Two Themes from

An Evangelical Stance:

A Professor in Dialogue with His Faith


Gary D. Patterson

Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh, PA 15213

          One of the fruits of more than 40 years of study and discussion of the relationship of science and Christianity is the forthcoming book: "An Evangelical Stance." The present talk will explore two of the themes from this book: 1) An Evangelical Natural Philosophy, 2) An Evangelical Anthropology.  The presentation will be brief, but an attempt will be made to explore the flavor of the complete work.

 An Evangelical Natural Philosophy

           While there have been periods in history when space and time were considered absolute quantities independent of anything, including God, an Evangelical stance is that both space and time were created by God to regulate the physical world.  A more modern approach to Spacetime is instantiated in the theory of general relativity (Ohanian and Ruffini, 1994) and its application to the history of the universe. A thoroughly Evangelical example (Page, 2005) of this field is provided by Professor Don Page of the University of Alberta, a former student and postdoctoral Fellow with Stephen Hawking (Hawking and Penrose, 1996). There is often a human tendency to hold on to outmoded ways of describing physical reality. This tendency is also encouraged by religious leaders who stake a claim to an archaic form of science.  We should be ready to follow the Truth wherever it may be found, but not in a hurry to embrace every "new" thing. While the details of natural philosophy constantly change, and the attempts to create a coherent ontology are only provisional, an Evangelical stance is that the human activity known today as science is valuable and contributes to our physical and spiritual wellbeing.

          The current ontology of the universe is almost completely foreign to most clergy and their parishioners. It is even dimly perceived by most professional scientists, including this one. The latest announcement is that at least 90% of the universe contains "dark" matter and energy (Nicolson, 2007). If we are ignorant of most of physical reality, it behooves us to be especially humble when making pronouncements about what "can" and "cannot" happen!  I predict that we will continue to discover that physical reality is more complex and more interesting than we ever imagined. A challenge for both scientists and theologians is to remain truly open to the present so that all of the known facts and ideas of human history can be employed to produce the best current picture.

           The currently accepted scenario for the early history of the universe, the "Big Bang", has no competing views with wide devotion (Hogan, 1998). Before a very short time, known as the Planck time, the universe was very small. Very soon a dramatic event took place known as the "inflation." (Guth,1997)  After this period, matter as we know it became more common. As the universe expanded, the light that filled the system also kept expanding and today we can see the current state of this process as the microwave background radiation that fills the universe (Smoot, 2007). The "Big Bang" theory is based on observations in the present that allow us to infer events in the past. This approach is the basis for the human activity known as Natural History. No such reconstruction can be granted the status of certainty, but in the early 21st century, no wise Christian will denigrate the "Big Bang" theory if they wish to have any credibility in the public square. Observation of the spectrum of visible light from the stars has allowed astronomers to infer the motion and location of distant galaxies and to estimate an age for the universe, 13.7 billion years. (Snoke, 1998)  Christians assert that God is the Creator of this Universe (Heb. 11:3); wise Christians look at the actual universe to find out what God has actually created. A clear and inspiring vision of a Christian cosmology is presented in the book, "God's Universe." (Gingerich, 2007).

          The conceptual framework for the description of the universe includes several conservation principles and the laws of Thermodynamics. The assertion that energy is conserved (a form of the First Law of Thermodynamics) has proven to be highly fruitful in the history of physics; new forms of energy have been identified, including mass-energy. The Second Law of Thermodynamics introduces a physical quantity known as the entropy. In a closed system, either the state is already one of equilibrium, in which case entropy is conserved and maximized, or it is not, in which case the entropy increases until equilibrium is reached. The thermodynamic state function known as the entropy is an explicit and monotonically increasing function of the total energy and volume of a macroscopic equilibrium system. There are no known violations of the Second Law, but there are constant denigrations of this principle in certain theological circles. Wise Christians follow the advice of Augustine and refuse to utter nonsense in public on subjects about which they know little or nothing. Equating a foundational physical quantity with a moral category, such as sin, betrays a profound misunderstanding of both science and theology. An extensive discussion of this subject is contained in the web document "In Praise of Entropy." (Patterson) As the universe expanded and cooled, low energy states of matter became more likely. Another important phenomenon also became more evident: local fluctuations led to local inhomogeneities. This process continues to this day and we can be viewed in cosmic context as a local fluctuation. For those for whom this is the only relevant context, humankind is a meaningless anomaly in a highly nonequilibrium local state of the universe. But, there are a very large number of other contexts that matter to most Evangelicals.

