In the Face of Evidence

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February 1, 2012 Tags: Science & Worldviews

Today's video features Michael Lloyd. 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.

Today's video features Dr. Michael Loyd, Tutor in Theology at St. Paul's Theological Center, and is courtesy of filmmaker Ryan Pettey, director/editor of Satellite Pictures.

In today's video, Rev. Dr. Michael Lloyd talks about how being created in the Image of God transcends survival of the fittest and how what we believe (or don't believe) as Christians speaks volumes about our worldview and it's ability to be expanded.

Transcript

I actually think that though evolution is often seen as the enemy of religious faith, and the Christian faith in particular, that actually, in a number of ways, it points beyond itself. And it’s much more than, not less than, but more than a survival capacity.

Something quite remarkable has happened and that suggests to me, in itself, that evolution is not hopeless. The cellist in Sarajevo who, at the heart of the troubles, used to go out into the old Olympic area with his cello and play unaccompanied Bach cello suites to say to the people of violence “That’s not what’s real. This is what’s real. This is what matters. This is what human beings are for.” And I find it meshes suspiciously well with human beings being made in the Image of a God who is the creator, and therefore creative, and that is just who we are that is just part of our being.

I think one needs to tend very carefully to the things that one wants to be true, and wants not to be true, both for a positive and a negative reason. The things we want, and don’t want to be true, tell us a very great deal about ourselves. Now some of that is really good. On the other hand, sometimes when we hang on to those things in the face of evidence, in the face of arguments, that may tell us something negative about ourselves. It may tell us that we are refusing to allow our worldview to be expanded. It’s limiting me because we are growing and, therefore, we need to get bigger clothes as well.

And it’s often the niggling, annoying things, the things we actually want to deny and shut out, that are things that can actually improve, [and] enlarge our worldview. Now as a Christian, I obviously believe that my worldview is incredibly finite. That the truth is always going to be bigger than we are aware of, than we are able to encompass, that we will ever grasp. And if that’s the case, if life is partly about getting a bigger and bigger view of the world and of life and of God, then anything that niggles us into a bigger view has got to be good, so we need to attend to that.

The dangers of getting trapped in ones old way of seeing are huge. And actually the awkward annoying things that we don’t want to believe, that we don’t want to accept, are our friends because they will crack open an unsatisfactory inadequate view of life and give us a slightly less inadequate one.

Commentary written by the BioLogos editorial team.


Michael Lloyd, who is Tutor in Theology at St. Paul’s Theological Center (SPTC), completed his doctoral thesis on the problem of evil at Oxford University. Following this, he was on staff at St. James the Less in Pimlico before returning to Oxford to teach doctrine at St. Stephen's House. He was also a member of Oxford University's Faculty of Theology. He also is the author of Cafe Theology, published by Alpha International.


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Neighbor#2123 - #67491

February 2nd 2012

This post was very stimulating for me. It really hits the nail of my ills on the head, in this season of my life. The analogy that comes to mind is of a child coming to the age, where they must realize that Santa Clause is actually their parents. The underlying message of Santa Clause(whether true or not) remains with the child, but the fallacy of it will soon be cast far away.

I wonder if scripture itself is like a fairy tale for young humanity, to help instill some basic and necessary messages in us, before we “graduate” to the real world of evidence. The only real problem with such a situation, is how does maturing humanity decipher what message to take from such an elaborate tale. Either some will get it, or some won’t. Both science and religion share a commonality in that concept.

I imagine parents who tell their children the tale of Santa Clause, hope to give them an experience of awe and imagination, while at the same time, trying to influence their behavior for their own good. However the well being of the child from that point on hinges heavily on their interpretation of the false reality being given to them. To me that almost seems as cut-throat as evolution, which is why i personally refrain from telling my children what i’m convinced isn’t true. If we accept a reality where God deals with us in such a way, then how do we reconcile the possible perception of cruelty, which is very real. I doubt we can overstep it in the name of unintentionality, because an all knowing God would have to be aware of the possible outcome,  for some individuals. I’m not a psychologist but perhaps a good number of the cases of suicide(in the form of addiction or violence) is a representation of the “kids” who simply formed a bad perception of a good thing, right? Or maybe, the next level of maturity in worldview is that “God is actually cruel as well as loving, so learn to deal with it.”

