So what are we to make of Christianity and science? I think a helpful analogy would be to think in terms of two books from God: scripture and nature. Scripture is testimony of God’s involvement in the world and reveals his plan for creation, including us. Nature is physical evidence of God’s work in the world.
Without getting too metaphysical, I think it is important to ask what the difference is between the natural and the supernatural. When we say “natural” we usually mean something that we see repeatedly and consistently. When we say “supernatural” or “miracle,” we refer to something that seems inconsistent with what usually happens for which we have no explanation. For instance, people coming back to life is supernatural… or is it?
What if God suddenly raised everyone from the dead and then began bringing people back from the dead right after they died? We might not be able to explain what was happening but if it continued over time we would no longer call it supernatural. It happens every time and therefore it is natural. What if gravity is actually supernatural, but because it happens all the time, we call it natural? Supernatural is simply extraordinary events that we can’t explain. Does that make the natural any less permeated with God’s presence?
We have received divine revelation in scripture about God and his plans for humanity. We also have before us the wondrous handiwork of God in the physical world. We know God exists and is involved, but science is the study of the physical evidence of how God works in the world. Revelation does not tell us how the physical realities of the world work and science does not tell us about God’s purposes or operations beyond physical realities. So precisely how do the two interact? Why not ask how Jesus could be fully God and fully human? How can God be three in one? It is a paradox.
The drive of the Modernist era has been to force an “either or” solution. For finite beings with limited mental capacity and perceptive abilities, to believe that we can grasp how an infinite and omniscient God interacts with creation is more than a little arrogant. To conclude that because science cannot measure God that God is not present is the height of arrogance. It doesn’t mean that these topics shouldn’t be probed, but a considerable dose of humility is in order.
For centuries, the Church stifled learning and understanding of the physical world because of its unexamined iconoclastic presumptions about how the world works. As many of those presumptions were proved false, the church resorted to threats and inquisitions to retain power and authority. The Church discredited itself before much of the world. The Church succumbed to its own hubris.
Meanwhile, the Enlightenment, flamed by the recalcitrance of the Church, gave birth to a new type of hubris. As science broke free from the prison of Church influence it began to quickly gain authority. Scientists made remarkable breakthroughs that dramatically improved the lives of everyday people. By the 19th Century, philosophers like Auguste Comte (1798-1857) touted positivism, and the new science of sociology, as the future religion of humankind. Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) championed the concept of Social Darwinism. (It was Spencer, not Darwin, who coined the phrase “the survival of the fittest.”) This trajectory in social scientific thinking led to the Eugenics Movement in the United States and Germany during the first half of the 20th Century. However, the most notorious of this band of intellectuals has to be Karl Marx (1818-1883).
Marxism is essentially a Christian heresy. It promises a coming utopia. It views humanity as moving toward an unstoppable conclusion. It demands complete loyalty. It views the people as the “body,” except instead of having Christ as head, impersonal market and evolutionary forces are taking the “body” to completion. Of course, as we have seen, the individual counted for very little.
Science is not an institution in the same sense as the Church. Scientists can not achieve the same level of tyranny the Church achieved. Yet, from the mid-19th Century (at least) leading scientists, scientific communities, and social thinkers have championed science as the final authority on all matters and legitimized some of the most horrific events in human history.
Evolution played a part in many of the destructive ideologies of the 20th Century. So is evolution the culprit? If I want to make a counterfeit $20 bill, I would be well advised to use a portrait of Andrew Jackson in the center that looks as close to the real thing as possible. If I want to create a counterfeit religion, wouldn’t I want it to look as much like the real thing as possible? Scientific research points overwhelmingly toward evolution as process in the book that God has given us about the physical world. Would it not make sense to incorporate this mindset into any godless counterfeit ideology I develop? This doesn’t make evolution wrong or evil.
It seems to me that the answer lies in embracing the paradox of the two books God has given us. Scripture, apart from science, leads to a stagnate culture. Science, apart from scripture, can lead to a host of horrifying consequences for humanity corporately and individually. Science, and its application through technology, is coming to be seen less as a savior and more as a tool that can either enhance life or destroy it. Its luster as the high priest of knowledge is beginning to fade.
One of the things I see today as a minor theme within the Emergent Church movement is hostility toward reason and science. This strikes me as an over reaction. The answer to an over inflated esteeming of science is not its trivialization. In fact, the scientists I know are among the most awestruck, humbled, and mystical people around. The answer is to bring the study of the physical world back into balance with the personal word God has given us in scripture, incarnated in Jesus Christ, and attested to us by the Holy Spirit.
When it comes to resolving issues between science and Christianity, there are more than two views. This true about evolution. I recently read Evolution from Creation to New Creation by Ted Peters and Martinez Hewlett. They identify four major positions and place them on a continuum. Here is a very brief summary.
Scientific Creationism – Advocates believe the world to be only a few thousand years old. A worldwide flood occurred that altered the face of the planet. Divine creation brought new species into existence, not macro-evolution.
Intelligent Design – Accepts most of what scientists say about the age of the universe, the operations of physics, and so on, but believes that only an intelligent being could have brought about life and new species. Macro-evolution by natural selection is, mathematically improbable, if not impossible.
Theistic Evolution – Believes that God was the creator of all that is and has superintended the development of creation. Believes that macro-evolution has occurred and is the process by which God brought life to where it is today. God is present and at work in the world today.
Ontological Materialism – Rejects the idea that anything other than natural forces are at work in the universe. Evolution has been a product of natural selection and there is no super intelligence impinging on the natural world.
