Tag Archives: Christianity and science

Why I Can’t Not Love the Noble Pagan Jordan Peterson – and Be Concerned

“I’m trying to resurrect the dormant Logos” (2:04:30 in Rogan show)


When it comes to political matters, a person who identifies as a “social conservative” could not ask for a better ally than the Canadian psychology professor Jordan Peterson.

He arguably has all of the clarity and courage of someone like Milo Yiannopolous, but without the self-proclaimed “dangerous faggot’s” liabilities. If those who are opposed to you are absolutely determined to call you, for example, a racist, bigoted, homophobic, transphobic misogynist, you want them applying the label to Jordan Peterson.

Why? Because they will discredit themselves almost immediately. Anyone who listens to Peterson will discover that he is not only a fighter and a brilliant communicator, but a passionate lover of humanity and life itself. A person like Yiannopolous certainly claims to be the same, but his behavior and tactics, as he himself admits, are going to turn many people off.

But as is evident, Jordan Peterson has the ear of many. Just a few days ago, he was interviewed on the Joe Rogan Experience, and this 3-hour interview already has more than 800,000 views. I’ll bet that his star is only going to rise.

Now, why do I call Peterson a “Noble Pagan”? This is a phrase that Christians have used for centuries to identify those who, while not believing in Christ, are clearly more honest and sincere than their fellow men, and who tend in their words and actions to uphold the moral law of God. Peterson is certainly sympathetic to this, as we will see below.

Resisting the gender unicorn

So where did he come from? He rose to prominence this past fall when he defied the University of Toronto’s demand to use the panoply of preferred gender neutral pronouns that students might feel apply to them (he also made known his objection to Canada’s Bill C-16 which deals with this issue). Writing in November in the conservative Canadian publication the National Post, he said the following:

I will never use words I hate, like the trendy and artificially constructed words “zhe” and “zher.” These words are at the vanguard of a post-modern, radical leftist ideology that I detest, and which is, in my professional opinion, frighteningly similar to the Marxist doctrines that killed at least 100 million people in the 20th century.

I have been studying authoritarianism on the right and the left for 35 years. I wrote a book, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief, on the topic, which explores how ideologies hijack language and belief. As a result of my studies, I have come to believe that Marxism is a murderous ideology. I believe its practitioners in modern universities should be ashamed of themselves for continuing to promote such vicious, untenable and anti-human ideas, and for indoctrinating their students with these beliefs. I am therefore not going to mouth Marxist words. That would make me a puppet of the radical left, and that is not going to happen. Period.[13]

Wikipedia shares this helpful appraisal of Peterson’s 1999 book “Maps of Meaning”:

“Harvey Shepard, writing in the Religion column in the Montreal Gazette in 2003, states “To me, the book reflects its author’s profound moral sense and vast erudition in areas ranging from clinical psychology to scripture and a good deal of personal soul searching…” He goes on to note that “Peterson’s vision is both fully informed by current scientific and pragmatic methods, and in important ways deeply conservative and traditional.”

I take it many of you will agree with me when I say that Peterson is definitely the kind of person that social conservatives – and, importantly, today’s political conservatives of all stripes — are going to appreciate and want in their corner.

Peterson’s 1999 magnum opus.

That said…

At the same time, there is a lot more about Jordan Peterson that we orthodox Christians need to think very hard about and be aware of. For I suspect that perhaps what many have called the “religious right” – with Peterson’s helping hand – could be in for a revival of sorts. But not the kind of revival that you might be thinking about.

Peterson is currently gearing up to teach some classes on the Bible, particularly the first few books. As anyone who has listened to him speak knows, Peterson thinks very highly of the Bible and firmly believes that “Western civilization” is based on it and must continue to be so. As he stated on a recent appearance with Dave Rubin, we need the Bible not only because it reveals truths about humanity, but, crucially, to hold us together, because “weak people do not survive in this world”.


And, also interestingly, Peterson does not think that the Bible is really about real history. It’s true like Shakespeare is true. So, in his class, Peterson is not going to be teaching the Bible even if he will be teaching about it. Actually though, that is not even really correct — he is going to be teaching Platonic philosophy by using the Bible.

Why do I say this? Because Peterson is basically a disciple of Carl Jung, which means that Platonism is at the heart of his philosophy. As Wikipedia notes: “Jung’s idea of archetypes was based on Immanuel Kant‘s categories, Plato‘s Ideas, and Arthur Schopenhauer‘s prototypes.”*

Note this extended comment from Joe Rogan’s show (starting at 2:12:15):

What do you have to contend with in life?… You have to contend with yourself and the adversary that’s inside you, that seems to oppose your every movement. The fact that… you can’t just move smoothly through life without being in conflict with yourself. So there is the hero and the adversary on the individual level. And then on the social level there is the wise king and the tyrant. You’re always going to run into that – I don’t care if you’re a Bantu tribesman or a New York lawyer. All those things you are going to run into. And then in the natural world you are going to run into the destructive element of nature – that’s the Gorgan – if you let that thing get a glance at you you’re one… frozen puppy. [And also] there’s the benevolent element of nature that’s feminine – that’s mother nature – [there’s] both those extremes. So, and that’s the world. That’s the archetypal world. And it’s because it’s eternal – as far as human beings are concerned those things are always there. That’s our true environment. It’s not these things we see around us. They’re lasting no time. These other things last forever. And that’s what were adapted to. We’re adapted to the things that last forever (italics mine).

Peterson – no doubt due to his evolutionary philosophy (“…we were chimps for Christ’s sake” – about 1:12:00 on Rogan), not only denies the ongoing permanence of the things that we experience in the world, but he also has other ideas that get close to the truth while ultimately missing the mark. Concerned about the overweening powers of the totalitarian state (he has devoted much of his life’s study to both Nazism and Communism), Peterson is eager to say that “[t]he state isn’t salvation. The individual is salvation…. The truthful individual.” (see around the 2:01:00 mark in the Rogan show). Peterson says that in the West Jesus Christ is the ultimate expression of this, and we need this. Which, of course, sounds really good on one level.

Plato: How large is his influence in Christianity? See, e.g. here.

At the same time, is Jesus Christ who the church says he is in the Apostle’s or Nicene Creed? I have not heard him talk about this (if you have, let me know in the comments), but my educated guess is that he would simply say “Maybe yes or maybe no.”

You see, that is not what really matters. What actually matters is that, in some sense at least, evolutionary fitness is truth. Some, like Peterson, are simply more honest — as regards themselves, about the facts they know, and about what they think is ultimately true about the world — and what the implications of these things are.

They are also likely those who are more willing than others to think about the intellectual possibility and even practical necessity of transcendent** realities and values (God may or may not be just a — the most important! — useful fiction).

But — and this is key — all from within this very secure evolutionary framework, in which I suggest folks like Plato (and hence Kant, Kierkegaard, Barth, et. all) eventually get dissolved in Epicurean acid (more on this here).

Obviously, I think and argue with all my might that this is a big problem. Prominent and influential theologians like N.T. Wright however, do not think so in the least. They essentially want to take Peterson’s expression “we were chimps for Christ’s sake” and change its meaning — putting the emphasis on “for Christ’s sake” like a Reformation “sola” — to help save Christianity from its intellectual irrelevance. Wright is now actually arguing that if creation is through Christ, evolution is, in fact, what one would expect:


It’s all coming together, and not in a way that is good for the church. “When the Son of Man comes will he find faith on earth?” indeed. Get ready for the antiLogos.



Images: Plato from Wikipedia ; Peterson from

*Some might be under the impression that Jung was nevertheless a materialist (philosophical naturalist). This does not appear to be the case at all. See here and here and here, for example.

**Why not say metaphysical? This word does not always necessarily imply “religion” or the theistic notion of “transcendence”. For example, the literary scholar Hans Gumbrecht talks about how he uses the word “metaphysics”. It “refers to an attitude, both an everyday attitude and an academic perspective, that gives a higher value to the meaning of phenomena than to their material presence; the word thus points to a worldview that always wants to go “beyond” (or “below”) that which is ‘physical’” (p. xiv, Production of Presence)



Posted by on May 12, 2017 in Uncategorized


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Individualism in the Age of Trump: the Unbridled Sophistry Behind Sexuality, Gender… and the Theory of Evolution

Grabbing life by the...

Author of Think BIG and Kick A** in Business and Life and 45th President of the U.S.A., Donald Trump

In the Western world, today’s “conservatives” are increasingly libertarian when it comes to matters of sexual morality. Whatever good might come out of a Trump Presidency (full disclosure: I voted for the man), it seems unlikely that the nation’s appreciation for the importance of sexual morality will deepen.

Increasingly in our society, the expectation for any romantic relationship is that it must be sexual or get sexual without much delay – married or not. Going hand in hand with this, political progressives and libertarians both seem basically united on the idea that the choice of each individual is the controlling principle. As some on the Supreme Court told us in 1992, “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”[i]

This kind of thinking really does not seem all that alien from what the Trump-supporting “free speech fundamentalist” Milo Yiannopoulos has said:

Read what you want.
Watch what you want.
Play what you want.
Think what you want.
Say what you want.

That might not work in a marriage, but otherwise why the hell not? (marriage couldn’t be that important anyways, could it?) Political correctness can die the death it so richly deserves! The sky is the limit!

In the current environment, a very unmanly man?

An unmanly man?

Yiannopoulos may say that some – by virtue of biological and psychological limitations – can’t be whatever they want to be, but with his emphasis on the individual’s rights, one is hard-pressed to argue why some, at least, shouldn’t give it a shot (please note I say all of this wanting to defend free speech to, while being concerned that not all of our speech is helpful).

And, tying this back to matters of sexual morality, why suppress human nature? Yiannopoulos regularly encourages college students to not hold back in exploring their sexuality with others. And, when asked here about Harvard’s men’s soccer team this past week – namely, about their recently revealed shared Google form treating their female counterparts as sexual objects – Yiannopoulos defended them to the hilt. One might think he could have said, at the very least, that the men’s behavior was to be strongly discouraged – even if the Harvard President had overreacted (read this and this for a balanced perspective). He didn’t say this though – he simply talked about our inability to overcome human nature: basically “men will be men”.

After all, as popular You Tuber Gavin McInnes says (language alert) all men act like this. And likewise, all men must surely know that they are incapable of waiting for sex – and they must be lying if they say they do! Guys like Tim Tebow (what has he accomplished lately?) are surely hypocrites, and evidently, most of the time, just aren’t manly enough to obtain the good things that come their way, grabbing them by the….

