Chapter 1: Introduction Everybody, without exception, allows their world-view to color their interpretation of the world around them. That’s almost as self-evident as saying everyone who is alive manifests living processes. But despite the circularity and simplicity of such a statement, many people aren’t aware that they interpret things around them. Theists and atheists alike. They attribute too much certainty and fact to much of what they believe. I have three main goals for this book:
- to point out and emphasize how we all allow world-views to determine how we handle data, observations and experiences;
- to equip theists to better understand the science of genetics, and then to present the data which now have tremendous impact on our theology;
- to suggest ways to re-frame our theology to be consistent with the data.
Theists from St. Augustine to Sir Francis Bacon have cautioned against allowing theology to be ridiculed because of an unnecessarily strict adherence to scripture and a denial of scientific findings.
Chapter 2: A precedent-setting case: the origin of the cosmos Before addressing the impact that the new science of genetics has had on theology, it would be instructive to see how the church has dealt in the past with scientific discoveries upsetting theological apple-carts. A perfect example is its response to the Heliocentric Theory. This chapter provides a detailed description of the original Biblical/Hebrew view of the universe — a three-layered Earth covered by a solid dome and a three-tiered heaven(s) — complete with abundant Scriptural support. To put this strange construct in perspective, we first look at the cosmologies of civilizations that preceded that of the ancient Hebrews. In the remainder of the chapter, we look at the scientific discoveries which caused a whole re-shaping of that world-view, and the various responses from the church against that paradigm-shift. The main points of this chapter are two-fold. First, that the church has before allowed its theology to determine how it interprets science. Second, that it has been able to discard major theological viewpoints, based upon a faithful reading of scripture, when faced with an abundance of conflicting scientific evidence.
Chapter 3: History repeats itself: other duels between the church and science To show that the conflict addressed in Chapter Two is not a unique one-off experience in church history, we consider several other less well-known examples of the church and theists allowing theology to drive understanding of the way the world works, despite scientific evidence to the contrary. These include several examples from biology, from archaeology and history of Palestine, from geology and even from meteorology.
Chapter 4: A basic understanding of the science The central goal of this book is to equip a believer having little or no scientific training with the means to handle the overwhelming findings from genetics which have the potential to destroy faith. But first it will be necessary to provide that reader with a basic understanding and vocabulary to handle the science itself. In this chapter, I will summarize the tools and strategies used by paleontologists (those who study fossils) and geneticists to explore the world around them, and will also provide a rudimentary understanding of the scientific method and of the theory of evolution.
Chapter 5: Origin of humanity, part I: the paleontological evidence Most theists have a rudimentary understanding of the paleontological evidence for “cavemen” and Neanderthals; for many, this understanding is so vague that they’re able to completely overlook how they might fit into the Creation narrative. This chapter provides an overview of the abundant findings of various hominid species, including Neanderthals, Homo erectus, Australopithecus, Floresiensis, Denisovans and Homo naledi. The oft-cited hoax known as Piltdown Man is also summarized.
Chapter 6: Origin of humanity, part 2: the genetic evidence When nineteenth century archaeologists found clay tablets describing a Babylonian version of a global flood, the parallels in detail after detail forced them to wonder whether one copied from the other. Today, geneticists have learned how to read the genetic code, and when they make comparisons between the human and primate sequences, once again the parallels between the two are so staggering that it is becoming impossible not to think that they had some kind of common origin. And they’ve found much more than that. Other topics to be addressed include: mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromosomal Adam; inversion of chromosome #2; proviral sequences; and pseudogenes. So much of what they’re finding threatens to completely shatter the Genesis version of the origins of humans.
Chapter 7: Christian objections to evolution model Chapters five and six present an incredible volume of scientific evidence which speaks against the traditional Christian understanding of the origin of mankind. That evidence instead undergirds a model in which humanity evolved over millions of years from an ancestor we share in common with the primates. Understandably, many Christians react vigorously against this model. In this chapter, thirteen objections often made by Christians against this model are presented and rebutted. The first seven of these objections happen to be the exact same ones raised against the Heliocentric Theory, which the church and Christians have now come to accept and even embrace.
Chapter 8: Re-adjusting our theology The worlds studied by paleontologists and geneticists were made by God. As Sir Francis Bacon first put it, the book of God’s words should say the same thing as the book of God’s works. In the sixteenth century, discoveries made by astronomers forced the theologians to re-think their thoroughly Scripturally-based cosmology (chapter 2). In the same way today, the discoveries made by paleontologists and geneticists now make it incredibly difficult to hang on to the traditional Biblical version of the origin of mankind, no matter how much scripture can be called up to support it. But adjusting this world-view necessarily leads to a variety of tensions in our theological frameworks. This chapter delves into some of the important theological issues directly impacted by the new discoveries. These issues include: the historicity of Adam and whether that impacts our view of Christ; the Fall and Original Sin; the Atonement; world religions; our view of the Bible (its origins; inspiration; inerrancy; infallibility; authority; purpose). The chapter also provides some strategies to resolve the tension without throwing the baby in the bath-water.
Chapter 9: The overall response of theists to the advances of science The responses of theists to these new data from the world of genetics have not been uniform. Some, unfortunately, feel it necessary to give up faith entirely. Others dig in deeper and push back harder, even to the point of proposing bizarre ad hoc explanations for the threatening evidence. As is inevitably the case, some take a middle ground and attempt to accommodate the science into their world-view, which others interpret as compromise. This chapter addresses the variety of responses, their strengths and weaknesses and offers suggestions on how to rationalize faith and science.
Chapter 10: The response of atheists to religion Theists are not the only ones to allow their belief systems to determine how they view the world and interpret new data from scientific endeavors to fit their world-view. Atheists do so as well. Many atheists aren’t aware that they even hold belief systems, or won’t admit to doing so. This chapter explores this phenomenon of belief in non-believers.
Chapter 11: Standing on the shoulders of giants Everything humans know is founded, at least in part, on the observations and conclusions of other humans that preceded them. Sir Isaac Newton, to whom three major scientific advances can be traced, is often credited for the expression “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”. It is equally true for theology. Humans across all ages, all corners of the globe, and all strata of societies have sought to understand the “Great Being”, and have developed all kinds of religions and theologies, often borrowing ideas from other groups and developing them further in response to their own journey. We can certainly see this in the Judeo-Christian religion. We benefit greatly from the unique perspectives of JHWH had by Moses, or David, or Isaiah. Jesus brought yet an entirely different perspective, although one clearly rooted in the former perspectives. The apostles brought a whole new and greater level of understanding of the teachings of Jesus, especially Paul and his ideas about the “first Adam” and the “Last Adam”. But today, we see much further than Paul: we have since learned that there likely may not have ever been a “first Adam”. If our goal is to seek truth in all forms, then it seems to be time for us to re-think some of our theology.