While there is considerable overlap between Scientific Creationist advocates and Christian Fundamentalism, they are not one in the same. Furthermore, proponents like Henry Morris and Duane Gish want to be engaged on the basis of their science and not their faith. Morris has noted in the past that his main works challenging evolution do not even mention the Bible. Nevertheless, critics frequently dismiss Scientific Creationists because they have underlying religious perspectives. To which Gish, Morris, and company, rightly respond by asking, “And other scientists don’t have religious perspectives?” Peters and Hewlett point out that these folks are offering scientific models. In scientific circles, it ought to be enough to critique their science without disparaging their religious convictions. Of course, this cuts the other way. Scientific Creationists are not free to dismiss other scientist because of their religious beliefs.
The Intelligent Design camp is little more amorphous. There are some Scientific Creationist who represent themselves as Intelligent Design advocates, probably to gain a wider hearing. But the leading minds of the Intelligent Design advocates affirm most widely accepted scientific knowledge. Keeping in mind a continuum, we could place people like Philip Johnson closer to the Scientific Creationist part of the continuum. He seems often to imply that the scientists are intentionally engaging in fraud. Then, there is Michael Behe who fully respects the scientific community but questions macro-evolution based on irreducible complexity. He is closer to the Theistic Evolutionist Perspective. So there are differences within the group.
The Theistic Evolutionist perspective also includes a wide range of adherents. Toward the Intelligent Design side of the continuum would be none other than Fundamentalist icon B. B. Warfield and scientist Kenneth Miller. Toward the Ontological side of the perspective would be the more mystical Tielhard de Chardin. Some Theistic Evolutionists have speculative theories about how the teaching of scripture and the knowledge of scientists interrelate. Others tend to see the interaction as a divine mystery that may be beyond our human ability to understand. They embrace science and faith as a paradox.
The Ontological Materialist allows for no involvement by supernatural forces in the natural world. Thomas Huxley and Richard Dawkins would be of this perspective. Stephen Jay Gould suggested that science and religion occupy two separate non-overlapping domains, which on the surface sounds accommodating. However, in practical terms, Gould maintained that God may not interfere in any historical event that might otherwise be accessible to science and only communicates by revelation. Thus, he effectively reduces the scope of religion to fantasy.
The Creation Scientists see the Ontological Materialists as their mortal enemies. They usually see old earth Intelligent Design folks and especially Theistic Evolutionist as either naïve or wolves in sheep clothing. They worry that these last two groups are on a slippery slope toward Ontological Materialism. Similarly, the Ontological Materialists have their harshest words for the Creation Scientists. They see the Intelligent Design and Theistic Evolutionist as grossly misguided and possibly wolves in sheep clothing. In debates you will frequently see the Creation Scientists pin the pejorative of "evolutionist" on anyone who does not embrace their position. The Ontological Materialist label anyone who expresses an honest conviction about God as a Bible thumping, young-earth, Creation Scientist.
From where I sit, and I am not a physical scientist, the case for evolutionary development looks very convincing. I see nothing in the Bible that precludes macro-evolution from happening. In fact, as I have laid out in the past few posts, there is an uncanny correspondence between the Bible and an evolutionary model. Yet, I have read Michael Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box and his argument against macroevolution based on irreducible complexity. He makes a very persuasive case. So what to do with the dilemma? Darrel R. Falk has this wonderful quote from St. Augustine in his book Coming to Peace with Science:
“It is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, while presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense. We should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn… If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well, and hear him maintain his foolish opinions about the Scriptures, how then are they going to believe those Scriptures in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven?” (34)
I suspect you may have discerned that I reject the Ontological Materialism position. You are right. I also reject Scientific Creationism. In my view, fewer things in our culture are doing more to undermine the intellectual credibility of the gospel than the linkage of Christian discipleship with the absurdity of young earth creationism.
I have sympathy for the Intelligent Design perspective. It is hard to see how natural selection could over come the issue of irreducible complexity. However, to simply declare “God did it” is not a falsifiable claim that can be tested and therefore not a scientific theory.
This would not be the first time that something that seems unfathomable was later explained through scientific inquiry. To dogmatically insist that evolution is wrong when scripture offers no evidence against it risks leaving the Church in Augustine's “ embarrassing situation,” that brings scorn on the gospel. About 400 years ago there was a similar problem with an earth centered universe and remember how that came out. For these reasons, I find myself to be a Theistic Evolutionist but toward the Intelligent design side of the continuum.
That still leaves at least two important questions for me. How do science and faith interrelate? How do we think about sin an suffering in the world?
The Genesis 1 account tells about creation from God’s perspective, revealing his motive for bringing all creation into existence. This second story addresses creation from the perspective of humanity. It is not a chronological listing of events. It is not comparable with the first story. Furthermore, the passage speaks of creating a garden for the man to live in and is not ulitmaltely addressing the whole of creation, although the opening verses make a segway from the earlier story.
Gen 2:4-25 NRSV
In the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, 5 when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up -- for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; 6 but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground -- 7 then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. 8 And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 Out of the ground the LORD God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
10 A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches. 11 The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; 12 and the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. 13 The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Cush. 14 The name of the third river is Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, "You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die."
18 Then the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner." 19 So out of the ground the LORD God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. 21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken." 24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.
Verses 4-9 seem to indicate a sequence. First, God formed man. “Formed” connotes the idea of sculpting out of something pliable like clay. Second, God created a garden and formed plants from the ground to fill the garden. Third, God placed man in the garden he created.
I make two assumptions here. First, that God had intended humanity from the start and was bringing all creation to that end. Second, that God created humanity over billions of years of evolution. God brought humanity into existence at just the moment God had “readied” a spot on the Earth for his existence. Life, which God formed/evolved into humanity, began at least 4 billion years ago, “…when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up.” All life (plant, animal and human) has a common ancestor according to this passage, namely “the dust of the ground.” This is what scientists conclude. There is no reason I know of that “formed” would nescessarliy suggest an instantaneous act.
