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“The Language of God” Book Club – Chapters 1 & 2

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January 24, 2014 Tags: Education, Morality & Ethics, Science as Christian Calling

Today's entry was written by Jim Stump. You can read more about what we believe here.

“The Language of God” Book Club – Chapters 1 & 2

Today begins the on-line portion of our book club. We announced back in December that we’re encouraging the BioLogos community to read and discuss the book that started BioLogos: Francis Collins’ The Language of God. Many of you have downloaded the discussion questions we’ve prepared and committed to a small group that is using the book for the next few months. We’d love to hear from you regarding your group’s experience and insights. Others don’t have a small group with whom they can read the book, but they would like to join in some virtual discussion. This post, and a new one every two weeks, aim to serve both populations. Please jump into the comments section, answering questions and asking your own (I’ll ask a few to get us started, and attempt to moderate things to some degree to keep us on topic). When your comments refer directly to what someone else has written, please use the “reply to this comment” function so ongoing discussion on the same topic is easier to follow. If you have a new topic to discuss, use the “Add your comment” at the bottom of the comments page. And of course we ask that you keep the discussion civil and follow the Ground Rules for Commenting.

We start with the Introduction and Chapters 1 and 2 (you can see the rest of the reading schedule we’ll follow and access supplementary resources on the Book Club page). In this part of the book, Collins gives his faith journey from agnosticism to atheism to committed Christian faith. This journey took place during his education in the sciences, and so it incorporates these two sources of belief formation—science and religion. Collins poses, as the central question of his book: “In this modern era of cosmology, evolution, and the human genome, is there still the possibility of a richly satisfying harmony between the scientific and spiritual worldviews?” (p. 5-6). BioLogos likes to use the word “harmony” too, but that is sometimes mistaken as a simplistic notion of complete consistency and total absence of any conflict. Musicians understand harmony as richer and more complex than this, even accepting dissonance that is resolved over a piece of music as part of the harmony (see, for example, President Haarsma’s post about this).

  1. How do you understand the “harmony” between science and Christian faith? Are there points of tension that need to be worked out?

In chapter 1, Collins says that C.S. Lewis’s argument about the Moral Law was what most caught his attention in considering the evidence for the truth of Christianity. If understanding right and wrong is a universal feature of humanity (not necessarily which specific things are right and wrong, but the fact that there is a right and wrong), where did this come from? Collins claims that if the “Moral Law is simply a consequence of evolutionary pressures”, then “the interpretation of many of the requirements of the Moral Law as a signpost to God would potentially be in trouble” (p. 24-25). And he goes on to give arguments against the purported evolutionary explanations of moral behavior by sociobiologists like E.O. Wilson. In recent years, though, some Christian scientists have been more receptive to the idea that evolution may have played a role in the development of morality. Consider, for example, a short post on our blog (also included in the supplementary materials) which suggests that a scientific description of how morality comes to exist does not tell us why it exists. This is a lively field of inquiry today.

  1. Do you agree or disagree with Collins on this point? If science could show persuasively how morality developed, would that undermine the belief that the Moral Law is a pointer toward God?

Finally for today, in chapter 2 Collins lists four main areas of doubt that he himself has confronted: God as wish fulfillment, harm done in the name of religion, the problem of evil, and miracles. The relationship between faith and doubt is a complex one. If we understand faith to mean merely “belief in the absence of proof,” then it seems that doubt could be problematic for faith (though even here it is wise to remember the words of the demoniac’s father in Mark 9:24, “I believe, help my unbelief”). Classically, though, trust and commitment played a more central role in faith, and it is easier to see how one might continue to trust or stay committed to Christ even in the face of doubts that sometimes surface.

  1. Has Collins addressed the areas of doubt that you see most often presented as difficulties for the Christian worldview? What do you take to be a healthy balance between skeptical questioning (which can result in fueling doubt) and dogmatic acceptance (which can result in “blind” faith)?

