Philosophy’s Most Famous Quotations

I love ideas. And I love thinking about them. One of the fundamental reasons I study philosophy is that I believe ideas really matter. And philosophy is the discipline of big ideas: God, the cosmos, the mind, knowledge, ethics, aesthetics, logic, etc.

As a Christian, I also think it is important apologetically to understand how the big philosophical ideas through the centuries relate to the truth of historic Christianity. For much of Christian history, the discipline of philosophy was understood to be a handmaid (servant) to theology. But in the ancient world, as today, certain philosophical ideas posed challenges to Christian truth-claims.

In parts one and two of this series, I suggested that one way of coming to know and appreciate philosophy is to consider some of the powerful quotations made by great philosophers on ultimate issues. In part three of this series, we’ll look briefly at three famous philosophical quotations from three of history’s greatest thinkers. The three quotes relate to such topics as the mind, creation, and morality.

Three Famous Philosophy Quotes

1. René Descartes (1596–1650)

René Descartes was a French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist. Because of his break with the traditional Scholastic-Aristotelian philosophy, he has been called “the father of modern Western philosophy.” He developed the first modern form of mind-body dualism. Thus, his famous dictum:

I think, therefore I am. (Latin: Cogito ergo sum.)

René Descartes, Discourse on the Method

Descartes affirmed that thought was indubitable evidence that a person existed, for one must be a thinking entity (mind) to even doubt one’s existence. And even if a person is confused about their existence, they must exist to be confused.

2. Gottfried Leibniz (1646–1716)

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was a German philosopher, logician, and mathematician. As part of his argument for God’s existence, he asked the ultimate metaphysical question:

Why is there something rather than nothing?

Gottfried Leibniz, Principles of Nature and of Grace

For Leibniz, all contingent (dependent) realities find their cause in God, who is a noncontingent, or necessary, reality. Leibniz’s question anticipated big bang cosmology, which implies a cosmic beginning.

3. Immanuel Kant (1724–1804)

Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher who deeply influenced Enlightenment thinking. He was a systematic philosopher who wrote in such fields as metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, political theory, and aesthetics. In developing his duty-oriented approach to objective ethics, he stated:

Always act so as to will the maxim of your action to become a universal law.

Immanuel Kant, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals

In affirming a nonconsequential approach to ethics, Kant believed that one could, in effect, universalize one’s ethical actions. Thus, Kant believed in an objective basis for ethics, which he grounded in God’s existence.

I hope this very brief introduction to some of philosophy’s greatest thinkers and their most important quotes will help you appreciate the unique discipline of philosophy and part of its history. Join me once more next week for the final post in this series on philosophy’s most famous quotations!

Reflections: Your Turn

Which one of the three quotes above do you find the most engaging? Why? Visit Reflectionson WordPress to comment with your response.

Resources

For more about the ideas of Descartes, Leibniz, and Kant in light of Christianity, see Christianity and Western Thought: A History of Philosophers, Ideas and Movements by Colin Brown and A History of Western Philosophy and Theology by John M. Frame.

About Reasons to Believe

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In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

BY JEFF ZWEERINK – FEBRUARY 23, 2018

Except for John 3:16, this is probably the most well-known verse in the Bible, and it highlights a number of distinctives important for the rest of Scripture. Maybe the most significant, Genesis 1:1 establishes that the universe had a beginning that God caused.

If we were transported to the late 1800s, we would learn that the prevailing scientific picture of the universe was that it had always existed. Matter and energy moved around in absolute space and eternal time. Since that time, the development of Einstein’s general theory of relativity, the discovery of the expansion of the universe, and the formulation of various space-time theorems (even ones that apply to hypothetical multiverses), strong scientific evidence points to a beginning for the universe. Given that I expect God’s revelation in Scripture and creation to agree, this result is entirely unsurprising—even though unexpected by scientists.

In Genesis 1 the Hebrew term for created, bara, carries the connotation that God brought something entirely new (the universe) into being rather than rearranging some preexisting stuff. Christian scholars through the ages have taken this description, along with many other passages throughout Scripture, to develop the doctrine of creation ex nihilo. This point warrants mention because skeptics will often dismiss the Genesis creation account by claiming it is derived from the Ancient Near Eastern myth, the Enuma Elish (see here and here). For example, both describe the transformation of chaos and the deep into a place for humanity to reside.