But even if we perhaps should respect the real power of human nature here, we also cannot overcome the consequences of human nature. Even if you, by virtue of your social capitol and financial resources, appear able to rise above some of the most socially deleterious effects of sexual licentiousness, many – particularly the most vulnerable – can’t. And all of this contributes to the fracturing and weakening of the family, which one would hope any conservative would understand. This glorification of our choices when it comes to matters sexual, of course, makes the goal of marriage – and the commitment involved therein – less and less of a possibility for many (listen to Jennifer Roback Morse here).

Milo Yiannopoulos: "double down, don't back down."

Milo Yiannopoulos: “double down, don’t back down.”

Yiannopoulos may have once written about the dangers of pornography in the past (see here and here), but these days, he seems to have left that concern behind (a necessary casualty of his message and newfound fame?). Now, ironically, it is some on the left (some!) who are bringing up the critical importance of this issue (see here and here for example). Speaking merely from a tactical standpoint, perhaps persons like Yiannopoulos should find a creative way to address this, before being outflanked by progressives concerned about the truth of these matters?

So, what does any of this have to do with the theory of evolution – and sophisty?! Hang on… we getting there right now….

First of all, a popular meaning of the word sophistry is “the use of fallacious arguments, especially with the intention of deceiving”. It is a simple matter that men simply can control themselves (though, if I may say, we seem to live in an age that likes to play with the fire of temptation).

Second, in the theory of evolution, all is about sex (and death): everything comes down to being able to pass on one’s genes to the next generation. Supposedly, evolution “designed” us for this.

Third, and here is the meat of my point, in a recent edition of the Atlantic, an article called “The Case Against Reality,” lays out the implications of the theory of evolution (spurred on by what I call the MSTM, the modern scientific and technological mindset) in a very helpful manner. An interview with cognitive science Donald D. Hoffman is featured, where he argues that “the world is nothing like the one we experience through our senses… the world presented to us by our perceptions is nothing like reality” (as the Atlantic sums him up).

In short, Hoffman believes that “evolution itself [is] to thank for this magnificent illusion, as it maximizes evolutionary fitness by driving truth to extinction” (italics mine). It is not accurate perceptions which helps us to effectively pass on our genes but “fitness functions,” i.e. “mathematical functions that describe how well a given strategy achieves the goals of survival and reproduction.” “Suppose,” he says, “there’s a blue rectangular icon on the lower right corner of your computer’s desktop — does that mean that the file itself is blue and rectangular and lives in the lower right corner of your computer? Of course not… And yet the desktop is useful.”[ii] Hoffman says that this is “conscious realism,” meaning that “Objective reality is just conscious agents, just points of view.”

“We have no idea how life emerged, and cannot with assurance say that it did. We cannot reconcile our understanding of the human mind with any trivial theory about the manner in which the brain functions. Beyond the trivial, we have no other theories." - David Berlinski (p. xiii, The Devil's Delusion).

“We have no idea how life emerged, and cannot with assurance say that it did.” – David Berlinski (p. xiii, The Devil’s Delusion).

And hence, evolution’s connection with classical understandings of sophistry is complete. Perhaps Christians taken with evolution should take evolutionists like Daniel Dennet more seriously when they assert that it is a “universal acid” that “eats through just about every traditional concept, and leaves in its wake a revolutionized world-view, with most of the old landmarks still recognizable, but transformed in fundamental ways” (see here).

The Sophists of the ancient world said that our base assumption should be that certain truth and goodness is unattainable. With change being the only constant and knowledge an illusion, everything is about building consensus through persuasion. The ethical sophist – assuming positing such a person is reasonable! – would persuade on the basis of arguing for things that are not true, but possible and perhaps probable…

How is this not sync perfectly what Hoffman is saying, a “match made in heaven,” or hell, as the case may be? Cannot he – or anyone else – see the implications of this thinking for human reason itself?

Let’s break it down:

  • In brief, Hoffman, assuming temporal survival is what life is all about, says that it is our “fitness functions,” and not accurate perceptions, which help us to pass on our genes.
  • Therefore, it follows that being able to create grand, plausible sounding theories – whether they are true or not – also can be reduced to being about the survival value they have (in that they attract partners who know brains are valuable – and who can pass on genes).
  • Therefore, as long as one can avoid the impression one is totally disconnected from matters of concrete fact, disqualifying one’s self in other’s eyes, the sky is the limit!
  • As Hoffman says, our perceptions are “tuned to fitness, but not to truth”. Why would our capacity to construct narratives, our story-telling imaginations, not be as well? Why would this also not figure into the all controlling “fitness function”?
  • So, if this is the case, why believe the theory of evolution is true at all? It might be useful for passing on genes, but true?

And yet, of course, what Hoffman is doing in his interview – what he cannot avoid doing even if he might protest he is doing it – is putting forth a truth claim. Truth, in one sense, is “driven to extinction,” where, in another, it rises from the ashes reborn. “Believe me,” he is saying… “I am speaking with some real authority on these matters.” The ancient sophists played the same game… the truth is that we cannot not really know truth… what is important is that you listen to me, noticing how smart I am…

And so, as evolution and truth evolves, so does “our” (Not mine! Not yours I hope!) understanding of individuality, sex, and gender.

To state the obvious, given his assumptions, is that not just his “fitness function” speaking? And if he opposes me socially and politically and I fight back, evidently with my own fitness function that still falsely believes there is truth, just what hope for common ground do we now have?

I’m calling B.S. I’m calling out these new sophists for the danger to society and culture that they are. Absolute. Total. Nonsense.

In like fashion, Minnesota’s own Katherine Kersten (Star Tribune editorialist), challenging the transgender revolution, recently spoke some real sense at the First Things site:

…public policy making will become impossible if new interest groups attempt to piggyback on the transgender movement’s success, as seems likely. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch now insists that schools accept a kindergarten boy’s self-understanding and treat him as if he is a girl. What happens when an individual suffering from body integrity identity disorder identifies as disabled and applies for federal disability benefits? What if a white male business owner identifies as black and seeks to participate in a federal contract set-aside reserved for minorities? What if a forty-year-old woman regards herself as a senior citizen and demands Social Security benefits? How can policy makers logically deny their claims? As we enter the world of fantasy—when reality ceases to matter—it is impossible to predict where our society will crash against nature, as it inevitably will.

All marriages are an icon of The One True Marriage.

All marriages are an icon of The One True Marriage.

Alas, I think the ground we have for making these arguments has already disappeared beneath our feet – at least in the minds of many of our fellow Americans (not in reality). And this warning especially goes to “conservatives” who have already given up way too much ground to the sexual revolution as well. In some ways I can’t but like and respect persons like Milo Yiannopoulos, but in this area I think he is as clueless as the progressives he so effectively targets and trolls.

What is the endgame here? Ultimately, it is not earthly marriages, that most excellent fireplace for the fire of passion, that will saves any of us – as much as good marriages will surely help any nation. It is rather the True Marriage which our “desktop icon” of marriage points us to: Christ’s love for His Church and Her love for Him. This and this alone gives us the true life, love, and light – hope! – that we know in this world. Hopefully, the current President-elect we have in America will end up being friendly to these concerns (his opponent on the other hand, said this).

The sooner the church as a whole wakes up to the concentrated Satanic attack on this truth, born of ancient Sophistry, the better (and perhaps we can count those friendly to ancient philosophers like Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics as allies of a sort here).

When Hoffman says “It’s conscious agents all the way down,” he is surely right, but not for the reasons he thinks he is. That move should not actually banish God from reality. Rather, it should point us towards our need to acknowledge Him.

Friends, let’s fight the good fight.




Trump, by Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America (licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license) ; Milo Yiannopoulos, photo by @Kmeron (this file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license) ; Tim Tebow by Clemed (this file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license).

[i] It seems to me that even neoconservative intellectuals like Yuval Levin (author of the 2016 book Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism) seem to take this principle for granted.

[ii] In response to a question about whether or not everything is just one big illusion, Hoffman responds: “We’ve been shaped to have perceptions that keep us alive, so we have to take them seriously. If I see something that I think of as a snake, I don’t pick it up. If I see a train, I don’t step in front of it. I’ve evolved these symbols to keep me alive, so I have to take them seriously. But it’s a logical flaw to think that if we have to take it seriously, we also have to take it literally.”

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Posted by on November 11, 2016 in Uncategorized


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Does Neil deGrasse Tyson Know there is a God?

Tyson_-_Apollo_40th_anniversary_2009Christian commentator Albert Mohler had a very interesting program last Friday on current stories from the world of science. One of the four stories he covered I found quite interesting:

“Agnostic scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson says its very probable the universe is a simulation”

What follow is some of Mohler’s commentary, interspersed with a few of my comments in brackets…

… the Business Insider recently ran a story about Neil deGrasse Tyson. The headline says this: that Tyson, one of the most influential science educators in the media, “thinks there is a very high chance the universe is just a simulation.”

[Question to ponder: Just how might this be similar or dissimilar from the Bible’s idea that we know ourselves to be created beings but suppress this true knowledge?]

What in the world does that mean? This means that one of most popular scientist, presented as possessing scientific authority in this culture, thinks that the entire cosmos as we experience it, coming right down to our lives as we experience them, might not be even real. They might just be a simulation run by some species of a higher intelligence. Now the first thing we need to note is that this kind of nonsense actually gains headlines. The second thing we need to note is that if someone who did not present himself or herself as a scientist made such a claim so outlandish, unprovable, then you would have people who would say this is some form of religious mysticism masquerading as a form of knowledge. But that’s exactly what we do need to say about Neil deGrasse Tyson. This is some form of spiritual mysticism masquerading as science. Kevin Loria, writing for Business Insider, seems to understand exactly what’s going on when he begins his article by saying,

“We trust the scientists around us to have the best grasp on how the world actually works.”

[Of course, this means that scientists know that the universe is basically a machine that they are trying to figure out, which means that it is only natural for them to be tempted to have thoughts like deGrasse Tyson’s. Of course it looks like a computer program, because it looks like a machine (see here for more).]

Thus he takes us to the 2016 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate at the American Museum of Natural History, which addressed the question of whether or not the universe is a simulation. Neil deGrasse Tyson was one of the participants—he was actually hosting the debate—and he says the likelihood of the universe being a mere simulation—that is, just an experiment undertaken by some higher being—“may be very high.”

[You get that? Implications for the intelligent design debate?]

…..Now there’s another interesting aspect about this, because when you look at Neil deGrasse Tyson, you’re looking at someone who is granted a great deal of cultural authority in our society. He’s also someone who has repeatedly denied the possibility of the divine creation of the cosmos. Keep that in mind when you hear Neil deGrasse Tyson in this context, say that we should use,

“…a thought experiment to imagine a life form that’s as much smarter than us as we are than dogs, chimps, or other terrestrial mammals.”

He asked the question,

“What would we look like to them? We would be drooling, blithering idiots in their presence.

“Whatever that being is, it very well might be able to create a simulation of a universe.”