Therefore, there is a bit of a struggle there for me to accept this approach, of an ambiguous diety, probably for the same reasons that many material thinkers find it hard to accept the seemingly falacious diety of scriptural accounts. Whether by religious fundamentalism or by evolution, many have suffered and many have died, creating a great case for an element of percievable cruelty in God’s nature. So, is the key to salvation, being the fullness of life and having joy in the midst of that suffering, to be completely objective and devoid of an emotional response to reality? what type of message are we supposed to derive from the scriptural “myth” of a fallen world. In my admitted infancy, i would deduce that if God activity is flully reprsented in what we call evidence , then he is either out of control, or that he is a little cruel.

Basically, i am finding it hard to see how the “expanding worldview based on evidence” approach handles the reality of percieved evil and percieved suffering, at the hands of both people and natural phenomena. What is the churches message(good news) for the immature minds of the suffering, oppressed, and depressed coming from the evidence perspective?


Cal - #67514

February 2nd 2012

According to the Christian, the wholness of God is in Jesus of Nazareth. If you want to know what Deity looks like it is Him. Where you see Scriptures as the training wheels until we can ride a real bicycle, I see them as pointing to the One who is the fulfillment of man.


Neighbor#2123 - #67523

February 2nd 2012

Cal,

thank you for responding. I really started to wish i hadn’t posted anything, as i hardly feel equipped(with credentials) to comment on most of these deep concepts.

I totally agree with the concept of what you are saying. But the issue I was trying to point out was, the danger of evidence becoming a new form of scripture. How do we know who or what scripture is definitively pointing at? I think we both believe that their is a collection of truths that serve as the foundations for how Christians reconcile their faith with the evidence we come accross. I would just be cautious of letting evidence begin to steer our faith since evidence is not absolutely true, however much it may appear to be so. I see faith as the son of Eve that would crush the serpent head of knowledge. I see that in the metaphorical sense that faith should rule over knowledge and not the other way around. 


Neighbor#2123 - #67539

February 3rd 2012

I would also note, that a possible direction of thinking that Jesus sums up diety, is that humanity sums up diety. Since men and woman are called to be like Jesus(as Jesus is called the firstborn of a new spiritual race). There would really be no need for the Trinitarian view point of diety, if Jesus was the wholeness of God. And Jesus would have come to point us toward himself, rather than his Father.

I think it is important to preserve the scriptural understanding that Jesus actually sums up the ideal relationship between God and men, but that God is bigger than what Jesus alone represents. And this is why the new testament is not sufficient to sum up Christianity, and shouldn’t be since Jesus himself is not depicted giving such an example, but is seen making a claim for the truth leading up to himself as well as the truth that would follow.


liminal - #67521

February 2nd 2012

Neighbor

I read your comment seeking to understand your struggle - as a person who has both theological training and Anthropological qualifications I say, Interesting! but…

Analyze what you mean by the words “cruel”, “evidence” and “control”. Why is it “cruel” for a loving God to use the process of pain,death, extinction and predatation ? Who says? In eternity, will people look back over time and say God was cruel. As an aside, if the many worlds theory of quantum mechanics is true, then everyone and every species survives in some universe. But maybe this is another fairytale!!


Neighbor#2123 - #67525

February 2nd 2012

Liminal,

By cruel i mean an individuals perception of God as hurtful, indifferent, or oppressive. I definitely acknoweldge the fact that we as individuals do not have a perfect perspective, and can certainly miss the intention of God in most things. However, i disagree with the notion that an individuals perception of God is not relevant. I think the very fact that a conscious being has made a judgement concerning God, is an ireversable and real thing that even God has to acknowledge.

For instance as parents, for a period of life, we have a god like position with our children, where we can make real impacts on the way the perceive us and the world. it is not always sufficient to justify our actions based on our intentions, when it produces a detrimental affect.