However, Ken Keathley (see video below) from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, articulates a more accurate view. Keathley notes that the author of Genesis—who I will assume is Moses—did a masterful job of contextualization. In other words, Moses allowed the audience to ask questions, used their grammar, but presented an answer that subverted the prevailing worldview. Specifically, where the deities of the Enuma Elish brought the heavens and earth into existence using the decapitated body of Tiamat, God brought the universe into existence out of nothing. Additionally, the Enuma Elish declares that humanity is created as slaves so the gods can rest. In contrast, the God of the Bible creates (bara, just like with the universe) humanity and then blesses us with dominion over the Earth and in fellowship with him.

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

Genesis 1:26

As described previously, Genesis 1:2 then moves the frame of reference from the universe to Earth’s surface and gives the initial conditions—formless, void, dark, and dominated by water. The rest of Genesis 1 (and all of Scripture for that matter) shows how time progresses in a linear fashion from that beginning. We take this for granted. However, many cultures throughout history thought time was circular, such that the events of creation were reactualized periodically. One recent example was the prediction of the end of the world by the Mayan calendar. Since the Mayans operated with a cyclical view of time, this generated quite a bit of concern among many people.

We take for granted that things begin, move linearly through time, and then end. This way of thinking so pervades the Western mindset that it is almost impossible to conceive of anyone thinking differently. This fact emphasizes one of Keathley’s main points. Moses’s contextualization was so effective that Moses is closer to our modern way of thinking than to his original audience. And that point separates the Bible from all the other Ancient Near Eastern myths.

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General Relativity and Its Christian Implications Pass Yet More Tests

 

 

BY HUGH ROSS – DECEMBER 18, 201

General relativity ranks as the best description of how the universe behaves. It explicitly incorporates the principle that the laws of physics never change throughout both space and time.

Proving the reliability of general relativity to precisely describe the dynamics (movements) of massive bodies in the universe is fundamental to establishing the space-time theorems.1 The cascading implications continue from there. These theorems prove the beginning (creation) of space and time. The creation of space and time implies the existence of a Creator beyond space and time, which uniquely describes the God of the Bible.

Such theological significance has prompted astronomers and physicists to subject general relativity to rigorous, exhaustive testing. Even though general relativity currently ranks as the most exhaustively tested and best-proven principle in physics, astronomers and physicists feel compelled by its philosophical implications to subject it to even more stringent tests.

In the last month, three research teams have taken two important tests of general relativity to much higher degrees of confirmation. The first such test is a sophisticated version of Galileo Galilei’s famous drop test. Galileo’s student Vincenzo Viviani reported that in 1590±1 AD,Galileo dropped two spheres of different masses from the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa (see image below) and proved that both masses fell at the same rate.

blog__inline--general-relativity-and-its-christian-implications-1Figure 1: Leaning Tower of Pisa Where Galileo Proved Gravity Causes All Objects to Fall at the Same Rate. Image credit: Saffron Blaze, Wikipedia Commons

Equivalence Principle Test
All viable theories of gravity predict that objects of different masses, independent of air resistance, will fall at the same approximate rate. General relativity, however, predicts that the rates will be exactly equivalent. Physicists call this the equivalence principle.

Galileo proved the equivalence principle to about 1 part in 100. The best laboratory experiments establish the equivalence principle to about 2 parts in 10 trillion.2 We’ve come a long way since Galileo in terms of establishing the accuracy of the equivalence principle. A similar limit was achieved using lunar laser ranging measurements that showed a lack of differential acceleration between the Moon and Earth toward the Sun.3

On April 25, 2016, the Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES), France’s space agency, launched the MICROSCOPE satellite. On board the satellite were two accelerometers (see image below). In one of the accelerometers was a cylinder made of an aluminum-titanium alloy. In the other was a cylinder made of a much denser platinum-rhodium alloy.

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Figure 2: Twin Space Accelerometer for Gravity Experiment (SAGE) Payload Canisters.Image credit: Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES)

As the satellite orbits Earth, the two cylinders are in continuous free fall. Electrodes keep the cylinders centered inside the accelerometers by applying tiny voltages to the cylinders. These voltages were accurately measured to determine if there are any differences between the two applied voltages. After more than 1,500 orbits the MICROSCOPE mission research team found no such differences. In a preprint accepted for publication in Physical Review Letters the research team comprised of forty-four physicists from France, Germany, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom reported that the lack of such differences established the equivalence principle to 1 part in 100 trillion.4 This measure is a factor of 20 times superior to the best previous test.

