Science, Theology, and Ministry: Love and Altruism

Saint Paul School of Theology 
Spring 2000

Instructor: Nancy R. Howell

Class Meeting: Tuesday, 1:10-4:00 p.m.

Course Description

This course provides a special opportunity to equip ministers with the information needed to be religious in a scientific age and to be ministers to persons struggling with science issues. Such issues are increasingly at the heart of what it means to be human and to conduct one’s life with integrity. The course addresses the mutual relevance of pastoral concerns, science, and Christianity. Part of the course explores how Christianity has influenced the development of science, how science has impacted the content of theology, how Christianity and science are set in cultural context, and how Christianity can engage in interreligious dialogue about science. This class is limited to 20 students. No prerequisites.  (3 credit hours)

Love and Altruism Topics: The Science, Theology, and Ministry Course that focuses on Love and Altruism integrates (1) ethology and primate studies with (2) theological reflections on love. From the sciences, the course examines the definition of and evidence for altruism in nonhuman animals, especially chimpanzees. Some attention to scientific debate about emotions in animals provides the data and anecdotal observations about love and related social expressions, as well as the antitheses of love (violence, for example). From Christian theology, the course the divine attribute of love, the effect of divine love on creation, and evil as the antithesis of creative and created love. The integrative work of the course reflects on how understandings of love influence ministry, in particular ministries of justice.

Course Teaching-Learning Objectives

The priorities for teaching and learning in this course are (a) the consonance of theology and science and (b) imaginative integration of theology and science for ministry contexts.

Teaching and learning begin with understanding method (how scholars investigate topics and draw conclusions), sources (what information scholars consult to form new ideas, and language (how scholars express ideas) in the integration of science and Christian theology. Students should familiarize themselves with scholarly methods of religious studies and models in scientific worldviews.

Teaching and learning depend on sophisticate reading of texts. Students should develop the skills of empathetic and critical reading. The diverse contexts that form theology and science create worldviews that may not be your own. Diverse worldviews demand charitable readings of texts for the sake of understanding the authors’ points of view and with awareness that theology and science are neither abstracted from culture nor limited to singular “correct” forms of expression.

Teaching and learning involve critical thinking, analysis, evaluation, and synthesis. One pedagogical strategy for appropriating these skills is reading texts and writing assignments with awareness of perspectives marginalized by class, gender, race, religion, and sexual orientation. The love and altruism course concludes with special attention to how scientific and theological understandings of love/altruism shape ministries of justice.

Teaching and learning result in leads to praxis. The goal of the course is to consider applications of theology and science integration to ministry contexts.

Required and Recommended Texts

Barbour, Ian G. Religion and Science: Historical and Contemporary Issues. HarperCollins, 1997.

Barbour, Ian G. When Science Meets Religion. HarperCollins, 2000. (Selections only.)

James H. Cone. God of the Oppressed. HarperSanFrancisco, 1975. (Selections only.)

De Waal, Frans. The Ape and the Sushi Master: Cultural Reflections of a Primatologist. Basic Books, 2001. (Selections only.)

Goodall, Jan e. Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey. Warner Books, 1999. (Selections only.


Granten, Eva-Lotta. Patterns of Care. Unpublished dissertation, 2004.

Gutiérrez, Gustavo. The God of Life. Orbis, 1991. (Selections only.)

Howell, Nancy R. “The Importance of Begin Chimpanzee.” Theology and Science 1(2)

Haught, John F. God after Darwin : A Theology of Evolution. Westview Press, 2000.

Marks, Jonathon. What It Means to Be 98% Chimpanzee: Apes, People, and Their Genes. University of California Press, 2001. (Selections only.)

Nygren, Anders. Agapé and Eros. SPCK, 1953.

Polkinghorne, John, editor. The Work of Love: Creation as Kenosis. Eerdmans, 2001.

Post, Stephen G., et al., editors. Altruism and Altruistic Love: Science, Philosophy and Religion in Dialogue. Oxford University Press, 2002.

Richardson , W. Mark, and Wesley J. Wildman. Religion and Science: History, Method, Dialogue. Routledge, 1996.