 


Jim Stump has served as the Content Manager at BioLogos since August 2013. As such he oversees the development of new content and curates the existing content. Jim's PhD is in philosophy from Boston University where he wrote a dissertation on the history and philosophy of science. He is the author (with Chad Meister) of Christian Thought: A Historical Introduction (Routledge, 2010) and the editor (with Alan Padgett) of the Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012). Jim is a frequent speaker at churches and other groups on topics at the intersection of science and Christianity.

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David Buchanan - #84285

January 24th 2014

On the question of harmony between science and Christian faith. They are both really big ideas. They are more than just that but their status as an idea means that considerable thought has been applied to their development. Science and faith have developed as ideas partially, though not entirely, independently. This independence means that there will be tension between them just as any object that has forces pulling in different directions will exhibit tension. However, the tension need not be debilitating. Instead, that tension means that the center of gravity between the two is always in flux and both need to be continuously responding to that. Those responses help to provide new intellectual ideas that provide strength and stability.


James Stump - #84287

January 24th 2014

Thanks David.  Is it fair to say that science and theology as methods of inquiry used to be more closely related than they are today?  Perhaps for people of faith, we need to pay attention to these forces from each in order to sort out what we believe about reality.  But I wonder if many scientists today would claim that theology has absolutely no bearing on their work.  Was Collins’ work on the human genome affected by his faith (I mean the actual results; not the way he went about his work, if that distinction is fair to make)?  What do you (or others) think this means for understanding the relationship bewteen them or the attempts are harmonization?


piotrk - #84286

January 24th 2014

1.Science and faith are are intertwined parts of the same reality.Separating the two creates a dualism, which in turn creates “tension”. On day 7 God rested and the world did not come apart. Science is telling us why this is the case.

2. Jesus shattered the existing moral laws and gave us a new moral law. it did not come as a result of evolutionary development. it is a single event in time. There is no question that some components of “learning” from experience can contribute to our morality, without direct intervention from God. Having said that, what happened 2000 years ago was quite unique.

3.The idea of harm in the name of religion needs to be examined more carefully. Crusades are bad exemple as they were not initiated to resolve a theological issues. Before the crusades took place the same area was overrun by Turks in the 9 and 10 century and they were slaughtering both muslims and non- muslims alike. No one talkes about this as it is politically inconvenient.

The question of suffering is a difficult one.  it is a result of the Fall . Christian faith offers us the way to deal with it and the hope that Sunday comes after Friday.

Natural disasters can be prevented and damage minimized, if we spent money on developing warning system and improving disaster relief efforts etc. For the time being we spend money on arm races around the world. We have been charged with the task of subduing the earth( Genesis). It is a work in progress.


James Stump - #84288

January 24th 2014

This comment about natural disasters is an interesting one.  In the problem of evil, we often answer the problem with the free will defense for evils like murder, war, and so on.  Natural evils don’t usually lend themselves to that.  But the more we understand how weather and earthquakes work, how much responsibility do we have for continuing to build cities in places especially prone to them?  Any OT scholars out there who might comment on the charge to “subdue the earth”?


Aaron Martin - #84297

January 24th 2014

I just want to first thank God for this opportunity and pray that He bless us all on this journey. I am very humbled to discuss these topics as they are allowing me to really look within to understand further. I also want to say thank you to the entire BioLogos team for arranging this for us all to benefit from.

1) How do you understand the “harmony” between science and Christian faith? Are there points of tension that need to be worked out?

I understand the harmony between the the two majorly powerful topics to be that of coexistance. In reference to music as Jim initiated, I would say the two play a perfect duet complimenting each other for those that accept it. For those that find themselves in one camp or the other and feel the other opposes their worldview it is more of the sound of fingernails scraped down a chalkboard. There are points of tension that need to be worked out but as with any salient issue there will always be some level of discord between the two.

2) Do you agree or disagree with Collins on this point? If science could show persuasively how morality developed, would that undermine the belief that the Moral Law is a pointer toward God?

