Thinking Faith blogs

From Maradona to Jesus

 Is Maradona the best footballer of all time?

Worldwide there are 200,000 worshippers of Diego who attend the church of Maradona. The faithful follow their own 'bespoke' ten commandments which urge them to 'love football above everything' and 'name your first son Diego'.

The Church of Maradona insists that you get baptised by slapping a football!

There are three ways of looking at this odd story.

Materialists will dub this 'mere superstition'.

Relativists will nod approvingly: whatever works for you.

Christians will stress that trusting in the Maradona faith cannot wipe away your sins. Those who love and trust in Jesus have their sins forgiven.


In pursuit of Christian scholarship (2)

Rudi Hayward completes his review of "Tracing the Lines: Spiritual Exercise and the Gesture of Christian Scholarship" by Robert Sweetman (Wipf & Stock 2016).

The first part of this review ended with the paradox that either Christian scholarship is understood as so integrally Christian as to endanger the sense in which the Christian and non-Christian are engaged in the same enterprise at all, or else the shared standards and results of scholarship are elevated so much that identifying anything distinctively Christian is embarrassingly difficult. Sweetman points out the difficulty by noting that theoretical results, once articulated and made accessible to others, are open to all. Christians can, do, and should make use of the scholarly findings of non-Christians, and vice-versa. As an illustration, Sweetman uses the example of Andrew Basden’s work in information systems, which employs the uniquely Christian claims and methods of Herman Dooyeweerd’s philosophy. Yet Basden has many non-Christian collaborators who have found his Dooyeweerdian framework helpful for their own scholarly practice. Sweetman draws from this the conclusion that we must reject the Aristotelian inquiry into a "Christian difference” grounded in some stable set of claims and/or methods that are intrinsically if not uniquely Christian.

How then should we understand and pursue Christian scholarship? Sweetman’s suggestion is that Christian scholarship is scholarship that is self-consciously attuned to the shape of the Christian heart, individually and communally.

Attuning one’s scholarship to the shape of the Christian heart means, first of all, moving away from a view of faith as assent to a set of changeless propositions, the content and guarantor of orthodoxy. Instead faith should act as a spiritual orientation towards the world which acts something like a set of reflex-like expectations. Sweetman uses the familiar triad of creation-fall-redemption as an example. This sets up “an impulse in which one approaches something open to encountering it with indications of its original blessing, its marring and consequent ambiguity, and its reception of a new and redemptive meaning by which its original blessing shines forth again and becomes redolent of new possibilities” (pp142-143). Another example he develops and illustrates is what he calls the “cubist painter’s eye”, whereby a scholar listens patiently and with humility to the analysis of the same phenomenon from very different cultural and religious perspectives. So what the Medieval monk calls “humility” the modern secular humanist calls “despair,” yet both can be seen to be describing a recognizably common phenomenon. This leads Sweetman to consider a generous humility which recognizes the ubiquity of creational goodness and redemptive possibilities, always mixed with the Fall and its effects. Thus the scholar learns to recognize in the results of other scholars that they are more likely than not almost right, yet at the same time more likely than not almost mistaken. That is the kind of twofold expectation that Sweetman believes should orientate the Christian scholar’s critical antennae.

Wanting to make these suggestions as concrete as possible, he offers an example. One thing that moves his heart, that excites him about Christian faith, is that the God we meet in Jesus is a peacemaker. And in his scholarship he seeks to image a peacemaking God, and wants to begin his scholarly endeavors with “pacific questions”. That is how he seeks to attune his scholarship to the shape of his Christian heart. Sweetman is clear that peacemaking is no scholarly master key; it is only an example. Furthermore, it doesn’t set his scholarship apart in a special category of Christian scholarship. It is something that can be meaningfully practiced in the context of the secular academy, and he believes may be just as applicable to the STEM researcher as the humanities scholar. The Gospel is expansive enough to fill Christian hearts in many different ways. So he would ask you and me a simple yet profound question. What is the shape of your Christian heart, and how could your scholarship come to be attuned to this shape?

