Original Quandary

Abiogenesis is the assertion that all life naturalistically and mechanistically developed from inorganic, inanimate matter. Outdated textbooks characterize this seamless molecules-to-men progression as indubitably supported by the scientific evidence. Those who discern a break in the continuum may prefer panspermia in order to relocate the discontinuity to an unknown extraterrestrial site and/or intelligence. In reality, scientists struggle to sufficiently define “life.” As biochemist Juan Oró observed, “It is easier to recognize life…than it is to define it.”1

Mainstream researchers working in origins-of-life (OOL) disciplines acknowledge that there is currently no viable OOL scenario based on today’s knowledge of early Earth conditions. The environment was too hostile and the time constraints too short. Many molecular transitions proposed by various OOL models may be scientifically plausible under highly specified conditions, but their undirected progression without confounding interruption is not scientifically probable.2

In Chapter 1 of Schopf’s “Life’s Origin,” Oró interacts with the worldview implications of a secular and cosmic OOL. He offers a utopian prescription for “children on the Universe” to coexist peacefully on Earth: treat[ing] others as we would like them to treat us.”3 However, his naturalistic worldview provides no solution or redress when its pivotal Golden Rule (borrowed from Christianity) is not observed. Why peace rather than war when nature is “red in tooth and claw” and “survival of the fittest” has brought you thus far? Unfortunately, the material universe is a vast and uncaring parent, and to be its child is to be bereft of ultimate meaning and significance. Children of a Creator, however, possess an eternal identity and purpose. To be created intentionally and loved sacrificially confers a knowledge of one’s value.

But what humans expend great cost and energy to create a mechanistic form of life – a self-replicating machine, programmed by scientists and composed of organic compounds fashioned from existing matter? It might happen in the not-so-distant future.4 Yet are we so boundless in our character and capabilities that we might endow any future version of it with “inalienable rights”? Might we grant access to other dimensions to which we have no passage or enact transcendent moral law over which we have no governance?

Human endeavors to create life should not be unanticipated; we are creative because we are made in the image of our Creator. Nevertheless, even the successful development of synthetic life certainly would not be evidence of an unplanned advancement of molecular transitions on the early Earth. Rather, it would be a brilliantly contrived and highly controlled endeavor indicative of intelligent agency.

Hebrews 2:3-4 tells us that “…the builder of the house has more honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.” Perhaps we will find that what is true of “houses” will be also be true of man-made organisms. As elegant as a synthetic cell might be, the sophistication of its human designer will far exceed it. Then, in turn, the grandeur of God is still greater. He is the Builder of all things, providing both the minds and materials for every innovative endeavor.

1 William J. Schopf, ed., Life’s Origin: The Beginnings of Biological Evolution (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2002), 3.
2 Fazale Rana and Hugh Ross, Origins of Life (Covina, CA: Reasons to Believe Press, 2014), 26-7.
3 William J. Schopf, ed., Life’s Origin: The Beginnings of Biological Evolution (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2002), 40-1.
4 Fazale Rana, Creating Life in the Lab (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011), 20.

Science & Scripture: God Speaks Through the World and to the World

Visit Science: God Speaks Through the World to find regularly updated resources that integrate science and theology. Select Scripture: God Speaks to the World for articles and videos about the historicity and reliability of Holy Scripture.

God the Geometer

Title: God as Architect/Builder/Geometer/Craftsman
From: The Frontispiece of Bible Moralisee
Style: Gothic
Date: mid-13th C.
Location: France
Codex Vindobonensis 2554 (French, ca. 1250), in the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek.

Going Supernova


SN 1994D (bright spot on the lower left), shines nearly as brightly as the adjacent NGC 4526 galaxy. Image credit: NASA/ESA“A supernova is an astronomical event that occurs during the last stellar evolutionary stages of a massive star’s life, whose dramatic and catastrophic destruction is marked by one final titanic explosion…Supernovae play a significant role in enriching the interstellar medium with the heavier atomic mass chemical elements. Furthermore, the expanding shock waves from supernova explosions can trigger the formation of new stars.” (Wikipedia)

Supernova explosions are among the most dramatic events witnessed in the night skies. In the throes of death, a massive and expanding star suddenly collapses. Gravity forcefully slams the star’s celestial substance into its stellar core to produce a high-energy shock wave and grand, explosive finale. A brilliant light suddenly appears in the sky, rendering our usual assortment of evening stars dim in contrast. A once giant star goes out, quite literally, with a bang. Its starlight will only linger a few months but its stardust will be distributed over great distances in the vastness of space, interacting with worlds far away for unknowable eons of time.

When visible from Earth, a supernova arrests the attention of those who realize its significance. Even those supernovae that go unrecognized, however, distribute various heavy metals to other planets. Most of Earth’s inhabitants do not realize that nearly the full complement of naturally occurring elements found in our periodic table were deposited here by multiple supernovae, each occurring at a particular time and place in relationship to our developing planet. The ashes of once giant stars provide the atomic building blocks for the life we experience and the advanced technologies we employ.