Then Tyson said these words exactly,

“And if that’s the case, it is easy for me to imagine that everything in our lives is just the creation of some other entity for their entertainment. I’m saying, the day we learn that it is true, I will be the only one in the room saying, I’m not surprised.”

[Well, of course God hasn’t designed us for his entertainment, but He has created us. And we know it is true that we are creations. Which deGrasse Tyson seems to understand at some level as well, even as he is somehow able to pass off his beliefs as acceptable with the sophisticates of the scientific world]

So a man who denies the very possibility of the divine creation of the cosmos is here willing to entertain in public the idea that some higher species has merely created the entire cosmos as a simulation for that beings own entertainment.

[Yes, the irony is rich. All of this reminds me of the classic moment with Richard Dawkins in the Ben Steyn film, Expelled (see here and click on “Dawkins-alien moment”)]

God didn’t design the universe for our entertainment, but I am confident that he designed deGrasse Tyson and Dawkins for ours.



Image credit: “Director of the Hayden Planetarium Neil deGrasse Tyson speaks as host of the Apollo 40th anniversary celebration held at the National Air and Space Museum, Monday, July 20, 2009 in Washington.” by NASA/Bill Ingalls

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Posted by on May 9, 2016 in Uncategorized


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What Does the Rise of Trump have to do with Science and Christianity?

Donald “lex talionis” Trump: “I really believe in trashing your enemies and really being loyal to your friends I’m a strong believer in loyalty.”

Donald “lex talionis” Trump: “I really believe in trashing your enemies and really being loyal to your friends I’m a strong believer in loyalty.”

“Good God – absolutely nothing!” many will undoubtedly want to say.

But wait.

What is it that makes popular atheist scientist-philosophers like Michael Shermer strong Donald Trump supporters? You can listen to his own reasons, but part of it, I suggest, has to do with the idea that there are permanent and enduring things in the cosmos that cannot be fundamentally altered by our imagination or will (I also addressed this in two of my recent articles here – see this and this). Hard core scientific naturalists like Shermer do not submit to and worship the Creator, but highly respect and revere his creation (“nature”) instead.

And contrary to the suffocating politically correct dogmas that rule in our mainstream media, politics, and universities, many persons want to be able to speak freely about facts that we can all know by experience – including from nature, the physical world, biology, etc. – as opposed to one’s feelings about those facts.[i]

This important realization is something that seems to be lost to the political left more and more, but is embraced by forms of political conservatism (in the West, generally “classical liberalism”), now seemingly re-ascendant, perhaps in part because of what one has called “cultural libertarianism”[ii] (a.k.a., the “alternative right” – this, it seems, is a form of political conservatism with a reduced emphasis on ideological capitalism, small government, and sexual ethics).

Jonathan Haidt: “...liberals favor care, liberty, and fairness, and were often indifferent to concerns of sanctity, loyalty, and authority.”

Jonathan Haidt’s view, per Emily Esfahani Smith: “[Contemporary] liberals favor care, liberty, and fairness, and were often indifferent to concerns of sanctity, loyalty, and authority.” (summed up here)

That’s pretty much it for the political commentary in this post. I think what I just said is clearly related to what follows (i.e. the italicized and bold portion in the paragraph above), but my purpose in this article is really to get into a nuanced but hopefully interesting look at the origins and nature of science – thereby showing its relation to theistic forms of conservatism in general and Christianity in particular… (if that is not your thing, I bid you farewell now).

I truly enjoy thinking about God as the Creator. I have always had a strong interest in science, and prior to getting a theology degree, I studied biology and chemistry in college. Taking a strong interest in what scientists call the “natural world” is, contrary to what many persons say, completely consistent with the Christian faith.

As a matter of fact, the Christian faith actually encourages this. It is very interesting to note, as the Christian philosopher James Bachman does, that the God found in the Bible “demystifies the natural world by taking personal benevolence and malevolence out of the account of sun and moon an natural phenomena” – people of the Psalmist’s day really did worry that the gods of the Sun and Moon “might strike you by day…[and] by night”, respectively! (James V. Bachman, “Lutheran Theology and Philosophy”, The Idea and Practice of a Christian University, p. 174).

That is a fantastic insight. Also, in his very interesting 1970 book, The Clockwork Image, the late Christian scientist Donald M. Mackay had this interesting comment about the rise of “scientific habit of mind” in the West:

“What are the telltale features of the scientific habit of mind? Historically, perhaps the first was a new kind of respect for the natural world as a worthy object of study. Nowadays we might scarcely regard this as a distinguishing feature; but that only shows the extent to which the new ideas have been accepted. Whatever truth there may be behind all the talk about ‘two cultures’, the scientific and the humane, there can be little doubt that the average layman today had absorbed far more than he realizes of the scientific habit of mind. Three centuries ago, the notion that ordinary matter could repay the attention of men of learning seemed absurd to many people. Only a few bold spirits ventured to believe that, if God thought matter worth creating, then they might find it worth studying, and might expect to be rewarded by discovering order and harmony in the most commonplace objects and events around them. By contrast with Plato’s disregard for the material world, and the scholastic preference for arguing in an armchair from first principles, these men shared the burning conviction that what God had written in the book of nature (as they put it) ought to be read. Like the Bible itself, it could not fail to reward the man who approached it in the right spirit.” (p. 24, italics and bold mine)

King David, precursor to modern science?

King David, precursor to modern science?

I think this nicely sums up the beginnings of the scientific revolution from a traditional, intellectual, Christian perspective.

I would add the following: we have very good reason for believing that the success of modern science, for example, is mostly due to faithful Christians who believed that God arranged the universe such that we would be able to discover the regularities in the creation and harness them (and so, the ancient knowledge that good boats will always float and the stars will always follow their patterns has been supplemented with harness-able knowledge that even a few years back was beyond our imaginations).

Truly, God has designed and orchestrated His creation in such a way that it goes through regularly repeating cycles: the sun rises every day, the rains and snows fall in season, each living thing reproduces “according to its kind”, etc. There are regularly occurring things happening all throughout the creation, so much so – and in so consistent a fashion – that we now commonly call these things the “laws of nature” (in our more modern times, the “laws of nature” are now for many thought to be completely autonomous from any “God”, but when this term was first used, most all scientists who used it believed that God had “written” the “laws”). Here we think about the things we call gravity, electricity, time and force – and how they are all a part of the world’s wonderful design by God. God “upholds all [of these] things by His powerful word” and “in Him, we live, and move and have our being”, although to say this does not imply that God is like a member of the Greek or Roman who endlessly expend effort in “working” the sun, wind and waters!

A Montessori school classroom: "Structured possibilities" to educate, inspire, and offer stability.

A Montessori school classroom: “Structured possibilities” to educate, inspire, and offer stability.

I think all of this can be better understood with a simple analogy, and here is where my view diverges from what you will usually hear from Christians interested in science: Parents arrange things in a consistent fashion so that a child can be captivated, play, create and experiment on the one hand, and they arrange things and act in a consistent fashion so that the child feels security, stability, and confidence, on the other hand (having five kids who have attended a Montessori school has contributed to me thinking about things in this way). Arranging things in a consistent fashion – more or less so – depending on what we are talking about, and acting in a consistent steadfast fashion is a part of love. Creating beauty and order for another is a fruit of love. In other words, order is born of love, not love of order – or from a love of order!

Adam "contra cultural libertarian [?]" Smith: “The man who barely abstains from violating either the person, or the estate, or the reputation of his neighbors has surely very little positive merit” – Adam Smith, in his “Theory of Moral Sentiments”, quoted by Donald Trump (who says “it’s definitely worth picking up”)

Adam “contra cultural libertarianism [?]” Smith: “The man who barely abstains from violating either the person, or the estate, or the reputation of his neighbors has surely very little positive merit” – Adam Smith, in his “Theory of Moral Sentiments”, quoted by Donald Trump (who says “it’s definitely worth picking up”)

And here is where my views differ from the new “cultural libertarians”, the sum of whose ethics seems to be “free speech” and “be honest about facts”. From them you will likely hear that we should not concede that language shapes reality. But the first goal of Christianity should not be winning a culture war (with the best tactics) but to live in, with, and by truth – and we know that words not only tremendously influence the social realities that we know (and words do hurt – and help – us), but lay at the base of them and all Reality, for God creates by speaking.[iii] To say this is not to emphasize some concept of information that is impersonal and can somehow be reduced to 1s and 0s, but rather that all knowledge, goodness, and life arises and flows from personal communication. And as the late Oxford linguist Roy Harris perceptively notes, communicative behavior cannot arise from non-communicative behavior. There must be an “infrastructure” in place from the beginning.

This does not means something like “truth is simply a social construct” instead of having to do with [cold and impersonal] factual correspondence, or something like that – but that how we conceive of and describe reality can’t not be done personally, or socially (more here). And such should not surprise, because Reality is personal, is social (rooted as it is in the Reality of the Triune God).

And this, perhaps, should remind Christians of Romans 1: “[the] divine nature… [has] been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

It is not that there is nothing to the idea that order = God, but rather that order can’t not be recognized as a fruit of love. Perhaps one’s proof of God does not begin by saying “Someone must have made this”, but rather by the love that one does know.

With this in the background, one can see how creation should be very important to each Christian believer. From the beginning, according to the Bible, humanity’s primary tasks were to: 1) have a relationship with God and live in love and joy with Him; 2) to serve others in God’s name; 3) to take care of God’s creation (plants, animals, planet, universe)[iv]. Marvelously simple!

No Janet "Redefining Realness" Mock - there are limits to our interpretations of reality or to what our imaginations can construct and build - and that is a good thing! Come and see.

No Janet “Redefining Realness” Mock – there are limits to our interpretations of reality or to what our imaginations can construct and build – and that is a good thing! Come and see.

I could say a lot more here, but let me simply close with this: the Christian view is that God’s good creation went awry. There was a fall into sin and things are now not the way they are supposed to be (what I think that means for so much of the “identity politics” we experience today I have written about here). In Genesis 3, the world is thrown into chaos by man’s sin – it is now fallen and in need of redemption.[v]

And here there is this: we are told that the Son of God was there in the beginning of the Creation and He will be there in the end as well – with all those who in faith share in the redemption that is by His blood. Perhaps because of the Fall into sin, Jesus Christ is not unambiguously declared by the Creation itself, but specific, revealed language about Who He is and how He reveals the heart of His Father (i.e. forgiveness for those who were His enemies – us!) is now absolutely vital so that persons might be brought to faith in Him – and continue in faith throughout the course of their lives.

Whatever happens in the world of politics, Christians will continue to talk about how Jesus Christ rescues us from the power of our sin, the scourge of death, and the rule of the demonic. He is the Great Deliverer of His Bride, the church, and looks to bring forgiveness, life, and salvation to all persons.