God began forming man 4 billion years ago. A few hundred million years ago he began populating the planet with plant life. As God completed one little spot called Eden, he then brought the man to completion in Eden, thereby “placing him in Eden.”
Was Eden a real place? The story certainly speaks of it as a reality. Were Adam and Eve actual people? Who knows? I suspect they could have been. There seems to be something very intentional and different about the creation of humans in these stories. God breathed life into Adam after forming him. Might God have evolved homo sapiens over eons and then in some way altered (breathed life into) their existence, possibly altering their DNA? Verse 22 tells of taking a “rib” from Adam to create Eve. Hugh Ross makes the case that the Hebrew would not necessarily mean a literal rib, but rather that God took something of Adams substance. A biopsy might be a more appropriate analogy. Was this altered DNA tissue taken from Adam and incorporated into the substance of a female homo sapien? Who really knows?
My point is not to give a definitive explanation of how the creation stories must be interpreted. They clearly have theological content and are told in such a way as to emphasize the theological content. That must never be lost. Still, the stories read like they intend to be in reference to historical realities, which is very much unlike and other ancient creation stories known to us.
My point is that when we bring our theological/political agendas as the primary interpretative framework for looking at scripture, we usually mess it up. I believe that liberal Christianity dismisses even the possibility of the historical aspects I have raised because it is imperative that these stories be interpreted as mythical. Otherwise, it might call into question the liberal take on other parts of the Bible and, worst of all, it might give legitimacy to the views of more conservative Christians. Fundamentalist Christians dismiss a perspective like I have presented because evolution has been the primary club liberals have used to bludgeon their credibility. Allowing for evolution would be a start on the slippery slide to liberalism. I suspect many conservatives are looking for a “Scopes Monkey Trial” moment that shifts the culture their direction and puts “liberals” in their place. Discrediting evolution, and by extension, scientists in the adacamies, they will have turned the tide.
In short, liberals have carved out a position based on scientific-rationalism that can’t afford historical merit in the creation stories. The non-historical nature of the stories is what gives the freedom to interpret how they see fit. Fundamentalists have carved out a position based on scientific-rationalism that can’t allow for scientific knowledge concerning evolution. If they do, their rationally constructed, “air-tight,” systematic theologies are at risk. One embraces scientific-rationalism as tool for a "liberated" agenda. The other embraces scientific-rationalism in order to unseat scientitic-rationalism.
24 And God said, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind." And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.
chayya nephesh = living creature
behema = cattle
remes = creeping things
chayya = wild animals
Both chayya and behema refer to a variety long-legged landed quadruped mammals. Chayya are the wild animals that can not be tamed and behema refers to those that can be domesticated. In this context, remes means short-legged land mammals like rodents, hares, and armadillos.
These animals were the late comers according to scientists but this is not a comprehensive list. So why were these animals selected? Because these are the animals that would have the most impact on human existence. Again, who was the audience?
26 Then God said, "Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth."
27 So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." 29 God said, "See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." And it was so. 31 God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Verse 27 says God “created” humanity. This is the third time the Hebrew bara is used, indicating something done uniquely by God. With the creation of humanity, God brought creation to its apex. The whole story points toward God readying the Earth for humanity and then placing humanity as caretaker over what God has created. It isn’t clear from the story if God literally formed a man out of nothing or altered some living beings into Adam and Eve, but it is clear that something very unique occurred.
2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. 2 And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.
4 These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.
The astonishing thing about Genesis 1, when we compare it to science, is not its “errors.” When we account for the metaphorical aspects of the story and the nature of the intended audience, we see that it is a very accurate (not precise or comprehensive) description of the sequence of scientific events that have occurred. How did the writer of the Genesis story, writing millennia ago, manage to get the specifics of the Genesis story in just the right sequence with what scientists have uncovered in only the past few decades? There is nothing in the way the story is written to preclude evolution except for the uncertain meaning of bara with regard to the creation of nephesh and humainty. The question of evolution can not be answered from the Bible.
The scientist who are making these Bible affirming discoveries are the very scientists that many fault as anti-God and anti-Bible! Fundamentalists miss this because they are convinced that they can’t allow for non-literal days. Liberals miss this because they have closed their minds to the stories having any historical merit.
There weren't seven literal days or even seven equally long eras. I suspect that the author of the story divided the story as he did as a literary tool to reinforce the idea of the Sabbath. This is part of the poetic nature of the story. The story emphasizes God’s magnificent provision for us and his desire for us to enjoy relationship with him as co-creators in his world.
Time to look briefly at the second creation story.
On the first “day,” the collision of a large asteroid or planet changed the atmosphere from opaque to translucent. The Earth was enveloped in a large cloud of debris. Over the eons the debris in the atmosphere dissipated and went from translucent to transparent.
14 And God said, "Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth." And it was so. 16 God made the two great lights -- the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night -- and the stars. 17 God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
I think this is one of the most misunderstood passages in the story. The heavenly objects became visible on the Earth. Nothing was created or formed on this day. As the sky became transparent, the Sun, Moon, and stars would have become visible for the first time. Verses 16 through 18 are a parenthetical statement. Hebrew does not have the verb tenses we do, but if we read “made” in the past tense we see that the passage is addressing why God made the Sun and Moon, not when. The sun and moon had existed long before. Now they are visible.
The evolutionary timeline goes something like this.
1.0 billion years ago – Plant life appeared in the form of algae.
600 million years ago (mya) - Sponges, Jellyfish, and aquatic multicelluar animals began to appear
500 mya - There was rapid changes 600-500 million years and by 505 million years ago, there were aquatic vertebrates.
475 mya – Plant life began to appear on land.
450 mya – Anthropods, the first land animals appeared.
420 mya – Plants with spores appear on land
365 mya – Insects appear on land.
