No Need for Conflict

We need not be adversaries, said the spirit to the mind, we can bury the hatchet,

But the mind was very wary, and could not long tarry to undo its own latchet,

And so the spirit would bend, but not the mind, to obtain a better brighter end,

One in which soul and science cooperate on problem issues both small and great,

There need be no conflict, said the spirit to the mind, no reason to afflict or convict,

Just living together in peace in our own place, face to face in God’s grace


In the Beginning

Æons ago, when Gaia was very young, her birth song sung,
Wild beauty with mild peace wrapped her like a cloak,
Her heart the yolk of new life with few battles to fight;
Night was gentle, light warm and penetrating oceans deep
To embryonic keep, where there reigned genial cooperation
In symbiotic evolution, not quixotic or chaotic, rather
Guided by an unseen, gentle hand as if it were planned
But with no demand on the fetal growth in Gaia’s womb…
In the beginning.

Mythos: An Interview With Robert Lambert Jones III

RobertRobert Lambert Jones III is a college biology professor who earned his Ph. D. in Molecular Biology from Indiana University. He is married and has three grown daughters, a granddaughter, and a dog named Buckley. He enjoys hiking, cycling, reading, watching movies, playing his electric bass, and (of course) writing. Robert Jones blogs weekly at Pneumythology.

  • When and how did you first become interested in mythology? Tell us something about your early love for this grand subject

iliadodysseyIt might have started with a childhood love of monsters, especially dinosaurs. I also remember my parents owning an encyclopedia called The Book of Knowledge. That little tidbit of information might date me, but in that book I read an abridged account of Beowulf’s battle with Grendel. In high school English class, we read excerpts from The Iliad and The Odyssey which also fascinated me. These were intrinsic processes, and I can’t really explain them other than to say I have been drawn to spiritual concepts since I was a boy. Ironically, this did not translate into an interest in Christianity until later.

  • When did you embrace the Christian faith-religion?

I have heard that “the eleven-year-old atheist” is a term used by professional counselors. This is evidently the age at which children start figuring out that there are contradictions between what they experience and what they are told. Essentially, when many children were moving away from a belief in God, I was moving the other direction. I never really doubted Christianity before that since I was raised by Christian parents, but I just wasn’t interested. The idea that I should actually do something about it reached critical mass about a month before I turned twelve. I was always an introspective kid with a desire for intellectual honesty, and I made an actual decision to become a Christian at that time. At the age of seventeen, I re-evaluated what this actually meant in more mature terms with the result that I became more committed.

  • What cultural mythology (or mythologies) enamor you the most, and why?

First and foremost, I am interested in Christianity for the simple reason that I decided it was true. Biblical stories have the elements common to great myths: deity, monsters (spiritual and/or physical), and fallible human beings who must respond honorably and with courage. My earlier interests mentioned in my answer to your first question resulted in me reading The IliadThe Odyssey, and Beowulf in their entirety as an adult. I especially became engrossed in The Odyssey. Some have referred to it as the first modern novel though it is actually a narrative poem. I was also impressed by The Divine Comedy. As for more modern works, I must mention The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings. Collectively, these works (especially the last two) have influenced the stories I have written.

  • What is the favorite story you’ve written? Why? And can you share with us a synopsis of this story?

I’m not sure I can adequately answer that question. It’s like asking a parent to choose their favorite child. So far, I have self-published a trilogy of stories titled The Dogwood Legacy (available on Amazon for those interested). The stories are (in order): Jacob Leviathan, Nathan Turner, and Obadiah Holt. Collectively, they represent a progression from a folk tale set in the Ozark Mountains, an invented urban legend set in an unspecified Midwestern city, and a re-imagined North American myth. These are all allegorical monster stories in which the monsters serve as foils for the main characters, and the story arc of the series takes place over multiple generations. My adult daughters have told me that they consider Jacob Leviathan to be the best-crafted of the three, so I guess I’d pick that if you held a gun to my head. I don’t know if I agree with their assessment, however. I like all three stories for different reasons. In addition I have written two fairly lengthy story poems (also allegorical) which won’t be published until I figure out how to get them illustrated.

  • If, say, a junior or senior in high school, or someone early in their college career, came to you with an desire to learn more about mythology in general, what book(s) and/or videos (or audio tapes, I suppose) would you recommend for them to “get their feet wet,” so to speak?

BeowulfI think my answers to your previous question would be most applicable. I must add, however, that reading the classical works takes patience and discipline for a modern reader, but the payoff is definitely worth it.

  • I’ve personally been intrigued in how you have, from time to time, integrated your Christian faith with your analysis of certain mythological studies. Do you often see Christian themes in mythology? Tell us something about that?

