The gospel, science, the supernatural, and worldview hegemony

(Christy Hemphill) #1

Continuing the discussion from Demon Possession in 2016:

I’m with Eddie is finding this tendency in progressive Christian circles disturbing. (This is not directed at any individuals who have expressed opinions on this forum, it is a more general response to a whole contingent of vocal post-Evangelicals who tend to be very much in favor of BioLogos, but also promote a certain kind of hyper-rational approach to Scripture and the practice of the Christian faith.)

If the good news we are supposed to stand for as Christians gets reduced to science + logic + feminism + marxist deconstruction of societal power structures + environmentalism + a side of “God/hope/love/social justice,” it’s a bankrupt gospel and bears little resemblance to the apostolic, global, Christian faith.

As educated 21st century digital age people, we should not make the mistake of thinking that we have somehow arrived at the definitive “real” and “true” worldview from which we stand in judgment and evaluation over all other “lesser worldviews.” That is cultural hegemony and the epitome of arrogance. Our vision is limited and constrained, and our understanding is certainly incapacitated in some areas, just like people from any other culture and time. Our attempts to make God’s revelation and action in the world “fit” our cultural categories (of logic, and science, and the primacy of the individual) aren’t really that different from similar attempts to make it all “fit” made by modern day tribal people, or ancient Israelites, or first century Hellenist Greeks.

Our experience with abuse in the name of Christianity (whether it be corrupt health and wealth televangelists, or Fundamentalist cults, or the justification of discrimination and ignorance propped up by misguided interpretations of Scripture) has really hampered some people’s abilities to look at evidence in an unbiased way. It reminds me of some women I know who have been so poorly treated by key men in their lives, that everything now plays into their narrative of “men are the enemy and are trying to hurt me.” They have become incapable of reading male interactions with them positively. In their mind, feminism stops being a promotion of women’s dignity and becomes a weapon to attack men’s existence in the world. Similarly, here we are promoting the “dignity” of science, but it is not supposed to be at the expense of everything that science cannot explain.

We need to admit that other cultures whose categories are less constrained by science and reason sometimes have an advantage in accessing some of God’s truth and God’s reality, because God’s truth and God’s reality are absolutely not constrained by the material, natural world, or its laws. I have interacted most of my life with people from very diverse backgrounds. And pretty much every box I have ever tried to fit God into has been shattered at one point or another when I have allowed myself to learn from other people’s experiences of God’s actions in their lives. None of our worldviews can fit God and he evidently likes keeping things messy and surprising.

I get tired of listening to Western Christians smirking over the backwardness of the unenlightened cultures of the world and of history (who just didn’t have everything all figured out like we do with our post-Enlightenment philosophical wisdom and modern scientific knowledge), as they conveniently explain away all the things that make the gospel worth laying down your life for in the first place.

The Bible clearly presents a spiritual realm of good and evil. It’s so key to God’s reality, that protection against temptation and rescue from the evil one made the list of only six things we are specifically instructed by Jesus to pray for. The history of the church over the centuries and around the world is full of dramatic encounters between good and evil, of miracles, healings, and supernatural rescues. To reject the testimony of these realities in Scripture, not to mention the testimony of countless believers now and in the past out of subservience to rationality, science, logic, or modern philosophical sensibilities, sounds to me like a kind of idolatry. Or at least settling for something much less than what God offers to show us.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #2


The problem with history is that it always moves forward, it never goes backward. Many people do not like the way history is moving, but this is still God’s history, so to be true to God and to do what is right we must chart a way forward, not a way back.

Much of modernity is good, but also much is not. The Church is God’s Kingdom. We need to strengthen the Church and make it work for and with God. That means that we must not give up on all churches, because some or many are dysfunctional. We do need to give up on some of them and move into those who have a positive future.

Scientific arrogance is a problem which must be addressed, but so must philosophical arrogance. God has not endorsed dualism or monism. Neither are suited for the Christian gospel. A triune world view/philosophy is, but the church has failed to develop one.

Some people are looking for the Second Coming. This would be the easy way out, but God is in charge of this too, so we need to look to God, rather than try to figure it out for ourselves.

