Tim Keller’s book “Reason for God” addresses at least many of those topics to various extents. That may perhaps a good place to start.
Yeah. I have not jumped in because I know @Christopher_Michael knows how to use the common questions searches and is not looking for BioLogos blog posts. Those questions are not questions that have interested me, and I have done no reading on any of them.
I heard an interview once with Chris Stringer who wrote Lone Survivors: How We Came to Be the Only Humans on Earth (which would address 8), but I have no relevant expertise to know if he knows what he is talking about. It sounded interesting. Might be old news at this point, lots of things have been discovered recently.
JDPE theory is outdated, I wouldn’t delve too deep on that one. You might like Kent Spark’s God’s Word in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship It would give an overview of the state of biblical scholarship and how people reconcile modern scholarship and findings with Christian beliefs.
For 20, I always recommend Craig Keener’s Miracles.
As the wise here have expressed, there is no book, bar one, and that not in the closed, narrow, ignorant, superstitious Biblicist sense; there are no answers, except the declaration there that all are saved, so behave like it.
Some of the people I personally admire, and so take an interest in what influenced them, would include folks such as Paul Brand or C.S. Lewis. (Lewis claiming influence by others before him like Chesterton or MacDonald, etc.) I would not have known of the late Dr. Brand and his own couple of books (co-authored with Yancey) were it not for the author Philip Yancey. Whatever else one may think of Yancey himself (and I have no reason to question his integrity, and have benefitted from his many books myself), yet he is at pains to point at others, for example, in his book “Soul Survivor” (with the additional subtitle: ‘How Thirteen Unlikely Mentors Helped My Faith Survive the Church.’ ) So in the spirit of latching onto people that I mentioned above, Yancey elaborates on many great souls (including Brand) who were formidable influences not just on him but for many.
Using a work like that as a springboard to find others and their respective works may end up addressing every point you raise on your list above, not so much because any of these greats (or their works) may aim at these questions directly. But when you examine their lives and what they do write, so many of the points on your list end up being indirectly addressed or even dismissed (not ‘dismissed’ disrespectfully as in “I see no point or relevance to such a challenge” - but ‘dismissed’ in the sense of when you come on board with who that person is, how they lived and served others, what they admired etc. - you no longer feel that some of these prior intellectual, ‘burning’ questions are quite so important to you as they once were, and you are more willing to set them respectfully aside and to let them dwell in the margins often without resolution.) Such people don’t flippantly dismiss others preoccupation with these questions as many of them recognize earlier chapters of their own journeys reflected in that struggle too. But life does have a way of “moving you on”, and when you do begin to move in among such “clouds of witnesses” as surround us, you may be surprised how much resolution you do get thrown in as “collateral consequence” when you weren’t trying so hard to aim at it directly (to borrow a Lewisian turn of phrase.) So you might try giving a book like “Soul Survivor” a look. You will at the very least find it engaging and educational (Yancey is a good writer), even if its approach to your list above seems oblique. But I suspect the truly questing reader finds (and is directed toward) much rich payoff in those pages.
I spent a minute looking over reviews of McGilchrist’s book and think I understand what he was saying a bit better. On first glance it sounded like he was making the old argument for left/right hemispheres as logical/creative, but this reviewer captured the gist:
He questions the accepted doctrine that the left hemisphere (Left henceforward) is necessarily dominant, the practical partner, while the right more or less sits around writing poetry. He points out that this “left-hemisphere chauvinism” cannot be correct because it is always Right’s business to envisage what is going on as a whole, while Left provides precision on particular issues.
McGilchrist’s suggestion is that the encouragement of precise, categorical thinking at the expense of background vision and experience – an encouragement which, from Plato’s time on, has flourished to such impressive effect in European thought – has now reached a point where it is seriously distorting both our lives and our thought. Our whole idea of what counts as scientific or professional has shifted towards literal precision – towards elevating quantity over quality and theory over experience …
This relates to @Christopher_Michael’s OP, which may be why you brought it up. Seeking objective measures of spiritual experience is part of our problem. It also relates to logical positivism’s misunderstanding of Wittgenstein. They took him to mean that statements (propositions) about facts were the only true statements that could be made. All else, including religion, was nonsense. The movement died, but its spirit lives on. It appears most vehemently in the online atheists who constantly ask for objective evidence for God, miracles, and the efficacy of prayer. But it also can appear in the doubts of those who (want to) believe, because we are also affected by the spirit of our age.
