BioLoguration

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April 29, 2009 Tags: Christian Unity

Today's entry was written by Francis Collins. 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.

BioLoguration

It happened again this week. I received an e-mail from a student at a major university who is in the midst of a profound personal crisis. Was this a financial problem? A failure in course work that threatens a lifelong career dream? A romantic breakup? No doubt there are plenty of those kinds of crises happening all over college campuses. But none of those accounted for her distress. Instead, my correspondent was having a wrenching crisis of worldviews, and her deepest foundations were being shaken.

She had been home-schooled by loving parents who were dedicated Christians, and who made sure that she learned the deep and profound principles of their faith. She made a personal commitment to that faith as a teenager, and her relationship with Christ was a central part of her life. She arrived at university fully aware that this secular environment might threaten her faith, but she quickly found other believers to share experiences with, and she learned to love the undergraduate experience.

That is, until she decided to major in biology. For the first time, she had the chance to see the scientific evidence for the actual age of the earth (4.55 billion years) and the theory of evolution. Like 45% of Americans, she had based her previous conclusions on an ultraliteral reading of Genesis promoted in many conservative churches - that the earth is less than 10,000 years old, and that all species of animals and plants came into being by individual acts of special creation by God. But with gathering alarm, she could see that a veritable mountain of data from physics, cosmology, chemistry, geology, paleontology, biology and genomics made that interpretation of Genesis no longer tenable. She tried to think of ways that the scientific evidence could have been misunderstood, or even (as she had heard from some Christian friends) that there was a widespread scientific conspiracy to promote these false ideas, but she could not see how to dismiss the massive weight of evidence. She sought guidance from her professor, but he made no secret of the fact that he thought religion was a waste of time. The ice was cracking under her feet. If her spiritual mentors had been wrong about origins, might they have been wrong about other things? Was faith just an illusion? Was God really out there?

She is not alone. Over the last three years since my book The Language of God was published, I have heard from dozens of individuals experiencing this same crisis. I have tried to provide reassurance, based on my own path from atheism to belief, and my own experience as a physician, geneticist, and Christian, that science and faith are entirely compatible. We humans have the privilege of discerning the truth from both of God's books - the book of God's words (the scriptures) and the book of God's works (nature). But when the Bible is read as a scientific textbook, or when scientific findings are taken to prove or disprove certain spiritual conclusions, trouble ensues.

It is a sad reality that this kind of misunderstanding has led to an increasingly hostile battle of worldviews, especially in the United States. The conversation is particularly dominated by those at the extremes of the spectrum. Some of those are religious fundamentalists. Some are scientific fundamentalists. This contentious atmosphere has often discouraged a more deep and meaningful dialogue. And the battle is having a lot of innocent casualties, like my college correspondent.

The voice that is not being heard is one that strives for theological and scientific rigor, that takes seriously the claims of both theism and science, and that finds compelling evidence for their compatibility. To try to fill that void, my colleagues Darrel Falk (Ph.D., biology), Karl Giberson (Ph.D., physics), Syman Stevens (M.A., philosophy), and I have founded the non-profit BioLogos Foundation. The word BioLogos arises by combining the Greek words Bios (life) and Logos (the Word), reflecting our conviction that the universe, and the life within it, can be understood as a manifestation of God's creative purpose.

We are delighted and honored to have been asked by Steve Waldman to host this new Beliefnet blog on Science and the Sacred. Today's inaugural entry could thus be considered our "BioLoguration". New entries will appear weekly, penned by one of us, or by guest bloggers that will offer new and refreshing insights on the interface between science and faith. We encourage responses (but let's keep it civil, please!). We will also aim to post daily images, quotes, and prayers on this same site.

We would like to point interested readers to a new web site: www.biologos.org, also being unveiled on April 28, 2009, which contains many more resources for those interested in this topic. That includes thoughtful responses to more than two dozen of the most frequently asked questions about science and faith - as posed by atheists, agnostics, skeptics, seekers, and believers in the more than 1000 e-mails and letters I have received since The Language of God was published.