Stanford, Craig. Significant Others: The Ape-Human Continuum and the Quest for Human Nature. Basic Books, 2001. (Selections only.)

Williams, Daniel Day. The Spirit and the Forms of Love. University Press of America , 1981.

Bibliographic Sources

Johnson, Byron, et al., editors. Research on Altruism and Love: An Annotated Bibliography of Major Studies in Psychology, Sociology, Evolutionary Biology, and Theology. Templeton Foundation Press, 2002.

Van Huyssteen, J. Wentzel Vrede, et al., editors. Encyclopedia of Science and Religion. MacmillanUSA, 2003. “Altruism” article is required reading.

Course Schedule

Introduction to the Course

The course begins with review of the syllabus and of the standpoint of the course, which is contemporary scholarship that engages both science and religion through dialogue or integration. Brief discussion and lecture explore the relationship of science and religion. This session is informed by Ian Barbour’s models of the relationship between science and religion: conflict, separation, dialogue, and integration. This session includes the PBS video, Faith and Reason.

February 8

Topic: The first session of the course reviews the rationale, content, design, and goals of the course, as well as  an introduction to the history of the relationship between science and religion.

Recommended Reading : Course syllabus.

February 15

Topic: The second session reviews the four relationships between science and religion observed by Barbour and discusses Nancey Murphy’s discussion of the relationships of science, theology, philosophy, and ethics (see Richardson and Wildman).

Required Reading : Barbour, When Science Meets Religion, Chapter 1.

Relationship of Chimpanzees/Animals and Humans

Because the course examines altruism and love in chimpanzees, the content must include discussion of two important logical points. First, the discussion must establish the reasons for seeking a behavioral analogy between humans and chimpanzees. The analogy is established by both genetics and evolution. Second, the course must discuss the emotions and behaviors related to love and altruism in chimpanzees.

February 22

Topic: The third session of the course considers how scientists justify an analogy or continuum between humans and chimpanzees. The discussion considers the evolutionary relationship between humans and chimpanzees first and then explores how genetic genetic mapping continues to make a case for the biological relation of humans and chimpanzees.

Required Reading : Standford, Significant Others, Preface;
Marks, What It Means to Be 98% Chimpanzee, Chapter 1.

March 1

Topic: The fourth session of the course explores the complex social and emotional behaviors of chimpanzees, with particular attention to components of behavior that might assist in defining love and altruism. Such components might include sympathy and grief, as well as behaviors such as violence, which represent the opposite of love. The session includes video clips from the film Reason for Hope and Among the Wild Chimpanzees.

Required Reading : de Waal, The Ape and the Sushi Master, Chapters 10-11; Goodall, Reason for Hope, Chapters 8 and 10.

March 8

Topic: The fifth session continues the topic started in the fourth session. The discussion will center around viewing Why Dogs Smile and Chimpanzees Cry, a film especially interested in animal emotions and the wide-spread expression of emotions in social \ animals.

Required Reading :  de Waal, The Ape and the Sushi Master, Chapters 10-11; Goodall, Reason for Hope, Chapters 8 and 10.

Concepts of Love in Christian Theology

The next unit of reflection concerns theological definitions of love. In particular, the readings lead iscussion toward the attribute of divine love and its implications for divine power and creativity. The theological discussion must also consider how human love is understood in light of the human  relationship to God.

March 15

Topic: The sixth session of the course reviews classical  formulations of divine love within the Christian tradition. Interpretation of divine love clearly influences how divine power and creativity are understood. Note that the classical formulations (as expressed by Nygren) are subject to criticism in contemporary theology.

Required Reading :     Nygren, Agapé and Eros.

March 22

Topic: The seventh session of the course continues discussion of classical formulations of love in Christian theology.

Required Reading :  Nygren, Agapé and Eros.

March 29
Reading Week—No class meeting.

April 5

Topic: The eighth session of the course examines an alternative interpretation and categorization of theological concepts of love. The contrast between Nygren’s and Williams’ doctrines and categorizations of love should highlight different concepts of God generate different understandings of God’s love and power and different concepts of the God-human relationship.

