According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Thinking About Evolutionary Creation

 
Thinking Aloud Together, Part 1

by Scot McKnight
April 24, 2012
 
"The BioLogos Forum" is pleased to feature essays from various guest voices in the science-and-religion dialogue. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what we believe here.

Today's entry was written by Scot McKnight. Scot McKnight, a New Testament scholar who has written widely on the historical Jesus, Christian spirituality, and the emerging church, has been the Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies at North Park University in Chicago, Ill., since 1994. Before joining NPU, McKnight held a position as professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Grand Rapids Baptist College, a master’s degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and a doctorate from the University of Nottingham. He has written several books, including the popular The Jesus Creed, which won an award from Christianity Today in 2004, and his latest book The King Jesus Gospel. You can read more from McKnight at his blog Jesus Creed.

Thinking Aloud Together, Part 1
At the Biologos Theology of Celebration workshop in New York City
in March, Scot McKnight was one of the featured speakers. His lecture
is  published here as a three-part series.

With a Tear in His Eye

At the end of a class on Genesis 1—2, having finished a freshly-brushed-up lecture I give at least once a school year, a student whose name I had just learned approached me with the kind of seriousness in his eyes a professor recognizes. He looked me in the eye and said, “Thank you. This lecture saved my faith.” He hadn’t said a word in class, and he hadn’t given off the signals one sometimes sees in student behavior that indicate mountains are moving in his head. I simply looked at him with the invitation to go on. So he did. “My pastor told me that I couldn’t be a Christian if I didn’t believe in six-day creationism. He told me if God didn’t create some 10,000 years ago, then the whole Bible fell apart.” He paused then said this, “I love science and I want to be a biologist, and the earth is more than 10,000 years old. So I was wondering if I could believe in the Bible and the Christian faith any longer.” The element that gave this young biologist the courage to continue was no less than eighteen points from John Walton’s book The Lost World of Genesis One. I’m not sure that the cosmic temple theory got him excited as much as a credible, historical Ancient Near Eastern reading of Genesis 1—2 (we’re waiting for Genesis 3, John) that meant it wasn’t talking about a creation ex nihilo some 6-10,000 years ago. In public schools this student had been taught that science tells us the universe is 13.7 billion years old and the earth is about 4.5 billion years and quantum physics is giving that period of time life and choice it never knew before (or that we never knew before).

Those of us who are on the side of the angels, and by that I mean John Polkinghorne, Francis Collins, Karl Giberson, Darrel Falk, Alister McGrath, Dennis Venema, Edward Larson, Simon Conway Morris, Owen Gingerich, and Alvin Plantinga, may have a gnawing habit of wanting to push against America’s Christian conservatives. (I could use stronger terms for Karl, but he’d perhaps say the same of me.) Indeed, we may find ourselves constantly wanting the young, restless and conservative crowd to think again about historical contexts and about the history of interpretation. But there is another side and that is that the young restless and conservative crowd believes the Bible and has radars a-throbbing for those they think are giving an inch, because they are convinced giving an inch leads to Darwin and Hitchens and bald naturalism and immorality and, well, hell. So the angels have a responsibility to mediate, I’m unconvinced we do this well, but I’m also convinced we can do better.

There are, of course, some precedents—some of them bad ones. Like the famous polemical interchange between the brilliant young orthodox rabbi recently immigrated from Eastern Europe, Abraham Joshua Heschel, and the even more brilliant Albert Einstein.1 It occurred right here in Manhattan. Einstein famously argued for a spiritual motive at work in scientific endeavor, but he found the belief in a personal God to be a relic from a stage of human development out of which moderns ought to have grown. Instead of wanting such a God, Einstein argued for the Good, the True and the Beautiful. Heschel’s primal certainty was a personal God, so he satirized Einstein as a “missionary for a forgotten confession” and then proceeded to [falsely] connect Einstein to Nazi racial theories. Heschel argued the foundation for true knowledge was the Hebrew Bible and that nature without faith and morals and the Bible will lead to immoralities of all sorts. (By the way, Walter Isaacson’s Einstein fails to mention this well-publicized episode in Einstein’s life.2)

This stuff matters

Some of you may know I have done research on conversion in general, and also have applied those results to specific kinds of conversion. For instance, I have explored why it is that Jews become Messianic, and why evangelicals become Catholic, and (with Hauna Ondrey) why Catholics become evangelical.3 (That book is called Finding Faith, Losing Faith.) One of the general conclusions is that all conversions are also apostasies, so I had the idea that if all conversions are apostasies then all apostasies are also conversions. So I studied why people walk from the faith, which means I spent some dreary, depressing days reading one accusation after another against Christianity as I plumbed for a pattern. The essence of apostasy is that such persons “discover a profound, deep-seated and existentially unnerving intellectual incoherence to the Christian faith.” But more important for our topic tonight is why they leave the faith.

