Things are not as they seem

Let me re reiterate my ecclesial question…

What do you think? Perhaps even @Mike_Gantt can try his answer =).


To proclaim Jesus’ lordship and participate in the building of his kingdom, same as anyone else from any cultural and historical perspective. I’m confused by this question. We are all obviously wrong about lots of stuff and people have been wrong about stuff for all of church history. It does not appear that God is all that concerned about everyone being right about everything or that being wrong about some stuff negates one’s ability to glorify God and pursue his righteousness.



What was the reason that Egypt, the great incubator of Christian zeal, monastic and private, was torn from the Christian world ?

Yes, but what roles and purposes can YECs fill that we as TE/EC cannot?


I’ve missed out on this thread, but in the light of your notification let me say that I sought to explore this “deception” question in depth in this piece on The Hump of the Camel recently.

The key philosophical point, I think, is that the idea that science reveals truth is rather recent and parochial, and not provable anyway. The older, more humble, principle was that science can show us explanations that are in accord (or not) with the way things appear. The catch phrase was “saving the phenomena”. Science is then about utility in the world, not truth about the world.

Thus a multitude of appearances suggest the earth is very old, and theories that fit with this are by that token good science. But it cannot be shown to be the way things actually are, and some other phenomena might well be seen in the future that change the conclusion, despite all the current data. I don’t expect that to happen, but it’s actually about the fundamental truth-finding limitations of science, not about the quality of the science.

A theological development of that is that if (hypothetically) God’s purpose for us were for us to act out our lives rightly and lovingly in a physical “stage set” suitable for that aim, such as a virtual matrix, nothing would be deceitful. After all, they train medical students to become better doctors and so on by role-play, and nobody complains that the patient is really just an actor unless they’ve misunderstood what the business was about.


I have been devoting the bulk of my attention to the issues arising at What biblical reasons are there to accept the scientific view of the earth as billions of years old? and thus have not been able to follow this thread closely. It seems to be a discussion between EC’s/TE’s (or you could say “BL regulars” - we’ll say BLR’s) about how to interact with YEC’s. Since I am currently sitting on the YEC side of the fence I didn’t feel comfortable joining the conversation. Since, however, this is the second time @Swamidass has invited my participation, I will offer some thoughts - though with the reluctance I just described.

First of all, I’m not sure I properly understand the question. Second, it seems one’s answer is going to turn on one’s perspective. That is, an EC/TE/BLR is going to answer this question, all other things being equal, differently than a YEC is going to answer it. This is because, of course, the EC/TE/BLR thinks the YEC is wrong and the YEC thinks he is right. Since this is a thread started by an EC/TE/BLR, and answered mainly by EC’s/TE’s/BLR’s, I shall attempt to answer as an EC/TE/BLR.

As a EC/TE/BLR: Even here, there are differing perspectives. If I am 100% sure that YEC’s are wrong I will have a different perspective than if I think there is a chance, however small, that they are right - or that we’re both wrong (or that neither one of us is 100% right in our declarations on the issue at hand). We’ll call the first group “close-minded” and the second “open-minded.” I am not employing these terms for pejorative purposes, as there are many subjects on which God desires us to be close-minded (e.g. “the benefits of idolatry” or “the wholesome aspects of adultery”). As a close-minded EC/TE/BLR, I want to deal gently but firmly with YEC’s, leading them out of falsehood into truth at every opportunity. The YEC, however well-intentioned - is harming the witness of Christ and my responsibility is to diminish that harm by helping the erring brother, if he’s willing, find the truth as quickly as possible. As an open-minded EC/TE/BLR, however, I want to listen to YEC’s and exchange views with them with the hope of both of us incrementally getting to a better understanding than what we have now. That may mean that the YEC eventually becomes an EC/TE/BLR, or that the EC/TE/BLR becomes a YEC, or that both together become something that supersedes their previous categorizations.

The yin and yang of this thread (at least the parts I’ve read) seems to turn on the axis I just described. In other words, in order to come to one mind on the subject you have to first decide just how wrong you think the YEC’s are. Either way, they are worthy of dignity but your communication strategy, and particularly your listening strategy, are going to differ based on your perception of how much truth, if any, their YEC view may hold. Are they children in need of correction or are they fellow adults with differing perspectives that deserve to be heard? When you answer that, you put yourself in a better position to support God’s purpose for them.

Again, I say all this as one on the outside looking in - as one who in the moment (note figurative usage) is trying to decide if he’s a child in need of correction or an adult with doubts he ought not be entertaining.


May I say something more broadly about the OP?

Is not a commitment to the possibility that a thing may not be what it seems inherent in being a scientist and in being a Christian? And is not the possiblity that a thing may not be what it seems also a possibility that it may be more than what it seems while it is what it seems?

As a visitor to BioLogos, it’s been disappointing to me to see this OP getting any pushback at all. Its validity would seem to me to be a no-brainer for a scientist or a Christian. A scientist studies nature because he believes there’s more to it than what he already knows, a Christian believes in Christ because he’s convinced there are realities beyond what science can find. In both cases, there is a conviction that “Things are not as they seem” - or at least that’s not the whole story.