256 mya – Mammal-like reptiles appear.
250-65 mya- Age of dinosaurs.
55 mya – Earliest primates appear.
50 mya – Earliest ancestors of many of modern day animals begin to appear
5 mya – Human ancestors speciate from chimps.
150 thousand years ago (kya) – Most distant common female human ancestor based on mitochondrial DNA.
100 kya – First anatomically modern humans appear.
60 kya - Most distant common male ancestor based on Y chromosome.
20 And God said, "Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky." 21 So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them, saying, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth." 23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.
Day three talked about the beginning of plant life. On day five we see “swarms of living creatures” (sheres nephesh) and “birds” (op). Sheres refers to teams of small an/or minute animals. Usually means insects, amphibians, and reptiles. Nephesh usually means “soulish creatures.”
Verse 21 uses the word “created,” which is from the Hebrew bara. This is the second time the term is used in the story. The first was in verse 1 concerning the creation of the universe. Bara usually means an act special to God, as in creating out of nothing. Hugh Ross believes something unique happened with the creation of nephesh. These creatures exhibit emotions, passion, and will. Nephesh comes from the a root word that means breathing. God “specially” created creatures with the breath of life.
So what about the dinosaurs? Again, who is the audience and what is the purpose of the story? The Hebrews would have been clueless about dinosaurs and the inclusion of them would only have distracted from the author’s story. This wasn't a scientific inventory.
Scientists estimate that the Earth came into existence about 4.59 billion years ago. If we were to position ourselves on the face of the earth during the first few hundred million years of the earth, what would we see? Nothing. It would be pitch dark and we would be under water. We would need a boat, a protective suit with oxygen, and a light source. Scientists believe the entire planet was covered with water and the atmosphere was mixture of deadly gases. So thick was the atmosphere that no sunlight could reach the surface.
2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.
“Formless void” is translated from the Hebrew tohu wabohu. Borrowing from Greek cosmology, some have taken this phrase to suggest Earth was a chaotic swirl of gasses and matter without form. Actually, taken at face value, the phrase essentially means barren and empty of life. Describing his vision of Judah after it is conquered, Jeremiah says:
I looked on the earth, and lo, it was waste and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light. Jeremiah. 4:23
“Waste and void” is tohu wabohu. Verses 2 is describing a lifeless planet covered in water with God hovering above, suggesting he was actively involved in the proceedings.
About 4.25 billion years ago, scientists suspect a planet, at least the size of Mars, collided with Earth. The impact altered the Earth’s axis and rate of rotation. It blew away much of the gaseous atmosphere. It also added certain minerals and ores to the Earth’s content. All of these alterations had a direct impact on the Earth’s ability to support life. The debris from the collision eventually coalesced into the Moon.
While the collision blew away much of the atmosphere it initially caused a massive debris cloud to envelope the earth. Had we been on the surface of the Earth before and after the collision, we would have noticed a transformation from an opaque atmosphere to a translucent atmosphere. Light would have been visible but we would not have been able to see anything in the sky.
3 Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
Scientist believe that a little more than 4 billion years ago, atmospheric conditions emerged conduceive to photosynthesis. The troposphere formed. This is the layer of the atmosphere closest to the earth’s surface. Evaporation, condensation, and precipitation, (the water cycle) began to happen. If you recall from yesterday’s post, the atmosphere was the dome shaped area between the earth and the “waters above,” or sky, for the Hebrews.
6 And God said, "Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters." 7 So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. 8 God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
The word “made” in verse seven is asa which means to fabricate or manufacture.
At some imprecisely known time, scientists believe land appeared as one contiguous unit. Eventually it broke apart and drifted in to the various continents. Scientists have also found fossils indicating life in the sea dating back 3.5 billion years ago. However, there are other measures that date back to 3.86 billion years ago. Life far from any light, like that found in deep ocean trenches, indicates the possibility of life apart from photosynthesis, so it is possible that the first life extends back 4 billion years or more. The first spore produding plant life is a much more recent phenomena having its beginning about 420 million years ago.
9 And God said, "Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear." And it was so. 10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, "Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it." And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
Genesis is not a science textbook. No mention is made of microscopic life. How would you explain microscopic life to an ancient audience? What would it add to the story? The story is focused on those aspects that directly affected the lives of the listeners. Plants would have been understood as requirement for animal and human life. Again, we must read the story through the eyes of the intended audience.
This passage is the first mention of life. It is important to note something that may escape our notice. It does not use bara or ex nihilo to describe the emergence of life. It suggests that life somehow came from existing material. If so, than a scientist, with the appropriate tools, would be able to observe how the event happened. A scientist would be able to observe the consequences of God’s action, but speaking scientifically, they would not be able to see God’s action. Is this evolution?
Who was the audience for the Genesis creation stories? The audience was Hebrew speaking Israelites living in the Middle East at least 2,500 years ago (depending on what you believe about authorship.) They did not have the concept of planets, solar systems and galaxies like we do. The “earth” equated to “the place where people live.” At the edges of the earth was water. There was also water above the earth and the atmosphere was the domed area between the land and the waters above. The heavenly objects moved across the waters in the sky.
If the creation of the world was to be written for the Israelites, it would have to be done in Hebrew. Hebrew is a limited and imprecise language. Compared to English, or even ancient Greek, the vocabulary was very small. Metaphors and context are often much more significant for interpretation.
The first and most obvious issue that has to be addressed as we begin the first creation story is timing. Scientists estimate the universe to be about 14.9 billion years old. The traditional interpretation of the story is that it took six literal days. Does the text actually say this?
