From the Dust: History of a Worldview

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August 3, 2011 Tags: Science & Worldviews

Today's video features Ryan Pettey. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what we believe here.

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.

Editor's Note: The full documentary is now available on DVD and Blu-ray. You can order the film here, and learn more about the project here.

"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.

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Roger A. Sawtelle - #63645

August 4th 2011

There are two fiercely competing world views in the world today, modernism and postmodernism.  BioLogos seems to prefer postmodernism, while Creationists prefer modernism.  Personally I think that both have some merit, but are fatally flawed.

 I think today’s world, the third millennium needs a new, Biblical world view to make sense of science, philosophy, and theology.  I would hope that there are others who also might accept this challenge new thinking for a millennium.     


defensedefumer - #63691

August 8th 2011

Wow, I never thought of it that way before. Sometimes we bring a deistic God instead of the Christian one with us. And the idea that heaven and earth being mesh together, that is difficult conceptually for me to accept, but Dr Wright is probably right.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #63692

August 8th 2011

I just read an essay by Denis Alexander where he ends by describing how Charles Darwin and Asa Gray corresponded discussing the nature of reality with Darwin insisting that it must be governed by random chance  and Gray believing that it must be divinely determined.  It seems to me that reality must be somewhere in the middle. 

God does not control humanity although God could.  God seeks to persuade and win over humans into doing the right thing.  When we seek to control we act out of fear, when we treat people as sensible persons we act out of confidence and love.  The problem is not with things, but with people and history. 

Jesus is God with us, so heaven is here on earth living with and for Him.  The Holy Spirit is God in us so we have eternal life right now on earth.     o:p>


Cal - #63697

August 8th 2011

I wouldn’t say God in Jesus the Messiah is doing this so that humans are won over and do the right thing. This is a purely a moralism and does not strictly draw the line, as the Scriptures do. Jesus came to give us Life, not a better way of living. Without Him all we have is slavery and death, due to us selling our birthright, smashing our Imago Dei into a broken mirror and being in bondage to Sin.

By His grace we are made anew, not merely reformed, but reborn.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #63700

August 8th 2011

SPAN style=“mso-ansi-language: EN” lang=EN>By His grace we are made anew, not merely reformed, but reborn.

I agree with your point, but I was trying to make another.  Jesus Christ calls humans to repentance.  He does force us to follow Him.  He gives people the choice.o:p>


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