Thursday, November 08, 2018

On Head/Heart, Feelings/Thoughts, and the Dichotomies that Divide

Which is more important for human flourishing? Reason or emotion? (And since this was the election week, we can also ask which is more important for voting? Right now a good deal of political discourse concerns our emotions, especially our fears? Where are the ideas that guide our country?) C.S. Lewis was certainly concerned about how to relate those two key sides to human life. 

Learning from Lewis and several others, I'm worried about the dichotomies that unnecessarily divide.

It’ll take me a few steps to arrive at Lewis’s thought.
First of all, let me mention a theme I'm following through Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility in my humanities class. In this book the two sisters, Elinor and Marianne, represent common sense (or “sense”) and passions (or “sensibility”) respectively, and the question Austen raises is which one works better for human life. She was writing in the early 19thcentury when the glories of the scientific revolution and the rationality and objectivity of the Enlightenment had become challenged by Romanticism’s emphasis on emphasized the individual, the subjective, the irrational, the imaginative, the personal, the spontaneous, the emotional, the visionary, and the transcendental. 

This led me to ponder an age old question: Is it more human to think or to feel? And how different are they really?

Secondly, I came across an article on moral reason by Lauren Cassini Davis, “Do Emotions and Morality Mix?” in which she interviews the Harvard psychologist and philosopher, Joshua Green. Davis summarizes the core of this post so well:
“Emotions, like our love for our friends and family, are a crucial part of what give life meaning, and ought to play a guiding role in morality. Some say absolutely not: Cold, impartial, rational thinking is the only proper way to make a decision. Emotion versus reason—it’s one of the oldest and most epic standoffs we know.”

Of course, I’m not saying that every question between emotions and reason concerns morality, but making decisions forms a key part of human life and where reason and emotion fit is certainly a conversation that runs through C. S. Lewis’s reflections on Christian spirituality. 

Finally, if I’m allowed to quote myself (with some editing)—in this case, from C. S. Lewis and the Crisis of a Christian—I’d put this in:

Contemporary American culture has a nearly universal slogan: "If it feels right, do it." Feelings—particularly the emotional rush of life—remain the final arbiter of truth and decision-making for our culture. And sadly that is true for those inside the church as well, where I often hear distrust of "head knowledge" and an emphasis on the interior life, which in this case usually means our emotions. I read this the other day: faith is “much deeper than intellectual agreement with facts” in that it “affects the desires of one’s heart.” With the way most of us define “heart” as a place where we feel emotion, that sounds a lot like feelings are more important than thought.

Certainly it is the nature of American revivalism that we tend to want a ‘burning in the bosom’ and the feeling of conversion. Too much of Christian spirituality implores us to introspection and seeing how the Lord is working and “whether you feel God’s joy.” There are some historical roots: early Puritans, who were anxious about whether God had elected them or not, worried about signs of salvation, about whether they felt God’s concerns, although this was never the response John Calvin wanted to the doctrine of predestination. Later in our history, revivalism, particularly following John Wesley but not restricted him, looked to the “warming of the heart” as a sign of salvation—which is certainly an element of Christian belief—but that emphasis often excluded rationality and obedience. Contemporarily, our obsession with feeling good has us wandering around in search of giddiness.

All in all, this fixation on emotions isn't nothing new for American Christianity. 
My helper with this post, Boots the cat
Surprisingly, even as this country has become less Christianized, we are still obsessed with feelings. But we should know better. C. S. Lewis certainly did. He was convinced that our feelings often deceive and that true life often begins when the rush of feelings lets off. As he wrote in a letter from 1950, 
“Obedience is the key to all doors: feelings come (or don’t come) and go as God pleases. We can’t produce them at will and mustn’t try.” C.S Lewis
As I’ve emphasized above, Lewis was not given over simply to intellectual abstraction either. He believed that what we know must affect our lives. In this way, he mirrors the biblical emphasis on the heart not as the arbiter of emotions but as the center of action. So it’s neither feelings nor abstract cognition that matters. Eugene Peterson, when he paraphrased the Bible in The Message, gets it exactly right in rendering Galatians 5:25: 
“Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives” (italics are mine). 
Mere ideas and changeable feelings do not themselves lead to action. We can brood over feelings or mull over ideas forever.Neither state transforms our soul. Or as Lewis put in the mouth of Screwtape, his nephew Wormwood 
“The great thing is to prevent his doing anything.As long as he does not convert it into action, it does not matter how much he thinks about this new repentance. Let the little brute wallow in it. Let him, if he has any bent that way, write a book about it . . . Let him do anything but act.”
Lewis sided with rationality, but even more, he knew that it was action that formed our lives. I would add that, without emotion, it’s hard for us to act as human beings.

