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Devotional Biology

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  1. Introduction & Preface
    4 Steps
  2. Chapter 1: Biology for the Believer
    15 Steps
  3. Chapter 2: The Living God: Biological Life
    14 Steps
  4. Chapter 3: God’s Glory: Biological Beauty
    6 Steps
  5. Chapter 4: God is Distinct: Biological Discontinuity
    9 Steps
  6. Chapter 5: God is Good: Mutualism & Biological Evil
    10 Steps
  7. Chapter 6: God is Person: Animal Behavior & Personality
    17 Steps
  8. Chapter 7: The Provider God: The Anthropic Principle
    12 Steps
  9. Chapter 8: The Sustaining God: The Biomatrix
    8 Steps
  10. Chapter 9: God is One: Monomers, Biosimilarity, and Biosystems
    8 Steps
  11. Chapter 10: God is Three: Biodiversity
    11 Steps
  12. Chapter 11: God of Hierarchy: Biological Hierarchy
    13 Steps
  13. Chapter 12: The Almighty God: Metabolism
    8 Steps
  14. Chapter 13: God the Word: Animal Communication & Language of Life
    8 Steps
  15. Chapter 14: God’s Fullness: Reproduction, Diversification, and Biogeography
    10 Steps
  16. Chapter 15: The History of Life
    9 Steps
  17. Appendix
    4 Steps
Lesson Progress
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The following transcript was automatically generated and may contain errors in spelling and/or grammar. It is provided for assistance in note-taking and review.

The question before us in this particular session is, what is life? What is its nature? And it’s a challenging one, a challenging question. I’m going to give you the conclusion at the first, and I’m going to give you reasons for why I come to that conclusion. I believe that life is non-physical. Whatever it is, it is something that isn’t actually a physical entity. And I’m going to give you two sets of reasons. I’m going to give you some biblical reasons, first of all. Then I’m going to give you some non-biblical reasons for concluding that life is non-physical. First of all, the biblical reasons. The very most obvious observation is that the Bible specifically refers to God as living, as having life, and the cherubs, or the cherubim, in Hebrew cherubim would be a plural of cherub.

Rather than put an S in the end of words, we put basically an IM in the end of words to denote their plurality. So we’ve got God and the cherubs as alive, but neither God nor the cherubs have physical bodies. They are in fact non-physical. So if God is alive and cherubs are alive, then at least their type of life is not physical. Sort of clues us in that perhaps all life is not physical. We know also, or we can infer also, that human life is non-physical. When we first see humans described in Genesis chapter 2, when God creates Adam for the first time, He takes dirt and he forms yatsar, the way a potter would form clay.

It’s the same Hebrew word. He forms the clay into the form of Adam. And then it says he breathes into his nostrils, Adam’s nostrils, the breath of life, and Adam or Adam, man, Adam means man, Adam, man, became a living soul. So apparently, just before God put life into him, the form of Adam was already there. Adam was already there. Adam became a living soul. Man became a living soul when God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. That suggests that the physical body of man is one thing. Life is something that’s non-physical that was added to Adam when God breathed into him the breath of life. So that kind of suggests that human life is non-physical as well. We also see that various times throughout Scripture, when we’re referring to a person dying, it will refer to a person in death, the ghost or the spirit or the soul leaving the body.

And the implication is that that ghost or soul or whatever is actually representing the life of the body. Leaving the body behind. So the body is a physical thing. Whatever life is, is something that comes out of the body, separate from it. Thus, it suggests that life itself is non-physical in those instances. And in fact, in James, it tells us that the body without the spirit is dead. So if you have the whole body, but you don’t have the non-physical, the spirit in it, then the body is dead. So that suggests life is non-physical. Life is part of the spirit or whatever for humans. We also have this distinction that’s sometimes made between the soul, or the ghost, or the spirit of a human, and the body of a human. In fact, Christ himself says, “Look, the spirits do not have flesh and bones.” When the disciples, seeing him after his resurrection, couldn’t believe that he was alive, that he was physically alive, he says, “Look, spirits don’t have flesh and bones. Come and touch me.” They don’t have a physical existence. There’s a distinction between the spirit of man and the body of man. The spirit of man is alive. The body of man is something separate. Again, suggesting that the human life, whatever that is, is a non-physical entity. We also have the implication in Genesis 1 and 2 that this is the case also for animals. If in fact it’s the case for Adam in Genesis 2.7, that God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul. Remember that phrase “living soul” when applied to humans is the exact same Hebrew phrase used in chapter 1 for animals. If in fact, man plus something non-physical makes them alive, and they are nephesh hayim as a result, than other nephesh hayim stuff like animals, probably also are composed of body and something called soul.

Something non-physical called soul. Now, in addition to the biblical reasons for suggesting that life is non-physical, biblical reasons that indicate that certainly God’s life is non-physical, and angelic life is non-physical, it looks like animal life is non-physical, and human life is non-physical, we also have some non-biblical reasons for suggesting that life is non-physical.

