By Ryan Miller

The marriage of a theologian and a mother of scientists has blossomed into the Miller-Jeschke Program for Christian Faith and the Natural Sciences, which will encourage the examination of the relationship between faith and science by future generations of Goshen College students and faculty.
In the summer of 2000, Elizabeth (Miller) Jeschke completed the funding of a $100,000 endowment to support that vision. The program, which funded the college’s first Conference on Religion and Science April 6-8, was the culmination of Jeschke’s many years of interest in the interplay between the two disciplines.
That interplay is also of serious interest for her husband, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Religion Marlin Jeschke, who established and team-taught a course on religion and science with members of the science faculty for about 15 years.
One of the professor’s partners in the team-taught course was James S. Miller, professor of biology and Elizabeth’s son.
Marlin and the late Robert Buschert, professor of physics, taught the course from its inception until Buschert’s retirement. Besides Miller, Marlin also taught with Associate Professor of Physics John Ross Buschert ’80 and Professor of Physics Carl Helrich, who continue to teach the course as a senior seminar for science students.
Marlin proposed the course because of the widespread perception in modern American society that there is a conflict between science and Christianity, a perception fostered by historic clashes over the heliocentric theory with Galileo and modern controversies over Darwin’s evolutionary theories.
At least two of Marlin’s other course offerings at Goshen came as reactions to perceived incompatibilities with Christian faith. The teaching that all non-Christians were automatically damned caused him to start an Asian Religions course in the mid-1960s. And the denouncement of communism led him to a Marxism and Christianity class.
Marlin believed science was a product of Western Christianity, and the two disciplines, rightly understood, can and should complement each other.
“It’s unfortunate we have this estrangement between science and faith. The whole enterprise of science came out of the Christian tradition,” said Jeschke. “At some points in modern history … faith and science lived in happy concord. According to Newtonian theory, every telescope that discovered a new star enhanced the glory of God.”
Elizabeth also talks to too many people who believe science and religion are incompatible, and said she wants the two to hold hands.
The Jeschkes began their personal acquaintance after the deaths of each of their spouses. Elizabeth, on the advice of a family member, contacted Marlin to ask about a few books relating faith and science. Marlin sent the books from Goshen to Elizabeth’s home in Berlin, Ohio.
That mailing began a relationship that led to marriage in the summer of 1994.
The pairing, and the eventual establishment of an endowment, seems only appropriate considering Elizabeth’s interest in religion and family connection to science – in addition to James, her children include nurse practitioner Kathy Fenton-Miller ’81 and physicist Tom ’87 – and Marlin’s interest in science and expertise in religion. Marlin continues his outreach in a weekly radio address aired on campus radio station WGCS.
The Miller-Jeschke Program aims to stimulate conversation and scholarship in an area often heavily influenced by secular thinking. All Miller-Jeschke funds will be used to pay for new programs in the natural science or Bible, religion and philosophy departments, including prominent guest lecturers, faculty development grants, an annual award for a student paper on science and faith, student or faculty summer research internships and conferences like this year’s Miller-Jeschke Conference for Religion and Science.
Conference keynote speaker Nancey Murphy, professor of Christian philosophy at Fuller Theological Seminary, brings the topics together in her book, Theology in the Age of Scientific Reasoning, which won prizes from both the American Academy of Religion and the Templeton Foundation. She also co-authored On the Moral Nature of the Universe: Theology, Cosmology, and Ethics. Murphy is a member of the Board of Directors of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences and an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren.
Miller Jeschke photoHelrich, who planned the conference, limited attendance to 50 participants because of the conference design, largely devoted to round-table interaction among participants and Murphy, who is one of the foremost thinkers working on the boundary of theology and science. In this setting and in group dining and worship sessions, those attending the conference could explore ideas while promoting community. The public was invited to Murphy’s two lectures.
“This conference will help produce responsible, Christian servants. It broadens our outlook as scientists beyond the sciences into theology while building a community of thinkers,” Helrich said. “I have developed tremendous respect for theologians. They use different language than scientists, but think deep thoughts.”
The Jeschkes hope this year’s conference will be followed by others as the endowment continues to increase the dialogue between science and faith.
“The religion department is foundational – the underpinnings of the whole college – and should be enhanced,” Elizabeth said. “We would like to continue to present information to allow the two programs to be plausible together.”

Return to April Bulletin contents
Science and simplicity by President Shirley H. Showalter
Traces of God’s handiwork in the universe by Rachel Lapp
Measurements of God: The search for truth and beauty by Carl Helrich
Creating a community: General education guides discussion by Ryan Miller with Beth Martin Birky ’83
The best of times, the worst of times by Owen Gingerich ’51
Science and spirit, hand in hand by Debra Brubaker ’79

Return to Goshen College home page