          Another important paradigm in modern physics is quantum mechanics. Matter behaves in nonintuitive ways when it is very small and very light. It is no longer useful to talk about point particles, because every bit of matter has a "size" that depends on its mass and relative velocity, and its location and momentum are related in the famous "uncertainty principle." A statement about the variance in measurements of position and momentum has often been co-opted as a theological or philosophical statement about the inherent nature of physical reality.  Since ambiguity is often welcomed by theologians, the "uncertainty principle" of quantum mechanics has often been invoked as the "secret" to understanding psychological concepts such as consciousness or theological concepts such as "free will."  A clear statement of the physics of quantum mechanics and its relevance to theology has been given by John Polkinghorne. (Polkinghorne, 2007)  He understands both physics and faith at the deepest levels and I can recommend any of his many books.  An Evangelical stance is that, while every field of human thought can be mined for inspiration and analogy, it is wise to avoid conflating precise scientific concepts with vague theological constructs: it is both bad science and bad theology.

          The state of ordinary matter more than a billion years after the "Big Bang" was mostly a mixture of hydrogen and helium.  If it had stayed this way, life as we know it would never have appeared.  The complex world we see today was not a necessary outcome of the mixture of H and He.  For those for whom the present can only be viewed as a completely determined result of the past, an atheistic "miracle" had to happen.  While miracles can be bravely denied and elegantly dismissed by the cold hand of philosophy, there is no good reason why we are here, from a strictly physical perspective.  However, astronomical observations do record what actually happened.  As first generation stars collapsed under their own gravity, after the initial nuclear reactions had reached equilibrium, new nuclear reactions occurred at the higher pressures and temperatures of the supernova, and chemistry as we know it was born(Arnett, 1996).  I choose to give thanks to God for these explosions and to study the nuclei more complex than hydrogen and helium.  One of the more miserable efforts of some Christians in the 21st century is an attack on nuclear chemistry.  While the principles of this discipline are very firmly established(Friedlander, 1981), some Christians seem to think they can just shout that no one knows how radioactivity works and that we should reject the decay rates for such nuclei measured in the laboratory.  The net effect of this effort is to completely marginalize such Christians in the public square.  It also tarnishes local congregations since thinking Christians are placed in tension between legitimate science and obscurantist ideologues.  More discussion of this topic is contained in the book, "Science and Christianity: Four Views."(Carlson, 2000)

          While many of the details of the formation of our own solar system are still vague, the timescale appears to have reached a stable estimate of 4.5 billion years.  We continue to learn new things about our solar system every year.  Its actual history is more complex and more interesting than we can imagine.  The earliest years were very chaotic, and violent collisions dominated the local dynamics.  Eventually, a chunk of matter we now call Earth and a highly related chunk of matter we now call the Moon reached a stable orbital arrangement.  But, why are they so different today?  Nuclear reactions continue to happen regularly in the interior of the earth, as well as complex chemical reactions.  The atmosphere of the earth has changed substantially over its history.  And the surface of the earth continues to change due to physical, chemical and biological processes.  The present earth shows the marks of its history and allows reasonable conjectures to be formulated about its history.  While the Psalms are not a science textbook, a good stance for Christians is contained in Psalm 148: "Praise the Lord from the earth, ye dragons and all deeps: Fire and hail; snow and vapors; stormy wind fulfilling his word."  The great age of Earth Science is right now!  The history of the earth is more complex and more interesting than we can imagine.  The attempt of some Christians to reduce all of Earth Science to a focus on the "Genesis Flood" does a great disservice to the Faith.  Evangelical Christians were in the forefront of Earth Science and Chemistry at the beginning of the 19th century.  It is time to free present Christians to pursue the study of God's good Earth!