Moral Law by itself is tough to consider when examining examples of small independent groups such as primitive African tribes that have certain acceptable behaviors such as infanticide within their society. When faith is applied to Moral Law then it gets a transformation to evidence of God through the human’s gift of altruistic behavior. I don’t think finding the source of morality is any thing other than finding the source of humans. You then would have asked God to step out from behind the curtain.

3) Has Collins addressed the areas of doubt that you see most often presented as difficulties for the Christian worldview? What do you take to be a healthy balance between skeptical questioning (which can result in fueling doubt) and dogmatic acceptance (which can result in “blind” faith)?

As a human, I have had and will always find myself in doubt. It is the progression towards doubtlessness that is of concern. Collins nailed all of the common causes of doubt that I have encountered along my long journey to enduring faith and addressed them thouroughly. With regards to a heathly balance between absolute doubt and full acceptance, I would say the scale needs to be tipped pretty heavily in the favor of dogmatic acceptance. This is much easier said than done and each of us are on our own journey to figure this out and we are all on different levels at different times. Compassion towards this reality helps those whom may find it alarming that they still have massive canyons of doubt to leap over realize that it is worth it to find the tools to build the bridge (much like Collins’ book) instead of just turning away from the challenge and embracing something that is easier to accept or “see”. Our journey is personal but learining together is key. I heard a quote from a Dr. Wayne Dyer’s (a great source) Inspiration that stated that when the student is ready the teacher will appear. This is so true as i wasn’t ready for all of this development until about 7 years ago.

 


Brenton Reading - #84299

January 25th 2014

Thank you to Biologos for organizing this reading group.

As a physician who was heavily influenced by C.S. Lewis during my undergraduate studies, there is much in these first two chapters that I resonate with.

However, just before starting medical school, I lost my childhood faith over the evidence for evolution. What I discovered eventually was that painful as this spiritual death was, it prepared a space for a new less dualistic faith to emerge. Through this experience I have grown to appreciate the contribution of postmodern thought which I think Collins mischaracterizes. Postmodern philosophy does not deny absolute truth or espouse complete moral relativism. Rather, postmodern thinkers ask us to give up the idea that we can attain a timeless view of absolute truth independent from our current perspective.

This thinking “in time” which was an integral part of my experience growing up Seventh-day Adventist challenges the idea that our understanding can somehow escape the effects of our cultural and historical moment—that we can somehow speak universal, eternal truths apart from that. Truth may be timeless, but our understanding and expression of it is not. To me, this perspective inspires humility which has allowed me to explore ideas which at first seemed to contradict my understanding of truth but on deeper inspection have instead expanded my appreciation of “present truth”.


James Stump - #84300

January 25th 2014

Thanks Brenton.  I think it is fair to say that postmodern thinking is not all the same on this.  We certainly can find postmodern philosophers who are moral relativists, but as you suggest, they don’t have to be.  The “modern” period of philosophy (roughly the 17th and 18th centuries) emphasized certainty and absolute foundations for our belief systems.  I agree that it has been a healthy corrective for the “post” moderns in this sense to recognize the futility of that project.  Perhaps Collins could be seen as in sync with this movement since he recognizes the legitimacy of doubts?  His is not a straightforward natural theology that tries to prove the existence of God through reason.  It seems to be more in the vein of showing that belief in God is not irrational.  That has the consequence that there could be more than one rational system of belief, and that, I’d suggest, is one of the hallmarks of postmodernity: a plurality of “rationalities” (which is what you’ve called the “cultural and historical moment” to which we are all connected).  The big question, then, becomes to what degree we can transcend these circumstances and evaluate the rationality of other, competing paradigms of thought.  Any thoughts on this?


Brenton Reading - #84301

January 25th 2014

Yes, I am sure it is fair to say that postmodern thinking is not all the same on truth. My layman’s perspective is limited to superficial readings of Levinas, Derrida, Ricoeur, Chretien, Westphal, Kearney, and more in depth exploration of Caputo.  I don’t find any of these thinkers arguing that there is no absolute truth or in favor of moral relativism, particularly not Caputo.

I agree with you that other than the comment I referenced, the remainder of Collins first two chapters could be seen as in sync with the epistemological humility of postmodernity.

