In the Beginning: A Christian Question and Answer Guide on Creation

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Skip to content. Angels are beings who have greater power and ability than humans.


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Angels were created in the distant past, before the earth existed. The Bible does not give an exact figure, but it does show that their number is vast. For example, a vision given to the apostle John included a glimpse of hundreds of millions of angels. The Bible gives the names of two angels: Michael and Gabriel.

Angels have distinct personalities. They can communicate with one another. The angel greatest in both power and authority is Michael, the archangel. For example, cherubs guarded the entrance to the garden of Eden after Adam and Eve were expelled. Angels are used by God as he directs his servants in the preaching of the good news of the Kingdom of God.

Angels help to keep the Christian congregation free of contamination by wicked people. Angels guide and protect those who are faithful to God. Soon, the angels will bring relief to mankind by fighting alongside Jesus Christ to eliminate wickedness. Fact: Wicked angels, including Satan the Devil, will be destroyed. Misconception: People become angels when they die.

Fact: Angels are a separate creation of God, not resurrected humans.

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Psalm , 21 Even Jesus acknowledged that he would call on God for help, not directly on the angels. For example, Mikael Stenmark distinguishes between three views: the independence view no overlap between science and religion , the contact view some overlap between the fields , and a union of the domains of science and religion; within those views he recognizes further subdivisions, e. Subsequent authors, as well as Barbour himself, have refined and amended this taxonomy. However, others e.

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For one thing, it focuses on the cognitive content of religions at the expense of other aspects, such as rituals and social structures. Moreover, there is no clear definition of what conflict means evidential or logical. Nevertheless, because of its enduring influence, it is still worthwhile to discuss this taxonomy in detail. The conflict model, which holds that science and religion are in perpetual and principal conflict, relies heavily on two historical narratives: the trial of Galileo see Dawes for a contemporary re-examination and the reception of Darwinism see Bowler Both authors argued that science and religion inevitably conflict as they essentially discuss the same domain.

The vast majority of authors in the science and religion field is critical of the conflict model and believes it is based on a shallow and partisan reading of the historical record. Ironically, two views that otherwise have little in common, scientific materialism and extreme biblical literalism, both assume a conflict model: both assume that if science is right, religion is wrong, or vice versa. While the conflict model is at present a minority position, some have used philosophical argumentation e.

Alvin Plantinga has argued that the conflict is not between science and religion, but between science and naturalism. The independence model holds that science and religion explore separate domains that ask distinct questions. The lack of conflict between science and religion arises from a lack of overlap between their respective domains of professional expertise.

NOMA is both descriptive and normative: religious leaders should refrain from making factual claims about, for instance, evolutionary theory, just as scientists should not claim insight on moral matters. Gould held that there might be interactions at the borders of each magisterium, such as our responsibility toward other creatures. One obvious problem with the independence model is that if religion were barred from making any statement of fact it would be difficult to justify the claims of value and ethics, e.

Moreover, religions do seem to make empirical claims, for example, that Jesus appeared after his death or that the early Hebrews passed through the parted waters of the Red Sea. The dialogue model proposes a mutualistic relationship between religion and science. Unlike independence, dialogue assumes that there is common ground between both fields, perhaps in their presuppositions, methods, and concepts. For example, the Christian doctrine of creation may have encouraged science by assuming that creation being the product of a designer is both intelligible and orderly, so one can expect there are laws that can be discovered.

According to Barbour , both scientific and theological inquiry are theory-dependent or at least model-dependent, e. In dialogue, the fields remain separate but they talk to each other, using common methods, concepts, and presuppositions.

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Wentzel van Huyssteen has argued for a dialogue position, proposing that science and religion can be in a graceful duet, based on their epistemological overlaps. The integration model is more extensive in its unification of science and theology. Barbour identifies three forms of integration. The first is natural theology, which formulates arguments for the existence and attributes of God.

It uses results of the natural sciences as premises in its arguments.

For instance, the supposition that the universe has a temporal origin features in contemporary cosmological arguments for the existence of God, and the fact that the cosmological constants and laws of nature are life-permitting whereas many other combinations of constants and laws would not permit life is used in contemporary fine-tuning arguments.

The second, theology of nature, starts not from science but from a religious framework, and examines how this can enrich or even revise findings of the sciences.


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  8. For example, McGrath developed a Christian theology of nature, examining how nature and scientific findings can be regarded through a Christian lens. While integration seems attractive especially to theologians , it is difficult to do justice to both the science and religion aspects of a given domain, especially given their complexities.

    For example, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin , who was both knowledgeable in paleoanthropology and theology, ended up with an unconventional view of evolution as teleological which brought him into trouble with the scientific establishment , and with an unorthodox theology with an unconventional interpretation of original sin that brought him into trouble with the Roman Catholic Church.