          One of the wonders of Natural History is the rapid appearance of life on the Earth.  The present remnants of stromatolite colonies are dated at more than three billion years old.  Christians believe that all life owes its existence to God.  Wise Christians look at the present evidence of current and former living creatures to find out what God has actually done.  A beautiful summary of the appropriate stance for an Evangelical Christian towards the biological world has been published by Frances Collins in his book "The Language of God."(Collins, 2006)  Following the DNA that we can observe today has led to a unified picture of the biological world. A deeper appreciation of biology only increases our admiration for our Creator.  The richness and diversity of the biological world is a never-ending source of joy for the Christian naturalist.  Many of the most famous 19th century naturalists were devout Christians.  One of my favorite naturalists wrote Psalm 147.  It is time to praise God for the richness of life on earth and to truly appreciate the details of what He has done.

          As mentioned in Chapter 7, God created matter Good.  But what does this mean in our current context?  Rain still falls on the just and the unjust.  We live in a highly nonequilibrium system.  The miracle is not that there are fluctuations in such a system; the surprise is that life can be sustained at all.  What conceptual paradigm is appropriate for our understanding of the natural world?  John Polkinghorne(Polkinghorne, 1997) likes to generalize the properties of our world as faithful and flexible. If our world was not faithful, no life would be possible, since reproduction would not be effective.  If our world was not flexible, no life would be possible, since it could not adapt to a changing environment.  Ungrateful atheists may rail against the world we actually inhabit, but a rigid or a chaotic world would never achieve life at all.  Surprisingly, many Christians join the chorus of complaint about our physical world.  An Evangelical stance is that we should be grateful for the life we currently enjoy and hopeful about the life we will share with Jesus in eternity.

          The physical world can be described in terms of two basic concepts: Structure and Dynamics.  For reasons that are not completely clear to me, many Christians are attracted to notions of "perfect" structure.  Greek Christians were tempted to view God as spherical, since the sphere was the perfect shape.  Our actual world is characterized by a very complex structure.  Does this mean it is bad!?  Greek philosophers were impressed with the virtue of stasis.  Change was bad!  We live in a world of constant change.  Does this mean our world is bad!?  While there may be many things of value in Greek philosophy, the natural philosophy of this era leaves much to be desired.  The sad fact is that many Christians feel bound by the errors of Aristotle, since it has been sold as Christian orthodoxy.  An Evangelical stance is that Christians should not feel bound by any system of natural philosophy, but they should be aware of the current state of discussion.  We should be thankful for the gift of life and busy in the active management of the good earth.  We are stewards of God's creation and we should remember our Creator in all that we do.  While we should love God first, we show our devotion by our faithful care over the earth and its inhabitants.

          The current understanding of physical reality has always inspired an appreciation of the Creator: "The heavens declare the Glory of God and the firmament showeth his handywork." (Ps. 19:1)  What kind of God is revealed by our current science?  Theologians such as Nancey Murphy, Alister McGrath and Alan Padgett have all reflected on this question.  While the power of God has been a consistent theme throughout history, the present science features his subtlety.  While Greek theology emphasized God's simplicity, modern science emphasizes the complexity of the Creator.  Some theologies emphasize the discontinuous nature of creation ex nihilo, while current science features the continuity and patience of God.  We should not think that one perspective alone does justice to God; multiple views are necessary to even create a dim view of his majesty!  No attempt to produce a tight little system should keep us from appreciating the grandeur of God.

          An even deeper issue is raised by Nancey Murphy and George Ellis.(Murphy, 1996)  This world is a place of suffering.  Why would God create such a place?  They embrace the reality to infer that God is actively involved in the suffering of the universe.  Henri Blocher suggests that God chose to create a world where evil could be defeated in the death and resurrection of Jesus.(Blocher, 1994)  This kenotic view of the Incarnation and Resurrection is mirrored in the physical universe as well.  It may be a great mystery, but it is an Evangelical stance that we should try to understand the world God actually created rather than complain about the world we would have made.  The God revealed in the Bible is the same God that created the universe.  Better science has helped us envision a more satisfying picture of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.