Some leave because of Christians, or bad experiences with Christians – parents, pastors, churches and friends. Some find the traditional view of hell—or eternal conscious torment—morally unbearable, and come to the conclusion that if that is true then that God is also insufferable. For others it is more-or-less historical study – learning, for example, that Genesis 1—11 has parallels in the Ancient Near East, learning that the Bible’s textual history is out of sync with the magical Bible they learned in their tradition.

But I want to focus briefly on the two most important features of the crisis, and I will tie them together. It works like this: [First,] many Christians grow up with a view of Scripture that it is inerrant, and that means for them – and I speak here of the populist impressionthat it is not only true but that is more or less magically true – true beyond its time, true when everything else says something else. [Secondly,] Connected to this view of inerrancy is a view of Bible reading that takes a sound Christian idea called the perspicuity of Scripture, that the Bible’s message is clear to any able-minded Bible reader, and ratchets it up one notch so that the Bible reader thinks whatever I see in the Bible is what the Bible is saying. This is my way of saying that one’s interpretations of Scripture become as infallible as the Bible itself, and since everything interlocks, giving in one inch is the first step in apostasy. One of which views is that the Bible teaches science in Genesis 1—2. When the evangelical student marches off to Harvard or to schools of lesser repute, takes a Biology class from an able-minded, rhetorically-skilled and atheistic/agnostic professor who makes it more than clear that the earth is not 6-10,000 years old but is in fact closer to 3.5 billion years old, and then tosses in some Gilgamesh Epic or some Atra Hasis, and then loads into that the thoroughly vain notion that intelligent people don’t believe such things any longer, a student’s faith can be more than shaken. Many walk away or, more significant today, embrace an ironic faith.

My studies of stories showed me that the most common crisis that precipitates apostasy from the Christian faith is this nexus of Scripture and Science. Since truth is tied to one’s infallible interpretation of Genesis 1—3 and that it interlocks with everything else in the Bible, even the gospel itself, and since that view is fundamentally denied by Science, the student is forced to choose: Do I believe the Bible against all Science, or does Science disprove the Bible – the whole thing – wrong? The numbers who opt for the second choice are staggering, and for this reason alone we need more and more pastors who can think with young intellectually-gifted evangelical students who are clamoring for someone to mentor them through the thicket. We need more and more scientists who can write for the intelligent student in such a way that does not minimize the problem or promise simple resolutions, but who can point ways forward into the thicket with someone to guide them. Conversion studies reveal to me that we are dealing with a deep, existential issue that won’t go away and simplistic answers won’t satisfy.

Need I remind this audience that American students are being taught something that borders on naturalism (or at best deism in public education)? To be sure, there seem to be Christian public school teachers who suggest other answers than “evolution = atheism,” but the days are already here when they can get in trouble for such ideas. But even if by-and-large our students are taught evolution plain and simple, that means the clash with Genesis 1—3 is inevitable. Because all of America’s students are being taught evolution in public schools, pastors and churches must master evolutionary theory and learn to pastor and teach and educate and theologize in that context instead of one that avoids that context.

The future of the church will be related to how well the church measures its message in the context of scientific research and its major conclusions. I am not urging us to step back to the days of Washington and Jefferson and become deists. What I am arguing is that we need pastors and churches to begin to think theologically in conversation with evolutionary theory. By this I mean very simply pastors thinking aloud with scientists in the room and scientists thinking aloud with pastors in the room, even though I suspect there will at times be some silence.

Tomorrow the series continues by encouraging patient, constructive conversations about science and theology within our churches.
 
NOTES
1. E. K. Kaplan, Spiritual Radical: Abraham Joshua Heschel in America, 1940-1972 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007), 15-18.
 
