Zachary Ardern is a postdoctoral fellow in evolutionary biology who studies the evolution of bacteria. He possesses not only a keen interest in science but also in theology, and often writes about the relationship between theology and evolutionary theory.
Ardern explains that he is “a confessing scientist” who views Jesus Christ as Lord. He believes in Christ’s “bodily Resurrection from the dead,” and, “came to believe because I became personally convinced that the God of the Bible is real and that Jesus is alive.” Although Ardern claims that he cannot prove that God exists he does believe that belief in God is a reasonable inference from several key evidences, of which science and history are most important for him. Science is mentioned first,
“When I look at the universe I see it as brimming with purpose. I believe that God exists. I cannot prove so, and I cannot give a strictly scientific argument, but science (of course) forms part of the evidence I—as a scientist—must weigh.”
He appeals to the Big Bang which appears to him miraculous in its own sense,
“Our universe began with an extremely highly-ordered initial state. If anything could be labeled a miracle, the origin of the cosmos seems to fit the bill. No matter how many intricate scientific details we discover, the initial creation of something from nothing or what Hawking referred to as the breathing of “fire into the equations” will remain extra-scientific or metaphysical.”
Ardern refers to what many have called the “fine-tuning” of the universe, namely the set of incredibly improbable constants and conditions required to be exactly precise to allow for life to form and exist within the universe,
“The development of this cosmos was then governed by a set of natural laws which allow the existence of life. On current understanding, the life-friendly set is an extraordinarily rare one in the total conceivable possibility space, and our life-friendly position in that space is sensitive to relatively tiny changes. This finding is widely thought to be surprising for the naturalist. It gets better still, however. These laws are to a remarkable extent comprehensible and even beautiful to us—fallible mortal creatures though we are. Although our ancestors’ survival presumably depended on hunting and gathering, we have the capacity to hunt for subatomic particles and gather genomic datasets which give us insight into our origins, amongst many other impressive things such as music, language, and altruistic acts. I find all this consonant with (and even suggestive of) the existence of God, a transcendent personal reality behind the scenes—an author of the cosmic drama.”
Adern refers to a “pointer” in the form of our moral awareness, “I observe some pointers towards a transcendent and perhaps personality reality: an Author. I also believe that this Author making moral claims on our lives makes the best sense of the moral awareness which humans possess.”
The historical Jesus as he is represented in the gospel biographical sources is arguably the most important pointer of all,
“Jesus gives unique insight into God’s nature, and I think this partly because of his remarkable life recorded in the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John… key biblical themes of temple, sacrifice, liberation, authority, shepherd, king, prophet, holiness, and healing, among many others, are all expressed and re-envisioned in the life of Jesus, and recorded in a way which is in essence historical rather than mythological.”
Adern does not believe that one has to accept the gospel representations of Christ blindly. Rather, there are convincing reasons for accepting them which are based upon historical grounds. For example, he accepts the testimony of Christ’s earliest followers because their,
“message of the Resurrection was early, persuasive, and transformative… it was not a late development in a different city, decades after the last witnesses had died out. Rather, it was believed and preached in Jerusalem from the beginning of the Christian movement. We can perform a kind of phylogenetic analysis of the early texts to find the oldest strata, the common themes that must have been present at the beginning. The Resurrection is clearly there, found as a central claim of Paul’s earliest letters, the gospels, Acts, and most other New Testament letters. The most-cited verse from the Hebrew Bible in the New Testament is Psalm 110:1, which is repeatedly used in reference to Jesus’s victory over death. This core Christian claim undoubtedly goes back to the earliest Jewish believers. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church was written in the 50s AD, approximately 20 years after Jesus’s death—already an early source. But it contains an even earlier creedal formula in 1 Cor 15, which is generally held to go back to within 2-3 years of Jesus’s death.”
Ardern acknowledges the pervasiveness of the resurrection message as well as those people who came to believe in it,
“These people were in the best position to know what had happened, and whether reports of a crucifixion, empty tomb, and post-mortem appearances to many were true. The essential historicity of the book of Acts supports these claims and others which bolster the case that people well equipped to know the truth were persuaded of the Resurrection… The message was spread by many people, through many difficulties. One of the most important missionaries was Paul of Tarsus, a well-educated Jew whose initial reaction to the Christian movement was to persecute it harshly. Something happened to change his mind; likewise James the brother of Jesus, whose belief appears to have only come after the Resurrection. The wider society of the ancient world came to see the effects of Christianity too… None of this proves that Christianity is true, but it is evidence that the Resurrection was transformative and must have been taken seriously.”
To “sum it all up,” explains Ardern,
“I find reason to believe that there is an authoritative personal reality undergirding the universe, I believe that Jesus fulfills the Hebrew expectations of this personal reality in surprising and subtle ways, and I see evidence that he rose from the dead. Taking it together with the various strands of my life and experience of the world, I find the Resurrection compelling as a historical event and a foundation for hope. I am also a scientist and find my scientific worldview and practice to cohere well with my faith in the God revealed in Jesus, and so I am a confessing scientist.”
References and Recommended Reading
Biologos. Zachary Ardern. Available.
Peaceful Science. 2019. Zachary Ardern: Resurrection and Reality. Available.
Convergent Wanderings – website of Dr Zachary Arden. Available.