In pursuit of Christian scholarship (1)

Rudi Hayward reviews Tracing the Lines: Spiritual Exercise and the Gesture of Christian Scholarship by Robert Sweetman (Wipf & Stock 2016, 177 pages)

With this book Sweetman wants to participate in, and take forward, a conversation about the meaning and possibility of Christian scholarship. His starting point is that being Christ-followers should mark our life in some visible way, and that this should therefore be discernible in our scholarship. Throughout the book he raises a number of problems with how we have thought about Christian scholarship, and a number of perplexities that cause disquiet and embarrassment, even among its advocates. While he comes at the questions from the standpoint of what he identifies as the “holist account”, one of his stated aims is to uncover the “unity of Christian scholarship” that underlies three different accounts of what it might be: complementarist, integrationist and holist. For example, in a footnote on his discussion of George Marsden’s contribution he notes that at an earlier stage “I did not see the three accounts as separate accounts of integrality, rather, I only thought of what I here call a holist account as such” (p.76) - but dialogue with Marsden pushed him to make this recognition.

Three limitations of the current discussions of Christian scholarship frame Sweetman’s attempt to offer some fresh perspectives on the issue. Firstly there is a disciplinary narrowness to the discussions, with most contributions coming from scholars working in theology and philosophy or disciplines closely related. A second limitation is that the discussion is largely restricted to Christian institutions, with a failure to engage those Christian scholars who find themselves working in the secular academy. The third limitation is somewhat more abstract and not immediately obvious, but Sweetman believes that within current discussions there has been a preference for distinctions over connections. His solution to this third point becomes the conceptual key behind the positive suggestions he makes later to respond to the other two limitations.

Chapters two and three cover a wide range of Christian thinkers on the idea of Christian scholarship, although they do all fit snugly into the narrow disciplinary framework already identified as a limitation in the current discussion. We find here clear, careful and generous discussion of the authors chosen and the three accounts identified. It is important groundwork, but will require some patience from those coming to the book agreeing with Sweetman’s diagnosis of the limitations and wanting to see his positive suggestions.

Chapter four is where Sweetman’s original contributions start to get going. He believes that the preference for distinctions over connections has been the natural way of putting the issue because of approaching the problem in Aristotelian terms. Put simply: scholarship is something shared amongst believers and non-believers alike, so Christian scholarship must add something stable and identifiable to make it a distinctive form of scholarship. We need to identify a clear something, that turns scholarship into Christian scholarship. This is where embracement creeps in. Sweetman gives two contrasting examples. In the first place an emphasis on Christian difference which is thorough and integral can lead down a line of argument where the Christian scholar and the secular scholar share nothing in common. Here the Christian character of scholarship is maintained, but the shared scholarly task is undermined. On the other hand a genuine search for the results or methods of scholarship that can be ascribed exclusively to the influence of Christian faith very often end up with nothing substantial to offer. The shared task of scholarship is maintained, but the Christian difference goes missing.

In the second part of this review I will outline Sweetman’s proposals to overcome this apparently irresolvable paradox.

The idea of a Christian university

university graphic

Christians hold a wide range of views about what kinds of Christian organisation should be created.  At one extreme, the Church is seen as the primary or even the only Christian organisation, its ordained leaders merely lending their authority to a limited range of other Christian initiatives - which thus have a denominational character (at least if you're Protestant) and fall under clerical control. Perhaps a next step is to allow for independent initiatives like Christian unions, workplace fellowships and theological colleges directed by laypeople. But it's quite a lot further along the spectrum that we find autonomous Christian schools, colleges and universities, in which a broad curriculum is available for study. Both Protestant and Catholic traditions have these - yet in the U.K. they are surprisingly rare and, in some circles, controversial.

I'm part of a working group looking at the idea of a Christian research institute for the U.K. - as part of the broader vision of a Christian university for the U.K. This is an idea close to the heart of Faith-in-Scholarship's parent organisation, Thinking Faith Network - which was founded in 1986 as the West Yorkshire School of Christian Studies. So we're going to have a number of posts looking at the idea of a Christian university - starting with this one.

What's the idea of a Christian university?  My boldest answer would be that it's simply the ideal of the university. "University" comes from Latin universitas magistrorum et scholarium, which meant a community of teachers and scholars: the "universitas" bit seems to refer to the unity of a group devoted to a common aim - implicitly that of building and sharing knowledge and understanding. And the term was initially used in European cultures pervaded by Christian worldviews where the object and guarantee of all knowledge was the order of God's creation itself, elucidated by the Christian Scriptures. Indeed a quick survey of university mottos suggests that in the British Isles, most of the earliest universities had biblical mottos ("Dominus illuminatio mea", "Via, Veritas, Vita", "Initium sapientiae timor domini", etc). If we also endorse more modern mottos such as "all truth is God's truth" and "He shines in all that's fair" and the notion of the common good, we might hold that a Christian university is ideally everything a university should be. And perhaps some of today's universities that don't label themselves Christian are not so far from that ideal. Indeed, there are a number in the U.K. that retain reference to Christian foundations: some members of the so-called Cathedrals Group of universities do so somewhere in a "mission and values" page deep within their website, while Liverpool Hope University more boldly claims to be "Europe's only ecumenical university" (referring to its joint Catholic and Anglican elements).