And with that, I’m almost done for this post. And so I’ll simply add this: when I reflect on what Lewis has taught me about the spiritual life and what I’ve learned from Scripture. I have discovered: 
To be fully alive means to be ruled by neither emotion nor rationality, but for all of us to be transformed by the Holy Spirit.
And that—to my mind—is life as it’s meant to be lived. I’m thankful that St. Clive taught me so much along the way.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

C. S. Lewis and Karl Barth: Perfect Together… In Another World

Karl Barth was 12 years older than C. S. Lewis. (And lived 5 years longer.) They never met. And St. Clive was fairly sure he didn’t like Barth’s ideas anyway--although he probably only heard about Barth from a few students at Oxford. In any event, as far as I can tell, they never read each others' work.

But what’s odd is that, writing about the same time, they both deeply influenced the Christian church in the twentieth century (and beyond). 

Most importantly, they agreed on a common theme: 
There is another world far better than the one we inhabit—accessible through the imagination (for Barth through the biblical narrative and theological voices, for Lewis through the Bible and Christian humanists). And that world should inform and transform our lives in this world.
Karl Barth on these worlds
My Wednesday night C. S. Lewis class took a hiatus for Halloween, and so I’m able to step  back and reflect on a paper I’ve delivering for the Karl Barth Society of North America at the American Academy of Religion meeting next month. In it I look at Barth’s view of the world in his epic Romans commentary and what that specific term reveals about his theology. (Answer: a lot.) In Romans, commenting on the phrase “Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:4), Barth writes
“In this name [Jesus Christ] two worlds meet and go apart, two planes intersect, the one known and the other unknown.” Karl Barth (my bold)
And in that unknown other name and other world, we find true life and salvation. But where do we know about this other unknown world? It is through the Scripture, the Word of God—where we meet (as he declared in a talk of the same name) “the strange, new world within the Bible,” where God in Christ is present.

Imagination, our portal to this other world
And as I mentioned last week in this blog, Lewis's imagination was critical for understanding Jesus. (I use the term “critical” advisedly and somewhat ironically—this isn’t critical rationality, but what is critical imagination.) Grasping Jesus’s redemption meant that he took in Jesus is the “true myth.” And that is an act of imagination. 

And so I wonder, How we nurture our lives imaginatively? Are we able to bring together these two, seemingly opposite, aspects of human life?

For Barth, it would be immerse ourselves in the biblical narrative, not just one or two “favorite verses,” but the sweep of God’s story in Scripture. In some ways, Barth’s 13 volume Church Dogmatics is his spiritual reading of Scripture and how we grow and become formed by God's Word and world. 

For Lewis, steeped in the humanities, there is the Bible, but there is certainly more. And that’s why—if I had to chose—I prefer him as a spiritual source. Lewis certainly grasped the depth of Scripture. He also took in this reality from humanist and thus imaginative sources like John Donne, William Shakespeare, George Herbert, George MacDonald (who, for what it’s worth) has never really spoken to me) and even The Aeneid by Virgil. He also, in fact, imaginatively created the world of Narnia, and of space travel.

Christian life necessarily involves imagination. In writing this post, I came across a fascinating 2016 blog post on how Barth and Lewis had substantial agreement on the nature of “myth” in Christianity. The term myth didn't mean untrue tails, but to meaningful narratives. Myth is at the intersection of their thought. My interest lies in a slightly different direction. It is in the fact that, however rational, these two leading twentieth century Christian thinkers (and thinkers they were) both knew that Christian life and faith depended on more than rational thought alone. God indeed is accessible in these myths, these narratives, through the imagination.
“For me, reason is the natural organ of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning. Imagination, producing new metaphors or revivifying old, is not the cause of truth, but its condition.” C.S. Lewis 
Can God speak through myths? Do we need our imagination to be fully alive in faith? To both questions both Lewis and Barth said Yes. And to be sure, they answered the How and Where in slightly different ways. And that's why both are still valuable for us today.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