In the midst of currents that might seem more pressing, I invite you to come and see this One we call Jesus, the Christ.


All images are public domain and are obtained via a Creative Commons search: Trump from Wikipedia, Adam Smith from Flickr (, Jonathan Haidt from Wikipedia, King David from Wikipedia, Montessori classroom from Wikipedia, Janet Mock from Wikipedia.


[i] In the current environment of Western elites, the word “essence” or “nature”, if it is thought to be able to communicate anything (note I did not say “mean anything”), comes to be associated with things like class, race, gender, religion and even sexual desire. Persons will go so far as to deny basic biology in order to push whatever “evolving essentialism” they feel should be their right – revolting vs. biology, nature, the physical world.

[ii] Cultural libertarianism is all about being able to speak freely. Particularly about facts we can all know by experience – nature, the physical, biology – vs our feelings about those facts. Some will go so far as to say that they don’t believe, as the Left does, that language shapes reality. Well, of course it does and they also must believe it does (reality can be defined very broadly), but just not so much so that if overwhelms and makes irrelevant the facts by sheer force.

[iii] Christianity holds both of these things in tension. God’s words and communication did make all and get the ball rolling, and even us speaking His words brings change. But there are also things that are fundamental and that do not change. Platonists, Aristoteleans, Stoics, and even Materialist Epicureans agree with us on this of course, but the details are where we differ.

[iv] There can be no doubt that God desires humans to take care of His world. This is a simple matter of stewardship. As a matter of fact, the Christian thinker Francis Schaefer urged Christians to do as far back as 1973 (in his very interesting book “Pollution and the Death of Man”),

[v]This also may have been a significant thing that propelled modern science. Some of the predecessors of modern science, such as Roger Bacon, saw things like aging, for example as the unnatural result of Adam’s fall into sin. Therefore, men like Francis Bacon, for all of the flaws in his thinking, “addressed the ancient problem of the fall into sin, which effectively sundered godly relations between humankind and nature. Toil and suffering, the ruined earth, affliction with drought and storm, insects and disease, were the consequences of the Fall” ( ) Again, since Christians never believed the spirits in the entities of the at times frightening world of nature needed to be appeased/placated (they were God’s “good”, though fallen creation), modern science could be pursued.

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Posted by on March 2, 2016 in Uncategorized


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Micah Bournes – Thank God For Evolution

Really good stuff.  Clever, creative, and thought-provoking. Note accompanying the You Tube video:

…This video does not attempt to affirm or deny the validity of the scientific theory of evolution. Evolutionary language is used primarily as a poetic device to illustrate larger issues concerning human nature. Visit for more thought provoking videos and poems. Also visit

HT: Virtues in the Wasteland guys.

Bournes is not pronouncing, but I’ll pronounce a bit, utilizing a quote from Michael Hanby, who I think is correct in this assessment:

There is simply no such thing as a methodological naturalism that is not also an ontological naturalism, and ontological naturalism is, at bottom, a bad theology that does not know itself.” (italics mine ; note Hanby himself believes evolution occurred)

Absolute craziness?  More of my thoughts on the topic here.

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Posted by on November 2, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Thesis: Only Theists Can Rationally Believe in American Values

Am_I_not_a_manI know that title is audacious. I’m like a moth who can’t stay away from flames.

I am ready to be challenged on this, and quite honestly, I don’t feel terribly strongly about the statement. But I suspect that it is true.

Let’s see how I do in defending this. First of all, I take the following to be an American value:

“We should work hard to make sure that each person, without exception, is treated with the inherent human dignity and honor that they deserve.”

Maybe I lost some folks there, but probably not too many.  Speaking for myself, I, as a Christian, really do believe this is true. I would even say that this is what I know is true and required of me. Now, I know that many non-believers in the Enlightenment tradition might also say that they believe this is true – even if, technically speaking, it is not something they have knowledge about, but simply strong convictions (that’s because of Kant’s distinctions about these things, which many elites still look to today).

Why not knowledge? That is more for the realm of things like pure mathematics and perhaps some of the basic laws of nature.

And even here, we see the cracks in the convictions surrounding American values like “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights”, which the Declaration of Independence says are, or perhaps should be (?), self-evident.

Enter Michael Gerson’s new editorial on Yuval Noah Harari’s book “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.” Gerson’s own column is titled “Myths, Meaning, and Homo Sapiens”, and Albert Mohler discussed it on his program this morning.

Gerson starts his column with his own account of the emergence of human beings, saying of Homo sapiens:

“About 10,000 years ago, they invaded the Western Hemisphere, killing most of the large animals there as well (including woolly mammoths). Sapiens arrived, with blood on their hands, at the top of the food chain.

Then, to cut a long story short, came coinage, empires, monotheism, cathedrals, global capitalism, Newton’s “Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica,” the moon landing and Taylor Swift.”

He discusses and praises – “one of the best accounts by a Homo sapiens of the unlikely story of our violent, accomplished species” – Harai’s book, sharing such “insights” as the following:

“Ten thousand chimpanzees in St. Peter’s Square would be utter chaos. Ten thousand sapiens is an outdoor Mass. The ability to create unifying myths (used here as powerful, defining stories, not fictions) is our most powerful, distinguishing characteristic as a species.

Harari consigns all those myths to the realm of fiction — not only religions but the whole enterprise of humanistic, rights-based liberalism: “There are no gods in the universe, no nations, no money, no human rights, no laws, and no justice outside the common imagination of human beings…”

Gerson then ends his column by saying, in part:

“…With a kind of courageous consistency, he argues that the life sciences reveal sapiens as nothing more than a bundle of neurons, blood and bile. And that, he concedes, destroys the whole basis for ethics, law and democracy.

Harari shrugs where he should shudder. It is not a minor thing to assert that the main evolutionary advantage of sapiens — their capacity to produce meaning — is a cruel and pointless joke. There is at least one other alternative: that the best of our stories are not frauds but hints, and that the whole unlikely story has led sapiens to a justified belief in their own dignity and purpose.

In this case, the myths produced by Homo sapiens would be not the lies we tell ourselves but the truths we dimly perceive.”

Not so "self-evident" stuff these days...

Not so “self-evident” stuff these days…

Dimly perceived indeed. As in approaching, it seems, not being perceived at all.  As I recently heard from another who seems to think like Gerson, “I want to believe there is an innate, universal morality. But if there is such a thing, we’ll never be able to know it perfectly.” The question though, is whether or not we can even begin to know it perfectly.  Mohler points out, I believe rightly, that Gerson undermines his entire argument because of the story that he begins his column with. Many believe that one must be a Bible-believing fundamentalist to make this argument, but I want to argue below that this does not necessarily need to be the case.

There is no doubt that humanists can have ethical systems outside of a religious framework, but the issue is that such systems will always be evolving – and not just at the surface but at the core. Those who call themselves theistic evolutionists are confident that they can embrace “methodological naturalism” without embracing “philosophical naturalism”. The problem is that when it comes to evolution, the whole system is based on the fact that “human beings” are because they are “designed” to pass on their genes.  As it has often been said, here “God” is in danger of being subsumed by the system as a belief that at one time was useful for us, evolutionarily speaking. That said, what is often missed here is the question of what becomes of human beings – and hence morality – in this system.

Theistic evolutionists will downplay the idea that evolution is all about passing on one’s genes. To be sure, that is what is happening in the natural world, they say, but this is not necessarily something “moral” that we should let control our morality and values. Besides, look at all the devout evangelicals who believe in evolution and the Bible: their morality does not seem to be tied to evolutionary ideas in the slightest. This may be true enough, but it is hardly the main issue. 

Here is the issue:

At what point do we have a "pile"?

At what point do we have a “pile”?

When it comes to evolution, scientists practicing methodological naturalism cannot help but focus on how key – and controlling – this factor of passing on one’s genes is. If we “observe” that the laws of nature demand the successful passing on of genetic material, this has implications for how we view – or can now conceivably be tempted to view – all living things, particularly human beings.

Certain temptations that might otherwise have been unimaginable now are imaginable.

And here is the crown of the examples: the idea of human being can now rationally be reduced to a “useful fiction”.  It is now “human being”.  Just like the Stoics puzzled over when a bunch of sand grains became a pile, doubt can now introduced about when we are dealing with another “human being”, which undermines any talk about morality being rooted in human solidarity. It gives persons an out for treating the other as less than human – or fully human – or not a sufficiently evolving human (i.e. less able or willing to adapt to changing circumstances such that they will remain socially viable so that their genes will be passed on) – when times get rough. After all, who decides what genome is human and what one isn’t?  Based on what criteria?

Do you see what has happened?  We are necessarily making value judgments here. And we are doing so according to a modern scientific and technological mindset (i.e. essences as classically understood must bow to useful fictions).

Am I correct?  If we are, for example, primarily deciding who is a human being on the basis of the genome – and not by ordinary sensory experience available to all human beings – is this not really making a complex value judgment on the basis of what really does come down to numerical considerations (whether things like brain size, IQ or the % of genes that overlap with what we take to be the ideal standard)? And can’t this lack of belief in a stable human essence that all of us can immediately recognize through regular concrete means necessarily undermine a strong sense of the value of human beings – opening up the door for us to judge others as being less fit than us?  I mean, it does not seem like much of a stretch for me to understand why so many elites 100-150 years ago drew racist conclusions from the theory.

July 4th inconceivable today....

July 4th inconceivable today….

So when someone says to me that “the problem of nature-red-in-tooth-and-claw is a moral consideration for all of us whether we choose to accept evolutionary theory or not”, I need to say: “Well, it is your problem – it isn’t mine.”  

Humanists are increasingly talking about the “irrationality” of religion, and how religious persons even make “uncivil conflict resolution strategies” necessary (see here). But where, one wonders, has “the force of the best reason” ever shown that “all humans are created equal and are entitled to equal rights”? Which non-theist philosopher – or philosophers not influenced by theists – has ever been noted to say something remotely like this?  The Indian Chrsitian philosopher Vishal Mangalwadi raises key issues here. And Thomas Kidd’s post this morning about “Benjamin Franklin, Skepticism, and The Enlightenment” at his blog the Anxious Bench also drives this home in a nice package.

But there are even more questions that need to be asked here: just how can Harari be absolutely convinced that his account is nothing other than a story? As Thomas Nagel has pointed out, “Evolutionary naturalism provides an account of our capacities that undermines their reliability, and in doing so undermines itself….” Here, one might say while it is only theists that can consistently believe in human rights, it is also only theists – or perhaps convinced Platonists, Aristotelians, or Stoics – that can believe in evolution (read my posts here and here for a more detailed unwrapping of why this needs to be the case).