So why seek to establish anything else?  Let me intimate an answer - together with a critique of our university sector as I currently see it - by suggesting three ways in which a Christian university would ideally not turn out. First, on the sphere-sovereignty principle, it would not be run as a business. While it should seek financial sustainability, a mission of seeking and inculcating wisdom beginning from the fear of Yahweh would be the guiding consideration.  Second, it would not be a collection of academic departments unified principally by their adminstration. Interdisciplinarity would be promoted via a focus on a Christian philosophy articulating the coherence of all academic disciplines and through an emphasis on cross-disciplinary communication. (Joint honours degrees would not come from the widespread pick-and-mix approach: integrative modules would be required.)  Third, it would not give special status to theologians, nor burden chaplains or clergy with the requirement to uphold its Christian character. While theological study would be encouraged for all faculty and students and a good chaplaincy would no doubt be an asset, all faculty would be expected to give some account of their work within a Christian worldview framework.  A corollary to all this is that faculty would be appointed on the strength of their ability to relate their academic work to a Christian framework and philosophy, broadly defined. 

A final point needs to be made: that no such selection criteria would be applied to students. One of the most striking things about my visit to a L'Abri centre was how there was no questioning of the faith or morals of students like myself who turned up to study there. We had already selected ourselves, and the community we joined was permeated by Christian orthodoxy and liturgy to such a degree that the experience was transformational.

There is lots more to say, of course, and for me personally to work out. That's why this is just a first post on the topic - and why the Christian university project must be born out of a deep fellowship. 

Ben Jones is a technical genius!


It was so uplifting working with Ben Jones this morning at Leeds City College. Ben is a wonderfully imaginative youth worker and I do commend his organisation Missional Generation to you.

The VirtualReality experience was a powerful and breathtaking journey through five very different planets and you felt like a seasoned astronaut gazing at the nooks and crannies of the universe in a comfortable and reliable rocket. The students loved it!

Ben then spoke very eloquently about the Christian faith and linked it to the incredible diversity and intricacy of God's amazing universe. I then pitched in by reading part of Psalm 139. I was struck by how absorbed and attentive the students were.

Anybody who wants to help young people connect with God should pick up a phone and talk to the affable and gifted Ben Jones. I was very impressed by his technical confidence with all the paraphernalia of VirtualReality.

Thanks Stephen Ross and Leeds City College for asking us to come and share in your Interfaithweek. 

For more about Ben Jones and his ministry go to:



Critical engagement and academic citizenship

Image 'Citizenship' by Nick Youngson is licensed under CC-BY-SA 3.0

For the next in our series of posts on skills for Christian academics, I wanted to revisit one aspect of last week's excellent post by Will Allchorn on 'engaging in debate and controversy'. Will presented Dr Andrew Basden's LACE framework for Christians engaging in academic debates – Listen, Affirm, Critique, Enrich. The emphasis this places on a necessary balance of affirmation and critique – which together engender an attitude of encouragement and community rather than competitiveness – reminded me of an experience from the early days of my own academic apprenticeship. It's rather embarrassing for me to bring it up again now, since it doesn't paint me in a good light, but it taught me a very important lesson about Christian scholarship, so I thought it might be worth sharing with you!

It all began when I was in the process of writing my MA dissertation. Having thrown myself into close reading, I'd quickly discovered that there were only two or three other scholars writing about my chosen topic (not a particularly unusual situation in the study of contemporary music, it must be said). Much of the teaching I'd received regarding research over the previous years had stressed the importance of a critical approach to all existing scholarship, and certainly I'd lapped up the idea that I could make a contribution just as valuable as others who'd been working in an area much longer than I; so with all this in mind, and seeing an opportunity to make an original contribution, I set to work on these existing sources. In order to carve a space for my own interpretations, I took every opportunity to point out holes in the reasoning of the other texts I'd read, to undermine aspects I found unconvincing, and to underline the ways in which my viewpoint was so much more substantive, so much more cohesive. Throughout this it never really occurred to me to think of the authors of these texts as people with lives of their own; they were ciphers, meaningful primarily for the source-material they provided for my own intellectual display.