The second problem i see with accepting all evidence as evidence of God’s will or activity, is that it doesn’t deal with the problem of evil. It actually seems to just dismiss it as a viable reality all together, however contrary to scripture that may be. And in my point above, this is why i don’t think evidence should steer our faith, because we start to drop truths that I believe are critical to a Christian world view. Theology like this may be easier to accept by people who aren’t assaulted by the hard questions about reality, but this theology would prove very ineffective for people who are really suffering in the world, in my opinion. God the evolutionist could have been blowing the winds of the slave ships, and still may be elevating western white civilization to this day, as far as we know. I feel like only a select group can easily identify with such an impersonable God, while the rest are left feeling “unselected”, or like predestined enemies, or something. I’m not sure why it is such a stretch, to observe what seems like a natual world, as a fallen one - and to then entertain the idea that evolution could possibly be a result of disorder rather than God’s order.There just seems to be more evidence within scripture and science for that point of view.  

Dont get me wrong, i think understanding the natural, and accepting ways that new evidence can fit with or expand what we already believe to be true is a great practice, but I think it would be a critically incomplete theology to basically dismiss what we deem as unexplainable or paradoxical elements of scripture simply based on a lack of, or apparent incompatability with the evidence that we have. To do so, would appear like priding ourselves in being able to arrive at Christ without the need for a testimony of Christ, which doesn’t hold alot of weight with scripture either - basically putting us at a the verge of a new religion.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #67536

February 3rd 2012

Neighbor,

I think I see your problem and it is the same problem I have with Dr. Loyd’s presentation.  If God is Good, then God’s Creation should be good.  However if there is “scientific” evidence based on “evolution” that the universe is not good, that it is meaningless at best, then there is real conflict between our faith and “science.”

I have too responses to this issue.  First, Does the experience of people bear out the conclusion that life is meaningless and evil?  Science gains its power from the use of experiments and observation to determine what is objectively real and what is not.  Science has not proven life is evil and meaningless using these objective methods, while the collective experience of humanity indicates that life is good.  Thus the evidence which is purely theoretical that life is meaningless is very suspect.

That brings up the second response that no one seems to want to consider.  Is there another scientific approach to life that indicates that life is not meaningless and evil?  The answer to that is yes, but since it is not evolution by the standard definition, people do not went to hear about it.  Maybe you are different.  


Neighbor#2123 - #67540

February 3rd 2012

Roger,

that is a great insight. I think this introduces the fact that thinking people need to have a foundation of premise. Which in its self can become a chicken and egg scenario. But I am not turned off entirely by that reality, since i personally have adopted a “faithful witness” premise for my own world view.

Basically, i would say that perception is the key to making sense of objective information. But whos perception matters most, or is dominant? As believers in a single creator, we defer to the perception of that creator usually. I have simply taken the position that what God appears to say about reality is what the proper perception should be. And, by taking scripture as that account i derive that reality is meaningless and evil, without God. I take the the “without God” to mean without God’s blessing. The creation story makes an effort to label everything as good, until….the fall. Then the curses start springing up. So I tend to agree mostly with G.K Chesterton’s perspective on evidence and faith, by seeing it as a collague of broken and disfunctional pieces along with some remnants of an intelligeable ancient masterpiece. Basically like a ruin of a once Glorious thing. 

I only feel safe taking such a position concerning objective “evidence” like evolution, because of the premise that scripture is the account of a faithful witness(God), who actually knows the entire truth of reality. 

I wouldn’t even consider evolution as hard evidence in itself, but merely a good explanation of evidence. To me DNA, bone fossils, quantum phenomena, and genetics are evidence, upon which many deductions can be made following logic. However the premise of that logic will often dictate the direction of that thinking or the subject conclusions drawn. I just happen to believe Christian thinkers belong within the premise of the faithful witness, rather than swaying to the tune of cultural or scientific movements.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #67552

February 3rd 2012

Neighbor,

It does seem that we are in basic agreement, however it seems to me that you are looking at the world with an OT point of view if you are focusing on the Fall.  Jesus came to save us from the curse of sin and death. 

Even though Christians still sin and still die, we are no longer under the power of sin and death.  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:23)

Thus we need to look at Reality through NT eyes in particularly John 1 which proclaims Jesus is the Logos, the Answer.  The world does not need God’s blessing, God’s salvation.  It needs to wake up to the fact that Jesus died millenia ago for our sins to give us purpose and meaning, instead of being fixated upon its own selfishness.
  