 Arnett, David "Supernovae and Nucleosynthesis" (Princeton, Princepton University Press, 1996)

Blocher, Henri "Evil and the Cross" (Downers Grove, IV Press, 1994)

Carlson, R.F., Ed. "Science and Christianity: Four Views" (Downers Grove, IV Press, 2000)

Collins , Francis S. "The Language of God" (New York, Free Press, 2006)

Friedlander, Gerhardt, Joseph W. Kennedy, Edward S. Macias and Julian Malcolm Miller "Nuclear and Radiochemistry" (New York, John Wiley and Sons, 1981)

Gingerich , Owen "God's Universe" (Cambridge, MA, The Belknap Press, 2006)

Guth, Alan H. "The Inflationary Universe" (New York, Basic Books, 1997)

Hawking , Stephen and Roger Penrose "The Nature of Space and Time" (Princeton, N.J., Princeton University Press, 1996)

Hogan, Craig I. "The Little Book of the Big Bang" (Copernicus, 1998)

McGrath, Alister "Science and Religion: An Introduction" (Oxford, Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 1999)

Murphy, Nancey "Theology in the Age of Scientific Reasoning" (Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1990)

Murphy, Nancey and George F. R. Ellis "On the Moral Nature of the Universe" (Minneapolis, Fortress Press, 1996)

Nicolson, Iain "Dark Side of the Universe" (Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins Press, 2007)

Ohanian, Hans C. and Remo Ruffini "Gravitation and Spacetime" (New York, W.W. Norton, 1994)

Page, Don N. "Hawking radiation and black hole thermodynamics" New Journal of Physics, 7, (2005) 203.

Patterson , Gary "In Praise of Entropy"

Polkinghorne , John "Quarks, Chaos and Christianity" (New York,Crossroad,1997)

Polkinghorne , John "Quantum Physics and Theology: An Unexpected Kinship" (London, Yale University Press, 2007).

Smoot, George and Keay Davidson "Wrinkles in Time" (New York, Harper Perennial, 2007)

Snoke, David "A Biblical Case for an Old Earth" (Hatfield, PA, IBRI, 1998)

An Evangelical Anthropology

"What is man, that thou are mindful of him?

And the son of man, that thou visitest him?

For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels,

And hast crowned him with glory and honour.

Thou madest him have dominion over the works of thy hands;

Thou hast put all things under his feet."(Ps. 8:4-6)

          An Evangelical anthropology starts with God and our relationship to Him. We have been created by Him in order to have fellowship with Him. We have been made "in His image" and are expected to administer the Earth in His stead. The simple faith expressed in these verses should never be forgotten in the swamps of scholarship that will follow in this essay. It is my belief that our Faith is strengthened by looking at what God has actually done, rather than founding our doctrinal thoughts on figurative Psalms alone. The nature of humankind is an area of scholarship that is currently in flux in both science and theology. Especially in such a time it is important to identify an appropriate stance.

          The history of humankind on the Earth has now achieved some kind of scholarly consensus. This does not make it true, as any scholarship is contingent, but it behooves wise Christians to know what is believed by the scholarly community. Skeletal remains of humanoid creatures have now been recovered from a wide range of locations on Earth. The oldest remains are dated in the 1,000,000 year range. Does this mean that homo sapiens sapiens have been around for a million years? The current view is that a wide variety of creatures have populated the Earth and that our own species appeared around 200,000 years ago. There are other humanoid species such as Neanderthals that also existed at that time. There are no known Neanderthals living today. However, the heterogeneity of the current human population is quite large. Is it the bones that define humans? Christians should embrace historical realities, but should never forget the words of Psalm 35:10 : "All my bones shall say, Lord, who is like unto thee." One Christian scientist that is intimately acquainted with bones is Peter Dodson, Professor of Gross Anatomy at the University of Pennsylvania.(Dodson, 1999)

