Perceiving laminin by faith

Recently, a video has been doing the rounds, creating some excitement—and some healthy scepticism—by pointing to the amazing structure of a protein, within the human body, called ‘laminin.’ If you’ve missed it, here it is.

The basic argument it presents is that the structure of this protein, which is cross-shaped, and which is genuinely extraordinarily important in holding the human body together, at a molecular level, represents evidence of God’s greatness, linking the science of laminin with scriptures that speak about God upholding creation, such as Colossians 1:12-20.

Answers-in-Genesis is an Evangelical organisation that offers Christian apologetics, particularly those concerned with creationism. It presents an overwhelmingly vast ocean of such answers, all reasonably considered to hold in tension a foundational faith which holds the authority of Scripture as the sine qua non of every intellectual discussion, the ‘trump card’, the key to interpreting all other evidences, including that of the sciences. AIG published a response to the laminin excitement, essentially saying that it is misplaced because it is based upon a worldview that elevates human reason above scripture. A friend wrote and asked me what I made of these seemingly conflicting viewpoints.

Here’s how I see it. If the original ‘celebration’ of the relationship between Laminin and the Cross—featured in the You-tube video—is the thesis, and the article from Answers-in-Genesis, excerpted below, is the antithesis, then I take a (post-modern) line somewhere between the two.

The first view, it seems to me, is rather over-hyped and demonstrates a certain poverty of spirit in its exhibition of such excitement—rather than being mistaken in the actual view itself. Increasingly, science is showing up amazing realities that demonstrate the extraordinary nature of creation and it’s quite reasonable to point to them as ‘evidence’ of the greatness of God. Evidence, not “proof.” These realities are perceived as affirming God’s handiwork by faith; they are understood by trusting in God’s nature as revealed through Jesus Christ, through scripture and through creation as a whole. They make sense to the eyes of the faithful, but are no “slam-dunk” to the non-faithful, to the eyes of one who has no prior allegiance, no prior mode of interpretation. Thus, what I found off-putting about the excitement, the over-hype, about laminin is that it is effectively evidence of a relative ignorance about God. To use a biblical term, these insights are milk for babes, rather than meat for the mature.If we have a mature, and expansive (“big”) view of God’s work, we are not readily surprised by such ‘coincidences’. Equally, if such ‘coincidences’ turn out differently when more, or different, science is discovered, an expansive view of God is never diminished by such science. We can truly ‘take it or leave it’ as far as such revelations go.

The second view, on the other hand, the AIG view itself, it seems to me, takes itself—and the issue—rather too seriously. One key to this is found in a paragraph subtitled “What’s wrong with the argument?” which states,

What we observe in the world can certainly be used to confirm God’s Word (and it does), but our finite observations are not in a position to evaluate the infinite things of God. Only if we start with the Bible as our ultimate standard can we have a worldview that is rational and makes sense of the evidence

The flaws, as I see it, are in the second sentence of the paragraph. To speak about “starting with the Bible as our ultimate standard” is a pre-position (a position based upon faith, trust), which is then used as a foundation to build other arguments, all of which is fine. But this particular view is subtly imbued by the writer with divine status, by linking it with “the infinite things of God.” The irony is however, that according to the writer “we are not in a position to evaluate” these infinite things. Then how do we arrive at the evaluation that the Bible = the infinite things of God? We cannot do so using reason alone, without forming a circular argument. We can do so (only) by faith. By trust. We trust in this foundation by faith. We choose to participate in a community that has, over hundreds of years, participated in this tradition, this belief, which has stood upon this foundation, trusting that God has acted and spoken within history.

By faith, we understand that the world was created ex nihilo (Hebrews 11.3)—or By trusting, we understand that the universe was created through a spoken word of God, so that what is seen did not come into being out of existing phenomena. (CJB)

However, there is another, possibly deeper flaw in the reasoning of the AIG writer. By starting with the Bible the writer claims “we can have a worldview that is rational and makes sense of the evidence.” In fact, by definition, a worldview makes sense of the evidences around us and inevitably follows some form of rationale. The flaw is in believing that a particular form of rationality—i.e. our rationality, in this case, as based upon a particular comprehension of scripture—provides a more rational worldview that firmly “trumps” other worldviews.