A year or so later, I had the privilege of meeting one of these scholars at a conference. And it was a privilege! When they heard about my interest in their area of research, they absolutely bent over backwards to help me out – sending me useful documents, arranging for me to attend relevant study days, inviting me to participate in a conference that they organised subsequently. It's no exaggeration to say that I owe some of the most formative experiences of my PhD to them. When I look back on the way I handled their own ideas in my MA work, I am heartily embarrassed. (I'm also extremely relieved that I didn't seek publication for that work, and thus they can't have read it!) It's clear to me now that I had barely even begun to think then about what it might mean for my academic work to think of myself as a Christian scholar; after all, I'd fallen at the first hurdle, that of doing to others what I would have them do to me (Matthew 7:12).

What this brought home to me was the constant need for all acts of critical challenge to be grounded in a broader vision of responsible academic citizenship. I thought the academic life was all about an impersonal quest for originality; but focussing instead on the academy as a living community – with its concomitant demands of encouragement, support and generosity – opens up a much richer and more welcoming concept of scholarly activity, and one which is much more in line with our calling as Christian scholars. I want to explore this concept of academic citizenship further in a future post, but for now I'd invite others' comments on their own experiences of this area: do you have any examples of academics acting as generous and responsible citizens (perhaps even as they respond critically to some of your ideas)?


How to engage in debate and controversy

“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil." 1 Peter 3: 15-17 (ESV)

Sometimes it’s hard to bite one’s lip in academic discussion. With entrenched and often deeply divisive positions pitted on either side, it is easy for Christians to get caught up in the proverbial mudslinging that all too often we see meted out by our colleagues and fellow students. In Peter’s letter to persecuted churches in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, however, he calls us to make our defence with gentleness and respect. How do we do this as Christians in an academic context?

One useful approach is put forward by Professor of Human Factors and Philosophy in Information Systems at Salford University, Dr Andrew Basden. It's called the LACE approach. This dead-easy-to-understand acronym involves four imperatives to help Christians to engage in literary and academic debates that can allow us to have the ‘good conscience’ that Peter talks about.

The first letter of the acronym elicits the most important imperative: listen. We must be attentive to what others around us have to say about a particular scientific, economic, social or political problem and be prepared to understand the case that they are making. This involves understanding the ground-motives, assumptions and worldview that form it so that we arrive at a full appreciation of their position.

The next action is to affirm what is good and crucial about what they are saying. We must be prepared to seek out the positive aspects of someone's theory, study or piece of research such that we feel sympathy and empathy for their position. This involves focusing on things like originality, significance and rigour. How can we encourage our colleagues and thus inspire them on to Christ-worthy good works?

The third imperative in the LACE approach is critique. In my experience, this comes all too easily in academic discussion. Indeed, we are trained in critical thinking from the time we start at university right to the end of our careers. But 'critique' here does not mean criticism for criticism’s sake but to point out any deficiencies in an approach that might be holding it back from making a great (or better) paper, presentation or argument. Is there something they’ve missed or were not aware of, or an impediment that might need addressing?

The final letter of the LACE approach calls us to enrich. This involves suggesting how you yourself or they can improve on the work such that it is of greater standing and potential. As with Peter’s injunction in verse 3 above, we should not do this from a haughty position but with gentleness and respect. We should put in the time and hard work to help a fellow human being. Creative thinking may be required!

In sum, then, Peter’s letter is quite prophetic for Christians in the secular university of today. And by using the LACE approach, we can hope to emulate the gentleness and respect that he was calling the persecuted church at that time to exercise. I heartily advise anyone reading this post to try Professor Basden’s approach out.  You never know: it might even get you your next co-authored paper!

Will Allchorn leads the Leeds Postgraduate Christian Fellowship and recently completed his PhD in political science at the University of Leeds, where he now has teaching responsibilities. You can read his previous post here.


A Case for the Humanities

Georgina Prineppi considers how God may value our research in the arts and social sciences.

As a music historian, I cringe whenever a new acquaintance asks me what I ‘do’:  my answer is invariably greeted with a somewhat quizzical expression, and often a barrage of follow-up questions about why studying the history of music would be a valuable use of one’s time. As a Christian, how do I answer?