So, how can we transcend our limited perspective and evaluate other competing paradigms of thought?

I’m not sure; but, perhaps reflecting on how many of us have shifted our thinking in regards to evolution might help. I grew up with a literal interpretation of Genesis. When first introduced to the theory of evolution it was brought up only for ridicule and to demonstrate its inadequacy to explain reality. Instead, when it became obvious that evolutionary processes better explain the fossil record, etc. my old perspective was destroyed and it has been a long journey to discover that this traumatic event was not an end but a waypoint along my spiritual growth.

I wish I had been trained in my many religion classes to hold my faith a bit more loosely and recognize that faith itself is an evolving journey so that exploring other perspectives would not have been so traumatic. What do you think?


Mike Beidler - #84307

January 26th 2014

1.  How do you understand the “harmony” between science and Christian faith?  Are there points of tension that need to be worked out?

For me to say that there is a high degree of “harmony” between science and my Christian faith is really a description of how much “cognitive dissonance” I can accept within my own evolutionary creationist paradigm.  Because my paradigm does not equate a belief in strict biblical inerrancy with the Christian faith, there is capacity for much more “harmony.”  Approaching Genesis 1-11 from an ancient Near Eastern cognitive mindset (insofar as we are capable of doing so through careful study) is, in my opinion, a “higher view” of Scripture than an Enlightenment-influenced doctrine of inerrancy, paving the way toward greater harmony between science and faith.

I am well aware that what constitutes the “Christian faith” in my paradigm is too “liberal” in the eyes of most of my fellow Evangelicals.  This is especially true for those who deem that the “Christian faith” requires belief in an historical Adam and Eve, without which the necessity of a savior is destroyed and the Incarnation utterly useless and tragic.  For me, however, viewing Adam and Eve as mythical archetypes (i.e., we all are Adam and Eve) and/or etiological literary creations (used to explain the presence of sin that pervades human society) does not affect my ability to retain faith in an historical Jesus.  Sin is sin, regardless of its origin, and Jesus provides a way to deal with our brokenness.

The primary tension in my faith has more to do with theodicy and the seeming requirement for pain and suffering as a necessary component of the cosmos’ operation.  We evolutionary creationists assume that without the presence of such experiences, the diversity of flora and fauna on our planet (or any other that may host biological life) could neither appear in its vast array nor survive long on limited resources.  But what does the existence of necessary pain and suffering say about God’s character?  Could there be a cosmos in which pain and suffering are minimized without eliminating the necessary experience of death to pave the way for future generations?  What role does the Incarnation play in redeeming pain and suffering in the created order?  To what degree should we expect a cosmic, eschatological transformation, especially if we have adopted a paradigm that asserts evolution as the “good” tool by which God created?

2.  Do you agree or disagree with Collins on this point? If science could show persuasively how morality developed, would that undermine the belief that the Moral Law is a pointer toward God?

I disagree with Dr. Collins’ claim that if the “Moral Law is simply a consequence of evolutionary pressures,” then “the interpretation of many of the requirements of the Moral Law as a signpost to God would potentially be in trouble.”  I find it inconsistent (albeit not unexpected) that Dr. Collins accepts a non-interventionist approach to the evolutionary construction of those physiological characteristics that make us human, at the same time he refuses to believe that humanity’s capacity to be a moral agent came about by those same processes (lesser degrees of which, he admits, are recognizable in “lesser” species).  The Moral Law is not something that is in us; it is something that we come to recognize and accept or reject.  When we do reach that “age of accountability” (cf. Isa 7:14-17) in which we become conscious of what is right and what is wrong, the Moral Law becomes, metaphorically speaking, “written on our hearts,” our conscience convicting us when we act against it (Rom 2:15).  Yet it was not always so as infants or in the earlier stages of Homo sapiens’ evolution.

