Zach Ellis

Zach Ellis

    • Very interesting article. I wonder if the brain studies could be viewed as descriptive (this is what happens in the brain when free will is operative in decision-making), rather than prescriptive (this naturalistic brain process determines how one will choose)? If so, that would seem to change the terms of the debate

    • Cool to see how this debate in modern science pretty directly correlates to debates from church history!

    • Good article and I believe it definitely hits the mark with society today. We should have more time for rest with all of the innovation and technology but it’s actually the opposite where we have filled our days with even more busyness! It’s interesting how less advanced countries have a much slower pace and value rest much more than we in the USA do. Thankful for God’s reminders through His Holy Spirit to “be still and know He is God”,

    • What is the recommended sleep per night? I’ve heard 6 hours, 7 hours, 8 hours, and more. Is there a scientifically agreed upon number?

    • Rest is so misunderstood in our society. Great reminder.

    • I love the idea that rest actually makes us more productive/ better at our work. I usually try to power through with as little rest as possible thinking that will earn me the highest test scores or level of fitness. But really we need rest in order to grow!

    • I find it interesting that scientific research is more or less proving a positive effect of one aspect of a commandment from God. I think, though, that this might lead us into a misreading or co-opting of the Sabbath. I think it is purposeful that God made rest be beneficial to our health, but I don’t think the main take away of the various theological aspects of the Sabbath is that we can be more productive. The Sabbath (and the Sabbath Year) in Scripture is oriented instead around: 1. trust in God’s provision, not our own; 2. recognizing that God is the one who holds the universe together, not us; 3. respect for the land God has given us to care for; 4. our human flourishing. While this research really drives home the fourth point (which is good!), I think we need to be careful not to co-opt and reduce the Sabbath (even more than we already do) to make it solely about us and our benefit.

  • Good question. It doesn’t say in this linked article if they considered that or not. However, there is a substantial amount of research on gratitude (much of which is concerned with expressing thanks, not necessarily receiving it) that likely plays into this as well.

    • “In this article, hope consists of two things: personal determination and a viable path to success.”

      In translating this into the terms of Pauline theology:

      personal determination = perseverance in sanctification

      viable path to success = Christ himself, who has gone before us to reconcile us to the Father and to assure us of eternal life in Him.

    • I’ve thought a lot about the concept of grit/ resilience in the Christian faith, but after reading this article I think that the element of hope is extremely important. Lots to think about!

    • As a Christian I agree that our hope is much different than what the world believes and we need to dwell on our hope in Christ so we can always be ready to share why we have that hope in us 1 Pet 3:15.

  • Good point! We definitely don’t need to bring science into every discussion or sermon!

    I do think it can help on the right occasions, though. It can affirm what we already know is true, which brings credibility to Christianity (not that we would stop forgiving if a study came out saying forgiveness was not better than vengeance!). I think it can…[Read more]

  • Great idea! Have you checked out I Am Second ( They’ve got a lot of stories from famous folks who put Jesus first.

    • “God has seen it fit to reveal this information to us, and that suggests that He believes the evangelical Christian community is ready for this conversation to happen” – Understanding of progressive revelation.

    • “Any time we draw closer to truth, to God’s truth, we have nothing to fear” – Amen.

    • So, with statements like this: “God has seen it fit to reveal this information to us, and that suggests that He believes the evangelical Christian community is ready for this conversation to happen.”

      We have a very large assumption, that “God has seen if fit to reveal” it to us. The problem is: is that even true? First of all this “revealed” thing is still but a theory and debatable and unable to be recreated or proven. The other problem is God declared what truth was revealed by Him (I.e. Scripture) and within that Scripture it also reveals a completion of the truth revealed.

      So when we start putting science up there as God’s further truth revealed to us a “truth” that is continually changing and contingent solely on our (man’s) understanding of what can be observed, we have gone wrong. We have left what God actually revealed and instead placed the wisdom of man on equal ground while falsely and wrongly attributing our foolishness as further revelation “God saw fit to reveal to us”. Revelation that ironically contradicts the actual revelation He breathed out

    • Basically, the moment we allow science to influence our theology, we have then started on a destructive path. Science is fallible, changing, and incomplete. We can be sure of some things, sure, but much of the evolution theory and the surrounding topics are still only theory. They are “man’s” best guess, that is now accepted as fact.