Early Christian scholars like Justin Martyr, Irenaus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Augustine, among others, did not think so. They tended to see “day” as metaphor for a period of time. Some assumed that each day represented a thousand years. There were early Christians who did affirm literal days but these affirmations were often to combat the Greek notion of the infinite existence of matter. Based on “air time” given to the issue, it apparently wasn’t a significant issue. Some also argue that Hebrews chapter 4 makes the case that we are still living in the seventh day of creation, clearly indicating that this was not a literal day.
The Hebrew youm is the word translated “day” here. It often meant a twenty-four hour day but it also had about eighteen other connotations. It could stand for the time between sunrise and sunset as well as an entire epoch in time. The fact is, there is no other Hebrew word that carries the idea of “long period of time.”
Hugh Ross also notes the peculiar wording of “and there was evening and there was morning, the first day,” rather than writing “and there was evening and morning of the first day. He suggests that “evening” and “morning” was a euphemistic way to say there was a fixed period with a beginning and end. With this understanding I turn to the text.
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth,
“The heavens and the earth” is a euphemism for “everything.” The Hebrew word translated “created” is bara. It is used only three times in this account. The Greek translators translated this ex nihlo meaning “out of nothing.” While the Greek translation may not be absolutely precise, bara certainly gives the connotation of creating something utterly unique that only God could create. Basically, God brought into existence all that is.
Before I move on to verse two, which specifically addresses Earth, I want to ask you a question? When you and I read the following verses our minds eye often positions us out in space looking down at a globe as the described events are taking place. What would be the vantage point of the Israelite observer based on the understanding of the world I described above? The only vantage point they could imagine would be as one standing on the face of the earth observing what was happening around them. The crucial importance of this will become clear shortly.
In case you hadn’t noticed, there is a difference of opinion on how to interpret the early chapters of Genesis, especially the creation stories. Some believe that the Genesis accounts are historical narratives of actual events. They insist that the world was created in six twenty-four hour days.
Others believe that the creation story is a myth written to communicate higher truths. There is no historical merit to the story. In fact, the story itself is contradictory. I happened upon a piece by Doug Linder, a law professor at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, in relation to the Scopes Monkey trial. It gives an excellent summary of how some scholars interpret the authorship of the Genesis creation accounts and the contradictions they see:
“How could anyone not see the contradictions? Most obviously, the order of creation is different in the two stories. In the six-day creation story, the order of creation is plants, birds and fish, mammals and reptiles, and finally man to reign over all created before him, while in the Adam and Eve story, the creation order is reversed, with man coming first, then plants and animals. The two creation stories also have different narrative rhythms, different settings, and different names for God. In the six-day story, the creation of humanity occurs through a single act and the creator, seeming more cosmic than human-like, is present only through a series of commands. In the Adam and Eve story, on the other hand, man and woman are created through two separate acts and God is present in a hands-on, intimate way. The pre-creation setting in the six-day story is a watery chaos, while in the Adam and Eve version, the setting before creation is a dry dessert. Finally, in the six-day story, the creator is called “Elohim,” while in the other version of events, the creator is “the Lord God” (“Yahweh”).”
I have found few scholars of any stripe who do not acknowledge the poetic structure and style of the Genesis 1 account. But is it completely metaphorical?
I grew up believing that the Genesis stories were more or less factual. As I became an adult, I concluded that the stories must be mostly metaphorical. Then, a few years ago, I came across work done by astronomer Hugh Ross, Ph.D. I would characterize Ross’ perspective as an old earth creationist. His view on evolution is not what concerns me here. What I do want to focus on is the correspondence he sees between current scientific knowledge and the creation story in the Bible.
I used his book The Genesis Question: Scientific Advances and the Accuracy of Genesis in a men’s study at church which included an MIT trained astronomer. He essentially confirmed Ross’s scientific claims made about the earth’s formation and development, as well as the sequence and timing of appearances for various life forms. I have personally double checked some of Ross’ claims and have found them to be quite accurate.
To be sure, the Genesis accounts are not science or pure history. Still, over the next few posts I want to review the Genesis account of creation along side our present scientific understanding of how the world and life came to be. I will rely heavily on Ross’s work but I take responsibility for all the claims made. Tell me what you think.
Charles Darwin (1809-1882) published “On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life,” in 1859. It was a watershed moment in scientific history. Darwin’s impact is still very much with us today.
Darwin’s father and grandfather were physicians. His grandfather Erasmus Darwin was a an adamant deist who believed in the nonintervention of God in nature and human affairs. Darwin grew up studying biology in this environment. He later opted to study theology but abandoned that and returned to biology.
One of his professors secured a position for him on a naturalist expedition aboard the HMS Beagle from 1831-1836. Shortly after returning, Darwin began formulating his ideas of evolution through natural selection. By the mid-1840s, he had written up many of his ideas although they were not published. Darwin struggled with illness and a number of other obstacles through his life and it wasn’t until 1859 that he published his revolutionary findings.
I showed in my last post that many of the elements that fed into Darwin’s model had been around for years before his publication. But it was Darwin who brought them into a coherent model. Three essential features of the model included:
• Origin of all life from one source.
• Evolution of one species into another by natural selection.
• Expansive eons of time.
All of this was directly contrary to the traditional understanding of the church at the time.
• Each species was created as it now is.
• God involved himself in the natural world and created the species, especially humanity.
• The earth was maybe 6,000 years old.
Darwin’s theory was not the first to raise a direct challenge to traditional Christianity nor would it be the last. Galileo’s insights were very unsettling and later quantum physics and Einstein’s theory of relativity would send shock waves. Still, when we look at the focal point of friction between science and Christianity it seems often to center on the issues of origins and creation. We also have to remember that the Church's understanding of its own story was fractured at this time.