C. S. Lewis: Re-Discovering Jesus in a Scientific Age

Last week, I mentioned that I’m teaching a class on C. S. Lewis. Well, I’m still teaching
Addison's Walk, Magdalen College, Oxford
the class, and this week I’m pondering Lewis’s famous conversion to Christianity. (Or perhaps, since he grew up with Christian teaching, return to faith.) I’m particularly intrigued by two elements—what confessing Jesus as the Truth meant to him in light of the scientific mindset of his day and how imagination, not simply rationality, brought Lewis to this conclusion.

Jesus as the “True Myth”
First of all, let me cite St. Clive’s famous letter to his childhood friend, Arthur Greeves, after the walk he took with Dyson and Tolkien on Addison's Walk in Oxford in September 1931. 

A pair of significant excerpts: 
“I have just passed on from believing in God to definitely believing in Christ – in Christianity… My long night talk with Dyson and Tolkien had a good deal to do with it”  And “Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened: and one must be content to accept it in the same way, remembering that it is God’s myth where the others are men’s myths.” (C.S. Lewis to his friend Arthur Greeves, October 1, 1931)
This is offensive because it makes an historical figure—hardly amenable to scientific proof, and bound to the culture in which Jesus lived, instead of the cross-cultural truths of science—at the center of what is true.

Erwin Schrödinger, Empirical Reality, Imagination, & Early 20th Century Science
It’s striking to me that Lewis used to walk around the same halls of Magdalen College where Erwin Schrödinger was from 1933-1938. I don’t know if they hung out, but it does signify that Lewis lived in an environment with top scientists.

And this brings me back to the question of the scientific thinking of his day. When he returned to faith in Christ as God, Lewis came to this conclusion based on imagination. When I referred to “science” in the previous post, I indicate with sufficient clarity that sciencenot only impliedrationality, but empiricism, that knowledge comes through the senses. And thus the materialism that accompanied much of early 20thcentury science. 

And yet it was Schrödinger and others that gradually built an understanding of physical reality that went far beyond what we can grasp with our human senses… or really understand with our brain. To picture a quantum world with “quarks,” “spin,” and “charm” probably already indicates that we have moved beyond bare empiricism to a least a fair dose of imagination.

As Neils Bohr expertly phrased it:
“Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood a single word." And " If you think you can talk about quantum theory without feeling dizzy, you haven't understood the first thing about it.” Niels Bohr

In fact, we realize that so many elements of science—understanding the human genome, probing the nature of quantum reality—is way beyond human senses. The philosophy of science has moved beyond the Vienna School’s “verification” and even Karl Popper’s “falsification” to the saner and more accurate description by the late Oxford philosopher Peter Lipton, “inference to the best explanation."

Lewis’s Early “Imaginative Failure”
All in all, the pure empirical side of science has faded. But Lewis’s world hadn’t shifted entirely… at least, if thinkers proposed to be “scientific.” And so he had to move beyond those narrow boundaries and into the truth of imagination. As A. N. Wilson right notes what had restricted Lewis was an unwillingness to come to terms with life beyond empiricism.

“He stopped short of understanding Christianity because when he thought about that, he laid aside the receptive imagination with which he allowed himself to appreciate myth and became rigidly narrow and empiricist.”  Thus, not to believe in Christ was for Lewis, “an imaginative failure.” A. N. Wilson

The Reconciliation of So Many Things
But that September night in 1931, St. Clive’s imagination was operating fully, inspired by a sudden—almost divine—wind as they walked, and the masterful imagination of Hugo Dyson and the maestro of myth, J.R.R. Tolkien. Indeed the reconciliation of rationality, empirical reality, and imagination—the truth of Jesus with the beauty of myths—all came together that fall night.

I’ll let CSL have the final word:
“I believe in Christianity as I believe the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

Thursday, October 18, 2018

C. S. Lewis, Increasingly Unsatisfied by His Materialist Age

As I work on a class I’m teaching Wednesday nights, “C. S. Lewis: Wise Mentor," I can’t help but bring to mind Lewis’s increasing frustration with the culture of atheism and materialism—putatively wedded to the advance of science—which he found ultimately unsatisfying and dehumanism. 