Neighbor#2123 - #67569

February 3rd 2012

Roger,

I’d have to say this has been a great dialogue. i am most grateful for the interaction here. Yes, we do definately have a basic agreement, but also a ‘fundamental’ disagreement. Which could be based on a difference of premise for our paths of reasoning. After this post, i will definitly get a grip on being concise….

The way i see it, which i believe is scripturally based, is that Jesus and the NT view only finds its foundation on the OT. Whether one believes the OT fundamentally, or symbolically, the truth of it still serves as the foundation for the truth of Jesus. So i agree that Jesus is the answer to the fall, but I can only believe it because I believe that the fall was “real”.

I believe that through Jesus, the world was finally blessed again, but not the way that it was blessed in Genesis. The death that ensued to punish Adam and Eve, was not stayed, even by the reality of God’s forgiveness. And even still, we who are Christian still die the curse of death, even with the new blessing of Jesus upon us. The consequence of the curse has not been removed, but the promise of the new blessing will survive the end of this world, and be realized when it passes away. biblically, Jesus has not yet established the new physical order of reality, but is waiting for that appointed time in the future(eschaton). Whether this eschaton is symbolic or truely physical, it has not yet happened, and is not dependent upon the activity of men. This is the doctrine that shapes my interpretation of the evidence that we have today. 

I don’t believe that Christians are expected to be satisfied with, nor to marvel at this reality as if a greater one has not been promised. Neither does God fully expect us to fathom the full splendor of the original world nor the one to come(both absent of death). Science cannot explain or conceive of such a world with eternal life, which i also don’t believe is grounds for discounting eternal life. I find it important, as a Christian to be open to the possibility that their may be a time where there is no need for science at all, since nothing will appear to operate as though no life were behind it.

Isn’t that a legitimate view on what scripture is telling us, also? Not as intellectual, or evidence driven, but possibly the incomprehensible, faith demanding, truth of scripture.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #67592

February 4th 2012

Neighbor wrote,

“The consequence of the curse has not been removed….”

I would certainly disagree.  The consequence of sin spiritual death, but God gives eternal life through Jesus Christ. 

If survival is the goal of existence as some say, then God offers to all eternal existence through Jesus.  “God so love the world .....”  This should obviously true to Christians, but the world refuses to see it.

People are not to live to survive, people are to live for God.  This is the message of Gen. 2.  We have eternal life, we are members of God’s Kingdom, when we live for God and have received God’s Spirit in our hearts and God’s Word into our minds.

It is not God’s blessings that we need and seek, it is God With Us, Immanuel, Jesus the Logos, and the Holy Spirit Who is closer to us than the air in our lungs.     

Yes, some day we will live with God.  We will know God as God knows us.  Until that day we need to seek God’s face where ever it may be, which includes God’s Creation.  


Neighbor#2123 - #67595

February 4th 2012

Roger wrote,
“Until that day we need to seek God’s face where ever it may be, which includes God’s creation.”

I couldn’t agree more with this statement, and would emphasize “where ever it may be”. This includes scripture as well as creation, but one is a testimony while the other is objective evidence. I believe one precedes the other. Without God’s testimony of himself, creation means very little, because a man cannot comprehend God and his motives by his own intellect. I basically see the creation that we experience now, as the wake of God, and not his face.


“The consequence of sin spiritual death, but God gives eternal life through Jesus Christ.”

I find it a bit selective to deduce that the consequence of sin is only spiritual death, when scripture makes an ardent claim that it is both spiritual and physical. Jesus’ death and resurrection would have little meaning if resurrection from the physical death was not really part of the promise of salvation. The physical resurrection was also so strongly emphasized by the early evangelists who actually walked with Jesus, that it basically was and is the foundation of Christian faith. 

I can’t find how to deduce, from a scriptural perspective that eternal life is not a physical as well as spiritual promise. Therefore i cant also draw a line between physical or spiritual death, even “in the face of evidence”. Furthermore i can then make no definitive distinction between what we call physical reality and what we call spiritual. But since God is spirit(God’s scriptural view of himself), then one precedes the other. So the moment God’s spirit chooses, all the physical and logical deductions we make, based on evidence, can be turned upside down. Much the same way a persons choice to be positive can change the chemistry of their physical bodies. And much the way Jesus can call a disease, or “disadvantageous phenotype”, “no more”.