Returning to McGilchrist and the brain, I would take issue with one thing, although it’s a major thing. The prefrontal cortex, specifically the executive functions, are the center of decision-making in the human brain. The decisive moment in the evolution of human thought came with globularity, which wired the brain into a unified whole between 100,000 to 35,000 years ago. Prior to that point, the left and right hemispheres were more modular and “independent” from one another. All mammals have left and right hemispheres, but none think or communicate abstractly like we do.
I’ve taken the liberty of grouping your questions into categories:
The Evolution of Humanity and Religious Belief
- Dives into evolution with all its implications
- Examines human anthropological evolution, how long humans have been around, examines carbon dating etc in this
- Explores the evolution of religion - touches on various theories
- Asks how we separate what mankind has just come up with through evolution and culture, to what actually is?
- Looks at why there so many religions if there is just one God?
- Examines the nature of human belief as a phenomenon in itself. Examines the spectrum of belief as it stands today in the 21st century. Perhaps introduces a graph of some kind - eg uses an XY graph to represent the change of beliefs over time
- Examines the contradictions in claims of different religions - asks how could we know what is true from following religion alone when they all say different things and there is no objective measure between them?
- Examines Jungian psychological concepts and archetypes - religion as an expression of deep concepts etc. That is, as a way of thinking, of looking into a mirror. Like a collective dreaming - the collective subconscious expressing itself. Religion as true in the sense of the emotions and feelings being true but the actual forms and stories as fiction. Truth in fiction. Allegory. Asks, does this critique hold
- Touches on the science and psychology of religion as concepts/areas of study. Looks at the cognitive building blocks approach of religious and spiritual phenomena - unpacking and compare different aspects
- Briefly examines natural contradictions between ancient world view and science
- Asks Why God presented a picture of creation that indeed was not the case? Not scientifically concordant when it could have been
- Critiques the accommodationalist argument and the ‘Bible says why but science says what’ arguments
- Critiques the ‘Bible doesn’t show us truth about scientific fact but does about God’ argument
- Examines the kernel of truth argument - is having a kernel of truth enough to justify having so much chaff?
- Examines who wrote the Bible, its construction (J,D,P,E theory) and the implications
The Nature of God & Spiritual Realities
- Critiques - If it’s man’s fault we believe many things - why would a God by way one or the other allow humanity to get so off track with their belief systems (and when?)
- Asks why the appearance of the one true God, Yahweh, came so late in the record of human existence? And why only in a small region of the ancient Middle East and not elsewhere in the world
- Examines the free will argument. Critiques it from a biblical perspective (God controls and guides all, free will is therefore limited, Pharoah example). Looks at free will also from a real world perspective - a parent wouldn’t let their young child play on the road even if they cried the house down wanting to. Nor would they let them push their sibling from a tree etc.
- Critiques the thought of the devil controlling the world - examines and unpacks what this would mean, how, it’s boundaries, implications etc
- Examines how researching alleged metaphysical realities could possibly occur
- Examines miracles and claims of miracles and the unexplainable in religion - beginning to examine, notwithstanding all that would’ve already been said - there indeed does appear an objective force outside human creation alone. Asks what it could be, how it works, examines concepts and boundaries and contradictions of faith given all the above.
- Dives into UFOs - brief historical examination of evidence using stats, follows logical deduction tree - if this, then that, what if this, than that kind of thinking to make some tentative deductions of logic about this area
- Makes some predictions about the future of religious belief and societal trends in general
I put them into categories because it makes your difficulties more evident. The normal pattern that I’ve observed over the years is that a person is taught a historical, inerrant interpretation of Genesis, and when that runs into historical realities, they experience a crisis of faith. When they begin to explore evolution and the deep time of humanity and the universe, the questions multiply. Those whose faith I’ve seen survive have been able to come to a new understanding of how to interpret Genesis and the Bible. Those whom I’ve seen abandon their faith have refused to surrender their former way of interpreting the Bible, so they continually “kick against the goads” and insist that the method they learned is the only “correct” way of interpretation. That’s why I’d suggest that the place to start your personal journey of discovery is with your questions about the Bible.