      Our theology must come from Scripture and Scrupture alone. I mean as believers we have faith in Christ not because science told us of Christ but because we believed the testimony of Scripture. Plain and simple.

      The same should be the case for Creation. If God “used” evolution, fine, but that is still yet to be seen. What is seen is as ONE man sinned, through ONE man came the free gift of salvation. If Paul interpreted Genesis literally as Adam was the first man and through whom sin came, and we also believe his testimony of Christ then why should we consider reading Gen. 1-3 any different than as literal as the Scripture itself ascribes to that passage? Answer: because we struggle with trusting our own “knowledge” over Scripture so we try and make two opposing things cohesive. (Sure there are times when they are, but I struggle to find that to be true here with evolution, they seem quite opposed)

    • Let’s be careful not to impose genre upon the Bible. Moses, the author, had intentions when he wrote Genesis. He intended to show that God created all things, how God created all things (to a degree), and why (to a degree) God created all things. Lots of time, science extrapolates what Genesis says. To be created in the image of God means that humankind is to be God’s ruling representative on earth (until mankind fell and that was distorted). Anything outside of this is unhelpful because it is not in line with the intention of the author of Genesis. Science has to be filtered through Scripture, not the other way around. I do think that any biblically valid scientific discovery is included in God’s general revelation.

    • Thank you for the book rec. (Cavanaugh and Smith)! I was not familiar with this one, but have been looking for a resource like this one.

    • Have to agree with Weabz, as Scripture is clear, much more proven than science which has much accepted error in dating methods which in themselves are theoretical.

    • This is a thought provoking read, thanks. It makes me think of the telling of “our” testimonies, or “our” stories. How often we look to tell “our” stories and we make our lives and our sin the main focus of the story and the main character, glorifying it to an extent. But the real hero is Christ who saved us, which we of course acknowledge but the way in which we tell “our” story reveals the heart of our narration. I myself have a pretty stupid past full of disobedience and sin and it’s important to reveal the level of my depravity in my disobedience to reveal the amazing grace and work of Christ through my Jonah like life, and yet I always struggle in helping people focus NOT on the extreme nature of my sin but on how the Lord protected me, disciplined me, and transformed me through the evil acts in my life. We must always point to Christ and be careful not to glorify our sinful past. It truly is His story, we are simply blessed to be a part of glorifying Him. Let’s remember to get out of the way.

    • “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten” – Neil Gaiman – Similiar to the definition of biblical myth.

    • “Study after study after study finds that stories are far more persuasive than just stating the facts” – Kind of makes sense why “all leaders are readers”.

    • This article is a helpful distillation of some of the insights of the narrative theology movement. Accessible and thought-provoking!

    • This was helpful, especially in thinking about why I love good biblical theology (example: He Will Reign Forever, by Michael Vlach). It’s especially awesome to think about how God fit my life into His grand story, which makes me want to play out my part as well as I can.

    • May we never underestimate the power of story. As pastors we must learn and practice the art of storytelling. Not that God’s word needs our help but we have to realize story is a powerful tool in our arsenal to share the gospel.

    • Interesting. That’s a tough issue that begins with our presuppositions. Under the “things to consider” one question what put forth concerning the “theological implications of evolution if death is apart of the process?” is interesting to say the least. It’s hard for me to make the connection as I interpret the Bible from a literal grammatical-historical hermeneutic.

      But that aside, even if we say evolution is God’s process of creation then we have to divorce death from the process of Creation through evolution, if for no other reason than death is not seen Scripturely until after the Fall. This of course opens a whole other can of worms but I guess in the end it really comes down to how we interpret Scripture and more importantly what hermeneutic the NT writers and Jesus himself employed when interpreting OT passages.

      I really appreciated this article

      • Christ does say he saw “Satan fall like lightning” (Luke 10:18) which indicates a fall of Satan prior to the fall of humanity in Adam and Eve (hence the snake in the garden). Augustine sees this already in Day 1 of creation with the separation of light and darkness (City of God). I wonder how theologically this might factor into how we think about death prior to the human fall?