I think the reality of evil(both physical and spiritual) cannot be dismissed, at least not while viewing the world with scriptural truth as ones premise. Evil is a reality and a consequence that is independent of any human perspective on it. Jesus did not come to give us a philosophy capable of imagining evil away, but came to give us real power to destroy the physical and spiritual works(not presence) of evil, while knowing fully that evil itself would not be fully destroyed until his final act of judgement. And paramountly, he came to give men the premise(renewed mind) to know the difference between what is actually still good about the world, and what is evil, so that we know what to praise and what to dismantle and restore.  


Roger A. Sawtelle - #67634

February 4th 2012

Neighbor wrote,

Evil is a reality and a consequence that is independent of any human perspective on it.

The issue is not human perspective on evil, it is God’s power over evil. 

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)  If God can make all things (including those things which are objectively bad, like war, slavery, disease, crime, etc) work for good, how can we really call them evil.

If the crucifixion of the Messiah, the most objectively evil act that ever happened, can also be the best event that ever took place, then who says that evil has any real power.  All of the sin and sins of humanity have been forgiven, they are all null and void.

 Yes, the Bible is prior and the NT is prior to the OT. John 1 is God’s new Creation story.  But is the Creation does not affirm that Jesus is the Logos, the rational Word, of God, then the Bible is not true.

I am shocked and surprised that Creationists are satisfied with an OT view of life thus denying the gospel of Jesus Christ.  

 

 


Neighbor#2123 - #67641

February 4th 2012

Roger wrote,

If God can make all things (including those things which are objectively bad, like war, slavery, disease, crime, etc) work for good, how can we really call them evil.

I think we are converging, which is great. In order for your statement above to carry weight, one must admit that a thing is evil, in order to claim that God is using it for good. In order to claim that evil has no power, one must acknowlege that it exist. And finally, in order for one to acknowlege that evil exist, one cannot make evil and God the same thing.

I doubt that either of us is claiming that evil does not exist, but perhaps the disagreement is on the perception of evil.

I am simply making the point that scripture doesn’t uphold the idea that the world has been renewed because of Jesus, but only that a believers mind is renewed. At least not until the renewal that is promised to come. A renewed mind does not become blind to evil, but actually more perceptive of it. But being more perceptive of evil, does not make a believer morbid, because Jesus also connected a  believer to “power” to make a difference as well as to endure it until the time comes for it to change.

Things like, disease, slavery, racism, starvation, disabilty, are not always supposed to be viewed as God working out some good plan. Because half the time, they only persist because people who really know what is good, are not doing anything to stop them. God will keep a man hopeful most of the time, but without the body of Christ actually moving, most works of the “devil” will persist and go unchecked.

All in all my whole point in challenging this “face of evidence” approach to faith, is that accepting something like evolution or natural selection as the good will of God without considering what scripture makes clear about God’s will, can lead to some very callous theologies. All I’m saying, is that it didn’t really have to be God’s hand that is responsible for viruses, dinasaurs, or extinctions. If those are definately God’s hand, then logically one can deduce, that God’s hand is behind the cut-throat nature of reality. So why do anything about it? Scripture makes a case for evil, or a ego that is alter to God’s, that is behind the very self evident downward spiral of humanity, aswell as reality. So it would seem incomplete, in my view, to dismiss that element of the gospel, while trying to uphold the case for Christ, let alone live it out.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #67677

February 5th 2012

Neighbor,

To discuss evil we must go to the source of evil, the Fall of humanity.  God created humanity to be in right relationship with God and others.  Under the influence of the serpent the Woman and the Man questioned God’s goodness and rebelled against God.  This brought sin, alienation from God and each other.  

Sin is real.  It is broken relationships.  It is hatred, injustice, crime, greed, selfishness, ingratitude, uncaring, bitterness, etc.  These are all evil “works of the flesh,” but evil itself is not a thing  


Neighbor#2123 - #67687

February 5th 2012

Roger,

Mostly agreed.  By “things” i don’t necessarily see them as physical things, but phenomena, and actions.  