2. W. Isaacson, Einstein: His Life and Universe (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007).
 
3. S. McKnight, Turning to Jesus: The Sociology of Conversion in the Gospels (Louisville, Ky: Westminister John Knox Press, 2002); S. McKnight and H. Ondrey, Finding Faith, Losing Faith: Stories of Conversion and Apostasy (Waco, Tex.: Baylor University Press, 2008), 7-61.
 
 
 
Thinking Aloud Together, Part 2
 
by Scot McKnight
April 25, 2012
 
Theologians thinking with scientists
 
Let me give two examples of topics that are probably safer places to begin that practice of pastors and scientists thinking aloud together. My father was an English public school teacher; my church was fundamentalist; I was armed against science on all fronts; so I went into the humanities and put off my Biology and Chemistry classes until the last semester of college, and I should add that my college had a policy – so grades could be calculated – that a graduating senior in good standing had his or her grade determined at the midterm grade, which meant that I really only had to take one half of a semester of science, which gave me more time to read theology and Bible. I learned to think theologically. Then along came one “RJS” who wrote up a post on my blog one day about death entering the world long before Genesis 3, which jolted me not because of evolutionary theory but because I wanted to think about death theologically in that context. My life has not permitted me to chase that one very deep into the tohu va-bohu [(the phrase in Gen 1.2 is  usually translated "waste and void," "formless and empty")] but I do wonder if the ongoing cycle of life and death over millions of years, red in tooth and claw, is not a sacrament of resurrection and of God as giver and restorer of life – in an ongoing sacramental cycle. Our bright young science students would like to be at the table for this one, and I suspect pastors could say mostly anything they want on this topic and not get in trouble.

Death is one such topic pastors need to think through with scientists, and so also is original sin. I am a fan of the writing of Alan Jacobs, professor at Wheaton, and his book called Original Sin is a goldmine of judicious and timely quotations across the span of history, but I wondered as I read that book what would happen to this book if pastors and churches began to think through DNA, human nature, the development of the brain and the frontal lobe, and original sin with a group of scientists who also care about original sin? Jacobs gives us one chapter, a short one, but we need three or four, or a few books, on this topic. Timely quotes from brilliant writers who evoke a history of the sophisticates makes for a wondrous romp, but the science student will ask how this stuff really does happen. Pastors and churches can play a role, if they are willing to think together in a safe environment with constructive aims in view. Very few churches can do this; about the same want to do this. It matters and the church will be left behind by many today if they don’t come to the table, or bar, or café.

The mode of conversation matters

One of my friends, a pastor who says he’s from California but is really from Rockford, Illinois, and played for a team called the E-Rabs (he’s named John Ortberg), will ask this question so I might as well begin to answer it. What can we do at the local church level? I begin with this: if we want to influence a generation with an intellectual embrace of orthodox Christian faith and responsible science, we have to avoid satire, insults, and ridicule. You may well hear the common insult that you can believe chimps are your ancestors but Christians don’t, and it isn’t often of much use to reply, or retaliate, that theistic evolution believes in common ancestry but that we are not descendants of chimps. When that claim is made no response works.

Chimps lead the young, restless and conservative to Adam, and I’d like to dwell on Adam a bit tonight as a topic some pastors and scientists need to discuss together. Some of you may know that I have a blog, and some of you may mistakenly think I write about science and faith issues every Tuesday and Thursday morning. I don’t, but that same “RJS” does. I have told her a dozen times I am amazed at how often the discussion turns to Adam. I want to make a stronger claim: all science-faith discussions eventually lead to Adam (and his often unmentioned wife).

Here’s the common theology: God made Adam and Eve directly, out of the dust. That primal couple sinned, and death entered into the world through their sin. Adam is almost entirely absent from the Old Testament and so the next really important text (for our purposes) is either Romans 5:12-21 or 1 Corinthians 15:21-22. Nuances aside Paul contends that as sin and death entered into the world through one man, Adam, so righteousness and life enter back into the world through one man, Christ. We can ramp this up one notch: Luke has a genealogy that runs from Jesus all the back to Adam. Sometimes it works out as back-logic: if Christ is real, then Adam is real. If Adam isn’t real, then neither is Christ. Or, if Adam isn’t real, then the whole thing falls apart.