Required Reading : Williams, The Spirit and the Forms of Love

April 12

Topic: The ninth session of the course continues discussion of Williams’ theological interpretation of love. The  discussion includes reflection on theodicy in  relation to divine love.

Required Reading : Williams, The Spirit and the Forms of Love

Science-Religion Dialogue on Love and Altruism

Scientists, philosophers, and religious scholars provide paradigms for understanding how dialogue with science can inform theological reflection on divine love. Class discussion will proceed analytically and critically to discuss whether science requires revision of theological doctrine, how theological doctrines assist in building a worldview based on love/altruism, and how ministry can be informed by exploration of love and altruism.

April 19

Topic: The tenth session of the course engages discussion of essays on love, altruism, and creation. The class undertakes the task of defining love and altruism as part of the science-religion dialogue.

Required Reading : “Altruism,” Encyclopedia of Science and Religion;   Polkinghorne, The Work of Love.

April 26

Topic: The eleventh session of the course continues discussion of creation and love. The class content focuses on creation as expression of love, as well as the nuances that creation and kenosis give to the understanding of divine love.

Required Reading : Polkinghorne, The Work of Love.

May 3

Topic: The twelfth session of the course invites students to become more constructive in engaging science-religion dialogue on love and altruism. As the reading assignments examine important essays, the discussion explores applications to theology and ministry.

Required Reading :Post, Altruism and Altruistic Love.

May 10

Topic: Session thirteen continues the project of session  twelve.

Required Reading :  Post, Altruism and Altruistic Love; Ministries of Justice: Love and Altruism

May 17

Topic: The final session of the course highlights chimpanzee studies and why understanding our biological “next of kin” may be crucial in developing appropriate concepts of love and justice. The discussion explores the relation of altruism and justice as a paradigm for justice in ministry toward humans and nature.

Required Reading : Howell, “The Importance of Being Chimpanzee”
Selections from James Cone and Gustavo Gutiérrez: Cone on love and righteousness: A Black Theology of Liberation, p. 66-74; Gutiérrez on God’s faithfulness: The God of Life, Chapter III

Course Requirements

Class participation is expected of each student. By class participation, I mean that each student must attend class regularly and engage in discussions. Students must attempt all required reading and written assignments. This does not mean that students fully understand material, but that they are familiar with the texts and know which passages are puzzling. Class participation allows students to raise questions and to achieve some understanding of course content. At the end of the semester, students assess the quality of their class participation and assign themselves a letter grade. This is accomplished through a self-evaluation work sheet, which makes explicit the criteria for good class participation. The instructor also assigns a class participation grade. The Class Participation Self-Evaluation Work Sheet is due Tuesday, May 3.

One semester-long writing project is a theology journal based on the reading assignments.. The theology journal requires one entry for each day of the course (fourteen entries in all). Each entry should reflect on reading assignments for the day. The focus of each entry is love or altruism. Select one theme for theological reflection and consider that theme from the perspective of the authors read. Establish a main point for discussion and develop a standpoint on the reading by showing detailed knowledge of reading assignments and the ability to raise critical or original insights, questions, or evaluations. The goal of the reading journal is for each student to develop reflection on the theme of love and altruism as an exercise in theological reflection in relation to development of ministry identity. Consider the journal to be a formal academic writing assignment rather that a personal journal. Each entry must be typed in 11 or 12 point fonts and double-spaced with margins of 1 inch (which should yield about 500 words). Entries should be 1-2 pages in length. Journal entries will be submitted March 15, April 19, and May 17.

A ministry paper of 10-15 pages is required. Based on your theological reflection in the journal, develop an essay that names your theological understanding of divine love, explains how your understanding of love is influenced by both science and religion, and explains concretely how your understanding of altruism influences your ministry identity. The paper may reflect on one concrete aspect of your ministry or on an overarching vision for your ministry. The paper must be typed in 11 or 12 point fonts and double-spaced with margins of 1 inch. The paper must follow guidelines for form and citations found in Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, sixth edition.  The paper is due on any day between May 3 and 10, but students must commit to one of these dates as a self-assigned deadline. Students may co-author papers. If you email papers to the professor, be sure to copy to yourself so that you can confirm that the attachment and transmission worked correctly.