Christians understand work within God’s design and plan for his people; as such, we have ideas about the purpose of our work beyond simply a means by which we meet our rent and Netflix subscriptions. From my own reading around the subject, I have found that a ‘theology of work’ usually encompasses the following tenets: 1) all honest, honourable work is valuable to God, however humble; 2) we should use the gifts God has given us to the best of our abilities; and 3) our work should be integrated into our primary vocation as redemptive ‘salt and light’ in the world, constructively benefitting society and furthering the Kingdom. Integrating these truths can be difficult, however, and as with everything in the Christian life, doing so takes prayer and wisdom.

How does my work fit into these theological truths? Scholarship of every description is, to some degree, esoteric, but I’m afraid the humanities have been particularly vulnerable to criticism for being irrelevant. It is easy to assume that ‘advancements’ in technology, medicine, law, or education must be valuable and God-honouring because they are ‘useful’—though of course that this isn’t always the case—but what do we say about the humanities? Does the world really need a dissertation on British popular song in the nineteenth century? As a Christian, can I defend my chosen ‘work’?

I would argue that Christians are uniquely equipped to defend work in the humanities—and are indeed called to it. We live in a utilitarian world that sees little inherent value in anything: traditions, morality, truth, beauty—in a relative world, all of these issues are up for debate. Unlike our deconstructionist counterparts in the academy, Christians are able to look at the humanities with the assumption that there can be something that is objectively beautiful—objectively true—because we believe that humanity is the reflection of something that is wholly beautiful and wholly true. This is where, for us, humanity’s indelible value rests. It would be a fallacy to think that studying the humanities requires—or leads to—a humanist worldview. Humanity has proven itself to be depraved and unflinchingly cruel: in light of our own personal brokenness, studying humanity’s history is like rubbing salt in a wound. But as a Christian, I am free to see beauty in brokenness, I am free to see inherent value in humanity despite its scars and self-mutilation because I have some little idea of what it was supposed to look like. If I were a humanist, I would find the humanities unbearably depressing; as it is, I study music not because I am in awe of humanity, but because I am in awe of the Creator humanity’s music reflects.

As Christians, I feel that we often put too much emphasis on No. 2 in the list above: the productivity or usefulness of our work. An accountant would never be asked ‘why do you think accountancy is a valuable use of your time?’ because professions don’t receive questioning on their philosophical or theological worth—even when they are abstract and repetitive—if they have clear function. But God isn’t a God of boring utility: He is the Definition of beauty, the unfathomable Inventor, the prolific Creator, the reckless Lover. As a humanities scholar, I believe that music is worthy of creation and study because it reflects Him—his extravagant and indescribable beauty. Like theologians and missionaries, I can glorify His name by making known the works of His hands and magnifying his name in my workplace. Like Eric Liddell, I was given specific talents, and when I write an insightful paper on the beauty of music, ‘I feel his pleasure’!

God put a very high price on this humanity of ours, and as a Christian scholar, I anxiously await the day when its mangled form is redeemed and restored.

Georgina Prineppi is a doctoral student at Oxford studying popular music in Britain. She calls the Bahamas home. 

Talking to an atheist about Eric Harris

Talking to aggressive atheists can be enjoyable and fulfilling if you have an intelligent and creative spiel.

I was talking to an atheist builder who had a pop at me for being a Christian. He declared boldly: "I'm on the side of science and not religion."

I was straight in there. "Does that mean you agree with Eric Harris then?

The builder was puzzled and asked me: "Who is Eric Harris?"

I smiled inwardly and launched into my bespoke evangelism patter.

"Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot 12 students and a teacher at Columbine High School, Colorado, USA in 1999. Eric wrote in his diary:

“just because your mommy and daddy tell you blood and violence is bad, you think it’s a f—g law of nature? wrong, only science and math are true, everything else, and I mean every f—g thing else is man made.”

Eric also wrote: "It's all just nature, chemistry and math, deal with it.” 

I paused for breath and asked him again - "Is this how you look at the world? Eric was on the side of science! Is he right or wrong?

The geyser was taken aback at this and said he didn't know what to say. Then he opined:

"But surely religion is responsible for all the wars in the world today. Just look at what's happening in Syria today. It's truly terrible!

I continued my patter thus: "If I agreed with you and Eric Harris I would be truly miserable about all the horrors of war. If snipers, bombers and torturers are 'just machines' then there is no hope at all. What we call 'evil' is simply the laws of physics at work. Do you agree with that?

