Why you want evangelicals teaching you

As a lab demonstrator or tutor in the biology and philosophy departments for a few hours each week over the last couple of years, I’ve wondered how Christian faith relates to this part of what I do. Most people would probably see it as (at best) an odd quirk in my life that I should try very hard to keep out of the educational system. Even Christians often take a similar approach of division between faith and teaching.

Here are some benefits for classes of having an evangelical Christian helping to teach them:

We worship Jesus, and it’s his character that we want to shape ours. This doesn’t mean we’re better, but we are focussing on a better goal, the perfect, personal model of self-sacrificial service, who took our failings on himself, freeing us to live in accordance with his nature. Better that our teachers worship him than career advancement, themselves, relationships, material goods, or alternate gods whose character is so different.

Ethical requirements are more than a collection of rules that society has found aids its operation – they are intrinsically connected to the character of God – our creator, judge, helper, and saviour. We see good reason to follow them even when it doesn’t suit us, and when no-one else would necessarily find out otherwise.

An example I hope is true: we intend to go above and beyond the job requirements, spending extra hours answering emails and checking marks.

Because God loved us at our worst, we actually care about our students. We might even pray for our students before class (at least on a good day).

We have a worldview that recognises the limits of science and materialism.

We understand that people (including us!) are not perfect, and don’t have unrealistic utopian goals for our classrooms, yet we also believe in common grace, meaning that we can hopefully expect many good things – such as education, positive interactions, and fun – in this life.

We don’t worship education or knowledge and have resources that help us understand the need for a holistic approach – we can leave room for fun, and other aspects of development, alongside intellectual rigor.

God has made this world as a contingent creation. In order to understand it, we need to go out and explore – this, along with the concomitant trust in the orderliness of the creation made by our faithful God, gives a deep justification for the process of science, and freedom to explore many ideas in philosophy.

I think similar points hold true for lawyers, doctors, psychologists, …

nedflanders

Challenges to evangelical Christianity from biology

Here are some research areas or findings from modern biology, or at least statements widely believed, that challenge claims associated with evangelical Christian theology.

They need a serious response. I don’t give that here, I just list them as forcefully as I can with minimal research. I hope a few will find this interesting, and even see why further research on related things could be a worthwhile use of my time. Let me know what you think 🙂 I don’t have all of the answers. Most people don’t need to think much about most of these things, but I hope you’ll agree that some people do need to think about each of them, if we are to make sense of the world.

1) Adam & Eve, as progenitors of the human race, didn’t exist.

2) Intersex people show that Christian sexual norms, based on a sexual dichotomy, are unworkable. Conservative Christians passionately denounce reassignment surgery for transgender people but it seems quietly support it for intersex people.

3) Cognitive science of religion shows that religion is a natural rather than supernatural phenomenon and destroys the ‘common consent’ argument for belief in God.

4) Studying patients with temporal lobe epilepsy and related conditions which are sometimes interpreted by subjects in religious ways, undermines the supposedly ‘spiritual’ nature of many religious experiences.

5) A large proportion of human pregnancies end prematurely in spontaneous abortion. What happened to the sanctity of life?

6) There was no global flood c. 5000 years ago. Bonus: The numbers given for Israelites exiting Egypt at the time of the Exodus seem impossible and do not receive archaeological support.

7) There is no clinical evidence for the efficacy of petitionary prayer.

8) The popularity of IVF in Christian circles, given standard practices in the field, raises grave ethical challenges. Are conservative Christians anything near consistent in this area?

9) Death, disease, decay, and weeds precede the origin of humans.

10) Animals feel pain, adding to the problem of suffering. Yet, it is said that God cares about animals.

Have I missed anything?

Human_Embryo_-_Approximately_8_weeks_estimated_gestational_age

Note that I don’t see any of these as particularly serious objections to trusting in Jesus, some of them are probably empirically false, and you’d struggle to move from any of them to the claim that naturalism is probably true. I’m not saying that science shows that God doesn’t exist or that the gospel is false – I am saying I understand why many scientists, psychologists, medics etc. struggle to take Christianity seriously, particularly in some of its evangelical forms. Many arguments used by atheists are dumb, but some get close to real questions about what it means to be human in this world.

but this

““Let it be counted folly, or phrensy, or fury, or whatsoever. It is our wisdom, and our comfort; we care for no knowledge in the world but this, that man hath sinned, and God hath suffered; that God hath made himself the sin of men, and that men are made the righteousness of God.” Richard Hooker