Personally, I do not fear scientific explanations for altruistic behavior or morality.  The very existence of these things, which clearly give an advantage to our species (and other species to lesser or similar degrees), point just as clearly to the existence of a God of love as if He had implanted directly such characteristics within us individually (at conception) or collectively (as a species).  By allowing for the possibility of science explaining the origin of “soulish” behavior, I have eliminated one more “God of the gaps” and repaired one more chink in the armor for anti-theists to target.  In the end, I need only one gap in which to insert a necessary Cause, and I don’t believe for a moment that we can even hope to definitively explain via the scientific method how the cosmos came into being.

3.  Has Collins addressed the areas of doubt that you see most often presented as difficulties for the Christian worldview?  What do you take to be a healthy balance between skeptical questioning (which can result in fueling doubt) and dogmatic acceptance (which can result in “blind” faith)?

I appreciate that Dr. Collins admits that our faith can never eliminate all doubt.  While he does not attempt to resolve definitively the issues that continue to plague Christian intellectuals, he does the Church a favor by exposing us to his own honest struggles.  Often what allows us to live with doubt is to see how others struggle amidst those doubts, and Dr. Collins does so with grace, serving to inspire others who battle similar or identical issues.

That being said, if one truly has a relationship with the living Word of God, I am convinced that no degree of skeptical questioning can break that bond.  Questioning skeptically to the farthest reaches of my faith has allowed me to focus the object of my faith down to the basics: Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, Son of the living God.  It’s “acoustic Christianity,” stripped down to the essentials, intimate, and warm.

Dogmatism, however, is a dangerous proposition.  It only serves to close minds and blind, rather than open minds and restore sight.  Walking by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5:7) is not blind adherence to doctrines that directly contradict evidence perceived by our God-given senses.  It is confidence in that which is unseen and not observable by the senses (2 Cor 4:16-18; 5:6-10).


Richard W - #84318

January 27th 2014

Mike, I have to say that I’m impressed with your well though out and beautifully written responses.


Mike Beidler - #84319

January 27th 2014

I greatly appreciate the compliment, Richard. 


Aaron Martin - #84322

January 27th 2014

Mike, I just wanted to say that your comments are very thought envoking. I also love the term “acoustic Christianity” and the following definition that you supply with it.


Mike Beidler - #84323

January 27th 2014

Thanks, Aaron!


Christal Beidler - #84309

January 26th 2014

1.  How do you understand the “harmony” between science and Christian faith?  Are there points of tension that need to be worked out?

I am learning a lot as I study the Bible and I am looking deeper into science and how evolution describes the creation of life.  I am coming to a comfortable conclusion that Genesis is so much more beautiful and deeper in meaning than just a plain quick read can give me.  I see how the sciences and the acceptance of evolution can fit in my belief system at the same time as I can accept the Bible as God’s word.  As I continue on my journey to learn more about how science describes the world’s origin and specifically how God unfolded us, his special creation, out of evolutionary processes, I seek to understand how I fit in all this and what His plan is for me.

2.  Do you agree or disagree with Collins on this point? If science could show persuasively how morality developed, would that undermine the belief that the Moral Law is a pointer toward God?

If science could show how morality developed, would that impair my belief that this inner desire to do what is morally right points to God?  No.  The reason is that I believe very firmly that God is the decider, originator, and creator of everything and if he used evolutionary methods to develop a moral code in me, I would be okay with that.

3.  Has Collins addressed the areas of doubt that you see most often presented as difficulties for the Christian worldview?  What do you take to be a healthy balance between skeptical questioning (which can result in fueling doubt) and dogmatic acceptance (which can result in “blind” faith)?

Yes, I think Dr. Collins addresses the key areas of doubt and does a good job to tie in his own personal story along the way.  I think there will always be doubt in our minds.  It is often manifested in how we struggle to learn about our meaning and purpose in this life.  It is in this doubt that God can meet us and can comfort us with His peace if we open our minds to trusting Him.  This is hard to do when things are going badly in our lives and when we feel the real pains of human existence such as loneliness, self-doubt, sorrow over loss, and fear of the future.  I think it is in these times, when we are skeptically questioning, that God can be nearest to our heart.  Anyone can have blind faith; it is the one who doubts and still trusts who is often the one hanging very tightly to God.  I admit that I used to fear doubt and I never wanted to question anything.  I accepted everything the Bible said without any other thought even entering my mind or even wanting to study it further. Now I can say I find it a stepping-stone to stronger faith. Again, I believe God meets us in the hard times and in our doubt.  Maybe it is doubt that should come first and, in turn, lead to faith.


