Churches and believers need to leave the bubble

Religion / Science

I’ve written a few times on this blog about my concern that our natural human tendency to associate with people who agree with us causes us to create comfortable intellectual bubbles for us to live within. Most people, rather than seeking people who hold contrary opinions to their own, instead create virtual and/or real communities of people who hold the same thoughts or same opinions as they do. When this happens online it’s described as speaking into the “echo chamber”. Darrel Falk, describing a similar philosophical idea describes it as living in the bubble. I’ve described it elsewhere as the self-creation of ghettos.

Falk though has gone into a great deal more detailed analysis of the mechanisms involved when it comes to churches and people of faith choosing to live in a world where they can avoid having the beliefs challenged by scientific data. He writes of an encounter recently with a friend of his, a young biology graduate student who left her studies as she became more and more involved in her sense of a call to ministry and heightened her involvement in her church.

He describes an encounter he had with her after she decided to leave the church:

“As I drank my coffee and munched on my toast I felt a little lonely as I adjusted to this new person sitting across from me. She was bitter. The Church, she felt, had lied to her. Having purposely distorted the real world, it had kept her enclosed in the bubble. Upon emergence, she looked back and saw the layers around it, not as a protective shield, but as impenetrable barriers which would forever prevent her re-entry. She would never go back. She had lived in a fairy-tale world. I was no longer her mentor. I was a perpetrator of that which she now regarded as an ephemeral event—a dream in her past.

I would like to begin by suggesting that we Christians may have unnecessarily surrounded ourselves with a multi-layered bubble that isolates us from the academic world. I will explore whether many of the bubble’s layers are products of our own Christian culture and not the Bible itself. Indeed, I wonder if some may arise from our inadequacies in how to understand the Bible. Others may come from our unwarranted skepticism about science. True, scientific hypotheses are sometimes wrong. However, the branch of science which is causing the greatest discord is not simply centered upon a hypothesis. Rather, it involves an all-encompassing theory which, following 150 years of testing its many dimensions, is consistent with all the sub-disciplines of biology. One of the hallmarks of a great scientific theory is cohesiveness. Few if any theory in the history of science has ever unified all the disciplines of the natural sciences as has the theory of evolution. Perhaps it is time for us, even we evangelicals, to explore whether we are propping up the layers of a bubble that we, and not God, have put in place and thereby, have artificially isolated ourselves from the world of academics.”

Read the full article here.

He lists five concentric rings or bubbles that people within the Church have used (with some collusion by those in the scientific community) to isolate themselves from academic research and scientific observations:

  1. The Story of Adam and Eve must be viewed as history

    By history he means people focuses on the historicity of the account and ignore the theological and allegorical elements of the story.

  2. A God who is love would not create through a process that includes suffering and death

    The theory of Natural Selection (survival of the fittest) is contrary to the New Testament message of self-sacrificial love that we find in Jesus.

  3. Science explains it all – there is no need for God in the history of life

    This is a misunderstanding of the limits of the scientific method, and the limits of our present understanding of creation. Christians often imagine that there is absolutely no place for God because Science has all the answers and has no need of God.

  4. St. Augustine’s warning (which I’ve referenced a number of times)

    It is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, while presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense…If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintain his foolish opinions about scriptures how then are they going to believe those Scriptures in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven?

  5. As it relates to science and faith, Christians are perceived as people who distort facts and lack integrity

    One only has to talk to a few evolutionary biologists to hear all about this layer.

Let me strongly commend this paper to you. You’ll find it linked above.

While I’m at it, let me commend to your attention a blog written by a friend of mine (and a member of our Cathedral here in Phoenix) David Ord. David is the editoral director of Namaste Press and he writes today about how he manages to hold his faith in tension with his willingness to trust in the scientific method:

If I hold ideas that don’t stand up in the light of science, then no matter how dear my ideas may be to me, I let them go.

This isn’t choosing science over sacred scriptures. It’s allowing all scriptures to be understood from the perspective of our growing light.

We see what these authors penned more intuitively, spiritually, rather than factually.

I’m not suggesting that science knows everything—that there may not be a lot more to reality than we have so far discovered.

Quite the contrary. One of the things the last century has shown us, with our exposure to relativity and the quantum world, is that just when we imagine we have figured out how things work, we really know little about the nature of our material existence yet.

What I’m saying is that if something is contrary to what we have established, then if I am a person of faith, I must modify my ideas, not cling to them and proclaim my “certainty.”

Faith has nothing to do with mental certainty. Rather, it’s the sense of being grasped by something greater than myself—and yet in which I participate.

From here.

I’m quite taken with the last four paragraphs.

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...


  1. Theresa Stottlemire says

    Faith comes from within a person. You can’t teach it. You can’t preach it, It’s there from the moment that you are born. Life’s challenges can sway it, but, if it’s within YOU, sooner or later, the RIGHT way of thinking will shine through.
    What drives a person to the right way of Christianity, or goodness, is within them.
    Dean Knisely You still Rock

  2. Fr craig says

    I am always amazed at how offended people can get when I speak of myth and allegory. We all know that Hansel and Gretel is a story, but doesn’t it teach us powerful things? It seems to me that we live in a world that is ever more fluid, change fires at and past us so quickly, computer generated graphics and doctored photos (while fun) make reality vague… and so people want something to be definite and certain. Surely God and the Bible are this? When we challenge what they think is certain, it frightens them and they get angry. I always tell them that there is only one thing I know for certain, and that is that I don’t know the mind of God.
    By the way, Dean – I think you installed my computer?? Church of the Epiphany, Clarks Summit. Thanks! I am now a Mac convert.

  3. Thanks Craig+
    Yup, that would be me. I remember putting that in for the video conferencing project we were doing in the diocese. Does anyone still use it?

  4. Fr craig says

    we haven’t used it since I got here (06)…! on the other hand, I did pre-marital counseling with a couple who live in Florida! the groom was a Mac techie and installed something via email so that he could manipulate it from there, and away we went. I’m barely computer literate…
    Love your blog – insights from nature and science always inform my thinking!

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