In other words, evolution needs philosophy. That said, the remaining problem, then as now, is that when it comes to securing consistent human dignity and consistent human values, none of those classical philosophies – now infused with an Epicurean / evolutionary foundation – can even begin to argue that we can have any stable knowledge about these things.

I suggest that it is time for Christians to realize again the treasure that they have in the Word of God and the history of the world that it tells. There are our reasons for knowing meaning in life – and how we should live. As Gene Veith noted this morning in one of his posts at his Cranach blog, “the Early Church affirmed the Bible as its sole authority; later, it developed the concept of “tradition,” while insisting that the tradition is consistent with and normed by the Bible.”

It is in Jesus Christ’s love for sinners created in the image of God that we – and all persons – can find true hope. America is/was just a bonus.




My last two posts dealt with related issues: one on science, morals, and philosophy and one on why I do not believe in evolutionary science.

All images from Wikipedia commons.

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Posted by on June 16, 2015 in Uncategorized


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“What About the Dinosaurs Dad?” Where Jurassic Park and the Creation Museum Meet

jparkAs a very young child, one of the main things I wanted to know about was how science and the Bible fit together. “What about the dinosaurs, dad?” (an elephant?) We’ve taken our kids to natural history museums and even the Creation Museum when we were down in Kentucky, and there is nothing like dinosaurs that gets the imagination – and questions – going.

Like a Velociraptor, the new Jurassic World movie totally snuck up on me. I had no idea it was coming. In any case, I really enjoyed the original film. This weekend I watched it again with the boys (with lots of warnings about the scarier scenes).

One thing I find fascinating to think about is how in the first movie there is this idea that 65 million year old dinosaur blood and DNA could potentially be preserved. What this made me think about is the [rather under-reported] news over the past ten years about the fresh (and smelly!) dinosaur tissue discovered by Dr. Mary Schweitzer (see this article for amazing color pictures of this).

What could all of this mean? I think it’s a good question for people to keep asking and thinking about (see the brief conversation I initiated in the comments of this article). What is really interesting is that young earth creationist scientists have evidently been talking about discoveries like this for quite a long time and consider finds like these to be highly significant to their case (see the links to all the articles at the bottom of this and this article). Things like formaldehyde and iron atoms can act as preservatives under certain conditions – that said, it seems amazing to me that tissue could remain fresh for thousands of years much less millions (all the fresh tissue found would have to have been preserved for 13,000 – 40,000 times longer than 5,000 years).

What to think of evolution as a whole? I will admit that I am no expert on the topic but it hasn’t prevented me from writing on the topic from time to time. The following is a revised compilation of a couple posts I’ve done on the topic from the past couple years (originally here and here – see my take on the Ham-Nye debate here).

Yes, I will admit hard to imagine in a pre-fall, "very good", state.

Yes, I will admit hard to imagine in a pre-fall, “very good”, state.

“Dad, why did God make sharks so that they eat other animals?”

So my four year old asked me this question out of the blue two nights ago (as of this writing) – well, right after asking me if sharks, crocodiles and sea monsters were real.

What would you say?



I said:

Some people just think that this shows God has a hard edge – sure He is loving, but still… in some ways, He is very hard”.

Others say that animals eat other animals because of the curse, and I think they are right.

When Adam and Eve sinned, the creation fell with them. God had given Adam and Eve great power and when they disobeyed Him and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they threw the whole creation into chaos.* They started getting old, and would die. Things started to decay and disintegrate. Animals started to eat one another…

Not long ago on a blog, a man known as the GeoChristian linked me to his blog post about animal death before the fall.

Being firmly unconvinced by his post, here is how I replied to him:

Much better... (see here)

Ahh…. Much better… (see here)

I guess I, sensitive guy that I am, am just fundamentally incapable of interpreting God’s evaluation of “very good” in a way that permits carnivorous activity. God said the world, not the garden, was “very good”. You say: “A related passage is Romans 8:20-22, which states that the whole creation groans. Just like in Genesis 3, the passage does not state the nature of that groaning, and it doesn’t necessarily include death” and it is pretty much impossible for me to think that groaning and death do not go hand in hand. Looking at it briefly, Psalm 124:1 “The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God” is not glorifying God because of predation per se, but is glorifying God because all creation seeks their sustenance from him. I Tim 4:4 is simply saying that “everything created by God is good”, which is certainly true – but he does not create that which infects his good creation by the curse of original sin. As for teeth indicating predation, we know that doesn’t work. Kevin, I’m guessing I won’t convince you and you won’t convince me. I don’t consider myself a hard core YEC – I just like to listen widely to the various views.”

In short, I find the idea that God built suffering, death and decay into the original creation – as if this is “very good” – even more disturbing than the idea of eternal punishment. Why?  Death, decay and destruction are not very good and I see no reason, biblically or otherwise, to think they are (am I simply irrationally sensitive, being repulsed and wanting to turn away, for example, from carnivorous assaults as I do?).  On the other hand, it is clear that eternal punishment is not the way it is supposed to be – nor is it supposed to be for men, but for angels.

That’s where I think the accent needs to go. You see, I think God hates eternal punishment more than I do. Of course, I still believe in it because I think the words of Jesus – kind Jesus – point to this reality.**

This is one of the reasons I think the young earth creationist position can’t be readily dismissed.***  In any case, even theistic evolutionists who would say that there was a literal Adam and Eve are now being told that this is not even a scientifically viable position to hold (for why, see the answers to my comment here)


The powers that be inform us that anyone who believes in something like young earth creationism is a complete and total moron (evidently people like Leonard Brand, Ben Carson, Terry Hamblin [Wikipedia article here], Andrew McIntosh, John C. Sanford, Raymond Damadian, Stephen Lloyd and Todd Wood for instance).  These days, saying you believe this a good way to socially assassinate yourself when it comes to intellectual respectability.

It seems another way to do this – not as much of course – is simply to question evolution period, as Ben Steyn argued in the 2008 movie Expelled.  Besides the revealing Dawkins-aliens moment, the highlight of the movie had to be the agnostic and secular Jew David Berlinski, the mathematician-physicist turned harsh Darwin-critic.  His effortless takedown of neo-Darwinian thought was compelling and his brash confidence admittedly entertaining (see the You Tube clip below for Berlinski on Darwinian evolution).  Berlinski has nothing but contempt for what he sees as the intellectually facile system that is called the neo-Darwinian synthesis – a “Scientific Scandal” if there ever was one, he says.

I would say that Berlinski is well worth reading (if not for the sheer entertainment).  And not long ago, our library ordered a book of his essays The Deniable Darwin.

As one can see by looking at Berlinski’s various books as held by OCLC WorldCat libraries, many of his peers in academia evidently did not judge this book to be one of his better moments.


One might be forgiven for thinking the articulate anti-Darwinian thoughts of a highly educated, scientific mind the stature of Berlinskis’ might actually be of interest to people.

Certainly, there is an interest in semi-popularized books about evolution.


All this said, as one can see from the first chart above his 2008 book lampooning atheism did a bit better.  In it, he said of Darwinism:

We have no idea how life emerged, and cannot with assurance say that it did.  We cannot reconcile our understanding of the human mind with any trivial theory about the manner in which the brain functions.  Beyond the trivial, we have no other theories. (bold mine, p. xiii, see also 156-165).

And in this excellent interview on Issues ETC., Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute talks about Berlinski as well as four other prominent, non-religious scientists scientists who have dared to question the Darwinian orthodoxy*: Jerry Fodor, Lynn Margulis (both opponents of intelligent design), Thomas Nagel (in his book pictured below: “the defenders of intelligent design deserve our gratitude”), and Steve Fuller (an agnostic who defends intelligent design).  He also mentioned the late Philip Skell.


Luskin reinforces what should be the obvious notion that science is not the impartial search for truth, but is also governed by important sociological and political factors (and spiritual of course) as well.

It also seems to me that Luskin has been very careful with his examples.  I noted a couple years ago his Discovery Institute colleague Paul Neslon was rightfully skewered (it seemed to me) by a couple prominent atheist-Darwinists, Jerry Coyne and P.Z. Myers, for being careless about representing people’s views.

This topic is always interesting to me – particularly when thinking about how Christ asks us to have faith like a child in His simple and humble words. I wish I had more time to read these books!





*So get what this kid – 4.5 years old – asks me last night….  [note: this was from last year] As I laid down with him in bed to tuck him in, he peppered me with theological questions and commentary for what must have been a good thirty minutes or so. I don’t recall the exact words that he used, but at one point I am pretty sure that he basically asked me whether or not the curse was enacted by a direct act of God in response to Adam and Eve’s unbelief or whether it came about by a release of some kind of power from the tree itself, as its true use had been violated. I told him I wasn’t sure, as I said to myself “Why had I never thought about it that way?”

This kind of thing happens more often than one might think (post from 3 years ago on kids asking very hard theological questions)… I feel blessed to know that I have a son who is proud about how he believes in God and wants to share that with me.

** Others these days are calling this into question left and right – it is certainly something that needs to be addressed and dealt with more. The very gifted and popular Eastern Orthodox blogger Al Kimel has been doing a lot of stuff arguing against the traditional view of hell, and linking to others doing the same, for instance:

*** Old earth creationists will often say that they do not believe that there was any human death before the fall either. Here is a link (updated: to a relatively recent debate between two prominent young earth creationists (YEC) and two old earth creationists (OEC).

****The article the interview is based on is found in this issue (Issue 2, 2013) of the Christian Research Journal: Are There Nonreligious Skeptics of Darwinian Evolution and Proponents of Intelligent Design?

Images: JPark: ; animal pics: Wikipedia

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Posted by on June 15, 2015 in Uncategorized


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“Render Unto Caesar”….Our Knowledge?: What “New Knowledge” Requires that Religion Must Be Changed?

“Render unto Caesar…” our knowledge?!

“They love the truth when it enlightens them, they hate it when it accuses them.”

— St. Augustine

“There is in everyone a quest for truth and also a rebellion against its demands, and a doubting of the truth when it is discovered….there are many partial truths.  Jesus is the truth, the whole truth.”

— Richard Wurmbrand, founder of the Voice of the Martyrs


Just last week, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton made news by talking about how religious views, when it comes to the matter of abortion, need to be changed. Further, laws opposed to people’s religious beliefs would “have to be backed up with resources and political will.” (for more, here is a matter of fact take and here is a more feisty and entertaining take). And as it takes a village to raise the children that actually are “wanted”, I’m guessing she’d be on board with this kind of advocacy as well.