The MICROSCOPE satellite is scheduled for at least another 900 orbits. By then, the MICROSCOPE mission research team hopes to test the equivalence principle to 1 part in a quadrillion. A proposed Italian satellite would push the test to 1 part in 100 quadrillion. Stanford University physicists have proposed a satellite featuring noise-reducing cryogenics that would yield a test accurate to 1 part in a quintillion.

Is all this testing necessary? Lay readers may wonder, how much more testing of the equivalence principle does general relativity require beyond Galileo’s drop test experiments? While the overall validity of general relativity is affirmed by astronomers and physicists, several of them speculate about tiny adjustments to general relativity, some of which have significant philosophical consequences. Therefore, placing more stringent limits on such possible adjustments has implications for science, philosophy, and theology.

Lorentz Invariance Tests
General relativity also predicts a fundamental symmetry known as Lorentz invariance. Lorentz invariance, named after early twentieth century Dutch physicist Hendrik Lorentz, states that the laws of physics are invariant under a transformation between two coordinate frames moving at constant velocity with respect to one another. To put it simply, it means that physical measurements will not depend on either the speed or the orientation of the laboratory’s reference frame. To put it even more simply, it says that while the universe is not invariant, the laws of physics are.

Two research teams using independent methods have now put the most stringent constraints on possible violations of Lorentz invariance. Three physicists at Carleton College, Minnesota, used superconducting gravimeter measurements to test local Lorentz invariance.5Specifically, they looked for local gravitational acceleration by carefully measuring the position of a superconducting sphere levitated in a magnetic field. (You can watch such an experiment here.) Compared to the previous best gravimeter results, the Carleton College team determined upper limits on possible violations of Lorentz invariance that were more than 10 times smaller.

The second research team comprised of six physicists and astronomers from the University of Bologna, Italy, the Paris Observatory, and the University of California, Los Angeles, analyzed48 years of data from lunar laser-ranging experiments.6 These experiments involve laser beams from Earth being bounced off mirrors placed on the Moon’s surface by Apollo 11 and 14 astronauts (see figures 3 and 4 below) to accurately measure the Moon’s orbital and rotational motions. This team placed upper limits on possible violations of Lorentz invariance that were 100–1,000 times better than the previous best determinations.

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Figure 3: Lunar Laser Reflector Placed on the Moon by Apollo 11 Astronauts. Image credit: NASA

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Figure 4: Lunar Ranging at Goddard Spaceflight Center. Image credit: NASA

What Do the Tests Imply?
General relativity passed all three tests described here with outstanding success. Physicists have speculated about alternate gravity theories to general relativity, but the three tests establish that all that remains of these alternate theories are the ones that adjust the predictions of general relativity only very, very slightly.

Thus, the predictions of general relativity relevant to establishing that the God of the Bible created our universe of matter, energy, space, and time stand more securely affirmed than ever before. No basis remains for doubting any of the theological conclusions dependent upon the reliability of general relativity.

Featured image: The MICROSCOPE Satellite Designed to Test the Equivalence Principle of General Relativity. Image credit: Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES)

Endnotes
  1. I discuss the space-time theorems in my book Why the Universe Is the Way It Is. In the fourth edition of my book The Creator and the Cosmos (release date early 2018), I demonstrate why the space-time theorems are valid both for classical general relativity and also for the extremely early moment in cosmic history where general relativity is modified by quantum mechanics (the quantum gravity era).
  2. T. A. Wagner et al., “Torsion-Balance Tests of the Weak Equivalence Principle,” Classical and Quantum Gravity 29 (August 15, 2012): id.184002, doi:10.1088/0264-9381/29/18/184002.
  3. James G. Williams, Slava G. Turyshev, and Dale H. Boggs, “Lunar Laser Ranging Tests of the Equivalence Principle,” Classical and Quantum Gravity 29 (August 15, 2012); id.184004, doi:10.1088/0264-9381/29/18/184004.
  4. Pierre Touboul et al., “The MICROSCOPE Mission: First Results of a Space Test of the Equivalence Principle,” preprint, submitted December 6, 2017, accepted for publication in Physical Review LettersarXiv:1712.01176v2.
  5. Natasha A. Flowers, Casey Goodge, and Jay D. Tasson, “Superconducting-Gravimeter Tests of Local Lorentz Invariance,” Physical Review Letters 119 (November 16, 2017): id. 201101, doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.119.201101.
  6. Adrien Bourgoin et al., “Lorentz Symmetry Violations from Matter-Gravity Couplings with Lunar Laser Ranging,” Physical Review Letters 119 (November 16, 2017): id. 201102, doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.119.201102.