I can suggest a book on that topic, but I’d like to let the peanut gallery weigh in with their suggestions before offering my own.
Yup. So basically the objective of @Christopher_Michael’s project is, so far as possible, to lay bare the mystery in a series of Grey’s Anatomy overlays. The analytic impulse is strong but but useless here.
So true. There is nothing wrong with questioning the necessity of any particular conception of God but to insist that there is nothing more in to our experience than the laws of physics and our intellect strains credibility.
This is too simplistic. There is more to it than that.
Source? Sounds like something I should look into. In fact the ratio of size of the corpus callosom which connects the two hemispheres to the mass of the brain is smaller than in any other animal. Our brains are not only divided, they are more extremely divided than in any other creature. This division is not an obstacle, it is essential to the way we think and our capacity for language. His book is not an easy read and I am still plodding my way through it. But you can get an appreciation for what he is really saying in twenty minutes if you just watch this video
@Christopher_Michael, here is a transcript I’ve copied from a talk Iain McGilchrist gave in 2014 titled What Happened to the Soul? In it he talks very specifically about the dangers of trying to make larger truths too explicit, which I fear is basically what you are longing to do. (This of course is also what goes wrong in biblicism.) I’ve copied out a minutes worth from 18:08 to 19:09 here to prick your interest, but I encourage you to listen to the talk.
As Jung says “there may be a danger of wanting to understand the meaning and by doing so over valuing the context which is subjected to a sort of intellectual analysis and interpretation so that the essential symbollic character can no longer do its work and what goes missing is meaning and value for the subject.”
So there is a sort of danger in my terms of the left hemisphere having to collapse too quickly into something familiar. What is it precisely? Leaving therefore no place for the intuitive and the implicit through which all great ideas in art, in religion and in our lives are communicated. Making things more explicit doesn’t actually make them easier to understand, It means [rather] we understand something other than what we’re trying to understand. Sometimes things can speak very loud through rituals, through a mythos which is not a fiction but is just another kind of truth from logos which one arrives at by sequential reasoning.
The part I bolded at the end is something I think I hear @Christy speaking about which always gets my attention. I think they’re right about this. Some kinds of understanding can’t be arrived at through explicit exposition. What is required is the activation of our embodied, implicit understanding by way of the power of story. If you try to summarize that with a series of bullet points your efforts won’t pull anyone along with you and, if that is the sum of what you’ve understood, you probably missed it too.
Of course. The operation of the brain can’t be described in one sentence. Thanks for the video. It was great, and it cleared up a lot of my misgivings. (By the way, it’s only 11 min., not 20. And great animation!) He briefly touched on the frontal lobes, but he mentioned them only as an “inhibitor” on input from the left/right hemispheres. It’s much more than that. Look up “working memory” and executive functions sometime, or I can expound upon it later. But if you like reading this type of stuff, here’s a book you would enjoy:
Divided physically, yes. (An aside, I had a student in 8th grade SPED who lacked the corpus callosum. He had a really hard time coordinating his movements, and he could not read. He could memorize sight words, but couldn’t put it all together.) But The ratio of the connection to brain mass could be related to the trend toward larger brains while the corpus callosum stayed relatively the same size. The difficulty is that scientific deductions about ancient brain structures are limited to endocasts of fossils, which only give us a “map” of external brain features. Structures like the corpus callosum are tucked deep inside the brain, so they can’t be measured in extinct hominins.
Regardless, in the video McGilchrist said the corpus callosum’s job was to inhibit communication between the hemispheres. A proportionally smaller corpus callosum would permit more information to pass between the hemispheres, not less. This is in line with my research on brain evolution. Modern human brains are far more integrated than our predecessors. It’s like he said in the video: information about everything (language etc.) is stored in more than one hemisphere, but the right and left hemispheres nevertheless show “specialization” in social, technical, natural, etc., types of knowledge, and the hemispheres don’t necessarily communicate that well with one another in both primates and toddlers (with still-developing brains). Their brains are wired together incompletely, from our perspective, so their thinking is more modular (single-minded) and compartmentalized in the brain. Globularity was the final step in “cognitive fluidity” of the modern human brain.