In one of the online classes that I teach, I think a student of mine hinted at the reasons for Mrs. Clinton’s confidence:

“One of the biggest areas of struggle [between faith and politics is that] I see is that many governments are moving forward and developing and growing, examining their rules and regulations and adjusting them to reflect what they know today instead of relying on rules based on information from over 2,000 years ago. Religions and churches have not been as quick to develop and reexamine their stance on social issues that affect everyone. So this “living in two different times” means discord.” (italics mine, quoted with permission)

I’d say Mrs. Clinton and my student are simply reflecting the Zeitgeist (spirit of the age or spirit of the time) that prevails today among the vast majority of our elites. I work as a university librarian, and one of the more interesting things I have come across recently in my profession is the new Information Literacy Framework”, constructed with college and university libraries in mind.  It features six key points, one of which dovetails with our discussion here: “Authority is Constructed and Contextual”.

Is this a helpful way of introducing and discussing authority?

Explained more fully in terms of sources and resources of information, the Framework goes on to say:

“Information resources reflect their creators’ expertise and credibility, and are evaluated based on the information need and the context in which the information will be used. Authority is constructed in that various communities may recognize different types of authority. It is contextual in that the information need may help to determine the level of authority required.” (bold italics mine)

There is more explanation provided, and I bold and italicize the parts that are most important for the focus of our inquiry:

“Experts understand that authority is a type of influence recognized or exerted within a community. Experts view authority with an attitude of informed skepticism and an openness to new perspectives, additional voices, and changes in schools of thought. Experts understand the need to determine the validity of the information created by different authorities and to acknowledge biases that privilege some sources of authority over others, especially in terms of others’ worldviews, gender, sexual orientation, and cultural orientations. An understanding of this concept enables novice learners to critically examine all evidence—be it a short blog post or a peer-reviewed conference proceeding—and to ask relevant questions about origins, context, and suitability for the current information need. Thus, novice learners come to respect the expertise that authority represents while remaining skeptical of the systems that have elevated that authority and the information created by it. Experts know how to seek authoritative voices but also recognize that unlikely voices can be authoritative, depending on need. Novice learners may need to rely on basic indicators of authority, such as type of publication or author credentials, where experts recognize schools of thought or discipline-specific paradigms.”

Of course, looking at this more full explanation, there are some things here that Christians can agree with along with these “experts” the Framework speaks of (even as much of this explanation is vague and creates more questions than it answers). For example, of course there are always contextual elements to questions of authority (but more discussion is needed here).  I also really appreciate the point that “unlikely voices can be authoritative, depending on the need”. In addition, I think that the “Framers” of this Framework and all of us could agree that authority is, at least in part, “power to influence or persuade resulting from knowledge or experience”, as one definition states.

That said, what is missing here in the Framework, is just that: the important idea that the concept of knowledge – and along with this truth – are basic components to any understanding of authority. As John Somerville has noted, “Even Nietzsche and Foucalt, who sought to reduce the human to power and desire, couldn’t help pressing the truth of their views.” (The Decline of the Secular University [Oxford U. Press, 2006], 37)

And of course, when it comes to these matters of knowledge and truth, Christians have always insisted, on the basis of the Scriptures, not only that “[the] divine nature… [has] been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Rom. 1), but that “all authority is established by God” (see Romans 13:1-7 and I Peter 2:13-17). Further, this means that we should, as far as we are able to do so, obey and respect human authorities.  Whatever “constructed” might mean, it would clearly seem to undermine this important truth.

That one might continue to believe such a thing in this day and age might seem remarkable to many – I didn’t even qualify, saying “for the Christian, this is true…”! – but it does us well to exercise critical thinking about the advice of this new Information Literacy Framework as well (that even non-believers can track with).

Here are just a few questions to get started:

  • Just what might be involved in the process of “determin[ing] the validity of the information created by different authorities”?
  • And, more importantly, how can we even start to do that if – rightly acknowledging that we all have biases – our “worldviews” and “privilege” inevitably blind all of us (or is it only some of us?)?
  • After all, if this is the case, how, exactly, could the “novice learner[‘s]” seeking out evidence be helpful?
  • Primarily so they can ask “relevant questions” that might undermine unjust power structures? (that is all the Framework seems to allow for)

Again, what is the problem here? As I said above, I submit that it comes down to the question of what knowledge is – and what truth is. The Framework mentions neither of these in this section (“true” and “truth” are not in the whole Framework*), much less gives definitions. Of course, these are questions that have given heady philosophers headaches for thousands of years. That said, can we at least still agree that it does not all come down to power – i.e. that our words are not primarily “power tools” we use to manipulate our environment or others, but are something far more deeply significant?  Further can we agree that not all facts and concepts are hopelessly in dispute – due to their being “impregnated by culturally constricting conceptual schemata” born of rivalry and power?** And can we agree that it is not necessarily true that religious persons necessarily make “uncivil conflict resolution strategies” necessary? even if the idea seems to be growing in popularity?

Or is this now unreasonable?  I steadfastly maintain that there are ways for intelligent persons of good will to discover “common ground” in these areas, even if many valuable resources that might assist here are no longer known to many of us. Unfortunately, the Framework itself does not provide any sort of framework (that is intellectual argument for) for recognizing common ground that might potentially be realized due to assumptions that most all human beings might share. Rightly or wrongly, the careful reader is left with the impression that everything really must come down to using information to exercise power, and importantly – everything comes down to who holds the power.  In sum, “knowledge”, whatever it is, is strictly related to what it does for us – or, more accurately, what we do with it in our “knowledge practices”. As Mr. Francis Bacon insisted “Knowledge is power” – and now, it appears, it is only power (in short, all “knowledge” essentially deals with bodies in motion, and is purely heuristic).***

Ergo (therefore), “what works” is true and what is true is what “works”, and the rightful fury many of those who support the Framework undoubtedly felt – and rightly felt – over Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s desire to remove the following words from the UW-Madison mission statement:

  • “extend knowledge and its application beyond the boundaries of its campus….
  • serve and stimulate society…
  • Basic to every purpose of the system is the search for truth.” (see here)
Yeats: “The center cannot hold.”  But in Christ…

Yeats: “The center cannot hold.” But in Christ…

…ring hollow. Very hollow. Do you see what I am talking about?

I would submit that persons like Mrs. Clinton, my student, and those who composed the new Information Literacy Framework go back to the drawing board – and try to exercise more critical thinking in the matter.  I am not just trying to be condescending (I know it sounds like this) by saying this but think that there is serious philosophical reflection that needs to occur here.  With all of us being children of the modern scientific and technological mindset – with method and technique being everything – this is the water in which we swim… even as we might subconsciously and/or consciously be looking for ways to “re-enchantment”… trying to escape what the philosopher Charles Taylor calls “the immanent frame”!  For instance, I think that very few of us ultimately want to adopt the view of philosophical naturalism (at least insofar as this intellectual foundation convinces us, as I believe it inevitably does, of the need of some kind of “social Darwinism”, right-wing [might – physical, social, financial, or “rational” – makes right] or left-wing [fighting all forms of social privilege and hierarchy makes right]), which can, in truth, be reduced to “believing that we have believed things only so that the beliefs are spread” (as the point of beliefs is only to be useful to survival, the passing on of genes, etc. – for this is the core Truth).  For if we do this, “we have”, as Stephen R.L. Clark says, “already stopped believing” (see here). And with this traditional notions of truth leave the building. In any case, all of these folks have my assurance that I will, thankful for my undeserved educational blessings (“privilege”, indeed), continue to exercise “informed skepticism and an openness to new perspectives, additional voices, and changes in schools of thought” (particularly toward their viewpoints!).

…just like I once did with my Christian faith – which I am thankful to God that I ended up keeping (especially in these days, where Yeat’s “Center [that does not] hold” seems to be accelerating with each passing day), having found nothing to earn my distrust… As I like to say, thank God it is Jesus who is God!

…and before you write me off as unreasonable for saying this, note that, for example, David Hume essentially argued that practically every belief we have about the universe comes from the eyewitness testimony of others and yet excluded, a priori, taking seriously what the Creator purportedly considers proof, through His servants Luke and Paul (see Acts 17, particularly v. 30 and 31). How is that reasonable? How is that not a faith of its own?

In sum, I give thanks to God for this historical knowledge – and am not aware of any “new knowledge” that requires me to change my belief that I am, really and truly, Jesus’ little lamb – and that my Shepherd is Lord of Heaven and Earth. As Robert McHenry, a former editor of the Encyclopedia Britannica has put it “What I know is what I have yet to be shown is false”.   


[Note: when I initially posted this article, I had misinterpreted part of the Framework and had implied something about it that was not true. I have fixed that mistake, which does not affect my core argument. I also adjusted a sentence, added a sentence above, and added the 1st footnote below]

*I note that in the “Knowledge Practices” part of the “Frame” about authority, it does says persons “developing their own authoritative voices” should “recognize the responsibilities this entails, including seeking accuracy and reliability.” The question however, is “why”? Is it simply about consequences, i.e. one should do this not to discredit one’s self and those one associates with? Or is it because it is important to be true and to seek truth and the truth? Given the whole context of the Framework, I do not get the impression that the latter option is what is meant. It’s difficult to imagine that “knowledge is constructed” could have a meaning that is compatible with traditional notions of truth when gender, the identity of the unborn, marriage, and parenthood for example are now all commonly seen as “constructions” – that is, “social constructions” historically imposed by an intolerant Western majority.

** Even if it is true that “power operates through knowledge production”, “knowledge production is…historically situated and embedded in power relations” and it’s production “never occurs outside power relations” (Seale) – whatever might be meant here by knowledge – is there not more to what knowledge is… to what it entails?

*** “ establish and extend the power and dominion of the human race itself over the universe…depends wholly on the arts and sciences… For we cannot command nature except by obeying her… Truth, therefore, and utility are here perfectly identical.” – Francis Bacon (might that not help explain the confusion this N.Y. Times editorial pinpoints?) the way, here is my own attempt to introduce persons into this difficult question about the nature of authority. It is a video I produced at Concordia St. Paul for the library here called “How do I decide which sources are good to cite?”



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Posted by on May 4, 2015 in Uncategorized


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The “upside” of being a gadget, or, we are all [acting like] atheists now

Lanier's wager, merely a "privatized humanism": “we are better off believing we are special and not just machines”

Lanier’s wager, merely a “privatized humanism”: “we are better off believing we are special and not just machines”

A theological analysis of the debates provides evidence that contemporary culture’s romance with scientific naturalism leads to a serious overestimation of the power of science and springs from deadly moral and spiritual roots. A sinful humanity is itching to hear that the ultimate foundation of all life has no meaning...the popular mind seems unable to resist idolizing naturalistic explanation because it provides an all too human, all too comfortable worldview within which I can function as my own god….We must… assume the burden of challenging the popular romance that lets distorted science substitute for personal encounters with each other and with God. — James V. Bachman


Building off of a previous post, I have been thinking more about the problems with the analogy of the cosmos – which man is unavoidably a part of – as a machine (incidently, I was gratified to find thinking that mapped almost entirely with mine expressed here in the article by James Bachman, “Self-righteousness through popular science: our culture’s romance with naturalism” [see here if that link does not work] quoted above*)

As technology and culture writer Jaron Lanier shows us in his book, despite the fall into sin men certainly can see that there are downsides to considering human beings to be mere cogs – or perhaps nowadays, mini-computers – in a more expansive cosmic machine.