Is this something for Lewis alone? Why should we care? Because we living in an increasingly materialist age. And by that, I don’t mean that we like to buy lots of stuff while shopping. That’s a huge spiritual problem, and it’s a form of materialism, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about defining ourselves by the material world, not by anything transcendent. 

Stephen Pinker, the influential Harvard cognitive scientist, in his denial of the soul, says it so well, 
“The neuroscientific worldview—the idea that the mind is what the brain does—has kicked away one of the intuitive supports of religion. So even if you accepted all of the previous scientific challenges to religion—the Earth revolving around the sun, animals evolving, and so on—the immaterial soul was always one last thing that you could keep as being in the province of religion. With the advance of neuroscience, that idea has been challenged.” Stephen Pinker

Can I put in a shameless plug for my book?
Having quoted Pinker and before going further, I need to be a bit more precise. In that spirit, I offer this definition: 
Materialism (or naturalism) holds that matter constitutes the fundamental substance in all things, and thus that mental aspects and consciousness are purely results of material interactions.” 
This is different from methodological naturalism, which asserts that science restricts itself to the relations within the natural world. But sometimes scientists act as if both naturalisms are coterminous. 

But to conflate these two is destructive for science and for us as human beings. Because we naturally seek something more than this material world has to offer. Here I agree with Lewis, who was convinced that early 20thcentury materialism was desolate. It led him toward Christ. Why? Because he found, along with vast majority of human beings, that we have desire to something more than the material world can provide. Materialism left no place for joy, for the Bible calls “abundant life” (John 10:10) or Aristotle called “human flourishing.” Materialism is, in a word (or two), unsatisfying and desolate. 

And does this mean something to you and me today? If I’m reading the tea leaves properly, we also live in a time where the automatic reaction is that we’re “nothing more than a pack of neurons,” as the famous geneticist Francis Crick once phrased it.

And so I turn back to “St. Clive” Staples Lewis. Posted today on Addison’s Walk is a poem he wrote about the very path, but it’s not hard to see he’s talking about moving beyond the self-imposed gates of materialism to a wider world:
I heard in Addison’s Walk a bird sing clear:  
This year the summer will come true. This year. This year. 
Winds will not strip the blossom from the apple trees 
This year, nor want of rain destroy the peas. 
This year time’s nature will no more defeat you, 
Nor all the promised moments in their passing cheat you. 
This time they will not lead you round and back 
To Autumn, one year older, by the well-worn track. 
This year, this year, as all these flowers foretell, 
We shall escape the circle and undo the spell. 
Often deceived, yet open once again your heart, 
Quick, quick, quick, quick!—the gates are drawn apart

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Thinking Scientifically About Scripture, Part Two…

Last week I looked at Scripture through the lens of some applicable sciences. Since I’m preaching this Sunday, I thought I’d try this technique on sections of the remaining lectionary texts. 

Amos 5:6-10, 15—Justice and Science in One God

We start with a stunning challenge from the prophetic tradition.  

In approximately 760-750 BC, during reign of the reasonably prosperous forty-year reign of Jeroboam II, Amos, who hailed from the Judean village of Tekoa, prophesied “harsh words in a smooth season” (as the Oxford Study Bible phrases it).

And Amos’s words remind us that (1) the God who created the universe (2) also formed us to do good.
Seek the Lord and live,    or he will break out against the house of Joseph like fire,    and it will devour Bethel, with no one to quench it.Ah, you that turn justice to wormwood,    and bring righteousness to the ground!The one who made the Pleiades and Orion,    and turns deep darkness into the morning,    and darkens the day into night,who calls for the waters of the sea,    and pours them out on the surface of the earth,the Lord is his name,who makes destruction flash out against the strong,    so that destruction comes upon the fortress.10 They hate the one who reproves in the gate,    and they abhor the one who speaks the truth.
This is the God who calls us to justice and life:15 Hate evil and love good,    and establish justice in the gate;it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts,    will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph. Amos , the 8thcentury BC prophet 

Let’s take those two key points one at a time. The God who makes the heavens (Pleiades and Orion) has power to care for the poor. Several Old Testament scholars hasten to assert that God as Redeemer—the One who brought the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage—arrived on the scene in Israel way before the God the Creator. It took later engagement with surrounding pagan cultures to push the concept of creating. I must admit I haven’t found that assertion entirely convincing, and here one reason why: an 8thcentury BC prophet—i.e., early in the actual writings of the Hebrew Bible and around the times of many of the Exodus texts—proclaims that God not only created this world, but the stars above. 

