A difficult question: religious thought, academic freedom, and dinosaur DNA

I am terrible about starting a new blog series before finishing the last one.   Or the other one.

(My “how you work at work” profile says I’m better during the early parts of a project but fade away during implementation. Can I use that as an excuse?  “I’m a Clarifier! And a Developer!  I’m not responsible for failed promises to finish my thoughts about vocation and calling and higher ed and food and sin and school rules and the meaning of life!”  BOOM.  Excuse acquired.  -1 to Guilt, +1 to Justification)

I gotta be honest though, I’m just gonna lob this question out there and then run away.  It’s a hot potato for everyone.  If you’re worried about my soul, stop worrying. I’m firmly a theist and a Christian and have no intent to change. If that disappoints you, then let’s keep thinking together.

Is it possible for critical, honest academic freedom to co-exist alongside fervent religious belief?

Or did Sid Meyer get it right when he set up his Civilization games so that you can’t follow a religious pathway with your civilization if you also choose rationality?

See? This poor lackey chose the Piety tree for his civ, so he's out of luck when it comes to Rationality.
See? This poor lackey chose the Piety tree for his civ, so he’s out of luck when it comes to Rationality.

I’ve pondered this question for years. Probably since college.

Most recently, Ken Ham’s really ridiculous blog post about why there can’t be alien life anywhere else in the galaxy sparked my thinking.

See, it’s hard to actually THINK ABOUT this question because people on both sides are writing dumb-ass crap in the name of their belief system.  In Ham’s case, it’s putting words in God’s mouth and then calling them holy:

Jesus did not become the “GodKlingon” or the “GodMartian”!  Only descendants of Adam can be saved.  God’s Son remains the “Godman” as our Savior.  In fact, the Bible makes it clear that we see the Father through the Son (and we see the Son through His Word).  To suggest that aliens could respond to the gospel is just totally wrong.

An understanding of the gospel makes it clear that salvation through Christ is only for the Adamic race—human beings who are all descendants of Adam.

Many secularists want to discover alien life hoping that aliens can answer the deepest questions of life: “Where did we come from?” and “What is the purpose and meaning of life?” But such people are ignoring the revelation from the infinite God behind the whole universe. The Creator has told us where we came from: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” Genesis 1:1; Nehemiah 9:6. And He told us what life’s purpose is: “Fear God and keep His commandments” Ecclesiastes 12:13.

The answers to life’s questions will not be found in imaginary aliens but in the revelation of the Creator through the Bible and His Son, Jesus Christ, who came to die on a Cross to redeem mankind from sin and death that our ancestor, Adam, introduced.

We need to start proclaiming the authority of God’s Word from the very first verse—even on the subject of alien life! For more information on the supposed existence of ETs and other common questions about a biblical worldview, I encourage you to order The New Answers Book series from our bookstore. Or for witnessing purposes, we have a booklet that can be ordered in bulk with special pricing to help teach people the truth about aliens and UFOs and promote the gospel for your local church or youth programs.

Ken Ham, I’m calling bullshit on your decision to 1) link your interpretation of Genesis 1-3 to what God Himself actually thinks (because truth is, you cannot KNOW that you’ve gotten it absolutely 100% correct); 2) linking that leap of assumptions and induction to what the Gospel says; and 3) using both to peddle your books. That kinda burns me, actually, but we’ll focus on problems #1 and #2.

This passage I quoted is such a mixture of orthodox theology and Ham’s personal (biased) viewpoint that it’s hard to unwind the two.  Absolutely I agree that Jesus Christ came to earth to save sinners. However, that does NOT demand the corollary concept that God can’t do any other work in this vast universe except what we deduce He’s been up to.

When we put our words in God’s mouth and call them His, usually something or someone (hello, Gallileo?) shows up to prove us idiots. And then the good of Christianity gets laughed out of the room because we weren’t careful with what we said, how we said it, and how much certainty we claimed for what is – at the core – an interpretation of a complex text.

Truth is, I have no idea if there’s alien life in outer space. Neither do you, and neither does Ken Ham if he’d stop taking his own assumptions so seriously.  And thoughtful people read this stuff and decide Christians must be a special kind of stupid.

Christianity has been linked to Modernity for a long time, and Modernity craved certainty in its epistemology.  The scientist is driven by the desire to KNOW.

Here’s where I depart from the secularist, the rationalist, the empiricist:  I think relying on human observation or reason to provide reliable and unbiased “truth” or even certain data is just as crazy as they think I am for believing in a literal Adam & Eve. (I do think they existed. I’m not willing to stab you over this point, however.)   Our perceptions are crafted by our own viewpoints, our experiences, our very humanity.

"Nature will find a way."  Yup.  Plus, I do wonder if we can make that mosquito thing work on the cloning front.....  and if so, will things just play out like a weird reworking of the film? Maybe that's true of all sci-fi? Maybe fiction writers are actually writing our future??  AAAAAAH
“Nature will find a way.” Yup. Plus, I do wonder if we can make that mosquito thing work on the cloning front….. and if so, will things just play out like a weird reworking of the film? Maybe that’s true of all sci-fi? Maybe fiction writers are actually writing our future?? AAAAAAH

Science shouldn’t get all smug up in here about what it knows or the idea they’ve identified all their biases. They haven’t.   Cue Jurassic Park as one of my favorite novels on the limitations of science to recognize what it does and does not know.

Here’s where I’d like to stop circling the drain of rationalism vs belief and restate the question:

Is it possible for someone to “question everything” and “have faith like a little child”?  I’d really like to know.

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