          Conditions on the surface of the Earth are constantly changing. The mean temperature of the Earth has undergone drastic changes during the 200,000 years of human existence. Few cultural artifacts have been recovered that are much older than 20,000 years, the end of the last Ice Age. One type of evidence of human activity that has been preserved is paintings in caves. Signs of an affective mental life are one of the defining features of our species. Other animals do not appear to paint pictures. Another important locus for human activity is burial sites. All animals die, but humans take the time to remember and sometimes preserve the dead. The importance of Art and Religion in the consideration of humanity cannot be overemphasized. Both are clear signs of our place as made in the image of God. The free creativity of Art reveals the spirit of humanity at its best, and unfortunately, its worst. But, Christians should embrace the expression of our humanity in Art, since it was given to them by God. Death is one of the surest facts of existence. It could be ignored as inevitable, but Christians choose to remember the death of Jesus and to commemorate the deaths of all His saints. I do not think it is an accident that death is a part of human existence; it is part of God's plan for His people: "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints."(Ps. 116:15)

          We live in an age of cowardice; taking responsibility for ourselves is definitely out of vogue. We are all either "victims" or "mentally ill abusers". Sorting out the psyche in our time is big business, but the level of confusion is horrendous. On one side of the scholarly debate are the biological "determinists" who think that we are our genes and that everything we do is programmed in advance. Even a casual perusal of the Bible reveals that this is not acceptable to children of God. However, the insights of evolutionary psychology cannot be dismissed entirely; every person is influenced by biological factors that affect our psychology and our behavior. Ignoring the realities of human biology is not an acceptable stance for an Evangelical Christian. We should seek to know the best of current biology, but not be eager to rush to judgment. We can confidently assert that before this book goes to print, the current view of human biology will change. But, the message of the Bible is that these factors do not "determine" who we are or what we do. Another form of determinism focuses on social factors in our personal history. We are then programmed by our parents and our society to do the awful things that are reported with increasing frequency in our news media. Fobbing off our sins as normal aspects of human society will not work in a Biblical world. We are subjected to malignant forces in society and there is tremendous pressure to commit some form of idolatry. But, we are not forced to sin; we choose to do it.(Rom. 7)  An Evangelical stance is that there are demonic forces in our world and we are subjected to malevolent influences, but the power of the Holy Spirit is also available to Christians, just as to Jesus. From my perspective, any form of Christian Determinism is unacceptable.

          The other side of the divide is occupied by the "Americans."  "I am the captain of my soul; I am the master of my fate." Untrammeled free will is promoted as the answer to every ill. The goal of many people in our time is self-realization. There is a great desire to be "true to ourselves." Biological and social factors are ignored in the rush to become "all that we can be." Spiritual factors are ignored as well.  Health and wealth are freely available to anyone who truly believes (and sends in a big enough donation). Even the largest association of Evangelicals openly welcomes the spiritual hucksters. Is there a simple path in the jungle? An Evangelical stance is that we should take into account all we know about physics, chemistry, biology, psychology and sociology, but it must be integrated into the framework provided by the Bible. We should resist the temptation to worship any human perspective that dehumanizes us or tries to rob us of the place given to us by God Himself. We are God's representatives on the Earth, and we must tend the Garden with integrity. We must take responsibility for our own actions. It is not possible for humans to avoid mistakes, but we can admit them and seek to correct the damage.

          Humans are highly complex and must be described on many levels. From a strictly physical perspective, humans are highly nonequilibium open systems. Energy is constantly radiating from each one of us as infrared light. Gaseous matter is constantly being exchanged with our environment. Upon occasion, large inputs of liquid or solid matter are ingested or excreted. The systems biology and chemistry description of humans is now very detailed, and should not be forgotten in the subsequent discussion, but the main function of these processes is to provide energy for higher-level activities.

          Conscious thought requires large amounts of energy to sustain. But where do our thoughts come from? Some thoughts are highly correlated with external inputs. Some thoughts seem to arise from purely internal factors. But, humans are characterized by thoughts! Our genetic legacy influences the nature of our thoughts, and the biological level of description should never be forgotten; but humans are still characterized as much by their history as they are by their genes. We are not genetically determined, nor are we culturally determined, but we are influenced by both of these factors. Many animals are born with a fully developed behavioral program. Humans learn most of what they need to survive after they are born. If the conditions are right, they continue to learn throughout their life and their total person is a function of their genes and their history. The search to find one's "true self" is a serious misunderstanding. We are constantly in the process of becoming and, like the rainbow, we never reach the end. Our humanity must be understood as a process involving the whole person.