It would be easy at this stage to take the way of Heschel and Einstein and start shooting the arrows of insult at one another. It may bring the momentary joy of the artful put-down or it may bring (and this is the leader’s temptation) the congratulations of our political allies in the theological world. We need to stop flogging the genuine question, the genuine quester and the genuine quest.

I suggest that instead of trading insults, we develop the virtue of tranquil, intellectual patience, and that the church be a place this can begin. Our goal, and here I can remind us of the many comments of Polkinghorne about the quest for truth and “well-motived beliefs,”1 is to land as firmly as possible on the kind of truth that permits intellectual integrity from both a theological/biblical perspective and a scientific perspective. Intellectual tranquility and patience love questions and frown upon dogmatic claims.

Two facts now: The first one is theological: by all accounts, the Bible looks to me like it tells a Story in which God made a singular couple, Adam and Eve, that they were real people, that they sinned, and that they somehow passed on both death and sinfulness to everyone. One could, I suppose, point to particular examples of sinners to prove this, some pointing to Neandertals and Denisovans while others might point to Green Bay Packer or New York Yankee fans, which for me is the same crowd. [But] I digress....

Speaking of Neandertals, I want to point to the second fact: biologists and evolutionists know that death didn’t first enter the world through humans, and they know the DNA make-up of humans today originated not in two people but in perhaps thousands, and they are inclined to think the Adam and Eve story of Genesis 1—3, and beyond, needs to be looked at through the lens of myth or ancient cosmology. For them, Genesis 1—2 is not straight science. The pastor and scientist now have to look one another in the eye with some trust to get along.

I’m an amateur, perhaps worse, when it comes to science. I read RJS’s posts, and I read books like Edward Larson’s wonderful parade through the history of the idea of evolution, and so some things take me by surprise when others have known such things for decades. Take, for instance, Dennis Vennema’s article that argued that our DNA pool came from perhaps thousands. Well, I thought to myself as I was reading his details and microscopic focus on evidence and scientific letters, this sure does the number on Adam and Eve. I read Karl Giberson’s and Francis Collins’s The Language of Science and Faith, and it was the story of creation and evolution in the last chapter that got me going. It’s all about quarks and leptons and about “beneficial mutations” or what Simon Conway Morris calls “favored pathways” or what Polkinghorne calls “inbuilt natural potentiality.” This too does the number on Adam and Eve. And if these scientific theories are right we need to think about Adam and Eve and creation in more expansive pathways. And I want to suggest churches are a good place for this discussion. Scientists need to talk about this with pastors, and pastors need to talk with scientists.

Dr. McKnight has laid out some all-important projects... If you are a seminary professor, a college/university professor or a church/para-church leader, please note that BioLogos is soliciting grant proposals to explore the very issues described above. Go to EvolutionChristianFaith.org for details. Tomorrow the series concludes with Part 3.
 
NOTES
1. J. Polkinghorne, Science and Religion in Quest of Truth (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011)
 
 
 
Thinking Aloud Together, Part 3
 
by Scot McKnight
April 26, 2012
 
Where do we go from here?

As a professor I teach my students at least two things about method: face the facts and do not fear the facts. I believe this means we have to face both what the New Testament teaches and what science teaches. So we are right back with our two facts: science’s view that human DNA goes back to more than two people and the Bible’s view that sin goes back to Adam (and Eve).

So we face the facts. The Bible really does make it look like Adam and Eve are humans from whom we descend, and sin and death entailed. But scientists are going to tell us straightaway that Adam and Eve themselves had ancestors, one of whose millions-of-years'-old-grave I walked into just outside Johannesburg South Africa in what is called “The Cradle of Humankind.” Here I encountered hominid fossils dated at 2-4 million years. (Well, not the fossils themselves but the places they found them and the pictures.) Others are going to tell us that the DNA make-up of humans today goes back to thousands and on and on… so we come to this point and it is for me the most significant pastoral question pastors need to ask in tandem with scientists is this one: What if we are wrong in our interpretations of the Bible?