Furthermore, it is possible to take issue with the implied idea that a “wholly rational” worldview is obtainable and desirable. By this I mean the idea that we have closed the gaps, that knowledge based upon a particular foundation or rationale eclipses other knowledge-banks, philosophical systems or worldviews. It is a short jump from here to the belief of a superiority of culture. This is “the Enlightenment trap”: the idea that all necessary knowledge is available, understandable and manipulable to obtain our chosen ends and that it furnishes superiority of morality and insight upon its devotees. This belief or ‘trap’ is responsible for some of the worst excesses that “Christian Europe” (Christendom) in particular has involved itself in during its history, such as the pogroms and Crusades and colonisation, particularly within South America and Africa. Which is not to subsume responsibility for those things wholly to the Church, but first and foremost to expose the nature of the trap. Communism and National Socialism are probably the worst products of the Enlightenment trap.

The Enlightenment trap elevates orthodox dogma and doctrine—religious, political, social—as the standards by which individuals and communities should be judged. Post-modernism is a response to the Enlightenment trap and deliberately validates discernment and interpretation using faculties other than the cold logic of rational, measurable, observable phenomena. This certainly has associated risks, but so does Enlightenment thinking. Multiculturalism and political correctness is an apparent paradox, in this regard. It tends to loudly promote ‘equality, tolerance and openness to the other’—all signs of post-Enlightenment thinking—but in reality, the political / social hierarchy dogmatically promotes its own particular interpretation of these values using Enlightenment thinking, so that those very qualities are actually denied to communities and individuals. A similar phenomena happens within religious circles.

When Christians fall into the Enlightenment trap, they take on the spirit of the world, eschewing a true, humble, Christian spirit, by believing that they have access to a philosophy or knowledge that is innately superior to others. As well as tending to produce insularity towards those who do not share Christian faith, it also leads to religious comparison and hostility between factions, rather than the brotherly love that ought to mark out disciples of the Messiah. Creeds and dogmas become weapons and tests of orthodoxy, rather than simplified expressions of truth intended to lead us towards the whole Truth. Today, there are numerous creeds and dogmatic positions that are promoted as setting the standard of orthodoxy. And yet they all differ from each other.

This, then, would be my main concern with the ‘laminin-cross’ phenomena: in its shortsightedness and overhyped celebration, it risks imposing itself upon the consciousness of others and alienating those who do not share the same depth of enthusiasm. Imagine being in the audience of the above speaker and not seeing quite the same way: the temptation to join in the hype would require considerable willpower. We often see this type of behaviour when particular Christian “revivals” or movements are being promoted. To be sceptical is to be unbelieving, to be unfaithful, to ‘lack faith.’ To no longer be “one of the faithful.”

Whether such realities as the structure of laminin affirm the Presence of God within his creation really depends inevitably upon a priori assumptions. Assumptions for many of us based upon very firm foundations. But assumptions nevertheless. Perceptions garnered by faith, by trust in the reality of the God who acted within history and communicated with us through creation, through a covenant community over thousands of years and above all in the Messiah, Yeshuah—Jesus, the Lord.

For Christian faith to present a mature faith towards an already-sceptical world will certainly require an openness to the profound nature of creation and the ways in which it affirms the faith, the confidence of those who see divine imprints within it. Todays post-modern generation are quite open to such evidence. But it must also resist the temptation to present truths or evidences as threatening weapons that subdue detracting voices. We must avoid the shrillness that the savvy, the worldly-wise, increasingly recognise as representing insecurity and a passive-aggressive desire to dominate others.

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3 thoughts on “Perceiving laminin by faith

  1. I read your article here about three times in order to try to completely understand what you are saying. I am neither a Philosopher nor a great Theologian.

    As I understand; you are saying that we cannot defend the Christian worldview by providing evidence in creation, that we think supports it, because others don’t see it that way. And we can’t render all other arguments against the Christian worldview useless with such evidence. (Please correct me if I misunderstood)

    “But it must also resist the temptation to present truths or evidences as threatening weapons that subdue detracting voices.”
    If that is the case my question is, Why not? I am not saying that scripture provides the answers to all of the mysteries in the world; it does not fill in all the gaps. But instead of trying to fill in those gaps, Science tends to depart from faith in God for the sake of a rational, logical and proven argument (Never mind all of the unproven theories that drive them). Science attacks the existence of God with their worldview based on their interpreted evidence; by the very same token we provide evidence of God by interpreting that same evidence in a way that fits our worldview. Is our world view anymore correct then their world view? Scriptures teaches us that it is, that it has been revealed to us, therefore it is a worldview they do not possess, it is the unknown truth revealed to us by God, not that we are in a superior position because of it. So I guess what I am trying to say is that “Without superiority our worldview is correct and distracting voices are opposing worldviews which scripturally are incorrect”

    We must avoid the shrillness that the savvy, the worldly-wise, increasingly recognize as representing insecurity and a passive desire to dominate others.”