My college correspondent is still searching for the truth, but she was reassured to know that it is possible to embrace both science and faith, without having your brain explode. I hope these new resources will help her. I hope they will help you also. Join us here and at www.biologos.org for a chance to explore some profound questions about science and the sacred.

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.

Former Director, Human Genome Project


Dr. Francis Collins is a physician and geneticist known for spearheading the Human Genome Project and for his landmark discoveries of disease genes. Collins founded the BioLogos Foundation in November 2007 and served as its president until August 16, 2009, when he resigned to become director of the National Institutes of Health. (Note: All blogs written by Collins were completed before accepting his duty as director of the NIH).


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Rev. Scott Mapes - #46086

January 6th 2011

I just reread BioLoguration today and had a quick thought.  Just as Julius Caesar was “primer inter pares” (first among equals), and just as the Bible holds the position of prominence in the Wesleyan quadrilateral (as I understand it), would we in Biologos say that the Bible has primacy in the revelatory hierarchy, or do we view science and scripture as two truly equal books?  I would welcome any thoughts on this.


Alejandra Ocampo Cicero - #60900

May 9th 2011

I’m not an expert at all in this matters, but I’ll point out somethings that might help with the three comments.

First, lets read this again “We humans have the privilege of discerning the truth from both of God’s books - the book of God’s words (the scriptures) and the book of God’s works (nature).  But when the Bible is read as a scientific textbook, or when scientific findings are taken to prove or disprove certain spiritual conclusions, trouble ensues.”

The Bible is written in a narrative style, it should not be taken textually, you have to interpret it’s deeper meaning, not read it superficially. The importance in it is the spiritual content. For example: when the Old Testament talks about how the people from Israel escaped from Egipt, It says the water from the river increased drowning the enemies, nonetheless, now we know historically that the water in the river did increase, but that it was a natural phenomenon and it didn’t increase that much. Yet, the jewish were so faithful that could see God’s hand acting in this natural event, that could see a miracle and God by their side.


Harris - #46881

January 10th 2011

Rev. Mapes:  I am not a part of Biologos but allow me to offer my thoughts on the Bible as the primacy in revelatory hierarchy.  I take the simple reading of the Bible as true unless there is compelling reason in our scientific observation to say otherwise. So when Revelations 7:1 talks about the four corners of the earth it may have been legitimate to think the earth had actually four literal corners before the evidence became overwhelming that the earth was round like a ball.

In this respect I cannot accept common ancestry for all of life.  It seems to me that all the direct evidence that is presented is for descent with modification. It is only indirect evidence that suggest common ancestry.  I have not seen any direct evidence for it and in fact it seems to me that the direct evidence goes against it.  As an example, out of thousands - perhaps millions - of unique organs there in living things we don’t have one example of how any of them evolved by a step-by-step mechanism.  Why is this?  Even if I didn’t accept the plain reading of Genesis I would have a hard time accepting the grand evolutionary scenario.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #60710

May 2nd 2011

The question I have is, “Is the Word in BioLogos, the Word as the Bible says it is, Jesus Christ, or the Word as not what the Bible says it is, the Bible itself? 

Has BioLogos turned the Bible against itself, just as sts opponents have?  


CharlesKStanley - #64120

August 19th 2011

Science and Scripture equal in revelation hierarchy?  What does that mean exactly?  The rulebook for baseball is not primary when compared to the rulebook of football.  It depends on what game you are playing.  There is almost a devotional sadness when we have to admit that science tells us things about the world the Bible does not.  We can’t seem to shake that feeling we are giving ground to some kind of evil secularism. But the Bible doesn’t tell us how to fix a Chevy either - for that you’ll need an auto repair book.   Science speaks to the “how” questions, while the Bible speaks to the “Why” and “who?”  This whole creation science vs evolution flap is invented by fundamentalists to enrich their churches.  They get on boards of ordained ministry and block ordination candidates who do not share their view.  It happened to me.    Now we have Rick Perry.  God help us.


hseeley - #65730

October 25th 2011

What I find incredulous is the ability of Christians, fundamentalists or other wise, is to believe in a God that is capable of creating imperfect things. It is impossible for a perfect being to create imperfections. If He could create imperfections then He is no longer perfect. Furthermore, since God is omnipresent then He cannot create separately from Himself. So to believe that this world and all its animate and inanimate contents that are subject to decay and has no permanence, is to say God is not eternal, perfect, and omnipresent.