          The whole question of the human mind and "consciousness" is a subject of current controversy. Physical reductionists wish to explain thought entirely in terms of the physics or chemistry of life; the focus is on mechanisms like quantum indeterminacy or messenger molecules. While these stories are fascinating, and will continue to change daily for a long time, my own stance is that the lowest level processes that are required for human thought are not the most interesting aspect of the problem. Many other microscopic mechanisms could be used to produce thinking machines, and are currently being used in sophisticated new robots. Biological reductionists wish to explain thought entirely in terms of neural activity: our thoughts are merely the functioning of our neurons. This reminds me of the days when the brain was viewed as an air conditioner for the body; it gave off large amounts of heat! Yes, neural activity is involved in all thought, but it is not the most interesting part of the problem. Neural activity could be simulated with sophisticated chips, and is currently being studied entirely in the virtual world, as well as in the biological world. Neurons are organized in remarkable ways in the brain. Each neuron is capable of making connections to thousands of other neurons. This enormous change in perspective requires new concepts and new paradigms to grasp the significance of the actual functioning human brain. Even so, the reductionists insist that human thought is "nothing but" the functioning of neurons. My own stance is that, while neurons are the structures used in human thought, they are not the most interesting part of the problem. Neurons are organized into higher level regions in the brain and are connected to sensors outside the brain. This area of research is very active at present and is sure to remain so for the foreseeable future. Perhaps some day we will have a very sophisticated understanding of the functioning of the biological human brain. Perhaps we will even be able to build a device that can carry out many of the functions of the human brain. Computer programs can already compose music and paint pictures. However, I do not know of a computer system that contemplates its own "death" and commemorates outstanding former computers. I believe that God has "given" us a sophisticated brain so that we can engage in activities that are worthy of beings created in His image. Christians should embrace all the knowledge gained about our brain, but never forget the purpose for which we have a mind.

          In all the frenzy about the brain, the subject of the mind often is either forgotten, or is marginalized as an epiphenomenon.(Churchland, 2000)  There is a large and very active community of philosophers of mind who try to think about consciousness at levels higher than the neural, or even the "regional" level.(Chalmers, 1996)  No dominant paradigm with wide devotion has emerged, even though the "emergentist" perspective has fans in the Evangelical Christian community (including me).(Brown, 1998) The history and philosophy of science can be a real help on this problem, since there is often a tendency to forget how other complex problems were solved. At the highest level, examples of human thought can be studied on their own, as phenomenological subjects. These data provide strong "controls" on more speculative work. Denial of the relevance of actual human thought to the problem of consciousness has hindered much progress. As the concepts needed to explain the lower level processes becomes more advanced, new paradigms that encompass broader and broader areas of brain activity will be developed. There may be a phase where complementary but paradoxical concepts must be held in tension until a more unified theory emerges. In the mean time, an excellent book on this subject, "Minding God" by Greg Peterson, is highly recommended.(Peterson, 2003)

          Religious thinkers throughout history have chosen to denote a particular aspect of humans as a "soul." This function of humans allows us to communicate with one another on subjects deeper than food, drink and sport. In addition to physiological appetites such as hunger and thirst, humans "feel" anger, love and awe. While there is certainly a chemical and biological cognate to these emotions, it is an Evangelical stance that emotions are just as "real" as molecules. Attempts to reduce humanity to nothing more than an epiphenomenon are pitiful, both in detail and as an effective philosophical stance. Detailed experiments with simpler animals have shown that specific molecules are true causal agents of particular behavior. The extension of this biological truth to all of human behavior is a serious error known as Sociobiology. It is an Evangelical stance that mindless ideology is just as destructive in the practice of Science as it is in Religion.