Professorial Idiosyncrasies: (1) Please do not submit written work in binders or folders—a single staple in the upper left corner is preferred. (2) Consider submitting papers printed on the unused side of scratch paper or printed on both sides of a clean sheet of paper made from recycled fibers.

Student Responsibilities

Students must abide by policies established in the Saint Paul handbook and catalog. Pay special attention to the policies on Integrity of Work Submitted and Class Attendance found in the catalog. The professor reserves the option to fail a student for a single instance of plagiarism. The professor reserves the option to fail a student strictly for habitual failure to attend class or for habitual tardiness.

Professor’s Responsibilities

My job is to teach with integrity the scholarship representative of my field, to see that students learn as much as possible, and to create a comfortable environment for learning. These goals cannot be accomplished without genuine attention to the unique strengths, experiences, and expectations that both the professor and students bring to the classroom. My goal is to provide encouragement and support for your learning. Sometimes flexible procedures and learning options are necessary to facilitate the kind of teaching and learning that should occur here. I am anxious to hear what energizes you, what disappoints you, where you disagree, and what helps you learn. PLEASE SEE ME IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS, CONCERNS, OR SPECIFIC NEEDS.

Criteria for Evaluating Course Work

Regardless of whether you write a paper, answer an essay question, voice an oral presentation, or create any original project, the academic context requires that certain minimal requirements characterize your work. While there are subjective components in the grading process, most professors are concerned that you become well educated in four basic qualities of excellent academic work:

Demonstration of an empathetic understanding of the content of texts and resources. Your topic should not only be well researched in the library, through interviews and observations, and from assigned readings and class discussions, but you should be able to provide a fair description and a clear understanding of texts and resources. This is apparent in the ability to describe and discuss precisely and accurately what an author has written or a speaker has said. Evaluation, response, and critique follow accurate representation of another’s ideas—earn the privilege of criticizing a viewpoint by showing that you really understand it.

Clear critical thinking that provides appropriate specific evidence for conclusions. Use the most precise historical, empirical, or contemporary data or information to support the claims of your thesis and paragraphs. Conclusions follow from and are supported by evidence. Be sure that your evidence is relevant, accurate, and detailed. Even creative writing requires logical relationships among ideas to assist your readers in following the plot or main point.

Creativity that moves beyond reporting someone else’s ideas. Your creative addition to academic discourse might include questioning, evaluating, applying, criticizing (positively or negatively), developing, or responding. You might see a connection between two or more ideas. You might see information from a unique perspective. The minimal requirement of academic work is correctly repeating what is read or discussed. Excellent work moves beyond repetition to unique insights, organization, correlations, and theses. Work to find your own scholarly and professional voice.

Flawless grammar, spelling, and form. Excellent written work is conscious of proofreading and good communication. Oral presentations are equally accountable for careful expression. A brilliant thesis can be lost in a paper or project that obscures its ideas with careless communication. Your readers and listeners should not have to guess what you mean—help them by speaking and writing well.

TH 351 Science, Theology, and Ministry
Reading Journal Writing Guide

Reflections on the readings are formal writing assignments. The intention of each assignment is to assure that every student is responsibly prepared for class discussion. The reading reflections also allow students who are reluctant to speak in class or who formulate comments after discussion to express their ideas.