Demanding that God created this world either through the creation or evolutionary process is to demand an imperfect God. And herein lies The Christian conundrum.

From a scientific viewpoint, it is easy for non-believers to reject a Supreme Being given all the evidence of impermanence and apparently ungodly contents such as fear, disease, and death. How ever could a Supreme Being be so cruel as to create such a world and place His children into it, only to suffer during life and to worry about a possible afterlife of hell or heaven that cannot be proven to exist? It is much more safe and secure to posit a world that just came along by way of happenstance and to the victor go the spoils.

In both of these camps there is a need to find security and safety among the seeming mysteries of this world and the surrounding universe, for the emotion of fear pervades our very being. In an attempt to overcome this fear we look into our religious writings and the writings of nature to find solace only to come up empty handed and even more fearful as opposing camps insist that they have discovered the truth and that to believe any thing other than what they put forth is wrong. 

At some point we have to consider that neither camp, either separate or combined, is seeking the truth. At some point we will have to start considering that we are purposely evading the truth just to keep ourselves confused and in a state of perpetual fear and conflict. In this way we will never find the truth. 

Jesus, I believe, alluded to this evasion of truth when he proposed the golden rule. The golden rule suggests we turn the other cheek, that we treat our brother as we wish him to treat us. All of the golden rule advocates letting go of conflict and joining with our brothers in peace and harmony. As long as we are separate in thought we cannot even begin to ask the right questions to seek and find the truth.

I admire the founders of this site in their attempt to bring together the two camps, but as long as we continue to hold the belief that God created this imperfect and crumbling world, we give the evolutionists the impetus to hold their beliefs that God did not create this world. 



Harris - #66037

November 8th 2011

hseeley, I would recommend you read C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity.

To make a few comments on perfection:

Perfection is merely an idea we each individually have in our minds. As far as I know the Bible doesn’t declare God as perfect. Imagine there is just one rock in the entire universe and it had an odd shape. Is it imperfect? On what grounds? Perfection only applies if you have a standard to measure against. You can refer to a perfect sphere since we have a standard (an object which has every point on its surface equidistant from the center) but lacking a standard we cannot talk about perfection. In that sense if you want to call God the standard that we have ourselves to measure against then of course He is perfect.

You say “If He could create imperfections then He is no longer perfect.” Even if there is some absolute perfection and imperfection on what grounds can you claim that He is no longer is perfect if He could create imperfections?


hseeley - #66688

December 20th 2011

Harris,

If we don’t perceive God as perfect Love, Omnipresent, and Omniscient, then what do we perceive Him to be? If He is anything less He is no longer God. He is what we perceive Him to be. And herein lies our error. We perceive God as something similar to our imperfect selves. If we believe God created us as we are in this world and at the same time believe God is Love, how do we reconcile Love with fear? How do we reconcile an eternal Being with sickness and death? The only answer to this is what we hold to be true, or what we perceive is the truth. We believe God created us and yet what we witness is not Godly. We often look out at our world and behold its beauty, yet just below that beauty is all manner of decay and the struggle for existence. This is how we reconcile these disconnects. We choose not to acknowledge they exist.

If there is absolute perfection there can be no imperfection. To imply that there is imperfection says there is no absolute. To acknowledge fear as real we deny Love. To acknowledge evil as real we deny God. We can’t have it both ways. There is either an absolute God, or there is not. To say we, as we see ourselves, are created by God, is to attempt to have it both ways.

The only way to begin to think differently is to hold God as the standard. I leave you with this: Forget not the Kingdom of God for anything the world has to offer. The world can add nothing to the power and glory of God and His Holy Sons, but it can blind the Sons to the Father if he behold it.

 


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