Maybe the best way to answer this is to say that I see parallels between Christianity and pre-Christian mythology. There are some major differences, of course, but there are also similarities. A Native American who is also a fourth generation Christian pastor from one of the Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma visited our church not long ago. He said some very interesting things about the parallels between the culture of his pre-Christian ancestry and that of Christianity. To be honest, it gave me an idea for a story I might want to develop in the future. Without going into tedious details, I might best conclude this answer with some questions. Do spiritual beings exist? If so, what are their natures? Do they communicate or otherwise interact with human beings? If they have done so in the distant past, might generations of distortion, unfamiliarity, or removal from these experiences have resulted in our current smorgasbord of religious beliefs? Might this also account for certain similarities between systems of faith? Answers to these questions can lead us into the area of comparative religion, most particularly in thinking critically about which religion is actually true or closest to the truth.

  • Just out of curiosity, what ‘brand’ of Christian of Christian are you? In other words, what is the denomination and/or tradition to which you belong?

I could probably best be described as a nondenominational Christian, but I was raised a Methodist. My maternal grandfather and three of his brothers were all Methodist ministers. And I don’t know if I could properly call them theologians, but G. K. Chesterton and C. S. Lewis stand out in my mind. I love their practical yet imaginative reasoning, and they are a delight to read.

  • As a Christian, do you perceive mythos as being part and parcel of the Hebraic/Christian stories contained in the sacred Scriptures? If so, which stories in particular?

Icon-Last-Judgment-1In my second post after starting my blog about a year ago, I included a quote by C. S. Lewis. If I may paraphrase, it said something about Christianity being a myth with the characteristics of all great myths but with the exception that it really happened. All of the prophetic visions written in the Old and New Testaments are mythic. The books of Isaiah and Ezekiel contain some interesting descriptions of how God appeared to men of limited sensory perception. The books of Daniel and Revelation describe visions with symbolic and monstrous images which are incorporated into predictions of future events. All of the stories which describe encounters between God, Satan, angels, demons, and humans fulfill the definition of a great myth. The Christian faith is founded on the cosmic struggle carried out through the fall of humanity, the virgin birth, the crucifixion, the resurrection, the ascension, and the ultimate return of Jesus Christ. Our culture has become so familiar with these accounts on a surface level that it has lost an appreciation of their drama and their grandeur.

Thank you so very much for your time and very insightful, provocative answers. I’m sure many of my readers will be quite interested in visiting your wonderfully intriguing blog and learning more about you. All the best to you with blessings!

Homo Naledi and the Excitement of New Discovery

The recent discovery of Homo Naledi by the Rising Star Expedition in South Africa[1] seems to have elicited quite some controversy — at least on social networks, like Facebook — between hardcore, atheistic evolutionists and “scientific creationists,” with agnostics and theistic evolutionists (religious or not) sanely caught somewhere in the middle, but practically muted by the cacophony of bitter accusations, speculations, name-calling, insults, and what-have-you. The discovery is fascinating, and it does not really change the theory of evolution, nor does it directly involve religious faith. This is a story of monumental, exciting discovery by scientists doing what they do: Researching, exploring, discovering and sharing with the rest of the world.

Of course, this has not stopped people from making asinine comments, such as: “They found old bones of a monkey, or disfigured man and call it a new human. This is nothing to get excited about. Thousands of years from now when they dig up Patrick Ewing, they will claim they found another species of human, too.” And, “Of course you’ll stick to your contemporary mythology Tom N. It’s too hard for some to overcome the fear of a vengeful, psychopathic deity.”[2] And one of my favorites: “You bible thumpers do realize god doesn’t exist, right?” To which I could not resist answering:

Umm … no. And “bible-thumpers” are by far not the only ones who believe in the existence of God (or the divine, supernatural, etc.) Besides this obvious fact, your question itself is quite bizarre: Why would “bible-thumpers,” as you refer to some, “realize god doesn’t exist?” If they realized this ~ which certainly is not the case ~ then, of course, they would not be “bible thumpers.” Very ill-thought and pedantic of you, Scott. Think before you write, please.

All of this is completely unnecessary, of course. As I tried to point out amid the raging controversy, there are plenty of scientists, who are women and men of faith. More than this, however, science is not about attempting to disprove the existence of God, divinity, the supernatural or numinous – yes, despite Dawkins and company – and religious faith is not, or need not be, about disproving science.