The two major challenges for me are about the participation of God in the natural world and why a loving God would create a world with such violence and destruction. For others, Darwin’s model raises issues about the authority and reliability of scripture. There is also the issue of evolution as a model for scientific research versus Darwinism as an ideology for interpreting all physical and metaphysical issues. Many Christian scientists have little problem embracing the former without the latter.
I want to start my relfections by first asking what the Genesis 1 creation story actually says.
At the beginning of the Enlightenment, the Genesis record was considered factual. Living creatures existed today pretty much as they had when they were created a few thousand years earlier. Science was still influenced by Thomas Aquinas who believed that discovery of a purpose for a given object or phenomena was an intergral part of studying he physical world. Several things were about to change.
David Hume (1711-1776) was responsible for one of the most important changes toward modern science. He believed it was inappropriate to attribute purpose to anything that could be studied by the scientific method. This challenged the religious schema of science and opened up the possibility of natural selection and naturalism
One of the most important books of the early 19th Century was William Paley’s “Natural Theology,” published in 1802. Paley’s study made the case that we can learn about God by studying the natural world. Part of his thesis was the adaptation of various species depending on God’s purposes.
During 17 and 18th Century, biologist were discovering species at an overwhelming rate. Taxonomies were constantly changing as scientists sought to make sense of the new data. Even so, fixity of species remained the assumption of the day. When Zoologist Jean-Baptiste Antoine de Monte, Chevalier de Lamarck, published his “Zoological Philosophy,” in 1809, he made the case that there was a continual drive by life toward complexity, improvement and progress, thus challenging the notion of fixity. One scientist who shared this opposition to fixity was Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles Darwin.
At the end of the 18th Century, and especially in the early 19th Century, a number of geologist (many of them clergy) were coming to the conclusion that the Earth was significantly older than anyone previously had believed. The realization that the distribution of fossils in different geological strata had a consistent pattern based on species began to raise a number of questions. Most geologists at the time believed in catastrophism, which, for them, meant that earth had been altered by a catastrophic flood. As scientists begin to find and catalog fossils, particularly at high elevations, some anti-Church types downplayed the discoveries fearing it would give credence to a universal flood perspective. A major change to geology came when Charles Lyell published his “Principles of Geology” in 1830, he made a case for an uniformitarian perspective versus a catastrophic perspective. This is the idea that the material world functions the same now as it did all through out the past.
Then, in 1851, Herbert Spencer wrote his “Social Statics” which argued that every biological form of life, including human systems, followed evolutionary rules. Spencer was more a social theorist than a scientist. Nevertheless, his writing both reflected and inculcated an evolutionary line of thinking.
Therefore, by 1851, science had moved away from the Genesis record as traditionally understood. The earth was believed to be millions of years old. Science had become focused on finding only natural causes for physical events. Fixity was being abandoned and the possibility of specie adaptation was being considered. A belief that there was some innate sense of progress “programmed” into life was taking root. Uniformitarian perspectives were winning the day. An evolutionary model was perceived by some to be at work in a myriad of ways even in human behavior.
All that remained was for someone to bring this all together.
The Enlightenment had a profound impact on the Church. Its impact is felt today. It is impossible to cover each and every nuance in a blog format. What I want to do is focus the overall impact it has had on Protestantism.
The 16th Century Reformation came in response to a Roman Catholic Church that had become corrupt and ineffectual. As Luther, Calvin and other reformers emerged from the struggles of the day, they questioned the emphasis that had been placed on Church tradition for past centuries. They wanted to ground authority in something else? Sola Scriptura, scripture only.
It didn’t take long to realize that consensus on scriptural teaching was an elusive effort. What would be the core determinative principals that would inform how scripture is understood? What was foundational to the Christian living?
As the Enlightenment flourished in the in the 18th Century, there became a growing dichotomy between natural religion and revealed religion. The first related to religion that could be demonstrated by reason and the latter to doctrines taught by various religious factions. Hostility increased toward revealed religion and lead to deism and ultimately to an impasse. The two choices left were to be to abandon reason and accept the doctrines of the Church or embrace skeptical rationalism.
The 19th Century saw yet another twist develop as theologians began looking for a way through the impasse. Some theologians worked to identify religious experience that was common to all humanity. They postulated that there is a God consciousness in each of us. By tapping into that consciousness we gain insight and doctrine emerges out of those insights. Jesus was the greatest example of the path toward the God consciousness. The human mind in search of foundational experience became exalted over the scripture. Scripture was demythologized and reinterpreted to meet what ever God consciousness direction theologians were going, always in search of the foundational reality. This became the liberal trajectory over the past two centuries.
The conservative theologians chose to respond to the impasse differently. The fully embraced rationalism and determined to demonstrate the truth of scripture by reason . The project became one of creating the unassailably logical Bible. Theology become less the study of God and more the science of doctrine. Theologians labored to identify the key propositions that would rationnally explain the whole Bible and incorporate any anomalies. The inerrant Bible would then offer a perfect "system" for addressing all issues.
As the Twentieth Century unfolded, the liberal wing of Christianity was in its glory. The Christian Century Magazine started in 1900 as a witness to the fact that this was the century that would usher in the "Kingdom of God." The exercise of science would be one of the primary means for creating this new age. Conservatives, on the other hand, rejected the “godless” science of the liberals, for their “holy” science that reinforced the inerrancy of scripture. They too had the optimism that they could prevail with their rational inerrancy and usher in a new age.
As it turned out, the conservative agenda lost the public relations war three decades into the century. The conservative agenda became increasingly gloomy and isolationist with regard to culture. The Great Depression sandwiched between two world wars disillusioned many liberal Christians and eventually led to the “God is Dead” movement in the 1960s. While the liberal movement did carry some currency in the civil rights arena for a time, it soon became a fragmented mix of various ideology driven theologies (e.g. liberation, feminist, etc.) There was a re-engagement with the culture by the more conservative Christian wing beginning in the late 1970s but ultimately it showed little influence in moving the culture to a Christian mindset. It too has been fading of late.
