“Scientists have irrefutably shown that Darwin wasn’t quite correct . . . your environment can change your genes, and these changes are heritable,” read an email that came across the desk of Rev. John VanSloten, pastor of New Hope Christian Reformed Church in Calgary, Alberta.
Rev. John VanSloten gives a theological response to the study of epigenetics.
The message came from a scientist and congregant who suggested he look at her husband’s work on epigenetics. VanSloten said he read the email and immediately thought of that part of the second commandment that says, “. . . to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me.”
The church received a grant from the John Templeton foundation for five sermons on faith and science and also to take the entire church to Calgary’s new Telus Spark Science Centre to preach the sermon on epigenetics. The congregation was then able to explore the centre on their own, free of charge.
VanSloten explained the profoundness of taking the church to the science centre. “The idea of taking the community to church happening in the world of science, being there, coming alongside God’s kingdom that is already there in the science centre, was preaching a lot.”
Once at the science centre, an epigenetics researcher from the University of Calgary spent 10 minutes explaining epigenetics to the congregation, which was double the size of the regular crowd, and then VanSloten spent 25 minutes with a theological response.