That said, fallen man may also think he detects – more or less consciously (perhaps feel is a better word) – some benefits as well (yes, these “perceptions” are illusionary):

For example….

Practically atheism

Practically atheism


If we are a part of the cosmic machine, then all that we “decide” to do is in some sense, basically determined. Even if we talk about chance in contrast to more deterministic forces, the laws of nature that give us diversity only allow for a range of probable outcomes that are, finally, subject to considerations that can be said to be impersonal (note previous post, This is personal) and, in short, mechanical.  Of course, the idea of natural selection further reinforces this idea that we are “made” a certain way and destined, in this or that way, to do what we desire to do – or, more specifically, what our genes “want” us to do.  Therefore, guilt for any “wrongdoing” becomes more of a pragmatic problem, psychologically and socially, than anything else – for we and those we desire to be found with determine “right” and “wrong” insofar as we are able.**  In short, real personal responsibility and accountability becomes questionable and it is easy to see why this results in the banishment of the troublesome “Cosmic Mechanic”:  We are saved from this ridiculous god who supposedly wants to run our lives one way when he made us another way.


In order to avoid thinking about death and what it really means, we gadgets can either, as Neil Postman put it, “amuse ourselves to death” [with the gadgets we gadgets make, evidently in our own image], or, if we are really ambitious, we can try and beat it.  Here, as the cosmos is increasingly thought of in terms that, at bottom, can be reduced to the mechanical (no matter how much “organic” language is used as clothing!), the technological may be readily perceived not only as the “strong horse” (as they like to say in the Middle East), but the only horse on earth and in heaven.  All things – even death itself – can be reduced to mechanical problems with mechanical solutions, as someone like Ray Kurzweil basically assure us. And naturally gifted persons like himself find themselves rising to the top as if by destiny, attaining large followings and much worldly success….. They are confident – even religiously so – that they are not only on the right side of history, but that their ideas will change history and everything else (except perhaps for the only “essences” or “substances” that are now thought to exist, the fundamental particles and the laws of nature that accompany them).  Note that in today’s academic world this kind of thinking is far more mainstream than many would suspect.

And why not say: "On a mission from god?"

And why not say: “On a mission from god?”


Of course seeing the cosmos as mechanical banishes the fascinating but oppressive “demon-haunted” world that Carl Sagan spoke ofFurther, we can more readily find relief from those who oppose us – who insist on ways or forms of life that we find incompatible with our own preferred lifestyles.  When we see the world as a machine it becomes easier to reduce other human beings – particularly the ones that we are convinced are unreasonably opposed to us – to be something less than persons.  They become to us mere “wetware”, “meat puppets” who only have value when we and our friends determine they deserve it.  Piling fantasy on fantasy, we imagine we can be saved from those who oppose us (or maybe just annoy us) in a more passive fashion, by retreating into our “little online worlds” that we have some control over (increasingly giving into the temptation – enhanced and made more readily available via technology – to become more self-centered and to “commodify” the world). But of course this does not work.  For some look for salvation from others more aggressively, increasingly utilizing automatized technology in order to subdue those will not cooperate, either by soma-like methods (Brave New World) or perhaps a heavier hand (1984, Neuromancer). Or maybe, this is done more or less unknowingly, utilizing the impersonal “laws of economics” (Lanier is a helpful resource here as well – see the end of this post).


“Enemy” that is. Of course fallen man does not really know who his Enemy is, even if he thinks he does. He does not truly realize who are true and false enemies – after all, he “knows”, deep down, that God Himself – particularly as He is described in the Old and New Testaments – is his Enemy!  And here, if we simply see ourselves as a machine in the larger cosmic machine it is easier to both retreat from the knowledge of Him and nevertheless attempt justify one’s self before Him**.

Let me explain.  After my last post where I backed away somewhat from my pastor’s succinct appraisal of my view  – “Modern man has been led away from God by the idea that the universe is simply a machine” –  I realized that I had written and posted the following in the recent past:

Fallen man: "Should we assimilate the Creator as well?"

Fallen man: “Should we assimilate the Creator as well?”

“…with an increase in functional knowledge and earthly power, man’s free powers tend to combine with devotion towards certain unbending  principles and “cause-and-effect” laws (like a vending machine: ultimately manipulative “if-then” moralism), and the temptation is for this to take over completely, squelching out the last vestiges of an actual person who is God.  In other words, this “highest of men”, rich in the knowledge and wisdom of the world, seeks to harness not only what have come to be known as the “laws of nature”*** and “natural law”, but any “laws of the [increasingly depersonalized] supernatural” as well (whether more or less “systematically”).  This is accomplished with the help of its magicians/scientists and priests as “salvation” comes through the mighty accomplishments of the appropriate “technologies”, dealing with both the material and the “spiritual”.  Here, we find that the distinction between the natural and the supernatural, for whatever its beneficial uses, has actually been of some assistance in banishing the biblical God.  Therefore, writ large, as unchecked Old Adam more successfully harnesses the order inhering in the creation, in practice he makes the Creator his impersonal creation and himself salvation.****”

(end old quote from this post, part 3 in a 3 part series that is summed up here)

In other words, considering the creation – and especially ourselves – as machines is spiritually dangerous because it opens us up to the temptation to think the same about all persons, including the Creator Himself!   Then, we treat Him accordingly – that is, attempting to manipulate Him as we would any other machine.  In sum, such thinking only gives fuel to our desire to justify ourselves over and against Him.

That we may be Creator, Lord, and Judge.

“Would you condemn me [to non-existence or to a machine-like existence] that you may be justified?” (Job 40:8). 

We would (read more on this here)

As Calvin said, the mind is an idol factory.*****  An illusion factory.

Back to Jaron Lanier. I saw someone highlight a recent quote from him the other day: “We don’t yet understand how brains work, so we can’t build one.”

According to David Bade: “…in our time, following Turing and Chomsky, the machine has been understood not as a product of human activity but as an embodiment of exactly the same design principles which the human being embodies.” But wherein does our epistemological confidence lie?

According to David Bade: “…in our time, following Turing and Chomsky, the machine has been understood not as a product of human activity but as an embodiment of exactly the same design principles which the human being embodies.” But wherein does our epistemological confidence lie?

Of course Lanier does not think that the brain can be reduced to purely material and mechanical causes, even if some persons in the field of artificial intelligence might take that quotation as a call to redouble their efforts.

And why do they do that?  Again, because for them the brain – and the human being in fact – is, in the end a machine of one sort or another.  They just need to figure everything out. Wherein does their confidence lie? Well, again, the ideas of a certain 19th c. Englishman – that the unbelieving world just seemed to be waiting for – helps bolster their confidence that they are on the right track.

As the A.I. scientist Eliezer Yudkowsky puts it:

“Natural selection is stupid. If natural selection can solve the AGI [Artificial General Intelligence] problem, it cannot be that hard in an absolute sense. Evolution coughed up AGI easily by randomly changing things around and keeping what worked. It followed an incremental path with no foresight.” (p. 199, Barrat, Our Final Invention)

But again, I submit that this confidence does not come from Darwin’s theory per se, but the modern scientific and technological mindset (MSTM – again, see previous post on this topic) that Darwin and many other scientifically-oriented persons have allowed to drive them.

It hit me this past weekend as I talked with a fellow Cub Scout dad – a very bright man and gifted mathematician – that everything I am saying here actually dovetails rather nicely with “moralistic therapeutic deism”.  As he explained the video game Spore, I noted how it sounded like a spectacular catechization into a purely Darwinian worldview – where man who emerges from the the laws of nature – the impersonal – basically creates God.  A very moral man and faithful church attending Roman Catholic, this man thought the game was largely right in its view of man. I gave him much to think about, among other things that his view sounded very much like moralistic therapeutic deism to me.

 Do you mean only a mathematician? Even if we think “yes”, how does God want to be known? Is something like this helpful (Wilken)? More later.

Do you mean only a mathematician? Even if we think “yes”, how does God want to be known? Is something like this helpful? More later.

To wrap things up, my view in sum:

it is not only incorrect to say that the cosmos is a machine, but it is even dangerous to say that it is like a machine – and it is best to avoid such talk.  My pastor read me right.  Please note that I am not saying that all persons who currently see the cosmos as a machine think as I have outlined above, for some still identify the cosmos with the creation and see God as very much involved in it.  Further, I am not saying that the errors of those who really do see nature as wholly organic, free and divine are less theologically serious.

I am simply asserting that it is normal for the practice of methodological naturalism to lead persons in this mechanical direction and for it to affect our deepest beliefs.  And I think to say this is not much different from saying lex orendi lex credenda (The Law of prayer is the law of belief).  As one finds some success in the world using naturalistic techniques one may begin to think, somewhat logically******, that they ought to have a very good reason for not letting their methodological naturalism become pure philosophical naturalism. Just what is that good reason?  After all, they think, there is no doubt that I am understanding much about nature and learning ever better how to manipulate it. It works because it is true and its true because it works!

Please go ahead and pushback against me here – I hope you agree with me that this is an important discussion to have.




* Also this from a page in a Francis Schaeffer book I happened to turn to the other day: “In my earlier books I have referred to Whitehead and Oppenheimer, two scientists – neither one a Christian – who insisted that modern science could not have been born except in the Christian milieu. Bear with me as I repeat this, for I want in this book to carry it a step further, into the area of knowing.  As Whitehead so beautifully points out, these men all believed that the universe was created by a reasonable God and therefore the universe could be found out by reason.  This was their base.  Modern science is the original science, in which you had men who believed in the uniformity of natural causes in a limited system, a system which could be reordered by God and by man made in the image of God.  This is a cause and effect system in a limited time span.  But from the time of Newton (not with Newton himself, but with the Newtonians who followed him), we have the concept of the “machine” until we are left with only the machine, and you move into “modern modern science,” in which we have the uniformity of natural causes in a closed system, including sociology and psychology. Man is included in the machine.  This is the world in which we live in the area of science today.  No longer believing that they can be sure the universe is reasonable because created by a reasonable God, the question is raised which Leonardo da Vincit already understood and which the Greeks understood before that; “How does the scientist know; on what basis can he know that what he knows, he really knows?” (He is There and He is Not Silent, p. 43, 1972)

**An interesting example my pastor thought of:Slumdog Millionaire relieved the angst of the actors and actresses in Hollywood by convincing them that they need not feel guilty about their popularity and wealth, it was just a matter of chance; if it was not them, it would have been someone else.” Note that this kind of thinking could be encouraged either by [mechanistic] naturalism or the kind of neo-polytheism promoted by Herbert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly where the idea is that the gods and goddesses come into being to explain the unexplainable to man. (see my critique on their book All Things Shining here)

***Though it seems to me that in reality, the one they are trying to please and appease through their deeds – this “hard man” – is actually the one to whom they are enslaved, the devil.