The irony is that both liberal and conservative Christians neutered the transformative power of the Word of God, and thereby the Church, with their foundational approaches. The liberals reduced scripture to little more than supplemental material on the way to discovering God. So complex and nuanced did scripture become, that only a specialized class of Christians (scholars and clergy) could be trusted with appropriate interpretations. Meanwhile, conservatives turned the Bible into a complex collection of data that could only be deciphered by systematic theologies and/or clergy who could help you link all the pieces together into an approved, rationally coherent, system.
In either case, why read the scripture for yourself? What transformative power can scripture have when it is merely a collection of highly complex ancient documents that "might" point you to a path, or it is just a collection of theological data to be used in a theological erector set? That is where we are at today.
(I highly recommend “Beyond Foundationalism,” by Grenz and Frank on this topic.)
“What is the paradigm?” “We need a new paradigm.” “The emerging paradigm.” Ever heard these phrases before? Paradigm is one of the most well worn words in politics, business management, education, and a host of other areas, not to mention science. I don’t know if the word originated with him, but the one who certainly gave life to the term was Thomas S. Kuhn in his, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, first published in 1962. I first encountered this work in a sociological theory class more than twenty years ago and I still count it one of the most important books I have ever read.
Kuhn demonstrates that a paradigm, in science, is a model for how some aspect of the physical world operates. The paradigm guides assumptions scientists make about the interrelatedness of various phenomena. Paradigms often start out as loosely defined models with many loose ends. Scientists test theories informed by the paradigm in order to verify accuracy and further refine the details.
Over time, anomalies begin to emerge. Scientists struggle to understand what these anomalies mean. Sometimes it simply means making adjustments to an existing paradigm. Other times, the anomalies just will not fit.
Eventually, some scientist, or group of scientists, will get a vision for a different paradigm. They begin to test hypotheses. As the new paradigm emerges and shows greater ability to predict results and account for past anomalies, more scientist come on board. However, old paradigms do not die easily and often there is an extended period of dueling paradigms before one prevails. Even when one does prevail, there is often an ever decreasing minority that holds to the old paradigm for an extended period.
One of the key points of Kuhn’s work is that science is a distinctly human enterprise. Yes, scientists do (and should) make every effort to be objective in their research. But true objectivity is never fully achievable. This is especially true in the human sciences but it is true in the physical sciences as well. For instance, the scientist that has invested decades of his or her life in one paradigm may find it hard to surrender to emergence of a new paradigm. It is possible for the leaders of a scientific community whose prestige has been based on the success of an old paradigm, will unite to oppose new paradigms. Personal or philosophical reasons may deter a scientist from embracing certain paradigms. Many scientific endeavors require significant outside funding and the contributors may have agendas that militate against the acceptance of new paradigms. In such cases, the researcher could stand to lose his or her livelihood, reputation, and, in some extreme cases, life.
Furthermore, the impression often given of scientific work is the picture of the diligent researcher, recording data, and methodically assembling theoretical models through deduction. Kuhn doesn’t discount the use of deductive reasoning but maintains that much more is going on. Deduction is reasoning from general observations to a specific event. Induction is reasoning from specific events to broader reality. Kuhn shows that a big part of science is what he calls abduction.
In psychology, there is the idea of a gestalt. One sees pieces of picture and suddenly a complete picture bursts on the mind that fills in the missing pieces. This is essentially abductive reasoning. Kuhn would argue that this is precisely the way many scientific discoveries are made. The scientist will go back and test the missing pieces for validity, of course, but it does not change that fact that most new understanding comes through the highly creative use of abduction.
All of this is to say that science is not a magical high priestly phenomenon that the Modernist era often portrayed and some scientists sought to foster. It is a fallible human enterprise. It has also been one the most transforming enterprises in the history of humanity over the few centuries and especially in the last hundred years.
So what does all this mean for Christianity?
The scientific method and science emerged out the European Renaissance beginning in the late 15th Century. A number of factors gave rise to science, not the least of which was the infusion of ancient Greek culture into European society. (See yesterday’s post) Most European scholars who ventured into science where firm believers in the God of Christianity. In fact, they believed they could learn of God’s character by studying the way God had ordered the universe. Many early scientists were clergy.
The watershed event was a scientific revolution set in motion 16th Century by Nicholas Copernicus and brought to full flower by Giordono Bruno and Galileo Galilei. The Church, thoroughly invested in an earth centered model, believed these revolutionary thinkers to be a direct threat to the authority of the Church. Bruno was burned at the stake for his contributions. Inquisitions were used to halt the sweeping changes under way but to no avail.
As science become more refined and its ability to make sense of the physical world rapidly grew, scientific thinking began to expand into the study of human behavior. Christian institutions had shown themselves to be resistant new understandings and were perceived to be reactionary and archaic by many leading age scholars of the day. Thomas Hobbes, Rene Descartes, and John Locke, became the first of the Enlightenment thinkers.
The Enlightenment set the stage for Romanticism (19th Century) and Modernism (20th Century). I am not going to try to trace all the various threads of the movements going forward. I do want to highlight some of the values that emerged that have largely prevailed from the 18th Century on:
• The universe is rational and can be understood through the use of reason alone.
• Truth can be arrived at through empirical observation, the use of reason, and systematic doubt.
• Human experience is the foundation of human understanding of truth.
• Just as the natural world can be understand, manipulated and engineered, so can human life, both social and individual.
• Human history is a history of progress.
• Religious doctrines and religious authority have no place in the understanding of the physical and human worlds.
One of the profound impacts was the acceleration in the rate of change. Unmoored from traditional authority, new and competing ideas vied for dominance. How ideas rose and fell in dominance within science is instructive for seeing how ideas rise and fall throughout culture.
