Building on his double-doctorate legacy (MD and PhD), Dr. Hans Madueme’s current research interest is grounded in the intersection of science and religion. Specifically, the Professor of Theological Studies is exploring how to understand and communicate the doctrine of sin while considering modern discoveries in science and medicine.
“In light of evolutionary biology and modern genetics, there are a growing number of Christians that are saying, ‘We need to reinterpret how we understand sin,’” he explains.
Although he started to recognize some of the tensions between a traditional view of sin and aspects of modern science during his classes as a medical student, he really started to delve into the topic while writing his dissertation at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. There are numerous cases that illuminate the tension, such as a convicted pedophile losing his addiction to child pornography after having a brain tumor removed or rare genetic predispositions that explain excessive violent behavior.
According to some Christian scholars, “Adam and Eve never existed, the fall never happened, we have these evolutionary ancestors, and sin is just these dispositions and tendencies that we’ve inherited from our ancestors.” Whatever we need to say about these proposals, they present a very different viewpoint than the traditional account of sin, Madueme says.
His research roughly divides into two parts: descriptive and constructive. First, he is seeking to clarify the key issues raised by advances in science and how a wide-range of Christian scholars are responding to them; then he is arguing that “a broadly Augustinian, Reformed understanding of sin still has a something say in this 21st Century, post-Darwinian context.”
His current two-year research grant from Oxford University finishes at the end of this semester. The funding was given to 25 applicants from schools within the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) network who want to explore specific topics within the larger framework of science and religion, a field that includes questions like how/whether God acts directly in the world or the spiritual, non-physical component of humanity.
The grant is oriented towards facilitating discussion, and as a recipient, Madueme spent July of this year and the last in Oxford with the other recipients, who represented a range of countries and academic fields. Since the area of science and religion can be intimidating, spanning multiple disciplines, the seminars gave the theologians and philosophers opportunities to gain fluency in the sciences, and vice versa.
A portion of Madueme’s grant founded the Ray Dameron Science and Theology club at Covenant; he also received funds for a student research assistant, Jonathan Blackmon. Named —after the first science professor at Covenant, Dr. Ray Dameron, who taught physics from 1964-1994—the Dameron Club is structured to host dialogue between students and faculty on issues at the interface of science and theology. It meets five times a semester and is open to all students, although discussion is geared towards juniors and seniors
Next semester, Madueme will be spending his sabbatical at Trinity as a research fellow. During his time there, he will transition away from the discussion he was part of under the Oxford grant and will be writing his book on sin (to be published by Baker Academic). He is looking forward to the time he will spend there, but will miss the students at Covenant and picking on Dr. Nola Stephens.
Long-term, his dream is to see Covenant become a hub for producing first-rate thinking in science and theology from a Reformed, evangelical perspective, a tradition he feels is often left out of the conversation. It is the tradition of Covenant College with a distinctive perspective—one with bright lights from the past like John Calvin, B.B Warfield, and Herman Bavinck—that would add a lot to the conversation.