The builder was surprised that I didn't 'defend religion' but instead attacked his scientism. He was softened and admitted that he had never thought about the dark side of scientism.

In conclusion I delivered this spiel: "If I believed that torturers and bombers were 'just machines', I would top myself right now but I have a hope in the resurrection body and Jesus Christ. One day the middle east will be filled with love and mercy. No more bombers and torturers when Christ returns to bring His kingdom in its fullness.

"Wow" he said. "Never thought about that!"

He certainly didn't agree with me but he left with some glimmers of understanding and perhaps some hope.


Integrating faith and evolution: a Christian ecologist's perspective

In the first of our occasional series of perspectives on the creation/evolution controversy, Abigail Motley reflects on the growing harmony between her faith and her ecological research.

'Nothing makes sense in biology except in the light of evolution.' Undergraduate biology lecturers love referring to this quote, the title of an essay written by Theodosius Dobzhansky in 1973. Personally, I am always moved that it was proposed by a Christian.

I am an evolutionary biologist and ecologist, studying for a DPhil in Oxford. I’m also a Christian. I have loved nature for as long as I can remember (as a child, my bedroom was littered with jars of creepy crawlies, collections of sea shells, and I saw no reason why the family guinea pigs couldn’t take part in my annual nativity plays). Growing up, I saw my passion for the natural world as a gift God had given me to try and address the exploitative behaviour of humanity towards the life on earth. However, as I plunged deeper into my Oxford biology degree, I increasingly felt like I had to choose between biology and faith. For some time, I chose biology.

By God’s grace, in the last year I accepted Jesus and moved to the evangelical Protestant tradition. In doing so, I have been astounded by the distrust and even animosity with which my discipline is received amongst some evangelical Christians. Concomitantly, I am still confronted by the staunch atheism of some scientists, including colleagues. Often when teaching biology undergraduates, I hear the argument “evolution helped us disprove there was a creator” (they’re always slightly taken aback when I challenge them on this!). Despite this, I believe God has placed me in this position for a reason.

However, I am not always strong in this conviction. Am I just blindly ignoring what God teaches us in the Bible and rebelling against Him? Something I have found incredibly helpful is Dennis Alexander's suggestion of looking at creation through two lenses: God’s Word and God’s Works. Science should never be superimposed upon the Bible. Doing so risks concocting “God of the Gaps” arguments that may become nullified as science progresses. The Bible teaches us theology and how we should treat other human beings and God’s creation. Unsurprisingly, the Bible does not give scientific details about the makings of the universe. However, God gifted Homo sapiens unique abilities – consciousness, free will, moral law, and language – that allow us to know Him and, through cumulative advances, understand his creation through science.

In a recent conversation with Dr Bethany Sollereder, a specialist in the theology of evolution and suffering, I came to realise that even young earth creationists will accept certain scientific views. She pointed out that many creationists will accept heliocentricity, that the earth and planets orbit around the Sun, and yet this is not the picture by which Genesis is written. Accepting heliocentricity means accepting a scientific theory to explain God’s creation.

I find this incredibly reassuring. Some in the church were (understandably) hostile when Galileo proposed heliocentricity, and yet now it is widely accepted. When Darwin published the Origin of Species, much of the clergy in the Church of England eagerly accepted his theory of natural selection. They recognised that science does not have to undermine faith, but rather, can truly enhance it. What greater privilege is there than understanding just a small part of our Creator’s great works in all their glory?

Granted, there is still debate in biology as to the exact nature of evolutionary theory. Certain parts of On the Origin of Species are incorrect (as are certain parts of Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene). Biology is an intrinsically uncertain science, simply because ecological and evolutionary systems are so complex. However, the nature of science is such that a theory can’t garner such strong academic support unless there is a wealth of peer-reviewed scientific data behind it. Dobzhansky was right: evolution is currently our only credible explanation for the sheer diversity of life on earth.

A knowledge of biology has deepened my faith in a way I couldn’t have imagined possible. God is not absent from science – He is at the centre of it. Evolution is a natural process that, along with all natural processes, was created by Him. Studying just a tiny part of that creation is an incredible privilege that I give thanks for every day.

 Abigail Motley is a DPhil student in Plant Ecology and Evolution at the University of Oxford. She is a regular member of St Ebbe's Church and on the 2017-18 cohort of Christians in Academia