general election, he said, because President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger are likely to be at odds on the topics.
Information from Religion News Service was included in this story.