Roger A. Sawtelle - #67713

February 6th 2012

Neighbor,

How do you define phenomena and actions?  Are they physical, theoretical, or spiritual or other?


Roger A. Sawtelle - #67749

February 7th 2012

The oiuint is not to get caught up in a works righteousness system which appeared to be the way you were headed.

God is in control, but God allows humans and the universe freedom, so some people think that they are in control.

God can and does make good come out of evil, humans can and do not.  Evil is real, but it does not have the final say.

We must depend on God, not our own efforts and ideas.

 


Neighbor#2123 - #67751

February 7th 2012

Yep,

I agree. I simply advocate for dependence on God to reflect a respect for scripture as an authoritative voice. My problem is with people getting to carried away in their minds, concerning ideas of God and what is good or evil.

It is important for humans to know and believe what God has said, so that we can find joy in being used for his good works. Rather than just being confused pawns, like Pharoah.


Jon Garvey - #67535

February 3rd 2012

I may be getting cynical in my old age, but the video makes a voice in my head cry out “What particular evidence??”

The general lesson is true - to stay in ones comfort zone is no more than bigotry, and moving is always painful. Yet “evidence” is always too much, too partial and too often coloured by those presenting it - especially if they are influential, powerful or simply in step with the spirit of the age.

Only yesterday I came across a web-page presenting evidence that the founder of a science think-tank actually has an anti-science creationist agenda. That would have been an eye-opener if the guy hadn’t happened to be a personal friend of mine for the last 35 years. There is very little evidence that hasn’t been selected from other evidence by people.

So what’s missing, it seems to me, is some guidance about how to avoid moving from being a stubborn mule to becoming a chameleon. There is a time, too, for saying, “Who are you trying to kid?”

Does the anecdote about the cellist, for example, really show that evolution is not hopeless, or rather that the evidence that is claimed to show that evolution is a total explanation is actually deficient? Someone who accepted the latter evidence would simply say that the cellist preferred fantasy to reality. What criteria determine who is right?


dont_blame_me_blame_evolution - #67650

February 4th 2012

I don’t understand how this video advances the discussions in these blogs.

Close your eyes and listen again (or read the transcript again). Everything that’s said could have come from the mouth of one who believes in T.E. or from the mouth of one who believes in creationism.

 


Jon Garvey - #67657

February 5th 2012

Or an accommodating atheist, come to that!


Neighbor#2123 - #67664

February 5th 2012

dont_blame,

could you elaborate, for me in particular . First, I don’t know what “T.E” is. And i am not quickly grasping what you mean by “not advancing the discussions in these blogs”. I probably agree with you, but I’d like to hear exactly what you mean.


dont_blame_me_blame_evolution - #67672

February 5th 2012

Neighbor,

T.E. = Theistic Evolution: God “used” evolution as His vehicle for “creation”, whether hands-on (supernatural interventions during the process) or hands-off (no intervention, au naturel, “random”) or something in-between. T.E. is the position of the founders of BioLogos, as far as I can tell.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #67678

February 5th 2012

BioLogos takes the hands-off T.E. position.

I.D. (Intelligent Design) is generally considered the hands-on position, which is opposed by BioLogos. 


dont_blame_me_blame_evolution - #67688

February 5th 2012

Neighbor,

Sorry, I had overlooked your second question.

The stated purpose of this website is “the integration of science and Christian faith”. (Actually, from everything I’ve seen at BioLogos, the purpose is really the integration of evolution and certain Christian denomination’s faith. See “Understanding Evolution: Is There “Junk” in Your Genome? Part 3” page 2, #67683.)

I didn’t see how this video was consistent with this website’s purpose. I didn’t see anything new on the “science of evolution” or how it supports or strengthens Christian faith. Obviously the author believes in evolution. But he does not say anything that serves to support evolution scientifically (nor does he say anything that serves to discredit evolution). If you deleted his few and gratuitous usages of the word evolution, you might think your were listening to a creationist (i.e. one who disbelieves in evolution and who holds to a literal interpretation of Genesis).

It has some relaxing music, though.

 


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