Form of the reflections

Length: 2 pages per unit (history, method, genetics, evolution, ecology), approximately 500 words

Format: double-spaced and typed, 11 or 12 point fonts, 1-inch margins

Style of reflections

Short essay
State a thesis, not simply a topic
Write in full sentence and paragraphs
Draw a conclusion
Manual of style (Turabian)
Use footnotes, endnotes, or parenthetical notes
Include specific page numbers (rather than ranges)
Other elements
Page numbers

Content of the reflections

Answers specific questions about the texts or generates new questions: see the introductory questions for each unit in the course schedule

Provides concrete illustrations or evidence from the texts: refer to particular passages

Contributes critical reflection or scholarly analysis of readings: not a forum for feelings, off-the-cuff opinions, or statements of personal belief, which are appropriate in other contexts, but a forum for demonstrating knowledge and analysis of texts

Creates a unique standpoint about selected topics from the reading: select and connect passage from reading in a coherent essay that requires you to make an informed statement about the theological issues raised by science

V.  Authorship: Co-authoring is acceptable (dialogue about the reading is a possible form)

TH 351 Science, Theology, and Ministry

Research Paper Writing Guide

The research paper represents the kind of scholarship necessary as background for addressing science issues in ministry settings. The purpose of the research paper is to engage students in undertaking the library research and integrative thinking required for interdisciplinary work in science and theology. The intention of this assignment is to provide students an opportunity to explore in detail a selected topic in science and theology and to demonstrate competence in individual or group work independent of the classroom. See the syllabus for a further description of the research paper.

The research paper is a formal writing assignment. A formal writing assignment requires conformity with an established manual of style and scholarly forms of research, written expression, and critical thinking.

Proposals (optional)
Submitted for evaluation at least 3 weeks before the research paper is due
Revised until an adequate course of research and writing are evident
Bibliography and project description must match.
Topic must be directly related to the theme of the course.
Counted as 1-2 pages of the required 18-20 page research paper


Length: 18-20 pages, roughly 200-250 words per page, 11 or 12 point font
Typed, double spaced
Margins: 1-inch


Manual of style: Kate L. Turabian, A Manual of Style for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (for style questions not addressed by Turabian, see The Chicago Manual of Style)

Elements: title page, page numbering, margins, footnotes or endnotes, bibliography



Should conform to the proposal, if submitted

Must reference both science and theology sources

Must present material with awareness of method and models in science and theology

Must include one section (4-5 pages) describing a scientific discipline and a particular scientific project

Must include one section (4-5 pages) on the theological questions raised in dialogue with science

Must include in the final section, informed by research, how theology might respond to or take account of science through dialogue or integration of science and theology


Due April 4, 5, 6 or 11

TH 351 Science, Theology, and Ministry

Ministry Paper Writing Guide

The ministry paper represents is a creative pastoral application of research and writing in science and religion. The purpose of the ministry paper is to engage students in integrative thinking and praxis, which reflects back on the research paper that integrates science and theology and plans imaginatively for the application of science and theology to a particular need in the church and world. The intention of this assignment is to provide students an opportunity to apply to a ministry context a selected topic in science and theology and to demonstrate competence in individual or group work independent of the classroom. See the syllabus for a further description of the ministry paper.

The ministry paper is a formal writing assignment. A formal writing assignment requires conformity with an established manual of style and scholarly forms of research, written expression, and critical thinking. Within a ministry context, this means working toward effective modes of communication and modeling excellent oral and written communication skills.


Length: 9-10 pages, roughly 200-250 words per page, 11 or 12 point font

Typed, double spaced

Margins: 1-inch

Co-authorship permitted


Manual of style: Kate L. Turabian, A Manual of Style for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (for style questions not addressed by Turabian, see The Chicago Manual of Style)

Elements: title page, page numbering, margins, footnotes or endnotes, bibliography


Must conform to the background developed in the research paper on theology and science

Must apply theology and science to a ministry context

Must reflect on how your research topic in science and religion informs the practice of ministry

May take a number of creative forms: sermons and liturgy, curriculum design and lesson plans, report to a hospital or ethics review board, letters to the newspaper editor, youth retreat plan and supporting prayers, readings, homily, and activities, a case study about a counseling session including questions for discussion and analysis of the case.

Should include an “artist’s statement” if the project is very creative or if the use of science and theology is more oblique than direct

Should reflect on the context for ministry as well as your theology of ministry and leadership style


Due April 25, 26, 27, or May 2

Student must commit in writing to one of these dates as a self-assigned deadline—these dates have already been submitted