Admittedly, the astronomy of biblical times found a significantly smaller universe than that of the Hubble telescope. Still, set within a scientific framework, that means the God we know through astronomy is the One who creates through the long history of the universe. 

Indeed and secondly, the God who creates also forms in us, through these processes of evolution, empathy and cooperation. I remember hearing biologist Darrell Falk address an assembled group at the American Academy of Religion and tell us that, when he studied biology in graduate school, the discourse was almost entirely overwhelmed by the individual’s struggle to survive. As the zoologist Richard Dawkins so brilliantly phrases this in his 1970s book, it’s about “the selfish gene. But, much to Falk’s surprise, one of the lessons from evolutionary science in the past three to four decades is the importance of cooperation, as well as competition, in evolution. And that should shock us because popular uses of “Darwinian” largely refer to ruthless competition. But what evolutionary science (say, through the work of biologist David Sloan Wilson) asserts is, Yes, we do have to survive in order to pass on our genes, but we do that better in an environment in which we are protected and supported by our community.

Jesus in Mark 10—Calling Us to our Evolved Compassion

What does the New Testament add to this mix? It sets the conversation in another key, one that calls us to discipleship.
            We find this passage from the Gospels in the lectionary:
17 As [Jesus] was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” 20 He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions. Jesus in Mark 10
Of the many things that could be said about this passage, one is Jesus’s call to care about someone beside ourselves, and particularly about our own accumulation of wealth and status. Jesus’s redemption undoes the sin of Adam and Eve. It is in fact how their original dilemma in Genesis 3 becomes replicated through all our lives as human beings. Listen to how one of the giants in theology and science, particle physicist and Anglican priest, John Polkinghorne puts it in Science and Theology: An Introduction:

At some stage, the lure of self and the lure of the divine came into competition and there was a turning away from the pole of the divine Other and a turning into the pole of the human ego. Our ancestors became, in Luther’s phrase, “curved in upon themselves.” We are heirs of that culturally transmitted orientation. One does not need to suppose that this happened in a single decisive act; it would have been a stance that formed and reinforced itself through a succession of choices and actions. John Polkinghorne

And so here we observe one of these choices Jesus of Nazareth forced a would-be follower to make. Extrapolating to our lives, the key to following Jesus is to moderate between these two central impulses—to care for our selves and for others. Here he’s saying, “Mr. Rich Guy [my paraphrase], stop building your barns for yourself. Instead care for others—it’s the subtler pull from our evolutionary history, but it’s the one that brings life.”

At least those of some of things I hear in these passages as I read Scripture scientifically. Tell me what you see.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Thinking Scientifically About Scripture (First Installment)

This week I’m preaching lectionary texts. Which I usually don’t do. I mean, I don’t preach much these days, but I rarely use the assortment of four biblical texts assembled each week by the great lectionary committee in the sky. Or at some denominational headquarters on earth.
      I’m preparing to give some talks on science and faith and my new book, Mere Science and Christian Faith. Part of that is preaching… And I’ve discovered that that thinking scientifically uncovers some important insights into Scripture. Let me start with the first sermon text.

Slow God
Psalm 90, first of all, describes a God who is much slower than we’d like. And that fact tries our patience. This God is sometimes achingly ponderous in bringing justice, as Amos
The Heliocentric Model of Copernicus
5 cries out. (I'll get to this next week.) This slow God, we know today, makes sense of the long 13.7 billion year history of the universe, and our place within it. It means that ultimately, God is eternal—and slow to us. 
      We must view life—and I love this phrase!sub specie aeternatis—viewed in relation to the eternal. It definitely contradicts a contemporary technological fantasy, what MIT professor Sherry Turkle calls “app thinking”—that some app on our smart phone can solve every problem quickly. 
      It also reminds me of when I heard former Fuller Seminary President and theologian Richard Mouw conversation with other theologians about creation and the way so many evangelicals hold, against the grand consensus of scientists, that the earth is 6,000-10,000 years old. In this group, there was a Catholic theologian who remarked, 
“Here’s the problem with you evangelicals—you want a fast God. But God is slow.” 
Mouw decided his Catholic colleague was right. And this indeed is the God of Psalm 90. 