          Classical thought postulated a separable "soul" that did not require a body. An Evangelical stance rejects the pre-existence of "Platonic souls" in favor of the biblical notion of a whole person that starts at conception and grows forever. Descartes also proposed a separable "soul" that did the thinking and imposed its will on the body. Modern cognitive psychology views the mind as a dynamic process that involves the whole person. In a highly dualistic age, the soul was viewed as immaterial and pure and was contrasted to the material (and degraded) body. An Evangelical stance is that the human body is good and has been given to humankind by God. It should be remembered that Jesus had a human body. Nancey Murphy has been a leader in the conceptualization of the soul as instantiated in our body.(Murphy, 2006)  The details of the "eternal" or "resurrected" state are not understood, but for the present we require bodies. Christians should embrace the "emotions" that have been provided by our Creator, but not either worship them or denigrate them.

          In addition to our affective natures, religious humans have a strong intuition that there is a human capacity for interacting with the divine: this function is called the spirit. Christians believe the spirit is a direct gift from God, but the nature of this gift is envisioned as an inherently unpredictable force that goes where it wills. Attempts to localize a causal nexus in the body have been unsuccessful, just as in the case of the Cartesian soul, but there is substantial debate over whether the spirit should be envisioned as a human mental function, just like the soul, or whether it is qualitatively different. Active scholarly effort is being carried out in this area, but practicing Christians have known experientially for millennia that God communicates through the Holy Spirit with the spirits of His people.(Rom. 8:16)  While scholars study and debate this question, we can confidently practice the daily life of the spirit in fellowship with the Holy Spirit.

          One of the other requirements for our humanity is other humans, both for better and for worse. A modern understanding of original sin includes the notion that we learn how to sin from our parents and other significant others. We also model our life on other humans (both current and historical). The importance of the social world of humans cannot be overemphasized. Christians believe that the family is ordained of God for the benefit of humankind; both mothers and fathers serve as examples of the love of God. It is in families that children learn those daily patterns of thought and behavior that are the basis of civil society. An Evangelical stance strongly supports the family as an essential element of humanity.

           Christianity offers a social world that is called the "Kingdom of God."  Socially constructed modes of living are instantiated in actual humans. If we live in accordance with the principles of the "ecclesia", we are changed physically and mentally into the image of Jesus in addition to being created in the image of God. Unless the local church operates as a "family" structure, it fails to accomplish one of its primary functions; the growth and development of the saints.

          Individuals and families are embedded in human cultures. Christians assert that God was involved in the history of human culture and that He gave revelations to us through prophets and teachers, especially in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Cross-cultural studies by anthropologists have revealed incredible diversity in the cultural paradigms of present and historical societies. Some cultures value dissimulation above all else while others glory in violence. Nevertheless, it is an Evangelical stance that the message of Jesus can be communicated to all humans in a meaningful manner. One of the great challenges of the modern church is to make it so.

          The human race is highly heterogeneous in both physical and cultural terms. One of the greatest insights of religious thought is the essential unity of humankind. This stance permeates the Bible and is strongly reinforced in Christian theology. Biological studies of the geography of the human genome have emphasized the continuity of the variability of our heredity. One of the great evils of some human cultures is the focus on differences as the basis of inhuman treatment of others. An Evangelical stance emphasizes the unity of humanity as the basis for the love of all other humans, as demanded by Jesus of Nazareth.


 Brown, Warren S., Nancey Murphy and H. Newton Malony, Eds. "Whatever Happened to the Soul? Scientific and Theological Portraits of Human Nature"  (Minneapolis, Fortress Press, 1998)

Chalmers, David J. "The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory" (New York, Oxford University Press, 1996)

Churchland, Paul M "The Engine of Reason, the Seat of the Soul" (Cambridge, MIT Press, 2000).

Dodson, Peter "Faith of a Paleontologist", The Paleontological Society Papers, 5, 183-195(1999).

Green , Joel B. and Stuart L. Palmer, Eds., "In Search of the Soul:Four Views of the Mind-Body Problem" (Downers Grove, IVPress, 2005)

Murphy, Nancey "Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies" (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2006)

Peterson, Gregory R. "Minding God: Theology and the Cognitive Sciences" (Minneapolis, Fortress Press, 2003) .