    The Christian worldview does not try to dominate it is a choice made by those who listen to the message any other tactic “Crusades” etc. have veered away form the Christian worldview. I probably did not communicate my thought as clearly as I would like to but please understand that I don’t completely disagree with you, I agree with letting science do it’s thing just don’t veer of you purpose. I agree with the enlightenment trap concept you speak of, since we don’t know everything but we have a worldview that is complete even if it leaves room for unknowns.

    I won’t bore you with more but I thank you, you have made me think differently today and I appreciate that. God Bless.

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    1. Hello Techi

      I appreciate the time you’ve taken to try to understand what I am saying through my article. These are undoubtedly nuanced, subtle arguments.

      I don’t believe that I’m saying we cannot defend the Christian worldview through providing evidence of creation; indeed, I affirm such apologetics. They have their place and I believe that scientific discoveries are actually bringing to light realities that are potentially tremendously affirming of the likelihood of God’s imprint within his creation. I rejoice in such things.

      What I am saying, however, is that we will do well to appreciate how different such evidence may appear to those who have a different worldview, a different assumption of “how things came to be.” And I believe that we ought therefore to offer such evidence lightly, without any intention to dominate others. Christian faith must be exhibited at least as much by our attitude and our actions as by our words and the arguments we present to support our faith.

      Thus, even when others use their voice to dominate—as is the trend within certain popular atheistic communities—then we have an opportunity to respond Christianly in terms of how we answer, using wisdom, grace and compassion, rather than anger or volume or hostility. If we meet these things ourselves, in others, we ought to overcome evil with good. We ought not to fight fire with fire.

      Continuing… To say, as you do, that “Science attacks the existence of God,” is, I suggest, to misunderstand what is happening in the dialogue between science and religions and faith communities. Some scientists do use science this way; others do not. Some are neutral and some use it to affirm the possibility of God. Only a few would see science as having a role to actually confirm the reality of God. (It may be more accurate to say that materialists or atheistic scientists attack the notion of the existence of God.)

      You draw out an important difference between the materialistic worldview and the Christian one: revelation. For you, this provides a foundation of “correctness,” which you suggest can be promoted without superiority. I think what you may be pointing towards is the possibility of promoting such a view without a “superior” attitude. On this we agree; this is how apologetic discussions ought to be conducted and I would think often are by many believers, with respect and appreciation for the others.

      But really my critique is asking us to go further. It is asking us to dare to peek over the metaphorical fence of our neighbour, the Other, who is different from us and for whom the notion of revelation is an assumption that they see us making. To posit this as a reason for belief is perfectly valid and it does indeed set our worldview apart from that of the materialist who insists there is nothing other than the material world. But to one who does not accept this assumption, we are effectively saying, Believe because God acted in history to reveal himself and here is the evidence. But the evidence—the Bible—does not look particularly different to a non-believer, than a copy of the works of Shakespeare, for example.

      So here is my point again. If we promote the foundation of revelation, as posited within the Bible, as a rationale for believing that our philosophy, our belief is superior, it is a small leap to believing that our culture and way of life, which we believe is based upon scripture is superior. So what is the alternative?

      It is to bring to life the reality of the covenant relationship that is promoted within the Bible. It is to demonstrate a harmony between the revelation of God as one who has acted continuously within creation, consistently within the history of his covenant people and ultimately within the Messiah and his messianic, anointed community. We must demonstrate a living reality of the Holy Spirit, the Breath of God, at work within us. If we do that, some will be drawn to that living light, that healing of humanity represented by it.

      Others will continue to eschew it. We ought not to be deterred by that. Neither ought we to be too concerned to offer a thorough apologetic to every gainsayer. Some are committed, as we are, to their worldview. They are not drawn to the light and it is not our role to drag them kicking and screaming, nor even to try to answer each argument presented with a superior one.

      Sometimes, in the stillness of our person, in the twinkle of our eye, in the undisturbed-ness of our disposition, they may perceive a happier alternative to the agnosticism, or materialism, or even atheism to which they say they must cling.

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    2. Thank you for the clarification. A wise old man once told me to “Always give testimony and speak only when necessary”

      “It may be more accurate to say that materialists or atheistic scientists attack the notion of the existence of God.” – I will make that distinction from now on.

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