    • I bought Francis Collins intro Q+A book “The Language of Science and Faith: Straight Answers to Genuine Questions” recently. There’s some helpful content in there on this topic.

    • While I understand the concern that some may have with imagining “death before the Fall,” I think this is primarily a concern for Reformed Christians (Presbyterians, Baptists, most fundamentalists and nondenominationalists). The concept of the Fall and pre-/post-lapsarian ontologies are really innovated in the Calvinist tradition, and many orthodox Christians (John Wesley, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas) have no problem with reading nonliteral readings of Genesis 1-3 that allow for things like death prior to Adam or “Adam” (see: Simply put, I think we Christians who believe in evolution can agree with Genesis 1-3–that something in God’s good world is not as it should be–without subscribing to the notion of a literal Fall and the prohibition of death before it.

    • Such an interesting topic and our God is no doubt HUGE and so an infinite universe isn’t hard to believe. However when it comes to alien life I think we have to be careful. Not to say that the idea is ridiculous but instead to not let the thoughts and beliefs and even one day the reality of them deceive us. I mean imagine if aliens came and said they were our “Creators” and they made us and watched us (Matt 24:24)…I know that is getting into another bag of worms but so is thinking about the what ifs of a multiverse, especially asking what it means for the atonement.

      We have the Bible proven and true that must be the basis for truth and everything else must be seen through that worldview or else we have no anchor or worse our anchor is the wisdom of the fallen world that does and will lead us into deceit as we see in many texts of Scripture.

    • I agree with the sentiment that a Christian understanding of God’s infinite nature makes it so that a multiverse is not problematic. What I do find interesting about the multiverse theory is the issue of “observable evidence.” Sure, science is a lot more than simply the ability to falsify a theory, but it does ultimately rest on observable evidence first and foremost. That the multiverse is so speculative and supported only by indirect evidence makes it more metaphysics than science currently. It might be a way of explaining the anthropic principle, but if it really is subject to the issues that Steinhardt suggests, it–and the inflation theory from which it is derived–is not a scientific explanation. As it stands, it might simply be a placeholder until a more robust theory fills the same gap, or there are significant advances in detecting evidence of the multiverse. Until that time, I think it is important for pastors and theologians to be aware of the multiverse theory, but I am unsure whether we need to seriously engage it as a hard science as much as a competing metaphysic.

    • I like to believe as Louie Giglio describes in “Indescribeable” that God created so vast a cosmos just to show us how big He is, not because there are other universes or life forms out there. Science isn’t always looking for answers as much as they are trying to explain away the unknown that points to a Divine Creator, the Almighty God. Interesting concept but not something that I beleive preachers should dwell on or entertain much discussion on other than to support the Truth of the Bible.

    • Fascinating research. As I write, I am trying to process what the most applicable theological implications of these findings will be, so forgive me if I seem to ramble. I personally have never been a fan of leveraging scientific research to make the apologetic argument, “religious people are more happy, so you should be religious.” This seems to be the low-hanging fruit of Mikulak’s summary, but I wonder if this research could be utilized in a different way: that awe should be a regular part of discipleship. If awe indeed leads one into a greater sense of connectedness with the wider universe, greater compassion towards other humans, and a sense of smallness before the Power behind creation, I would argue that awe should be sought after to help form us into people who tend and keep creation, love our neighbors, and stand with proper deference and humility before the Triune God who created all that is.

    • I like your take Reed; the inverse of the way this is often invoked apologetically: that awe should be a part of discipleship

    • Paul Tripp talks a lot about awe. Focusing our awe on God is basically this, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

    • This is some interesting data (though it is a bit out of my wheelhouse). I wonder how the perceived levels of happiness/purposeful life change based on the reaction of the altruistic receiver. If Jon altruistically gives to Tim in a way that gives immediate and necessary improvement to Tim’s life, would Jon feel the same level of happiness and purpose whether Tim was thankful or not? It seems to me that burnout–mentioned several times in the article–is not only induced by heavy work, but also by a lack of recognition or appreciation for the hard work done. Just curious whether this factor was taken into account, though I imagine there are plenty of variables that need consideration in a soft science like this.