(Phil) #3

Sometimes it seems to me that we make God small. Perhaps the atheists rant that we create God in our image has some validity. The God of the “rational” is too small for miracles. The God of the YEC is too small for a God who could author creation through evolution. The God of ID is too small to have been able to get it right the first time.
God in his infinite glory is able to reach the those who relate rationally, those who relate emotionally, those who relate abstractly, and those who relate concretely. To expect everyone to see things in exactly the same way limits God is what he can do. Certainly, that can open Pandora’s box, but will leave it there


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(Jon) #5

I sympathize with this greatly. However, this very same argument is aimed at the Biologos and its acceptance of evolution.

This argument is made against Biologos all the time.

This could very easily be rephrased to reflect the same argument against Biologos, thus.

[quote=“Christy, post:1, topic:4612”]
The Bible clearly presents a literal seven day creation. It’s so key to God’s reality, that it’s mentioned in the Law of Moses and repeatedly in the New Testament as part of the gospel. The history of the church over the centuries and around the world shows this has always been believed by Christians everywhere. To reject the testimony of these realities in Scripture, not to mention the testimony of countless believers now and in the past out of subservience to rationality, science, logic, or modern philosophical sensibilities, sounds to me like a kind of idolatry. Or at least settling for something much less than what God offers to show us.[/quote]

Conversely, the same arguments made by Biologos with regard to Adam, can be made with regard to satan and demons.

  • “As important as Adam is to Paul, he is not a figure that gets a lot of airtime in the Old Testament” (Peter Enns)

Compare “As important as Satan is to Paul, he is not a figure that gets a lot of airtime in the Old Testament”.

  • “So, how does one explain Paul’s high-profile view of Adam vis-à-vis his relative absence in the Old Testament?” (Peter Enns)

Compare “So, how does one explain Paul’s high-profile view of Satan vis-à-vis his relative absence in the Old Testament?”.

  • “What would drive Paul to bring front and center a figure who, of the 923 chapters that make up our Old Testament, is mentioned only in Genesis 2-5 and one postexilic text?” (Peter Enns)

Compare “What would drive Paul to bring front and center a figure who, of the 923 chapters that make up our Old Testament, is never mentioned in Genesis 2-5 and only mentioned in postexilic texts?”.

(Christy Hemphill) #6

Well, you point out that rhetorical arguments are not necessarily theologically sound arguments. I’m more interested in theology than rhetoric. And yes, the fact that BioLogos says on the one hand “listen to science” and on the other hand “listen to Scripture” makes staking out ground in the lunatic, radical middle a challenge sometimes.

Are you really posing the question how is the biblical treatment of Satan different than Adam? Or how the biblical treatment of miracles is different than literal six day creation? Or were you just trying to illustrate the “slippery slope” issue that @Casper_Hesp alluded to?

(Jon) #7

Yes. That’s why I think they’re of little value.


I am posing the question about Adam and Satan, but I’m not suggesting the discussion should be held here in this thread. That discussion would be valuable and is relevant, because I believe it isn’t really different; the same arguments apply on both sides (though I believe there’s more Scriptural evidence that Adam is a historical figure than that satan is a literal supernatural being). but right now I’m just demonstrating the close parallel between the two. And let’s remember that Jewish and Christian non-belief in a supernatural satan and demons actually dates to the Second Temple Period and early Christian era, whereas Jewish and Christian non-belief in Adam is a pretty modern conclusion (post-Enlightenment, I think).

I am demonstrating that the “slippery slope” argument definitely has its limitations. We’re all on a continuum, so pointing the finger at the next person on the continuum and accusing them of being on the slippery slope while denying that we’re on the slippery slope, doesn’t get us very far.

(Henry Stoddard) #8

I may join you tomorrow. It depends on how I feel. God bless and have a good night!


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Oh the irony!

It’s what I get on those days when I’m careless and don’t carefully select which posts I skim and read. I usually take note of the usernames which most consistently lead me to the content most likely to be informative and/or profound.

The best way to avoid “attention-seeking behavior” posts is to ignore them. Completely. (Many forums even have a user setting for doing so automatically.)

Careful triage is the only way to preserve one’s sanity on most discussion forums. Yet, with or without such features, most readers soon learn which posts to ignore.