Matthew Winegar - #84310

January 27th 2014

 

  1. How do you understand the “harmony” between science and Christian faith? Are there points of tension that need to be worked out?
I feel there is harmony between science and Christian faith in terms of how people work out the interaction of those components (science and faith) in their worldviews.  The two are not necessarily at odds, or in conflict, depending on one’s interpretation of scripture and understanding of their faith.  Science of course changes over time (in response to new evidence), but generally at any point in time there is established science.  Established science properly makes no proclamations about the existence (or non-existence) of God, however some people (including some scientists) do, but then they are just peddling their own philosophical or religious convictions.  I feel that the Wesleyan Quadrilateral is a helpful model for dealing with the interaction of faith with science.  To me, scripture is essential, but it must be interpreted, and a reasonable/balanced interpretation takes into account the other ‘legs’, experience (which includes personal experience as well as evidence gathered in doing science), tradition (religious tradition, which helps us keep our faith recognizable as, in fact, Christian), and reason (which we use in analyzing how all the pieces fit together).
  1. Do you agree or disagree with Collins on this point? If science could show persuasively how morality developed, would that undermine the belief that the Moral Law is a pointer toward God?
I do not believe an explanation of how morality developed would do anything to undermine that belief, at least for me.  However, it does make things more ambigous, since it makes it at least conceivable that the Moral Law developed ‘on its own’.  It is a matter of Faith that God ordained the processes whereby we evolved, including the development of our own moral sense.  To me, this a key component of being made in the image of God; there is no reason we cannot study and understand this from within this world.
  1. Has Collins addressed the areas of doubt that you see most often presented as difficulties for the Christian worldview? What do you take to be a healthy balance between skeptical questioning (which can result in fueling doubt) and dogmatic acceptance (which can result in “blind” faith)?

As in the above question, things are certainly ambigous at this point, but without doubt, what room would there be for faith?  I cetainly feel that my faith is much stronger now that I have wrestled honestly with very real doubts.  Unlike Collins, I was raised Christian, but I did have an extended period of doubt, in part because I never worked out how I could understand certain things given what we know about the world (science).  I could never have remained Christian by dogmatic acceptance, as “blind” faith is abhorrent to me.  I think both are needed for a robust Christian worldview, and this has been my experience.


Aaron Martin - #84312

January 27th 2014

Is anyone else having an issue with being able to reply directly to a comment? I click on the link and nothing happens. This is occuring on two separate computers. I tried to contact the site IT  along with Mr. Stump with no avail and I want to actively participate.


James Stump - #84315

January 27th 2014

Sorry about the difficulties, Aaron.  Our tech guy said he’s been in contact with you to try to sort it out.


Aaron Martin - #84321

January 27th 2014

Thanks Jim. I apologize that I had to break into this thread to try to get help. I realize it is not the forum for this and I appreciate you responding. It is a browser issue where I find mine is dated 3 years (a long time for technology) for both one of my laptops at home and my work computer (federal government is slow to upgrade like myself). I downloaded an alternate solution and I am able to participate now.


James Stump - #84314

January 27th 2014

Thank you all for the thoughtful replies.  I’m so glad you took the time to think carefully and write eloquently.  These comments are a great resource for others to read, and they set the stage for our future book club posts—the next of which is scheduled for Friday, February 7th.  I hope you’ll get a chance to read (or re-read) The Language of God chapter three by then, and stop back here to share your insights with the BioLogos community. 