About Reasons to Believe

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Love Is in the Air and It Smells Like Intelligent Design

 

    BY FAZALE RANA

       – FEBRUARY 14, 2018

    Being the hopeless romantic, I worked hard last year to come up with just the right thing to say to my wife on Valentine’s Day. I decided to let my lovely bride know that I really liked her signaling traits. Sadly, that didn’t go over so well.

    This year, I think I am going to tell my wife that I like the way she smells.

    I don’t know how Amy will receive my romantic overture, but I do know that scientific research explains the preference I have for my wife’s odors—it reflects the composition of a key component of her immune system, specifically her major histocompatibility complex. And, my wife’s immune system really turns me on.

    Odor Preference and Immune System Composition

    Why am I so attracted to my wife’s scents, and hence, the composition of her immune system? Several studies help explain the connection.

    In a highly cited study, researchers had men sleep in the same T-shirt for several nights in a row. Then, they asked women to rank the T-shirts according to odor preference. As it turns out, women had the greatest preference for the odor of T-shirts worn by men who had MHC genes that were the most dissimilar to theirs.

    In another oft-cited study, researchers had 121 men and women rank the pleasantness of T-shirt odors and found that the ones they most preferred displayed odors that were most similar to those of their partners. Based on the results of another related study, it appears that this odor preference reflects dissimilarities in immune systems. Researchers discovered that the genetic differences in the MHC genes for 90 married couples were far more extensive than for 152 couples made up by randomly combining partners.

    Body Odor and the Immune System

    So, how does odor reflect the composition of the MHC genes? Researchers believe that the breakdown products from the MHC during the normal turnover of cellular components serves as the connection between the immune system and body odors.

    The MHC is a protein complex that resides on the cell surface. This protein complex binds proteins derived from pathogens after these organisms have infected the host cell and, in turn, displays them on the cell surface for recognition by the cells of the immune system.

     

    blog__inline--love-is-in-the-air-and-it-smells-like-intelligent-design

    Association of Pathogen Proteins with MHCs

    Image credit: By Scray (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org.licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

    Organisms possess a large number of MHC variants, making the genes that code the MHCs some of the most diverse in the human genome. Because the MHCs bind proteins derived from pathogens, the greater the diversity of MHC genes, the greater the capacity to respond to infectious agents.

    As part of the normal turnover of cellular components, the MHCs are constantly being broken down and replaced. When this happens, protein fragments from the MHCs become dispersed throughout the body, winding up in the blood, saliva, and urine. Some researchers think that the microbes in the mouth and on the skin surface lining body cavities metabolize the MHC breakdown products leading to the production of odorants. And these odors tell us something about the immune system of our potential partners.

    Advantages of Having a Partner with Dissimilar MHC Genes

    When men and women with dissimilar MHC genes pair up, it provides a significant advantage to their children. Why? Because parental MHC gene dissimilarity translates into the maximal genetic diversity for the MHC genes of their children. And, as already noted, the more diverse the MHC genes, the greater the resistance to pathogens and parasites.

    The attraction between mates with dissimilar immune genes is not limited to human beings. This phenomenon has been observed throughout the animal kingdom. And from studying mate attraction of animals, we can come to appreciate the importance of MHC gene diversity. For example, one study demonstrated that salmon raised in hatcheries displayed a much more limited genetic diversity for their MHC genes than salmon that live in the wild. As it turns out, hatchery-raised salmon are four times more likely to be infected with pathogens than those found in the wild.

    Is Love Nothing More than Biochemistry?

    Does the role odor preference plays in mate selection mean that love is merely an outworking of physiological mechanisms? Does it mean that there is not a spiritual dimension to the love we feel toward our partners? Does it mean that human beings are merely physical creatures? If so, does this type of discovery undermine the biblical view of humanity?

    Hardly. In fact, this discovery makes perfect sense within a Christian worldview.

    In his book The Biology of Sin, neuroscientist Matthew Stanford presents a model that helps make sense of these types of discoveries. Stanford points out that Scripture teaches that human beings are created as both material and immaterial beings, possessing a physical body and nonphysical mind and spirit. Instead of being a “ghost in the machine,” our material and immaterial natures are intertwined, interacting with each other. It is through our bodies (including our brain), that we interact with the physical world around us. The activities of our brain influence the activities of our mind (where our thoughts, feelings, and emotions are housed), and vice versa. It is through our spirit that we have union with God. Spiritual transformation can influence our brain’s activities and how we think; also, how and what we think can influence our spirit.

    So, in light of Stanford’s model, we can make sense of how love can be both a physical and spiritual experience while preserving the biblical view of human nature.

