From the Dust: History of a Worldview
This week we feature the next clip from the documentary “From the Dust”, directed by filmmaker Ryan Pettey. It is our sincere hope that, above all else, the film can become a focal point for some of the big questions that inevitably arise at the intersection of science and faith.
To help foster such dialogue, we are once again including several discussion questions with this week’s clip. In the transcript below, you’ll find several prompts that are meant to help viewers dig deeper into the material being presented. Mouse over each highlighted region and a question will appear on the side. We encourage you to watch this video with your friends, your churches, your small groups and Sunday School classes, your pastors -- or anyone else for that matter – and take some time to discuss what is being said (and maybe even what isn’t). You may not all agree, but you will find yourselves engaged in fruitful and spirited conversation. And it is this kind of conversation that will help move the science and faith discussion forward.
"History of a Worldview" Transcript
Bishop N.T. Wright: “The debate such as has happened between so-called science and so-called faith, has a lot of quite murky roots. In the 18th century in my country, for instance, one person I happen to know a little bit about is Charles Darwin’s grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, because I once lived in Litchfield, which is where he lived. Litchfield, in the eighteenth century was one of the small, buzzy, intellectual centers of Britain, and those guys were already exploring their scientific experiments within basically, what I have called, an Epicurean universe and it says in Epicureanism, ‘God and the world or the gods and the world are a long way apart, God is not involved in the world—if there is a God—and so we just have to explore the world as it is.’ That goes with the philosophy called Deism where you have an absentee landlord God.
The 18th century was a way of simplifying certain questions: ‘Alright, God is out of the mix, now we can just do our experiments…but, as we do our experiments, if God is out of the mix, then when we observe change going on in the world, it must be a change which has happened from within the processes of the world. When Charles Darwin went on his boat off to the Galapagos and studied these things and those things and finches and turtles and goodness knows what, that was fantastic and extraordinary and mind blowing, but the philosophical framework within which he interpreted that was one that his grandfather had been working on two generations before (and so had lots of other people): the idea that God was out of the picture and that what you had was evolution [and] development of an explicitly godless kind, a God-out-of-the-picture kind. The problem is that in America even more than Britain—and it was quite true in Britain as well in the 19th century—the Deism of people like Thomas Jefferson, had split off God from the world for political reasons because once God is out of the picture, then we are free to develop whatever sort of empire, whatever sort of power we want. Sadly, the church colluded with this because the church basically treated Christianity as a sort of escape from this world off to this distant God, and you have that in spirituality which is not anchored and earthed in social reality…
And you have it in a soteriology, a theory of how you get saved, which is that you leave this world, and you go off to be with that God; neither of those is actually Biblical. In the Bible, God and the world, heaven and earth kind of mesh together, and you find Jesus in the middle of that, and the Bible in the middle of that, and you should find yourself in the middle of that. Part of the point of being a Christian is that we are meant to be living at those strange, overlap points of heaven and earth—that is what prayer is all about, that is what the sacraments are all about, that is actually what ministering to the poor in Jesus’ name is all about. As Jesus himself said, ‘If you do it to the least of these, you do it to me.’ There is a sense of overlap and that actually makes life much more complicated.
It seems to me you need to unpick all of that, you need to understand how we got where we got before you even get to Scopes and monkeys and, you know, court cases, and so on, because those court cases are just misunderstood before they even start because of all that worldview baggage that is coming to us from the eighteenth and nineteenth century. We need to relocate the question as between devout Christians here and eager scientists there. We need to relocate that question within this much larger understanding of where our culture has been [and] where it might now be going. Otherwise, it will become a dialogue of the deaf or a battle in the dark, as it were.”
Commentary written by the BioLogos editorial team.
Ryan Pettey is a filmmaker and the director/editor of Satellite Pictures. He produced the feature length video From the Dust, which examines the question of human physical origins from a theological, historical and social perspective.