In other words, if the common hypothesis that our DNA owes to more than two people, the original couple, Adam and Eve, then maybe we have been reading “Adam” wrong for a long, long time. In other words, what if Adam and Eve are understood more in archetypal terms, as we find in the work of John Walton, or in the way the writer of Hebrews reads Melchizedek? Or, what if Jonah’s whale is a parable for the captivity of Israel (or Judah) and that when Jesus uses the analogy of Jonah he implies “Jonah as we know the story of Jonah”? Surely the “Enoch” of Jude 14-16 begins with the biblical text – seventh from Adam – and then incorporates the developed narrative history in the pseudepigraphical Enoch. To whom did “Enoch” refer when Jude used that name? Now to Adam: what if when the New Testament speaks of Adam it is simply referring to “Israel’s story about Adam” as representative of humanity who does/did what we all do – sin and die? What if, a la Hans Frei, Paul and Luke mean the “narratival Adam” who happens to have been an “archetypal” Adam? Is this interpretation viable? I’d like to suggest it is at least viable. Is it what Jews in the 1st Century thought? Maybe not. They thought their Story was the Story because that is what they were taught and how they thought.

We are pondering our mode of conversation [e.g., the study of linguistics and that of narration - res]. The one thing we theologians need to be wary of and that we need avoid with all our might is to say “If you don’t believe this the whole gospel comes crumbling down.” Really? The gospel comes crumbling down if we don’t believe in the so-called “historical Adam (and Eve)”? Really? Resurrection? Yes. Atoning death? Yes. Historical Adam? Slippery slope arguments don’t work for me. We might need to think about this again and maybe we theologians need to embrace our theological beliefs with what Polkinghorne called the “boldness of provisional commitment.”1 We need to have the courage to face the facts - and not fear the facts - and be able to ask ourselves What if our interpretation is wrong? because our framework has such a bold, provisional commitment.

Who will do this if it isn’t done in cooperative contexts of churches and scientists? Until heavy weight pastors, like Tim Keller and the good (former) Bishop N.T. "Tom" Wright and John Ortberg announce they are at the table, this discussion cannot gain credibility. When they do, the conversation might work.

In my own lifetime I have found science to be something that on more than one occasion has taught me to rethink a reading the Bible. A naïve reading of Genesis to Chronicles might lead to Ussher’s dating, but no one really believes that any longer. A naïve reading of pillars holding up the earth might lead to ancient cosmology but no one believes that any longer. And the reason we don’t believe such things is not because of careful consideration of ANE [ancient Near Eastern] evidence but because science told us to look again. But hear this: if pastors join this conversation, we’ve got a chance to influence a young generation of scientists, too.

So what becomes of Adam if science tells us to look again? That is, what becomes of Adam if our DNA pool, the genetic material, could not have come from just two individuals but needed to be from thousands? Is it possible for us to reconsider what Paul meant in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 and at least wonder if we have a theology constructed on a [mistaken impression]? Is it possible for us to see Adam and Eve as King and Queen of a herd of homo sapiens? Or, is it possible for us to see “Adam” as the one who represents us all, sin and death and all, and still be faithful to the Bible, to Paul? The one thing we don’t want to do is lock ourselves down to some reading that science not only denies, but that science may well blow apart. That is, when the student suddenly encounters some unassailable scientific fact, the logical webs we spin as we construct our theological interpretations suddenly falls into pieces. If we are not wise we will have more than tears in the eyes of our students. 

If you are a seminary professor, a college/university professor or a church/para-church leader, please note that BioLogos is soliciting grant proposals to explore how best to address and relieve the tension that exists between evolution and Christian faith. Go to EvolutionChristianFaith.org for details.

NOTES
1. J. Polkinghorne, Science and Religion in Quest of Truth, 9.
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Where to go next...
 
by R.E. Slater
May 1, 2012
 
Below are listed articles from Relevancy22's sidebar: "Science & Faith: Human Origins." As can be seen, there are other sidebars in the science/faith section each designed to - (i) help us ask better questions, (ii) think larger thoughts about Christianity and evolution, (iii) enable the Christian view to better sync up with 21st Century science, and lastly, iv) help us meld/integrate each position with the other. Please use them. I think the reader may find many questions answered if not in one article than in another when this is done.

Furthermore, I offer the "Proposed Theory" & "Eusociality" articles below as guides to this conversation but caution the uninitiated Christian non-evolutionist that these articles will be top-heavy with an evolutionary discussion of theology-in-process. Please note that they are written as gracious articles to help think through evolution from a Christian-Science perspective on how evolutionary creation might accord with the Genesis story of origins. And more importantly - of God's narrative to us of Himself.