    Smells Like Intelligent Design

    Clearly, the attraction between two people extends beyond body odor and other physical processes and features. Still, the connection between body odor and the composition of the MHC genes presents itself as an ingenious, elegant way to ensure that animal populations (and human beings) are best positioned to withstand the assaults of pathogens. As an old-earth creationist, this insight is exactly what I would expect, attracting me to the view that life on Earth, including human life, is the product of Divine handiwork.

    Now, I am off to the chocolatier to get my wife a box of her favorite chocolates for Valentine’s Day. I don’t want her to decide that I stink as a husband.

    Resources

    About Reasons to Believe

    RTB’s mission is to spread the Christian Gospel by demonstrating that sound reason and scientific research—including the very latest discoveries—consistently support, rather than erode, confidence in the truth of the Bible and faith in the personal, transcendent God revealed in both Scripture and nature. Learn More »

    Support Reasons to Believe

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    Inner Sanctuary Of The Mind As Related To Invasion Of Privacy; A Threat To Our Democracy

    By Will Myers

    The inner sanction of the mind could be thought as being our personal relationship with our Creator; a relationship of love that is in the best interest of the person from alpha to omega in all things. The inner sanctuary of the mind is closely related to the needed privacy for our psychological thought processes and our feeling of security. The inner sanctuary of the mind is likened to the holy of holies of each individual.

    “God is love.” Love emanates from the inner sanctuary of the mind but is corrupted by the world. God’s love is one of perfection. Any attempt by any social machinery to enter the holy of holies is rejected by the mind.

    “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but does not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing;” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.

    “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” (1 Corinthians 13:3-6)

    Our democratic political system is more than candidates and voting apparatus. It promises the freedom to seek one’s happiness, but we have a growing snake organization that orchestrates adversities into the lives of private citizens. The coming of age social activities brings one into manhood or sisterhood with the neighbors and one finds relative peace and comradery with the neighbors, the snake organization that targets private citizens and moves into the inner sanctuary of the mind is a government that is devilish and knows no peace or happiness. As a matter fact, it steals happiness.

    Social machinery allowing for invasion into the inner sanctuary of each citizen exist now. a soon coming police state; the mind-reader..new, sophisticated surveillance, and monitoring machinery. By the date of 2080, the police shall show up before the crime is committed. This would eliminate almost all crimes, but other social ills shall affect the populace. The major likenesses are noted in the biblical book of Revelations.

    The Oligarchy of the industrialized nations are uniting and they do not desire the democratic ways. They desire more control over the working class. We can not police the snake organization because it is too much of our collective nature including the fact that we would seriously breach our freedom of speech. Only the Spirit of Christ Jesus can save our free democracy.

    The Golden Rule…respecting one’s being and not offending the true spirit of the human being… “Do unto Others as you would have them do unto you;” Luke 6:31.

    The nature of the snake organization is defined in Ephesians 6:12; “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

    [This article is an introduction to a thick book, “Redzone 2084”, which treats the subject in detail.]

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    Have Quantum Physicists Disproved the Big Bang?

    The Word Of God holds true from alpha to omega.

    Intelligent Design and Biblical Scripture

    Since February 10, the media have been abuzz with the story that two quantum physicists have “corrected” Einstein’s theory of general relativity to demonstrate that the big bang never happened. The two physicists—Ahmed Farag Ali (a professor at Benha University in Egypt) and Saurya Das (a professor at University of Lethbridge in Alberta)—claim the universe might have existed forever. Their paper, “Cosmology from Quantum Potential,” first appeared as a preprint in April 2014 and was published in Physics Letters B in February 2015.1 Anyone can read the entire paper free of charge.

    As you can well imagine, concerned believers have bombarded my Facebook pagewith questions. Has one of Christianity’s core beliefs (“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”) just been falsified? Did the Bible get it wrong about the beginning of the universe? Is God irrelevant?…

    View original post 1,296 more words

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    Christ Calls All Christians to Unity

    BY ANJEANETTE ROBERTS – JULY 28, 2016

    The other day, I heard a couple of my colleagues discussing the similarities and differences in the major Abrahamic religions’ views of God. How similar and dissimilar is the Christian God from the Muslim God or the Jewish God? One of my colleagues, pushing the dissimilarity issue, said that he wondered whether Presbyterians worship the same God as the Baptists, or the Assemblies of God, or the Episcopalians. I mischievously chimed in at that point, questioning whether any of us actually worship the same God. Do any of us have the same view or an exact understanding of God?