First Homo sapiens fossil at Jebel Irhoud, Morocco, dated 300,000 years ago. The face is small but the skull is elongated like all previous hominins.
Both sapiens and Neanderthal infants are born with identical elongated skulls.
Anatomically Modern Humans (AMH) typically had been dated around 200,000 years ago, but a study of 20 fossil skulls from various time periods showed that the globular shape of the human skull was reached “about 100,000 and 35,000 years ago. This process started only after other key features of craniofacial morphology (small face) appeared modern and paralleled the emergence of behavioral modernity as seen from the archeological record.”
Finally, 3D computer reconstructions of modern human and Neanderthal brains "found that early Homo sapiens had relatively larger cerebellar hemispheres but a smaller occipital region in the cerebrum than Neanderthals … Further, using behavioural and structural imaging data of living humans, the abilities such as cognitive flexibility, attention, the language processing, episodic and working memory capacity were positively correlated with size-adjusted cerebellar volume. As the cerebellar hemispheres are structured as a large array of uniform neural modules, a larger cerebellum may possess a larger capacity for cognitive information processing.
Thanks for the sources! “Globularity” is a new one for me. I skimmed this one.
But I didn’t find any support for the idea that our brains are wired into “a unified whole”. Of course all the parts of our brains are evolved to work together, but singularity is not the goal of it all. I suspect McGilchrist is correct that two modes of consciousness for two sets of purposes is the way of it. Most of our sense of identity stems from the language using half, the part that attends to specific tasks. I think the other part is what has given rise to and still supports God belief. It is the significant Other within who hears our prayers and everything else but whose understanding is not shaped and limited by language.
Obviously this deserves more attention than I have left tonight. I’ll see if I can make better sense of it tomorrow.
Hi Nick, BioLogos staff here. We are currently working on a couple of new Common Questions, but they are certainly more narrow than this, and more scientific than theological. Many of these questions are more apologetics-y than are generally our ilk, many of the things have been written about in individual books, like many have said, just probably not all in one place.
We’ve got a podcast episode coming out in a couple of weeks that I think you might like, about cultural evolution/formation of religion, etc.
Thanks Hillary. I appreciate the update and im really sorry if i sounded a little bit explosive . I know you guys have a lot to do as moderators and general stuff and im really greatfull you are running this site so wonderfully. One suggestion if it isnt hard to do would be to put some books of choise in the forum . Like books for science ,theology etc etc where the person could go and check them out. Thanks again for your effort . Take care!!!
How? . . . .
We are behind in updating this, but do have a recommended books area on the website: https://biologos.org/recommended-books/
Because … where does reflection go, what is conscience and who is responsible for insight, inspiration and dreams?*
Why is the sea boiling hot and do pigs have wings?
How do any of those natural, normal, human brain activities including strained credibility, strain credibility?
Klax just a reminder mate. Beign a christian and rulling out anything that is considered supernatural or unknown cannot go together in my opinion.
Indeed they are entirely natural as is everything that is. But the question is authorship. Do “I” do all those things? If I’m honest I have to admit I do not. They are gifts. Not supernatural gifts, but entirely natural gifts all the same. The point is much of our experience is mediated and certainly not by our intellect or physics. We’re not alone at the wheel. It isn’t a supernatural being who stands there with us but we don’t and couldn’t do it all ourselves if we wanted. We’re just not that powerful, talented and smart. Our consciousness has evolved to include more than one center, leastwise that is my* pet theory. Others find the otherness out-there in God. Either way we are not whole unto ourselves however much we might like that idea.
*Albeit borrowed from Iain McGilchrist.
I wouldn’t dream of it with regard to God in Christ and by the Spirit. But nothing you or anyone else can name, except all being, all existing, from forever, is instantiated by God. Nothing in any one’s experience and thinking since the Incarnation and its first circle. Love is patient. It never interferes but Once. The supernatural re-declaration of the kingdom two thousand years ago in Nazareth is sufficient, watered by the Spirit in every generation. Not by empty claims.