However, before undertaking those reads one might first read the Nat Geo (National Geographic) articles also listed below (re: Neanderthal Man; Genome Studies) along with Dennis Venema's Biologos post and other similar articles on origin while asking how the traditional Christian understanding of Genesis relates to these academic findings from a theological perspective? When I did I found myself writing "How God Created by Evolution" and contributing to the "Eusociality" articles in the context of how it affected my traditional understanding of God, Adam and Eve, original sin, death, and Jesus as the second Adam, to the facts of evolution from a theological standpoint.

Importantly, I wished to base these discussions of evolution from the viewpoint of an authentic-authoritative Bible (sic, see the sidebar sections under Bible, and Hermeneutics, in this web blog) while avoiding any nuanced discussions about inerrancy.... That is to say, my concern lies with historical context versus an evolving sociological context that gradually removes itself from the historicity of the ancient Near Eastern texts. Asking questions like "What did the narratives first mean when they were written?" And "What have they come to mean now, rightly or wrongly, removed from those ancient cultural settings?"

What will be discovered is that with a correctly applied hermeneutic, the bible remains authentic and authoritative for the Christian faith, witness, worship, teaching, and ministry, without having to do any special kinds of scriptural gymnastics with the biblical texts when asking these quixotic questions. What also will be discovered is that our own theologies, pet dogmas, personal ideologies, convictions, and beliefs must first change to accomplish this understanding.... But, I will warn you right now, that this very thing can be very hard to do. Creating fear, threatening personal dogmas, dissettling our world-and-life view, and challenging our protective experiences. However, there's many articles on this web blog that can help the seeking postmodern Christian to usefully accomplish this task and discover that, in the process, it was well worth the time, effort, and anxiety.

So forgive my shorthand and scribbled thoughts here in this post. They were written based upon collecting the many hundreds of other previous articles I've reviewed through this past year's long-and-tedious labors in an attempt to formally update my own 20th Century modernistic faith into a 21st Century postmodernistic faith. In the process I found release from a dated evangelicalism into a more progressive form of evangelicalism that is better known as emergent Christianity. One which seems to comport well with the Christian faith I held, but which must, from time-to-time, "emerge" from its former self (or dogmatic cocoons) into a more "relevant" faith that is necessary for its progression, adaptation and survival (to put it into evolutionary terms!). We call this a process (or cycle) of deconstruction and reconstruction. Every believer goes through this when coming to Jesus as Lord and Savior. So each believer must continue to go through this process or cycle in all aspects of his/her life. Even academically. Even theologically.

Thus, when I first began this spiritual journey I thought it would only require a 500 year leap from the Renaissance Age until now when in fact it required a 2000 year leap from the New Testament era of the early Church until now. That was quite a leap and has left my head spinning. Overall, my spiritual journey began in 1999 and seems to have finally culminated this past year of 2011 making it a 12 year pilgrimage of seeking God's story and putting it aright with what I've been observing for so many past decades. It's a trek I'm glad to have made and think now that it can be useful to others coming from similar backgrounds to mine own. Hopefully this will be so.

Consequently, one of those fundamental changes will be in moving from an immediate 7-day creationism to an evolutionary creationism. It is not necessary to do this. But it will be one of those processes that must eventually be faced. During my time of investigation I always had told myself that God is big enough to do it either way. And He is. But natural evidence suggests that God has chosen to create by the process of evolution (despite the Darwinian atheist/agnostic who claims that God was never - or maybe never - in the process!). It seems like heresy to speak of this now but in time it'll prove to be tremendously enriching to our Christian faith.

Thus, I'm fine with those who wish to say "But God has created creation immediately and without process." That is a personal choice and one that must be allowed. But if we are to go by the cosmic, geologic, and biologic fossil records as true and not deceptive, then creational origins will require a "mediated process" such as we have now constructed by the evolutionary sciences of physics and astronomy, geology and environmental sciences, human anatomy and the biological-psychological-sociological human sciences. These latter speak with one voice - and that voice is saying that science is observing a mediated process of creation known as evolution. To which the Christian evolutionist will say required the ever present hand of God through a time period of birth and evolution - even until now as God's Kingdom continues to break into the kingdoms of man!