****I went on: “As a result of this, the human person – not considered in light of the Divine person of Jesus Christ and His love for all – is inevitably trodden underfoot, as at least some persons inevitably become means to other ends.”

*****This is a great quote, and also interesting for me in that even it makes the mind sound mechanical in our modern age!

******Why “somewhat”? Well, deism actually makes more sense than atheism in one way, because deism not only banishes a god who is distinct from his creation (this is in line with biblical theism) – where god is said to remove himself from the clock – but also acknowledges that this god will still judge man in some way.  And of course, here man imagines that he can, by cooperating with god’s system, justify himself before him in one way or another.  This is obviously not right, but it is more right than subsuming god in the impersonal system and making him become a part of it.

Of course, I am saying that the practical implications of deism and atheism end up going more or less in the same direction.  Why do many atheists refuse to become deists, a la Anthony Flew? The reasons are many, but here is how some justify this: in the practice of the physical sciences, observation of course plays a key role. If the Designer of the machine cannot be directly observed, one might say that an application of “Occam’s Razor” should cast him out.  After all, the chain of causation must stop somewhere – why not with the universe itself that we can consistently observe to one degree or another?  Of course here the main problem is still this, which was noted in my first post on this topic: we observe an orderly universe, and how is it that one would have an orderly universe without purpose and purpose without an Intelligence, a Mind, of some sort?


Related post on the temptations posed by information technology here.

Images: Wikipedia, Kurzweil:


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Posted by on July 18, 2014 in Uncategorized


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The creation debate after the debate


I am blessed to have many theologically-minded friends.  In response to the recent Ken Ham/Bill Nye debate, here is what one of them, Piotr Malysz, said:

I find Nye’s views to be far more conducive to theologization (not that he does it!) along the lines that suggest God’s continuous involvement in creation, even where other explanations already are available and (to some) quite satisfying. This cannot be said of Ham’s fideism.

Ham’s position, as I see it, has its intellectual roots in medieval nominalism: (1) It relies on extreme observational positivism, which is said to legitimately generate only pragmatic, applicational conclusions for the here and now – what Ham considers the only licit kind of science. It thus sows doubt about rationally established past (“You weren’t there!”), just as easily as it is unable to be predictively generative. (2) Ham’s position assumes that God and natural causes are competing and mutually-exclusive agencies. (3) And it views God as a potential deceiver in his worldly activity: What we now know to be the case, in terms of physical laws for example, need not have been the case earlier; in other words, evidence, even when legitimately interpreted, deceives if it’s taken to point beyond the here and now. The world points at best to the will of God, which always hides within itself unrestricted possibilities.

What I find far more logically compelling than Ham’s view is Jonathan Edwards’ argument that God actually recreates the world ex nihilo every split second. At least this is logically defensible (see Edwards’ treatise on original sin), and does not imply divine deception, etc.

Now, a totally different kettle of fish is what Ham’s position does to the Bible on account of the above assumptions. Ham is like those 17th-century theologians who argued that the vowel points had to have been in the original Hebrew text because it would be unbecoming of God to have produced a less than perfect text. They decided a priori, on the basis of their own notion of divine perfection, what God’s Word had to be like.

The point of the analogy is to highlight that what Ham calls his biblical worldview (a set of beliefs, assumptions, and expectations) may not be quite as biblical as he makes it out to be, at least in some crucial respects. Rather, he imposes important assumptions on the Bible, and on God. Ham’s is very much an early-modern/modern worldview, and it has to do with prior assumptions, among other things, about what God should be like in order to be divine and by extension what characteristics God’s Word must have, as well. All this to offset the possibility of our being deceived even if we interpret the evidence in accordance with what appears to be the case in the here and now.

This leads Ham to what one may call “Gnostic” exegesis, based on the implicit conclusion that God could not have expressed himself, or it would have been beneath the perfect God to have expressed himself (and God cannot depart from his Platonic nature) though historical forms, time-bound conventions, and contingent usages. It also makes God seem tone-deaf when it comes to the richness of language, incapable, say, of humor, hyperbole, poetic license, and genre convention. As a result, everything, every genealogy and term, is interpreted literally and on very modernist premises. High as it may be, this view of the Bible does not seem quite biblical.

And here is my response to that:

I agree with much of what you say, or at least parts of your analysis resonate with me…

For example, regarding the “laws of nature” – I don’t believe that we should say that there are any “laws of nature” that intrinsically exist.  I agree with the Italian humanist Vico’s critique (really vs Descartes) already offered in the late seventeenth century and re-iterated by Hamann in the eighteenth: “human beings experience a regularity in the world around them, which they then improperly abstract into a concept of ‘natural law’ that excludes from serious discourse, the mystical, and the religious”.

I think that’s exactly right – even if Christians at the time did not latch onto and continue with Hamann’s argument.  And I would argue that the reason God is not a deceiver is that we misunderstand the purpose of creation if we think that God created it so we could pronounce hard and fast laws instrinsic in “nature” (creation) and treat it like some clock.  It is an organic whole, not some mechanized, lifeless and computerized nightmare.  Therefore, I understand, for example, things like supernova to be there first and foremost something for us who dwell in God’s creation/household: it is there first and foremost to show us something like a beautiful painting or fireworks display (take your pick).

I think all of this can be better understood with a simple analogy: Parents arrange things in a consistent fashion so that a child can be captivated, play, create and experiment on the one hand, and they arrange things and *act* in a consistent fashion so that the child feels security, stability, and confidence, on the other hand.  Arranging things in a consistent fashion – more or less so – depending on what we are talking about, and acting in a consistent steadfast fashion is a part of love.  Creating beauty and order for another is a fruit of love. In other words, order is born of love, not love of order – or from a love of order!  As the linguist Roy Harris perceptively notes, communicative behavior cannot arise from non-communicative behavior.  There must be an infrastructure in place from the beginning. This matter does not center around the fact that truth is a social construct instead of some cold and impersonal factual correspondence, or something like that – but that how we conceive of and describe reality can’t not be done personally, or socially.  And such should not surprise, because Reality is personal, is social (rooted as it is in the Reality of the Triune God).  And this in turn brings us back to Romans 1.  It is not that there is nothing to the idea that order=God, but rather that order can’t not be recognized as a fruit of love.  Perhaps one’s proof of God does not begin by saying “Someone must have made this”, but rather by the love that one does know.

Now none of this means that we can’t observe the hard and soft regularities that God has put in place for us.  It just means being humble about working with these things, understanding that He has His own purposes for arranging the world as He sees fit, and we have our own purposes.  For much the same reason, I will no longer talk about the “historical-grammatical method” either – but, more like Ham, simply will speak about the natural, or normal, or common, or everyday use of language – we can, for example, readily differentiate genres of literature when we take a look at them – and read them as the author intended us to.  On the contrary, it seems to me that it was clearly Bill Nye who seemed “tone-deaf when it comes to… genre convention”.

As for the “You weren’t there!” bit you mention, I do think Ham is right to highlight this and he is actually not being as inconsistent as you think he is.  As I noted in my series on Athens and Jerusalem, naturalistic science has no room for accounts from the distant past – they have no place when it comes to figuring into our philosophies or worldviews in any sort of prominent way (think of Henry Ford’s comment about history being “more or less bunk…”, where he in effect was saying that history was of little or no significance in our scientific age).  I therefore think you are wrong when you say this is a kind of “Gnostic” exegesis on Ham’s part, where for him “it would have been beneath the perfect God to have expressed himself (and God cannot depart from his Platonic nature) though historical forms, time-bound conventions, and contingent usages”.  On the contrary, it is actually man’s misuse of naturalistic science (which looks at the world through the lens of quantity and regularity, finding constant mechanisms behind phenomena, and carries with it the temptation to do so with all phenomena) that is slowly lobotomizing the accounts of history that really matter (not the sometimes insightful but very imperfect historicist streak that you seem to be referencing).  Hence, Ham is actually a dinosaur himself for this reason: he is upholding a more humanist view (humanist in the best sense of that word – Christian/Renaissance, not “secular humanism”) that gives our ancestors not only a vote, but respect, loyalty and trust.  So I find this part of your complaint entirely unconvincing.

When you essentially say Ham is deciding “a priori, on the basis of [his] own notion of divine perfection what God’s Word ha[s] to be like”, I think this is wrong.  For example, biblically, death is clearly an enemy caused by sin.  We all think death is far from perfect.  I think you need to attack Ham’s position on the world’s imperfection – put forth in the Bible – not his notion of divine perfection.

Finally, I agree that the theory of evolution has led to some discoveries that were predicted, but many of the predictions have not born out as well.  You hear about the successes and when it is the default system that drives methodologies, I don’t think it should surprise us that creation science seems to evince little predictive power (as they are fewer in number).  Nye’s point about the ice layers is probably his most challenging point (but for living things, like trees, it is less convincing – why would God not have made them fully formed, with rings and all?), but I’d simply point out that evolutionists have their own ad-hoc and unconvincing explanations as well.  Note all the scrambling that occurred after this.  Of course, there would not be such angst if such a thing had been predictable.  There’s also problems like the fact that devolution seems to be all around us.

You can read a fuller account of my view regarding these issues here.

In sum, while I am not wholly satisfied with Ham’s approach – given its inconsistencies (yes – he and many of us should probably read Edwards here) he is more right than he is wrong.  What he says is absolutely more in line with the more simple faith of most early church fathers in the words of Genesis (the same Vico I mention above also introduced the concept of “mytho-poetical” truth many seem to assume for most or all of the Bible today – although for Vico in the late 17th c. he inconsistently insisted this was not to be applied to the Christian Scriptures).  This, I think, is undeniable.  And more importantly, it is also in line with Jesus’ own views of the Scriptures.

The larger point here for me though is this: while there is nothing wrong with a little fun with numbers – fueled by curiosity – the quantitative, the numerical, the “power law” seem to be fast becoming the god of all who “count” in the world (Mr. Brooks I am sure, is not worried).  Increasingly, it seems that anything that stands in the way of those desiring to use this power and the control it offers will be crushed (talked about here a few weeks back).


Note: the debate is here, but probably only for a few more days.

UPDATE: Since this posts original publication, I clarified some of my remarks above.

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Posted by on February 6, 2014 in Uncategorized


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