In Scripture, we find a similar phenomenon. Sometimes a person transitions from being merely massive in their impact on the world around them to shining as a ultra-bright light with eternal influence. Samson is an example. He was renowned for the great military feats of his youth, but he also suffered greatly as he bore the consequences of sin. Yet he did not bear these consequences forever. He still had time to “go supernova.” He will ever be remembered for his final strategic attack on the Philistines (Judges 16: 28-30), and he is recorded among those who are known for their lives of faith (Hebrews 11:32).

In the New Testament we find other characters with different stories but similar stellar testimonies of faith in their final days and moments. Paul, for example, was the quintessential Pharisee, keeping every letter of the Law, minding every jot and tittle — yet struggling against the One he claimed to serve (Acts 9:1-19). He was a big star in his little world but yet to actually ignite. Eventually Paul was to be consumed by a ministry that would explosively shine the light of the Gospel beyond the world he knew and divinely distribute the inspired letters he penned throughout the Earth for millennia to follow.

Stephen, on the other hand, seemed to have lived a respectable and admirable life all along. The early church made him a deacon, but God made him a supernova light in the darkness around him. His face glowed with a transcendent radiance as he testified (before an unconverted Paul, still known as Saul) in his final, mortal moments (Acts 6:8-7:60). A larger-than-life character collapsed, reduced to ink on paper, but even now his story bursts forth from the pages of Scripture into the awareness of its readers for all time.

Throughout the Bible, many other “stars” have shone brightly for a brief time then quietly distributed their life-essential messages to far away places. They permeate not only space but also time for their words disseminate spiritual elements that edify the faith of those who come after them.

Even a guilty and dying thief made his way into the Holy Scriptures as he confessed the deity of Christ from a cross (Luke 23:32-43). Regardless of what our lives have yielded to this point and irrespective of the wrongs we have committed, let us pray to go supernova in the end — demonstrating God’s brilliant glory to a watching world even with our final breath.

trackMake your own tracks…
Learn more about your world and others in “Why the Universe Is the Way It Is” by Hugh Ross. “Starkindler” by Michael Card provides the perfect soundtrack as you start your exploration.

Copyright © 2016. The Literate Lyoness. All rights reserved.

Sons of Dust

Comet McNaught setting with the Sun over the Pacific Ocean

Comet McNaught over the Pacific Ocean at sunset. The Moon is shown to the right. Image credit: ESO/H.H.Heyer

Composed of icy cold dust and gas, comets are sometimes called the “dirty snowballs” of space. More recently, they have been characterized as “icy dirtballs.” Irrespective of monikers, one will occasionally streak into our solar system within view of Earth’s observers, and the show begins. As the comet bears in, the Sun heats its surface and a plume of jettisoned matter spews forth, glowing in the light that has unbound it and leaving a long trail of debris behind. A comet’s head may shine brighter in the sky than planets and stars, and its tail may stretch out for millions of miles behind.



In Genesis 2:7 we read that “God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.”  Inorganic matter was enlivened to make a man; dust of the earth was infused with an essence from beyond it. Was this man, Adam, a “dusty spirit” or “spiritual dust”? Divinity had interfaced with dirt, and an image of the Trinity had transferred to a creature bearing body, soul, and spirit.


But to be the only creature taking on such grand characteristics of the transcendent Creator must have been too heady a proposition. Mankind found it difficult to believe that the full capacities of God were beyond his reach. Indeed, in a very mortal act of rebellion, something immortal died within. Now, rather than words of creation, words of judgment echoed in Adam’s ears: “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19). Sent beyond the boundaries of the bounty, dust was ever in sight before him as he trod from Eden with his head hung low.


How Adam wanted once again to sense that sweet breath that had filled, not just his lungs, but his very being from the beginning! For though he still drew breath, a different kind of Life within him was no longer sustained. Surely without it, he was not fully alive. The dust particles that had coalesced now seemed disparate, lacking integration, insufficiently cohering. The gravitas of his identity now seemed to wane as if something ethereal had effused from him. Eternity was in his heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and it was that Life-giving breath that had given weight and substance to everything he had been or ever could have become.


Thousands of years later, David spoke words of comfort befitting all those like Adam:

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103:8-14)

David knew well his substance and pleaded for mercy. But he pleaded as a son. A son of dust.


Redemption would ultimately come through one called the Son of Man. Among many miracles, he gave sight to a man born blind. The same One who had breathed into dry dust now spat to moisten it, and mud applied to staring, blank eyes reconfigured creation gone awry. Light once again penetrated darkness. The imagery evoked by this act was not lost as the man proclaimed to those still spiritually blind that “never since the world began” had such an act been heard of. (John 9:32)

O worship the King, all glorious above,
O gratefully sing His power and His love;
Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days,
Pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise.

O tell of His might, O sing of His grace,
Whose robe is the light, whose canopy space,
His chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form,
And dark is His path on the wings of the storm.

Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
In Thee do we trust, nor find Thee to fail;
Thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end,
Our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend.*


Several times in Revelation we read of men who, in the wake of judgment, respond with increasing rebellion. They are subsequently characterized as those who “dwell on the earth.” They embrace their earthiness, and it consumes their identity as they outgas the breath of God within them. But “all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Romans 8:14) They increasingly jettison their dustiness to become more and more breathy. And they find their citizenship elsewhere (Hebrews 11:16), a place where they must be changed to enter. (Isaiah 35:8, Revelation 21:27)


As the Son makes his face shine upon our substance, may we reflect brightly his glory and leave a heritage of words, works, and worship trailing behind for all to see. For “those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.” (Daniel 12:3)

*”O Worship the King.” Original lyrics by Ro­bert Grant, in Christ­ian Psalm­o­dy, by Ed­ward H. Bick­er­steth, 1833, alt. This ver­sion is a re­work­ing of lyr­ics by Wil­liam Kethe in the Ge­ne­van Psalt­er of 1561.

trackMake your own tracks…“Light Up the Sky” by The Afters, as well as 2nd Chapter of Acts’ version of “Worship the King” in their Hymns Collection.

Copyright © 2016. The Literate Lyoness. All rights reserved.

Discrepant Events

Lazarus of Bethany icon

Christ Raising Lazarus, Athens, 12-13th century icon.

From atop the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Galileo simultaneously dropped a massive canon ball alongside a much smaller musket ball. As they struck the the ground below with a single thud (more or less), a commonly held misconception was shattered. Shockingly, the erudite Aristotle had been erroneous in his assumption that two objects of different weights would drop at different rates. A simple demonstration to the contrary shook loose this faulty notion and plunged thinking minds forward into a new understanding of the natural world.

In the field of science education, such occasions are called “discrepant events.” Simple observations that fly in the face of what we expect, thereby necessitating the development of new explanations to make sense of it all.  Unnoticed weeds that have spread their roots through our minds are suddenly spotted and uprooted from our cognitive landscape — leaving a place for new ideas to grow.

In the New Testament we find that Jesus was often addressed as “Teacher.” And that he was. Scripture records his skillful questioning techniques, powerful illustrations, instructive metaphors and, yes, perfectly timed discrepant events. Perhaps no story better displays Jesus’ pedagogical prowess in the use of this particular technique than the story of Lazarus  in John 11.

In this well known account, Jesus is notified that his beloved friend Lazarus is sick. Nevertheless, he waits for a couple of days before going to visit. When he finally arrives, Lazarus has died and Jesus is met by the grieving sisters, Mary and Martha. Each sister approaches Jesus with the same faulty “if, then” statement: “If you have been here, then our brother would not have died.” Their hypothesis revealed misconceptions that would need to be unlearned before relearning could take place. They knew Jesus had healed others who were complete strangers, so why now did he not rush to the aid of his close friends? Why had he lingered with the Twelve, speaking in puzzling metaphors?

Jesus had tried to prepare his disciples in advance, but this lesson was going to be beyond words. It would need to permeate through them, beyond their minds and into their hearts and souls. And this discrepant event would not only generate cognitive dissonance, but emotional dissonance. The fabric of Mary and Martha’s thoughts and feelings would unravel into a mass of confused and disparate strands in order to be rewoven into a new garment of praise. (Isaiah 61:3) His precious  friends would be devastated, though only temporarily. But Jesus was himself so embedded into their lives that he entered into their grief with them. Alongside them, he wept.

Throughout the Gospels we find that Jesus met people where they they were before taking them where he knew they could be. For instance, the centurion already understood that time and space were not problematic for one with the authority and power to heal. (Matt. 8: 13) In that case, Jesus confirmed the man’s faith and moved on. But not in this case. Jesus didn’t answer questions directly and didn’t act immediately. Rather, he disoriented these folks enough that they started to reframe their questions.

And this Instructor had skillfully used proofs before. At least a few of his skeptics had learned not to challenge him about his ability to forgive sin. (Matt. 9:1-8) Now he extended his claims further and provided a sufficient miracle to back it up. With this event, he would declare that he was the Resurrection and the Life. By bringing Lazarus back to temporal life, he would prepare his friends and followers to understand something of eternal life.

Eventually Christ’s own resurrection would be declared a non-negotiable tenet of the Christian faith as spoken by believers throughout the world in the Apostles Creed:

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.

When recited, the Creed sounds quite reverent and dignified. But make no mistake. The Father’s kingdom belongs to those of simple, child-like faith. (Matt. 18:1-6) Perhaps the most fundamental creed of every Christ-follower is captured in this most recognizable of songs:

Jesus loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to him belong
They are weak but He is strong

trackMake your own tracks…Carefully examine Jesus’ instructional techniques as he speaks with both a rich, young man (Matt. 19:16-26) and a rich, old man (John 3:1-21) about how to obtain eternal life.

Copyright © 2014. The Literate Lyoness.