GJDS - #84324

January 28th 2014

I find the comments instructive and will add the following: I begin by stating that I have not read Collin’s book, although I have read a counter to his book. On points (1) and (2), I think that a harmoney between faith and reason is the strating point. The notion that science has an imperial role, and that we should commence with an (unthinking) belief in the sciences is a mistake. Once we consider reason, we would look at philosophy, and its various branches, and from there go to the various sciences (physical sciences, medial/biological, social, political and perhaps ecnomics). On faith, we need to consider biblical teachings, traditions and authoritative formalisms, theological discussions, and our own personal experiences.

I make this comment mainly to point out the multivarious aspects of a debate this post may require. I am somewhat concerned with the notion that peoples faith may be disturbed and even destroyed by what (I think) are mundaine points debated about science. The universal aspect of the Christian faith should be impressed in US evangelists, and the traditions that summarise the great effort by past Christians to discuss and clarifiy the various details of the Faith. Colin’s book is simply another event in the long tradition - it is wise to become informed on the rich and multifaceted discussions on Christianity.

On the moral law (the ten commandments) we are taught by Christ that heane and earth may pass away, but the Law of God will remain. I think that closes the door to debate. Nothing from science can possibly add or detract from this - a wise person could do well to invetigate what is meant by terms such as ‘scientific law’ and ‘God’s Law’.


Alan Parrington - #84335

January 28th 2014

Albert Einstein, Time Magazine’s Person of the 20th Century, who along with Sir Issac Newton, is considered to be the greatest scientist of all time, was deeply disturbed by the rift between science and religion, arguing that, “Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind”. David Bodanis, E=Mc2, (NY: Walker Publishing, 2000) p. XXX.

His conclusions were well grounded.  All the great scientists upon whose work he built the Theory of Relativity (i.e. Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Faraday and Maxwell) were deeply religious individuals impelled to think outside the box, as if driven by some special motivation. Knowledge, like wisdom it seems, is both derived and divined, including our knowledge about God.

Dr Collins’ thoughts seem to come from the same formulation.  The atheism/agnoticism of his youth, his doctorate in nuclear physics from MIT, his desire in med school to discover why a terminally ill elderly patient could be so at peace, all led to a CS Lewis-like wrestle with God about truth, and the results were BioLogos. Morality is clearly metaphysics (Greek for after-physics) and trying to find a natural derivation for it will always lead to assumptions and generalizations where science, by its own dictates, can not go.

Of the final question, religious doubt is part of the process. Mother Teresa of Calcutta had loads of it at times. When asked about his professed agnosticm in view of his even more stronger expressed belief in a universe created by God, Einstein replied, “I am not an atheist.  The problem is too vast for our limited minds.  We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages.  The child knows someone must have written those books.  It does not know how. Walter Issacson, Einstein: His Life and Universe (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2007) p.386. 

Neither do I.

 


Eddie - #84355

January 30th 2014

Minor factual correction:

“his doctorate in nuclear physics from MIT”

should be

“his doctorate in physical chemistry from Yale.”


Roger A. Sawtelle - #84387

February 4th 2014

I did not jump into this discussion with both feet in the beginning because while I looked at Dr. Collins’ book some time ago I was not impressed. 

However I would like to share two important points.

I was always taught that the best way to interpret one scripture is by comparing it to another.  Genesis begins, “In the Beginning” and so does the Gospel of John.  John 1 is the NT Gen 1, but none of our discussions seem to use John 1 to understand Genesis 1.  Also of course our faith is focused on Jesus Christ the Alpha and Omega of our understanding of God and God’s Love.

Therefore I definitely agree with Mike and many others that our faith is built on nothing less than Jesus’s Truth and Righteousness, and this is not arbitrary.  It is found right in the center of the Gospel at the beginning of the Fourth Gospel where is says that Jesus is the Logos and Center of Creation.     

James Stump wrote:

The big question, then, becomes to what degree we can transcend these circumstances and evaluate the rationality of other, competing paradigms of thought.  Any thoughts on this?

Since Jesus is the Logos, He is the Model by which we can evaluate Christian and non-Christian paradigms of thought.  Jesus transcends.  We do not.

How this works out is not easy or obvious, but if you are interested we can share. 


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