Lastly, throughout my personal journey I've sought to re-discover basic epistemic/theological truths of God (cf. sidebar: Theism), questions of life and death, and our place in the universe. Thus, I've created this blog as a way to further help other believers explore similar biblical themes of interest. I trust it may be of help to you as a fellow explorer with me of the theologic themes of the universe. My confidence comes from the power of the Holy Spirit who will lend His holy light of illumination and inspiration within our critical exploratory searches and examinations of God's Word and revelation through nature. Thank you for your consideration.

R.E. Slater
May 1, 2012


Select Articles to Read

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Biologos: Particle Physics of the Universe & Multiverse, Part 5

C o n t i n u e d    f r o m . . . 

Biologos:
Particle Physics of the Universe & Multiverse
Parts 1-4 



* * * * * * * * * * *


Universe and Multiverse, Part 5
April 23, 2012


"The BioLogos Forum" is pleased to feature essays from various guest voices in the science-and-religion dialogue. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what we believe here.

Today's entry was written by Gerald Cleaver. Gerald Cleaver is an Associate Professor of Physics at Baylor University. He is a member of the Physics Department's High Energy Physics group and also heads the Early Universe Cosmology and String Theory division of Baylor's Center for Astrophysics, Space Physics, and Engineering Research. Gerald earned his Ph.D. at Caltech in 1993, where he studied under John H. Schwarz, one of the founders of string theory. His research interests focus on elementary particles, fundamental forces, and superstring theory. His hobbies include radio-controlled model aviation, small-boat sailing, and tae kwon do.



Universe and Multiverse, Part 5
Example of a Calabi-Yau manifold. Image courtesy Wikipedia commons.


This essay is the last of a series from Gerald Cleaver’s chapter in the book Delight in Creation: Scientists Share Their Work with the Church, edited by Deborah Haarsma & Scott Hoezee, forthcoming from the Center for Excellence in Preaching at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Another version of the essay appeared at the Ministry Theorem, as part of their “What I Wish My Pastor Knew About. . .” series.

In previous posts Cleaver described his own path to science through the Church and suggested that fellow Christians should seek to reconcile science and the Scriptures. Then he gave a brief history our changing views of cosmology, including the relationships between the very small and the very large aspects of the cosmos, ending last week with an introduction to string theory. This week he concludes that discussion and asks us to consider anew the awesome scope of God’s creativity.

Eleven Dimensions and Multiple Universes

Last week’s introduction to string theory ended by pointing out that an underlying nagging issue of string theory in its first decade was that it wasn’t actually a single theory, but five alternative theories. In each theory, the energy string possessed slightly different properties. Was one theory better than the other four? No one could determine the answer, so string theorists investigated all five theories—that is, until 1994-95, during which a small group of string theorists proved that all five theories were actually identical, with equivalent physics expressed by different mathematics. This was like finding five copies of the same book, but written in five vastly different languages, such as English, Russian, Hebrew, Mandarin, and Swahili. If a person couldn’t read more than one of the five languages, he or she would likely assume all five books were different. But one who knows all five languages would instantly recognize that all five books tell the same story. And so it was with the five “different” string theories.

Around 1995, a mathematical “Rosetta Stone” was found that translated between the five theories. This discovery had an unexpected implication: it revealed that the fundamental particle of the theory wasn’t energy trapped in the shape of a string, but actually energy trapped in the shape of a torus (or donut)—which is a closed string with thickness (Fig. 13). Replacing a string with a torus required for mathematical consistency of the theory an increase in the number of spatial directions from nine to ten. And increasing the number of spatial dimensions came with even further unexpected and more profound implications.


First, the number of possible shapes of compact dimensions to be investigated increased from a “mere” 100 trillion to at least 10500 (that is a one followed by five hundred zeros). This meant that finding the one shape that exactly describes our universe became exceedingly more difficult (essentially impossible). But that was trivial compared to a second discovery that carried deep philosophical and theological impact. While the original 9+1 dimensional string theory was consistent with the existence of a single universe (that was initiated by a standard Big Bang), the enlarged 10+1 dimensional theory is not. Instead, the 10+1 dimensional enlarged theory implies that not just one universe is created at a time, but that on the order of at least 10500 universes will likely be created simultaneously, each with different, distinct physical laws. Our universe, enormous as it is, is likely merely one of a vast, almost uncountable, number of universes.