(George Brooks) #11

Now @Eddie, I think it’s admirable when a poster can make the text or conclusion more memorable or draw attention to a SPECIFIC statement or text …

(Neal Heires) #13

I admire your faith and indeed the position that we just cannot reject the “realities in Scripture…out of subservience to rationality, science, logic…etc”.
However, there are a lot of scientists in this world that find they cannot reject their scientific principles, just like there are Christians that cannot reject theirs. The two seem at odds. Where is the truth?
The answer I believe is to accept both science and Christian doctrine as expressed in Scripture as truth and find a way to explain how God who created this science and created Scripture can find them both to be true.
One example is that of the conservation of energy in science. Most Christians believe that God breaks this law at his will, but per Christian doctrine, God is Almighty. Indeed since God is Almighty, nothing can be added or taken away from him, otherwise he would be less or more Almighty. Sounds like the conservation of energy principle of science doesn’t it. Indeed perhaps conservation of energy is consistent with scripture.
I wish Christians and Scientists would stop battling each other and work together to discover and demonstrate the real Truth and affirm the existence of God, and the Trinity. But it requires for both sides to start with the premise that both Scripture and proven scientific theories are true.

(Christy Hemphill) #14

I agree that both science and Scripture are sources of truth, and that is the position we try to advocate on this site. (From “We believe the Bible is the inspired and authoritative word of God. By the Holy Spirit it is the “living and active” means through which God speaks to the church today, bearing witness to God’s Son, Jesus, as the divine Logos, or Word of God. We believe that God also reveals himself in and through the natural world he created, which displays his glory, eternal power, and divine nature. Properly interpreted, Scripture and nature are complementary and faithful witnesses to their common Author.” - See more at:

But I also think that there is God’s reality and our reality (or our realities, depending on how culturally relative you want to be) and although God’s reality and our reality overlap and intersect, they are not one and the same, and will not be one and the same until God fully unites his reality with ours in the New Creation. So it is unrealistic to expect an exhaustive explanation of all of God’s reality (which is supernatural) while we are confined by the vocabulary and categories of our natural/material reality; we will always fall short.

(George Brooks) #15

And this is THE WHOLE OF IT !

But does this mean scientific conclusions can be negotiated away ?

(Neal Heires) #16

Scientific conclusions do not need to be negotiated away, but they do have to change their premise. Most scientific thinking is based on the principle of upward causation, meaning that there is one reality and all is matter, and the human mind is an epiphenomenon of the functioning brain. Instead science needs to work from the premise of downward causation, meaning that there is one reality with all matter including the human brain existing as an epiphenomenon of Mind. Scientists will never discover the so call theory of everything based on the principle of upward causation because it is a false and therefore a dead end.
Actually it was quantum physics that has pretty well destroyed the principle of upward causation. Einstein was very frustrated and argues that “God would not play dice with the universe.” But Bohr replied to Einsteing, “Don’t tell God what to do!” Indeed. One can unlock the truth of how God exists and acts in our universe scientifically by following the principle of downward causation in alignment with quantum physics.

(Neal Heires) #17

To expand on my previous point, we often here the debate (as mentioned above with previous correspondence) on God creating the universe in 6 days when scientists claim it took about 15 Billion years.
As scientists know, a photon travels at light speed and per the special theory of relativity, if we rode on a photon, time would stop for us, or become infinite when traveling at this speed. While an observer on earth would see us traveling at the speed of light, we as the traveler would experience timelessness. Of course our bodies consist of matter, and it would require infinite energy to accelerate our bodies to this speed and so this is not feasible. However, for the photon which has no mass, and for the mind of God, this is not only feasible, it is reality. Thus the Mind of God is timeless and infinite and that means He is omnipresent in the universe. He is the beginning and the end, the alpha and omega, transcending time. Per 2Peter 3:8 “With the Lord, a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day.”
Then to expand the point further, this explains how God created the universe in 6 days as told in Genesis 1. If the Holy Spirit, the third person in the Triune God steps out of infinite time to implement the will of the Father, and experiences the time of a traveler going at a velocity of 0.99999999999999999999 times the speed of light, then one day would be the equivalent of ~2.5 Billion years to us today on earth. The universe in earth time was created ~15 Billion years ago by the geological record and other scientific evidence, and yet by the time experienced by the Holy Spirit it would be just 6 days.

(Christy Hemphill) #18

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