(PS: The circumstances of Rene Descartes death are not widely known. Seems he was dining with a friend. When his host asked if he would like more coffee, he responded "Oh, I think not." PUFF. He disappeared.)
Before I launch into a discussion about science, I think it is important to clarify what I am talking about. There are at least three ways we use the word “science.”
1. Science can refer to a method of investigating the physical world. The scientific method starts with a question about a particular phenomenon. A hypothesis is formed about what caused the phenomena. A hypothesis is a tentative explanation. Using deductive reason, an outcome is predicted about the interaction of variables. Finally, experiments are conducted in controlled circumstances to test the hypothesis’ ability to predict results. Other scientists then examine the hypothesis, examine the methodology and the controls used, and attempt to replicate the results. When the hypothesis is shown to have at least limited viability, it becomes a scientific model. As more models are tested they may be integrated into a scientific theory. It is this method of inquiry that makes science uniquely science.
2. Science can refer to a particular field of study. Biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, and geology are some examples of the physical sciences. Social sciences would include economics, sociology, demography, and psychology. Others may span both realms like geography or archeology.
3. Science can also refer to the systematic body of knowledge collected through the scientific method and the community of scientist amassing the knowledge.
I have in mind the third connotation for this discussion, although I will make reference to the other two. Hopefully context will be sufficient to clarify.
As described, there is nothing here that seems to be particularly controversial, at least for most of us today. However, at its inception, science was understood as threat to Church authority by both the Church and by some scientists themselves. By the 17th Century it was clear that some scientists and thinkers embraced science as a way to discredit religion. They way various factions of Christianity chose to address these issues has had a great impact on us to this day.
Disasters often lead to some of the most unpredictable changes in human culture. The bubonic plague struck Europe in the Fourteenth Century, killing about one-third of the population. Vicitms would notice rosy red boils that on their skin with circular discolorations around them. Eventually the disease would lead to sneezing and coughing as the body tried to fight of the disease. Many people believed the disease was airborne through vapors and odors. Fragrant flowers were thought to ward off the the disease, so people filled their homes and the pockets of their clothes with fragrant flowers. The poesy was a frequent choice.
In England, children developed a game that came to memorialize this time in history. They would gather around in a circle, join hands, and begin skipping to a little ditty that went like this: “Ring around the rosy, ring around the rosy, achu achu, we all fall down!” Then they would drop to the ground. This sounds incredibly morbid to us today but it is hard to imagine how difficult it must have been for European cultures to make sense of this disaster. Centuries later, we still see the impact of these events.
A by-product of the plague in England was a radically reduced labor force. Land went unattended because there were not enough workers to care for the land. Peasants were in demand. Landowners had to bargain with peasants to retain there services. It virtually bankrupted many former manor owners. Some peasants became squatters on unused land. The land owning class tried to prohibit them from squatting but it was impractical. Over time, the distribution of wealth became wider giving birth to an English middle class. Similar events happened elsewhere in Europe.
Meanwhile, a trend began to emerge 200 years before this plague. Alfred Crosby in his Measurement of Reality shows that, by the Fourteenth Century, scholars were becoming virtually obsessed with the categorization and quantification of everything. Anselm and the rise of Scholasticism in the 11th and 12th Centuries surely played a major role in this. St. Thomas Aquinas’ Aristotelian influence in the 13th Century fueled the phenomenon. The plague seemed to give greater urgency to learning as scholars sought wisdom and understanding concerning their changing times.
Then, one hundred years after the plague, two things happened almost simultaneously: The invention of the printing press by Guttenberg (1452) and the fall of Constantinople (1453).
Considerable scholarship had been developing in Europe over past centuries but it was highly fragmented. It was very difficult for scholars to share information back and forth. There was no way to broadly circulate scholarly learning and most people were illiterate.
The printing press meant that information could be widely disseminated. It also dramatically improved literacy. The supply of reading material motivated many to become literate. With a rising middle class in many parts of Europe, there were a growing number of people who had the means to become literate and access information.
As for Constantinople, it was a treasure trove of ancient art and literature. Many scholars of Greek language and culture lived there. When the city was captured by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, many of these scholars fled to Europe. The confluence of Scholastic thought, the rising middle class, the invention of the printing press, and the infusion of Greek scholarship (among other things) gave rise to the European Renaissance. This period gave birth to many great things, but the advent of science has to be at the top of the list.
Over the next few centuries, science supplanted the church as the final arbiter of truth claims. The white lab coat and microscope replaced the white collar and robe as the accoutrements of priestly authority. The hubris of the Church rendered it unable to adapt to the times. New ways of being and thinking relegated the church to subordinate status. Over the centuries, the major challenge for the Church was its relationship to science. Theological liberalism and conservatism both emerged as tandem partners to scientific-rational approaches to life and culture.
At the end of the 20th Century, the sacrosanct status of science began to crumble. The scientific world is experiencing the consequences of its own hubristic impulses. Ironically, it is taking theological liberalism and conservatism with it. I am not saying science is going away altogether. Christianity did not go away with the rise of science. What I am suggesting is that science will become a more marginalized players in the cultural milieu.
All that said, science is still very much a driving force in our time. As I reflect on the theological and social issues that are the most volatile in the public square, it is remarkable how many of them hinge on scientific understandings: Global warming, creation and origins, end and beginning of life questions, sexual orientation, and a host of economic and social issues.
I am going to spend the next few posts considering what science is, particularly from a sociological perspective. I will look at the issues of origins and global warming as two examples of how science and Christianity interplay. Then I will reflect on what this means for the church in the 21st Century. Strange as it may seem, I expect this to lead back to the “economics in the context globalization” thread I departed from last week.