An invited audience of scientists, church leaders and the media attended the launch at The Royal Academy of Test of Faith – a suite of resources including an award-winning documentary on science and religion, with a book and study materials for small groups.
Produced over the last three and a half years by The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, and with the documentary put together by Contrapositive New Media, hopes are that the resources will help lay people get stuck into the issues behind the commonly perceived antagonism between science and religion.
Speaking about the film, project leader Dr Ruth Bancewicz explained: "This documentary goes way beyond the black and white entrenched views of atheist science versus faith. Our aim is to help people to engage with some of the most important issues that confront us today in an interesting and intelligent way.
She described the resources as "a set of tools helpful for people inside and outside the church community". She added: "Science is a way of finding out more about the created world. Everyone has some kind of question about science and faith at some point in their lives."
The first section of the documentary - entitled Beyond Belief? - was shown and then a discussion was launched by Revd Dr John Polkinghorne KBE FRS, who was Professor of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge before becoming an Anglican priest.
"Science tells us how the world works, but religion tells us there is a meaning and purpose, something being fulfilled in the unfolding of the history of the world," he said. "So I need both those perspectives if I am truly to understand the really rich and remarkable world in which we live."
He outlined his views that all scientists, whether they admit it or not, engage with metaphysics, which is all about their world view. "It is either materialism – the physical world is all there is, or theism – there is a divine Creator. Science must acknowledge its limits, yet faith must be consistent with what we know."
He added that his watchword Bible verse came from 1 Thessalonians 5: 21 "Test everything. Hold to that which is good."
The film Test of Faith (DVD, £8.99, 90 minutes plus 78 minutes of bonus features. Published by Paternoster) is the centrepiece of a set of resources that have been designed to inform and inspire the Christian community and many others to engage constructively with cutting edge science. It won Silver in the category of Best Documentary at the 2009 ICVA Awards, and features leading scientists and committed Christians from the UK and the USA.
Alongside it comes a book: Test of Faith: Spiritual Journeys with Scientists (Paternoster, £7.99), which tells the stories of 10 of the scientists featuring in the documentary, charting their faith and lives at the cutting edge of science. And accompanying this is the Test of Faith course, with study guide for participants (A5, £3.50) and leader's guide (A4, £15.99) (Paternoster).
Further resources and tasters are at www.testoffaith.com and future plans include schools materials (RE lessons for A-level and GCSE developed by The Stapleford Centre, out next month); online resource materials for youth leaders (working with 11-18s) developed by Youth for Christ (autumn 2009) and materials for 8-11s, to be published by Authentic Media in 2010.