    Understanding Precedes Unity

    As he and I pushed the issue to its extreme, I was reminded of a course I took several years ago. It was a survey course (Elements of Christian Thought) that looked at Christians through the ages and how each of their unique viewpoints and life experiences have contributed to the understanding of Christian faith through subsequent ages and in various cultures.

    A diversity of voices filled our readings and class discussions, including Athanasius (ca. 297–373), Augustine (354–430), the Cappadocian Fathers (fourth century), Cyril of Alexandria (ca. 376–444), Anselm of Canterbury (ca. 1033–1109), Martin Luther (1483–1546), John Calvin (1509–1564), Karl Barth (1886–1968), Rudolf Bultmann (1884–1976), Kallistos Ware (1934–), and Kathryn Tanner (1957–). Each claimed grounding, to some extent, in faith in Jesus Christ and the Christian Scriptures. And each expressed their Christian faith while seeking to understand how it fit within their experiences of reality and within their particular cultures.

    Elements of Christian Thought not only challenged each student to understand how these historical figures had defined their faith but called for each of us to do the same. And it revealed the truth of our discussion: ultimately, we each have different views and experiences. So, how can we say we share a common Christian faith?

    Unity in our faith is crucial. It is at the heart of Jesus’s high priestly prayer in John 17:20–23 (NLT):

    I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.

    The centrality and critical importance of unity based in love is further highlighted in Jesus’s words in Matthew 22:37–40 and John 13:34–35, where he says that loving God and loving each other are the two greatest commandments.

    Love Is Central to Unity

    Jesus knows that love is central to unity and to our witness to the world. No doubt that same thought is at the heart of the quote often misattributed to Augustine: “In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

    This theme dates back to the earliest church writings and is often repeated throughout the New Testament (e.g., “love covers over a multitude of sins,” “Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love,” or “owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another”). And in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul penned an especially powerful call to unity (Ephesians 4:3–6, NLT):

    Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all.

    So Jesus puts unity in his prayer for those who would follow him, and Paul says we are to make every effort to keep united in the Spirit, rightly setting this endeavor in the context of humility, gentleness, and love. In light of these verses, how are we to respond to the disunity and acrimonious comments that are expressed between some Christians?

    Love and Unity Require Effort and Humility

    Some of the most conflict-ridden public dialogue among Christians transpires between those who hold various views of science and creation. The theistic evolution or evolutionary creationism camp is constantly in conflict with the young-earth creationists (YECs), who are, in turn, in conflict with them and the day-age/old-earth/progressive creationists (OECs). Theistic evolution proponents (TEs) believe that OECs don’t understand evolution, and TEs and OECs believe YECs don’t understand science or take it seriously enough. And then there are those who are less engaged in the sciences and prefer a more allegorical or framework approach to understanding scriptural references to the creation accounts. Each Christ-follower should ask, What does this conflict do for the witness of Christ in the world and to the call of Christians to seek truth, seek God, and make every effort to maintain unity? Such acerbic conflict is a major blemish on our Christian witness and one from which each of us should humbly seek to repent for our part.

    Science is a quest for truth. Following Jesus is a commitment to seek and follow the Truth. God is the author of all creation and the arbiter of all that is true. He wants us to know him and be reconciled to him. For this, he has made great and costly provisions. He has chosen to reveal himself through creation (Romans 1:20), the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 2:10–16), and the Incarnation of Jesus (Colossians 1:15–23). As we seek truth in our world and our faith, we should do so with humility and with the hope that the God who wants to be known will harmonize the truths that we discover about his creation and his character. Whether we study nature via science or Scripture via reason and faith, we should all look to the author and perfecter of our faith and lay aside nonessential differences to maintain unity in our witness of Jesus Christ to a lost and broken world.

    Therefore, though we each have different views and experiences, let us love one another and pursue truth, peace, and unity. Will you join me in praying for the unity of Christ’s followers, especially among those who work in the overlapping areas of science and faith?

    Note: I wrote this blog before attending the Dabar Conference Creation Project at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. The conference’s focus this year was “Reading Genesis in the Age of Science.” Following that meeting and the ASA annual meeting earlier this week, I am even more convinced of the deep need for and value of gracious dialogue among a diversity of Christian theologians, biblical scholars, and scientists seeking unity for the sake of the gospel to a watching world.

    Resources

    • For more on unity and disunity in the church, read my colleague Kenneth Samples’s five-part article “Examining Christian Disunity” (part 1part 2part 3part 4part 5).

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