Instead of a standard Big Bang producing one universe, about once every hundred billion to trillion years a new set of around 10500 universes is likely generated by simultaneous Big Bangs. The new universes would take the place of earlier, preceding, universes, which likely reached either a Big Freeze or Big Burn conclusion. The set of all such universes over all time has been named the multiverse. The multiverse renewal process could continue indefinitely. The earliest models of the multiverse suggested the multiverse would be infinitely old, rather than have a distinct beginning. More recently, physicists have concluded that the multiverse cannot continue infinitely into the past. (Leaders in the field showed this discovery in a series of peer-reviewed publications.) Thus, the multiverse likely has an overall starting time, albeit hundreds of trillions of years ago. The time of the Big Bang of our universe is not the same as the starting time for the whole multiverse. Rather, the multiverse would have begun hundreds of trillions of years earlier.

If string theory in its extended 10+1 dimensional form is true, the universe in which we exist is likely not the only universe that arose 13.7 billion years ago. Rather, at the beginning of our universe, God also likely created far more universes than we could have imagined before. Many of these other universes might support life, but perhaps in vastly different forms than our atomic-based variety.

Theological Implications of the Multiverse

Some find the multiverse picture to be troubling, but I believe that string theory and its implied multiverse provide a much deeper understanding of the whole story of creation. With the multiverse, the human perception of reality has expanded by previously unimaginable orders of magnitude. With the dawning of the multiverse paradigm, Christians are thus able to perceive the creative nature of God on a scale and vastness as never before. The emerging story also has profound implications for theological views of God, including the meaning of God’s transcendence and immanence.

The historic Christian understanding of transcendence is that God is separate from his creation, this universe (including everything in it). That is, as Creator, he is beyond the spacetime of the universe. As St. Augustine described, God must in some sense “view” this universe in a four-dimensional block form, with all spacetime events appearing “simultaneously” in the same “picture.” On the other hand, immanence implies that God is infinitesimally close to his creation and, further, through the second and third persons of the Trinity, is present within his creation.

To understand transcendence in the context of a multiverse, we must consider the concept of time within the multiverse. Each universe results from its own individual Big Bang and thus has its own concept of time as measured from within, independent and uncorrelated to the respective times measured within all other universes. Transcendence implies that God, as the Creator, must be beyond the spacetime of each universe within the multiverse. Further, there must also be some sense of overall global time in a multiverse frame from which specific times can be assigned for the series of Big Bangs. Thus, transcendence also implies that, as Creator of the multiverse as a whole, God must be outside of the space and global time of the multiverse. That it, God is necessarily beyond the block multiverse.

God’s immanence within the multiverse also requires further theological contemplation, especially with regard to our understanding of the nature of the second person of the Trinity. What if God communicates with his sentient creatures in each universe through the advent of the second person of the Trinity in the physical form of the sentient creatures? Such theological considerations are not unique to the multiverse. Rather, the possibility of life within other universes in the multiverse and the theological implications are essentially many orders-of-magnitude extensions of the possibility of extra-terrestrial life within this universe and its theological implications. The Catholic Church in particular has contemplated the latter for several centuries. In fact, in the 1300s, it was declared a heresy to state that other worlds like earth could not exist elsewhere in the universe. By the 1600s, some Catholic priests proposed life elsewhere in the universe and contemplated the theological issues it raises. Pope Benedict XVI recently held an international conference at the Vatican on the existence of extra-terrestrial life, to which both leading scientists and theologians were invited. According to Brother Guy Consolmagno, who holds a M.S. from M.I.T. and a Ph.D. from the University of Arizona in planetary science, if new forms of life were to be discovered, it would not mean “everything we believe [theologically] in is wrong,” rather, “we’re going to find out that everything is truer in ways we couldn’t even yet have imagined.”

If string theory is proven correct, we may be nearing the next step in understanding the beauty, splendor, complexity, and vastness of God’s creation—far beyond anything we could have imagined before. This multiverse paradigm shift would truly be of far greater magnitude and vastly more comprehensive than all of the preceding paradigm shifts. The science of today and tomorrow can, indeed, instill further awe and reverence for God, likely in ways unimaginable even a few decades ago.

Calabi - Yau Manifolds with string Vibes