Psalm 90
Here are a few lines from the 90thpsalm.
Lord, you have been our dwelling place    in all generations.Before the mountains were brought forth,  Note here that that  “were yet born” (according to biblical scholar Hans-Joachim Kraus)—which certainly has an evolutionary overtone. (Cf. Job 38:8.)    or ever you had formed the earth and the world,    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.You turn usback to dust, Note that the return to dust echoes Genesis 3:19, which certainly connects with scientific evidence that we are certainly, at least, material beings and seeks to understand what that means.    and say, “Turn back, you mortals.”For a thousand years in your sight    are like yesterday when it is past,      or like a watch in the night.Note here two passages: Psalm 84:10, and especially 2 Peter 3:8, which heads in the opposite direction “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.”

More next week…
Next week, I’ll bring in what the New Testament adds to this mix. I’ll also comment on Amos 5 where he tells us that the God who makes the heavens ("the Pleiades and Orion") has sufficient power to care for the poor. That, my friends, is science and justice rolled into one.

Hope you enjoy this. Feel free to comment below!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Two Events This Week On Religion and Science

At least two things happened, or are happening, this week that struck me and that have implications for how I understand religion and science: 1) I participated in a meeting of the BioLogos Advisory Council (of which I’m a member), and 2) I’m teaching, reading, and watching Shakespeare’s stunning Romeo and Juliet.

Romeo and Juliet on Religion and Science
Let’s start with the Bard and R&J, his tragedy of two “star-crossed lovers” (Prologue, 5) written around 1595, when intellectual giants like Francis Bacon and a young Galileo walked the earth. 

In a word, the scientific revolution had begun. 

And so had the English Reformation, initiated by the oddest reformer, Henry VIII, who wanted a divorce that the Catholic Church wouldn’t grant. So he left the Church and his wife in order to marry Anne Boleyn. Their daughter, Queen Elizabeth, at the time of R&J,was fully enacting the English reformation that her father, Henry VIII initiated. Religion was changing too.

As I mentioned above, these two young lovers are “star-crossed,” which points to the medieval superstition (still very prevalent then and even today) that the stars directed human life, while also offering a nod to the rapidly expanding astronomy of the day. “Bill” (Shakespeare, that is) and his R&J fall right between Copernicus’s presentation of the heliocentric model in 1543 and Galileo’s defense in the 1620s and ‘30s. Even more, he was part of the growing consciousness that the universe was getting bigger and the medieval world of a “dome” (not entirely unlike a huge planetarium around us) needed to be discarded. This is, of course, what C. S. Lewis named “The Discarded Image.”

Shakespeare stands at this nexus of religion and science and their dramatic changes. That alone makes his work compelling.

 “What Does it Mean to Be Human?”
And then BioLogos, the organization begun almost a decade ago by the head of the Human
Genome Initiative, Francis Collins, who know heads the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and has spoken frequently and effectively about his conversation to Christ. I serve on their Advisory Council, and on Monday night, I attended a public event where the Cornell geneticist (and as I understand it, former student of Collins), Praveen Saderpathy addressed the question of “What is does it mean to be human?” He reminded us that it isn’t in our physical makeup since a huge proportion of our DNA is actually virus DNA, gradually integrated into our genome over the millennia and that in our bodies at any given time are a host (likely a host) of billions of non-human bacteria. In the end he pointed to Genesis 1 and God’s call on us to bear the divine image as God’s representatives and stewards on this earth.

In this post, I’m trying to avoid a forced link between these two things, but it does seem like they’re how we as human beings act—like mad lovers who flout convention, representatives of a gracious Creator and Redeemer, or something else? Answering this question led me to conclude that, minimally, we better stick with nature and with our nature. It’s only natural.