Yes, of course, there are naturalistic materialist who claim that all causation is completely naturalistic and materialistic, only an “interaction between material entities.” As philosopher Jennifer Trusted points out, for the materialist “consciousness has to be admitted but as a mere epiphenomenon … matter is the sole ultimate reality.”[3] One does not have to adhere to some sort of fideism to reasonably conclude that naturalistic materialism is ultimately untenable. But perhaps here we need to make one very important and sharp distinction: There is science (properly speaking) and then there is philosophy. Oftentimes in rancorous discussions, such as the one I’m here addressing, the two are terribly confused … or, really, not thought about at all! Thankfully, the former, very renowned atheistic philosopher-turned-theist, Anthony Flew, makes the distinction quite well:

You might ask how I, a philosopher, could speak to issues treated by scientists. The best way to answer this is with another question. Are we engaging in science or philosophy here? When you study the interaction of two physical bodies, for instance, two subatomic particles, you are engaged in science. When you ask how it is that those subatomic particles – or anything physical – could exist and why, you are engaged in philosophy. When you draw philosophical conclusions from scientific data, then you are thinking as a philosopher.[4]

As stated above, scientists properly do what they do when they research, explore, discover and share with the rest of the world what they have learned. They do not ask questions, as professional scientists, about the purpose and meaning of life; about the intrinsic value of the homo sapien or other creatures; about the existence of an unseen numinous sphere, etc. What am I saying? There are philosophers, ethicists, theologians and other professionals for a reason; science is not kingpin. By the way, one needs to know and understand the difference between “science” and “scientism.” Scientism is “an exaggerated trust in the efficacy of the methods of natural science applied to all areas of investigation, as in philosophy, the social sciences, and the humanities.” Just as “materialism” is “the theory that physical matter is the only or fundamental reality and that all being and processes and phenomena can be explained as manifestations or results of matter.” [5]

In contradistinction to this is the metaphysical, that is, “that which relates to the transcendent or to a reality beyond what is perceptible to the senses,” and this falls outside the purview of science, strictly speaking. Besides, what was actually discovered in South Africa by the Rising Star Expedition is astonishing beyond what can be precisely termed “science.” Researchers have concluded:

[B]esides shedding light on the origins and diversity of our genus, H. naledi also appears to have intentionally deposited bodies of its dead in a remote cave chamber, a behaviour previously thought limited to humans… the context of the find has led the researchers to conclude that this primitive-looking hominin may have practiced a form of behaviour previously thought to be unique to humans. The fossils — which consist of infants, children, adults and elderly individuals — were found in a room deep underground that the team named the Dinaledi Chamber, or “Chamber of Stars”.[6]

In other words, they intentionally practiced “sacramental” burial. Science cannot answer the question, “Why? This was evidently important, and an exact, consistent practice, but why?” This question, and the answer, simply lie outside the limits of science. I believe the late Oxford scientist, William H. Thorpe, “hit the nail on the head” when he wrote:

The materialist scientist of the last century (19th), looking downward into the basis of material things, thought that he had found material entities behaving according to mechanistic determinism in a lawful and invariable manner to constitute the material world. At the other end he had the curious illusion that his mentality was also determined by mechanistic-materialist laws. Now, as we have seen, materialism at the basic physical levels has been transformed into events involving entities which are certainly not ‘physical’ in any original sense but as ‘vectors’ to be described only in non-physical terms – as ‘mental,’ as ‘purposive,’ or as ‘spiritual.’[7]

Touché! And so, again, we have philosophers, anthropologists, historians, ethicists, theologians, etc., all working properly in their respective fields (ideally, at least.) It is only when some, like Richard Dawkins, attempt to cross over into another field in which he has no real expertise that we have problems – completely unnecessary problems! And, too, when avid atheists and fundamentalist, “scientific creationists” jump in the ring where neither belong – this causes unnecessary complications, too, and all so unnecessary, really. In the final analysis, Christoph Cardinal Schönborn offers, perhaps, the best advice where living out our collective lives in this stunningly beautiful and still very mysterious world is concerned:

One thing should be said at the start: the answer to (the fundamentally important questions) cannot be found by opposing faith and knowledge, religion and science, but only in a shared effort of thought, research, and also belief.[8]

And to this, may I say, “Amen and amen!”



[1]Rising Star Expedition Reveals New Species: Homo Naledi as posted by the University of Witwatersrand, accessed on September 14, 2015

[2] Note: Grammatical and spelling errors corrected and names abbreviated by author of this article

[3] Jennifer Trusted, Inquiry and Understanding: An Introduction to Explanation in the Physical and Human Sciences, 88

[4] Antony Flew, “A Pilgrimage of Reason,” Francis S. Collins, ed., Belief: Readings on the Reason for Faith, 309-310

[5] Sources lost and forgotten, or (perhaps) written out from various sources by author; however, these definitions may certainly, easily be checked for accuracy

[6] Ibid

[7] William H. Thorpe, Purpose in a World of Chance: A Biologist’s View, 114-115

[8] Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, Chance or Purpose? Creation, Evolution, and a Rational Faith, 112-113; Note: parenthetical mine