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Diocesan Assembly will take on timely topic — faith and reason

Sep 1, 2017

On any list of reasons people struggle with faith in our time, a perceived conflict with science would have to be high on it.

Organizers of this year’s annual Diocesan Assembly on Oct. 14 are bringing in a speaker to tackle that misconception directly and show that not only is there is no conflict between the Catholic faith on legitimate science, the two are in harmony with each other.

Joseph Miller
Joseph Miller

“We see a barrier to people being won for Christ as seeing a perceived incompatibility between faith and reason, or faith and science, that if people don’t think that faith and science are compatible, they tend to hold back in opening up to the possibility of a relationship with God,” said Liz Hoefferle, who directs the office of catechesis for the Diocese of Duluth. “It puts a barrier in place.”

She said that while this misconception most obviously affects those who reject faith based on it, but it also affects people who are trying to live their faith.

“I actually saw a survey result that showed over half of Christians think there is a conflict between faith and reason,” she said. And in the backand- forth of competing ideas, people bounce back and force and become “hesitant to commit.”

“They want to believe in God, but something gets presented to them in science that makes them doubt,” she said.

This becomes a clear obstacle to becoming an “intentional disciple” — someone who says a wholehearted “yes” to God.

But this is unnecessary.

“The beauty of the Catholic faith is we show the compatibility of the two, that what God has created and how he created it is not in conflict with what he’s revealed,” Hoefferle said. “Sometimes we have to learn more about creation and we have to learn more about what he revealed, but they will be compatible, because he did both.”

Indeed, many Catholics have had influential roles in promoting and advancing science, she said.

The right background

Hoefferle said Joseph Miller, who is the featured speaker at the assembly, is in an ideal position to address this topic. His background is in technology, and he was working in Silicon Valley, where he spent two decades working with successful tech start-ups, when he went through a conversion experience that led him back to school to study theology and philosophy. He has worked with FOCUS, an organization dedicated to evangelizing on college campuses.

So “he really brings that background of science and technology, theology, philosophy, and evangelization all together.” she said.

Hoefferle said Miller aims to show how faith and science fit together. “He focuses on the transcendence, that there is something beyond matter and space and time, that there’s scientific evidence for this by the creation of the universe, the order of creation, and even down to the complexity of cell structure,” she said.

She said Miller also draws on internal evidences — experiences common to humanity — to make the point.

“His overarching premise is that there is proof for the transcendent, that there is proof for something beyond the physical world, beyond physical matter,” Hoefferle said.

This year’s Diocesan Assembly is set for Oct. 14 from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will again be held at Marshall School in Duluth. The event will include talks, prayer time, Mass, and time for fellowship and community. For registration, see the diocesan website at www.dioceseduluth. org or call the Pastoral Center at (218) 724-9111.

— Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross


Miller to speak at White Mass

In addition to his presentation at the Diocesan Assembly, Joseph Miller will also be giving a talk on “The Four Levels of Happiness” at the White Mass Brunch Oct. 15. The White Mass is an annual liturgy honoring the work of physicians and other health care workers. The brunch and Mass are open to all. For registration information, visit www.duluthcathmed.org.