I would say that that saving the phenomenon was the goal only in nascent science. If that were the true goal of science, then we would have stopped at Kepler (who saved the phenomenon) and Newton’s derivation of Kepler’s Laws, rather than being perhaps heralding the birth of modern science, would have in fact been superfluous. Newton didn’t seek to merely save the phenomenon but to explain the phenomenon. Granted Newton didn’t find ultimate truth-- but he certainly went beyond saving the phenomenon. And this has been the model for science ever since. We won’t find “truth” because every new layer creates deeper unknowns. (The Higgs mechanism beautifully explains the mass of the elementary particles–but now we ask: what it the source of the Higgs field? Or in evolution terms, every transitional fossil uncovered creates two new missing links.) Additionally, scientific advancement is always (if it is real science) susceptible to falsification. But that’s a feature, not a bug.


You might not be appreciating the full importance of Christy’s answer to all this. It isn’t about who can best fill certain roles. It’s about Jesus saving lost souls who are all wrong about many things. One of the many features of his saving grace is that we don’t have to pass a science exam to enter the kingdom of heaven.

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This is what helps me repent quickest of my own snippy impatience that gets exhibited in too many of my own posts. You are absolutely right in this. I do believe that the YEC brother errs in trying to introduce a science exam [effectively] as a precondition of God’s grace --it turns out to be a stumbling block instead. But that is major cause for EC brothers also to reflect on whether they are truly trying to remove that stumbling block? Or are they merely replacing the exam with a different one? It doesn’t matter which of the two has more right answers. My point is, it’s a stumbling block either way.

And condescension, belittling tones, etc. are stumbling blocks too. Thanks for that reminder. Let’s just circle up and sing Kumbaya! :guitar: (really! --this is not sarcasm, and it is revealing that such a denial is so necessary.)



I think your assertion is more credible if you edited it to read the way a scientist thinks:

“[With each discovery… [w]e … find [more] “truth” because every new[ly] [uncovered] layer … [unveils] deeper unknowns.”

Huh. Well thanks. I’m a professional scientist with about a hundred papers. I’m also a physics professor. I do appreciate the lesson on how a scientist thinks and your kind edit is ever-so-much more cogent. It’s about time I learned how that works. It’s never too late, am I right?


It’s never too late.
Do you think it is more reasonable to describe a scientist’s work as “never uncovering truth”?

Or, isn’t it more convincing to say that, collectively, scientists are discovering new “parts of Truth” all the time?

What I wrote was that Newton didn’t discover ultimate truth and later I wrote that we won’t find “truth” (using quotes as a rhetorical device to indicate something more than the ordinary definition is being used.) So, no, I don’t think we ever uncover ultimate truth. Newton was supplanted by Einstein, whose GR theory we know to be incomplete and therefore, at best, an approximation of truth that works well when QM is not important.

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I think it’s telling, George, that it is often those of us outside the professional scientific community who exhibit the most aggressive attitudes in boasting of all the truth that science uncovers, and those who practice it professionally exhibit the most caution in seeing anything as a kind of “last word” about truth. (Many exceptions to this of course! – but just something that seems a bit of a trend to me…)

I’m appreciating your contributions to the forum, @heddle. Thanks for your voice too. And as soon as you get on top of how to think like a scientist, let me know too; since I aspire to teach it to impressionable young students! :slight_smile:

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Or, for that matter, a theology exam!

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Speaking as one of those professional scientists. . . What I find disturbing is mostly not what’s been said about science, but what isn’t being said. Yes, I agree that scientific knowledge is incomplete and uncertain, and there is always the possibility that things are not as they seem. What’s not being said (much) is that this is a fact about human knowledge, not just about scientific knowledge. It’s possible that all of my conclusions about evolution and the age of the universe are wrong. It’s also possible that all of my conclusions about God, the Bible and the economics of health care are wrong.

Acknowledging that things might not be as they seem is useful for cultivating a spirit of humility, but I don’t see it helping at all in deciding what ideas are more likely to be true.



My Biology 101 processor, in his very first lecture to his audience of ‘Puppies’, said there is a difference between ‘Discovering Truths’ vs. ‘Discovering Facts’.

If I were a professional scientist, I would be likely to understate the results of the work of science to show a measure of humility.

On the other hand, a scientist who says science doesn’t discover truths - without explaining or qualifying the comment - isn’t doing anyone any good … especially on discussion lists where YECs are eager to make the same claim.

That’s a well-made point, George. There are extremes to avoid on either side; one side being epistemic arrogance, and the other side being over-zealous epistemic deprecation.

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I take George to be an example of an EC/TE/BLR who is 100% sure YEC’s are wrong. If George is right on this point, then I would fully support what he says here. Because if YEC’s are dead wrong about the age of the earth, meaning there’s no chance whatsoever that they are interpreting the Bible correctly on this point, then, if you love YEC’s and if you love truth, you wouldn’t want to say anything at all on a board like this that might encourage them in their error. You’d only be postponing their deliverance.

If, on the other hand, 100% is too high a confidence level to hold…