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    Theological heterodoxy, by itself, is no reason to doubt a model, but it points to difficulties for the integration model in becoming successful in the broader community of theologians and philosophers. Moreover, integration seems skewed towards theism as Barbour described arguments based on scientific results that support but do not demonstrate theism, but failed to discuss arguments based on scientific results that support but do not demonstrate the denial of theism. Science and religion are closely interconnected in the scientific study of religion, which can be traced back to seventeenth-century natural histories of religion.

    Natural historians attempted to provide naturalistic explanations for human behavior and culture, for domains such as religion, emotions, and morality. It traces the origins of polytheism—which Hume thought was the earliest form of religious belief—to ignorance about natural causes combined with fear and apprehension about the environment.

    By deifying aspects of the environment, early humans tried to persuade or bribe the gods, thereby gaining a sense of control. In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, authors from newly emerging scientific disciplines, such as anthropology, sociology, and psychology, examined the purported naturalistic roots of religious belief. They did so with a broad brush, trying to explain what unifies diverse religious beliefs across cultures, rather than accounting for cultural variations.

    In anthropology, the idea that all cultures evolve and progress along the same lines cultural evolutionism was widespread. Cultures with differing religious views were explained as being in an early stage of development. For example, Tylor regarded animism, the belief that spirits animate the world, as the earliest form of religious belief. Comte proposed that all societies, in their attempts to make sense of the world, go through the same stages of development: the theological religious stage is the earliest phase, where religious explanations predominate, followed by the metaphysical stage a non-intervening God , and culminating in the positive or scientific stage, marked by scientific explanations and empirical observations.

    The psychologist Sigmund Freud saw religious belief as an illusion, a childlike yearning for a fatherly figure. The full story Freud offers is quite bizarre: in past times, a father who monopolized all the women in the tribe was killed and eaten by his sons. The sons felt guilty and started to idolize their murdered father. This, together with taboos on cannibalism and incest, generated the first religion. Authors such as Durkheim and Freud, together with social theorists such as Karl Marx and Max Weber, proposed versions of the secularization thesis, the view that religion would decline in the face of modern technology, science, and culture.

    Philosopher and psychologist William James was interested in the psychological roots and the phenomenology of religious experiences, which he believed were the ultimate source of institutional religions. From the s onward, the scientific study of religion became less concerned with grand unifying narratives, and focused more on particular religious traditions and beliefs. Their ethnographies indicated that cultural evolutionism was mistaken and that religious beliefs were more diverse than was previously assumed.

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    They argued that religious beliefs were not the result of ignorance of naturalistic mechanisms; for instance, Evans-Pritchard noted that the Azande were well aware that houses could collapse because termites ate away at their foundations, but they still appealed to witchcraft to explain why a particular house had collapsed.

    More recently, Cristine Legare et al. Psychologists and sociologists of religion also began to doubt that religious beliefs were rooted in irrationality, psychopathology, and other atypical psychological states, as James and other early psychologists had assumed. In the United States, in the late s through the s, psychologists developed a renewed interest for religion, fueled by the observation that religion refused to decline—thus casting doubt on the secularization thesis—and seemed to undergo a substantial revival see Stark for an overview.

    Psychologists of religion have made increasingly fine-grained distinctions among types of religiosity, including extrinsic religiosity being religious as means to an end, for instance, getting the benefits of being in a social group and intrinsic religiosity people who adhere to religions for the sake of their teachings Allport and Ross Psychologists and sociologists now commonly study religiosity as an independent variable, with an impact on, for instance, health, criminality, sexuality, and social networks.

    A recent development in the scientific study of religion is the cognitive science of religion.

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    This is a multidisciplinary field, with authors from, among others, developmental psychology, anthropology, philosophy, and cognitive psychology. It differs from the other scientific approaches to religion by its presupposition that religion is not a purely cultural phenomenon, but the result of ordinary, early developed, and universal human cognitive processes e. Some authors regard religion as the byproduct of cognitive processes that do not have an evolved function specific for religion.

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    For example, according to Paul Bloom , religion emerges as a byproduct of our intuitive distinction between minds and bodies: we can think of minds as continuing, even after the body dies e. Another family of hypotheses regards religion as a biological or cultural adaptive response that helps humans solve cooperative problems e. Through their belief in big, powerful gods that can punish, humans behave more cooperatively, which allowed human group sizes to expand beyond small hunter-gatherer communities.

    Groups with belief in big gods thus outcompeted groups without such beliefs for resources during the Neolithic, which explains the current success of belief in such gods Norenzayan Until the nineteenth and even early twentieth century, it was common for scientists to have religious beliefs which guided their work. Natural philosopher Isaac Newton held strong, albeit unorthodox religious beliefs Pfizenmaier By contrast, contemporary scientists have lower religiosity compared to the general population.