      • Great question! Zach, do you know if this was taken into account or not?

        • Good question. It doesn’t say in this linked article if they considered that or not. However, there is a substantial amount of research on gratitude (much of which is concerned with expressing thanks, not necessarily receiving it) that likely plays into this as well.

    • How can “meaningful lives” be measured, scientifically? By survey results about the level of meaning that respondents claim to have in their life?

      This seems very difficult to measure in a scientific way.

    • An amazing theory by Russell. I likely need to read through this several more times–and read up on quantum mechanics–but it seems that Russell has given us a scientific niche for God’s continual activity in the world, without needing God to constantly intervene through miraculous events. I think this is a welcome corrective to both the god of deism and the god of intelligent design, the former being tremendously uninvolved except on the rare occasion, the latter having no regard for the governing laws of the universe by constantly breaking them for his purposes. I do not think that we need to do away with either a conviction of God’s foresight in creating wise laws that govern the universe nor with God’s miraculous interventions at key points in history; instead, Russell’s theory leaves room for both while also holding that God’s everyday activity in sustaining and perpetuating the universe fits within current scientific theory.

      With all that said, I can’t help but wonder if this is a new “God of the gaps” theory; I simply don’t know enough about quantum mechanics. Still, as a scientific layperson, it seems to me that Russell’s theory is susceptible to such a critique.

    • Very interesting! I looked up Robert John Russell and he has fairly extensive study in both theology and science. The rare breed we need exploring such questions!

    • Weabz replied 4 years ago

      I think you’re dead on here in your review of the article: ”

      This research affirms what Christians have proclaimed since the beginning. Some of Jesus’ last words on the cross were, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34 NRSV)”.

      The research does just affirm what we know from Scripture, so man’s wisdom has discovered nothing new.

    • Weabz replied 4 years ago

      Actually, now that I think about it what’s the point of even bringing “scientific research” into the discussion or a sermon? Why would I need or use science to preach or teach on forgiveness? Scripture is clear and sufficient on the topic and the scientific definition or understanding adds nothing to what we already have.

      It just seems like we are trying to hard to reconcile two things that don’t necessarily need it, at least concerning this specific topic.

      The science aspect is helpful to know but not something to bring into the discussion unless it comes naturally or by request.

      • Good point! We definitely don’t need to bring science into every discussion or sermon!

        I do think it can help on the right occasions, though. It can affirm what we already know is true, which brings credibility to Christianity (not that we would stop forgiving if a study came out saying forgiveness was not better than vengeance!). I think it can also help clarify forgiveness. The Bible undoubtedly is the primary source of revelation upon which our definition of forgiveness is based, but we live in a different world. Scientific research such as the one this article summarizes can help us understand what forgiveness might look like in 2017, which we can then bring into the conversation with our theology of forgiveness. So it may not always be appropriate, but I think it definitely has its place under the right circumstances.

        Thanks for the comment!

        • Weabz replied 4 years ago

          Yes sir. I agree completely. However, I think your comment “which brings credibility to Christianity” is part of what’s a struggle for Christians. We try and “prove” our faith or reveal or explain “evidence” of God, Creation, etc. when we don’t have to. Our faith is credible because of the witness of the Holy Spirit. Appealing to the sciences or “man’s wisdom” while it can be helpful in some cases, essentially it is unnecessary because the Gospel alone is enough and the only thing we need. When people believe (truly believe) then everything else follows by faith and the work of the Holy Spirit in that person.

          And a side note: not suggesting you don’t believe that as well but more likely we are just “passing each other” because of the nature of commenting without “tone, inflection, etc”

          I guess I just find as the Lord continues to grow me in wisdom and faith, the less “proof through man’s wisdom” seems to matter. Not that science is unhelpful or useless, it’s not. It’s a wonderful gift from God, but I think a more proper understanding is:

          “God (Christian worldview) gives credibility to science”

          Not the other way around

          • Science has profoundly shaped the social imaginary we live in; I believe highlighting convergences between biblical teaching/wisdom and modern scientific findings does have apologetic value

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