They would include the following. The first is that death doesn’t involve any physical change in the thing that’s dying. Now, this is a little tricky because some people think, well, when a person dies there is this exhale of breath, or there is a release of body fluids, or this sort of thing.

Now, we need to distinguish between what happens because a person is dead, versus what is actually life leaving the person. For example, we hold our chest out. In order to breathe, we actually expand our chest, creating a vacuum to pull in air so that we can breathe. If our muscles stopped working, then our chest would collapse, and air would be expelled. In that process, if a person dies and their chest relaxes because now they’re dead, then air comes out of their lungs. The air coming out of their lungs is not death. It’s the result of death. It’s a distinction there. Likewise, we keep the urine in our bladders by muscles. And if you relax the muscles, the urine will come out of the bladder. So the urine coming out of a person as they die is not the life of the person coming out of the person. It is a consequence of the person having died, and therefore releasing those things to the outside. So you need to distinguish that. If we carefully examine that sort of thing, we watch a person or an animal as they die. Let’s say we have them on a scale. We’re measuring their weight. Does the weight of an individual change at the moment of death? The answer is no. There’s absolutely no change in weight. Is there a change in volume? For example, we could put the person underwater so that the water level indicates the volume of their body. And at the moment of death, does the water volume change? No, it does not. We can do this over and over again, and we get the same result. Again, we might relax the chest and let out some air, and thus change the shape of the chest. But the death itself does not involve any change in volume. We can measure everything we could possibly measure on an organism, and death itself does not result in any physical change to the entity. So that suggests that life itself is not physical. It’s not something that weighs anything. It’s not something that takes up any volume. It’s not something that has a particular smell or anything else. It has no physical characteristics which suggest that it is non-physical. And again, you have to be careful with those things that come as a result of death, but aren’t themselves the actual process of death. A second reason that we would be inclined to think that life is non-physical is just an intuitive one. For most people that have pets or have had pets, it’s really hard to suggest to those people that life of your animal, of your cat, or your dog, or your horse, or whatever the case may be, that that life is just a bunch of chemical reactions.

That doesn’t seem to be what it is. I know this is not a strong argument. It’s an intuitive argument. But intuitively, we have this sense in which there’s surely no way you can fully characterize the personality, the characteristics of your pet by just physical things, by just chemical reactions in the body, and so on and so forth.

It looks like life is something more than just the physical. It suggests that it is non-physical. Another reason that we might conclude that life is not physical is because although biologists studying things that have life are really interested in determining what life is, for centuries they’ve been trying to figure out what it is. They still don’t know what it is. Biologists have never been able to define life. Now, here’s a group of people who have lots of ability, Lots of machinery at their disposal. Lots of capability to identify life if it’s physical. They have even an interest in knowing what life is. But over centuries of time, they’ve never been able to identify it, to defy it. It’s kind of interesting if you pick up most biology books. Almost every biology book, the first chapter or so, like this one, is going to address the question, What is life? And if you look in those chapters and look carefully at what they say, not a single one of them defines life. They start the thing, “What is life?” But they don’t actually define it. They say, “Well, we don’t really know what it is, but here’s what it does.” They list characteristics of life. Things living things do. But no one has ever been able to identify life, to define it, to characterize it. Now, that could be because it’s physical, but really kind of clever or something. This is avoiding our detection. Or, much more naturally, we’d conclude that you can’t define it in physical terms because it’s not physical. Because life is, in fact, non-physical. We conclude from this that for both biblical and non-biblical reasons, Life simply is not physical. This means that when we go to this classification of life we’ve already referred to, different types of life, we know at the very least that God’s life and angelic life is not physical. I would further conclude that all these types of life are non-physical. Human life is non-physical. Animal life is non-physical. But I think even the life of plants, that biological life, whatever that is, is not physical. The life of bacteria, they seem to be alive, but it’s not biblical life. It’s what we call biological life. And I would suggest that biological life, like every other type of life, is non-physical in nature. Well, that creates an interesting dilemma for us. We’re in a biology class. Biology is a science that’s supposed to study the physical world. It’s not supposed to study the non-physical world. I’ve referred to this briefly before, but we’re going to hit this point one more time here. If all the types of life are non-physical, and biology can only study the physical, then technically biology is not the study of life at all.

Even though the term “biology” is derived from Greek words meaning “life” and basically “the study of,” thus the word seems to mean the study of life, biology is not really the study of life itself. Biology is the study of physical organisms that have life. So it’s kind of ironic that if, in fact, Life is non-physical, then science can’t study life at all. It’s incapable of studying it. It’s not got the facilities. It’s not got the equipment. There’s a reason it hasn’t been successful at defining it, because it’s trying to study something that isn’t physical. In fact, biology can’t study life either. So biology is not the study of life. As I’ve said before, to emphasize this again, biology doesn’t study life. Biology studies organisms, physical beings that possess life, or once possessed life, not the study of life itself.