One reason I post decreasingly often at BioLogos (and also at Uncommon Descent) is that it seems that all origins sites (except this one, so far) eventually become populated by a bevy of science-orientated positivists. These post on every vaguely physically-orientated subject, quite often picking on every sentence of a post and making criticisms grounded on the standard materialist line. They usually support each other whether claiming to be atheists or Christians (or ex-Christians – though seldom ex-atheists), and their main aim seems to be to drive home the message that “Science disproves that God acts in nature.” The net result is that anybody with the temerity to explore how God interacts with nature soon finds that they are instead having to do basic apologetics.
Over at Peaceful Science, Daniel Deen and I, at Joshua Swamidass’s request, are reviewing a book called Christ and the Created Order. It involves all manner of different approaches, but the basic message is that treating the creation christologically changes everything. Everything.
Let me list some of the quotes that Daniel and I have used from the chapters we have covered so far.
“The theological claim that Christ is the one in and through whom all things came to be and in whom all things hold together entails that nothing can be understood in its entirety until we consider its role in the working out of God’s purpose.”
“The end or telos of all things is to take their place in the working out of God’s purpose and, precisely thereby, to realize their true identity and freedom as creatures of God.”
Creation includes beginnings, but is much more as well,
“it is about the character of the world and its proper orientation, alerting us to the meaning, value, and purpose of everything that is.”
“Though creatures possess their own unique integrity [logos],” Wirzba comments, “the purpose of creaturely life is being-with-others—in modes of touching, reproduction, growth, eating, play and so on—so that something like symphonic flourishing can occur.”
“The events that give creation its narrative, and so its history, are fundamentally those discreet divine engagements by which God opens communion with creatures.”
Even the lower creatures, then, are not “just” the outcomes of evolution, but “have been put lovingly into places made for them.” Brock suggests, as an instance of such an “opening of communion with creatures,” “lightning strikes on the primeval soup.”
N. T. Wright:
“[W]e don’t start with a view of “how God made the world” and insert Jesus into that. We start with Jesus himself, . . . and we therefore reflect on creation itself not as a mechanistic or rationalistic event, process, or “fact,” and not as the blind operation of impersonal forces, but as the wise, generous outpouring of the creative love that we see throughout Jesus’s kingdom-work, and supremely on the cross.”
“A fully Trinitarian vision of God, Jesus, and the Spirit goes with the vision of a theistic, that is, a non-Epicurean, evolution.”
The common thread of all these is that we learn about God through Jesus, who created the world. We therefore also learn about the created world through Jesus, whose personal involvement of love, and his telos for each creature, is the central truth.
What is notable is how few comments these rather radical ideas have attracted, and particularly how little engagement from even the Christians among the scientists. On the other hand, on another thread, the question was, “Does Embryo Development Require God’s Guidance?” When I visited it, it was the usual bunch of scientists pouring scorn on the few people suggesting that it does, and the conclusion to the thread, summarised by Joshua, was “…it does not appear that embryology requires God’s guidance.”
So, wishing to move the discussion deeper, I posted:
Embryology is the study of how embryos develop.
God’s guidance is about how individual people are created.
There is a close relationship between the two, but they are distinct questions.
One scientist replied that he didn’t understand what I was talking about, and a second that I was being vague. I haven’t replied as experience over many years (including with these two particular posters) tells me that it would end in not discussing the theology of nature, but degenerate into alternating apologetics (me) and slamdown (them). They have never “got it” yet, and won’t in such an exchange. Maybe that’s why little discussion ever occurs anywhere on the theology of nature – everything becomes a boxing match about the “God hypothesis.”
But let me answer my own points here. Does embryology not require God’s guidance? If not, then the creatures involved are not directed towards any christological ends in their coming to being.
Science describes in general terms the lawlike, ie repeatable, processes governing the development of embryos. But that tells us nothing about why you were born, and some other guy wasn’t. It doesn’t explain why my identical twin daughters are, and always have been, so different. Because it deals only with generalized, efficient causes, it cannot begin to address these questions, which are all about guiding individual entities and events, in Wright’s terms, through “a personal involvement of love” and towards “his telos for every creature.”
When Jesus was asked whether it was a blind man, or his parents, whose sin led him to be born that way, the causation proposed was not one recognised by modern science, but was still a train of efficient causation: “if someone sins, stuff will go wrong.” But Jesus insisted on replying with a teleological account:
“This man was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
Now, there are all kinds of mysteries of divine wisdom in his reply, but the point is that Jesus saw the man’s embryological development, including the mishap of blindness, in terms of just such a “personal involvement of love” and a specific “telos.” So don’t tell me that God’s guidance is not required in embryology, because Jesus says it is what governs embryology.
No Christ (that is, no Christ-as-revealed-in-the-Incarnation), no embryology. How does science handle that? It speaks of lawlike regularities: but the Bible attributes those to the faithfulness of God in Christ, and to his constant sustaining of all things in being (which, as I have explained in other posts, is not the same thing as “sustaining in mere existence,” but is about creating all things as they are, from moment to moment).
Then science also talks about contingent events, most notably the fact that why a particular embryo gets to exist at all depends on which of the millions of possible spermatozoa available fertilizes an ovum. It invokes a strange non-cause named “chance” to account for that. But does God have no oversight of that? Did John the Baptist, or the prophet Jeremiah, or you or me, come into existence without any “telos” from Christ; for no purpose in his kingdom, but merely from random efficient causes? And yet each Christian was “chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.” So Christ exercises no guidance of embryology?
Science has no explanation for any of this, and is therefore woefully incomplete as an explanation of human embryology – but also, on the reckoning of someone like Brian Brock – of the embryology of lower creatures too, each of which is created in its own level of communion with Christ.
Why did none of the scientists on the PS thread even think of such things? Why did none of the Christian scientists leap in to correct the atheists? It’s all down to metaphysical commitments, whether overt or unconsious. Science, by its methodology, extracts a certain set of questions it considers important, and then dismisses every other question as not germane. But as N. T. Wright also says in his chapter in Christ and the Created Order,
. . . observation and reasoning never take place within a vacuum (unless you artificially create such an epistemeological vacuum and demand that everyone lives inside it).
But I don’t want to live in that epistemological vacuum, and so won’t get involved in apologetics with those who insist I ought. I do, however, wish more Christians in science would get with the christological program, though. Otherwise, for all appearances science and faith are opposites, if God must be absent when science is present.