The Problems of Scientism

Few things earn you more credibility in a conversation than dropping a “scientists have found” or “studies have shown.” This is because our culture places such a high premium on scientific understanding. And, rightly so! Science has given us spectacular insight into our universe and has improved our lives in countless ways.

Do we value science too much?

In 1877, mathematician and philosopher W.K. Clifford published an article titled “The Ethics of Belief.” He stated in the article a principle that has since become more famous than he has:

It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone to believe anything on insufficient evidence.”

Sparing the historical details (see René Descartes and Auguste Comte), Clifford simply said what philosophers had been thinking for some time. Namely that empirical evidence—that which is observed with the five senses and rationally interpreted—is the only reliable grounds for claiming to know anything.

It is a way of thinking called scientism.

In his book on the subject, Christian philosopher J.P. Moreland defines scientism as “the view that the hard sciences alone have the intellectual authority to give us knowledge of reality.”[1]

Moreland explains that scientism can be found in two forms, strong and weak. Strong scientism holds that science is the only way to know truth while all other claims to knowledge are simply irrelevant. Weak scientism holds that science is the best way to know truth while all other claims to knowledge merely opinion.

Economist E.F. Schumacher explained the concept this way:

The architects of the modern worldview…assumed that those things that could be weighed, measured, and counted were more true than those that could not be quantified. If it couldn’t be counted, in other words, it didn’t count.[2]

So, what is the problem? After all, science is definitively observable, measurable, and repeatable. The facts discovered by the scientific method are just that—facts. What else could be more reliable? What else could we need?

Here’s the thing…

Science is an unspeakably important means of discovery knowledge, but it is not the only one. It tells us a lot, but it doesn’t tell us everything.

Continue reading “The Problems of Scientism”
Advertisements

Scientific Reasoning vs. Religious Faith: The Fight that Should Have Never Been

There is a common notion that science and faith work against one another. Many people believe that the more science a person understands, the less religion that person will need. The more one reasons their way through life, the less they will need faith to cope with life’s ups and downs.

While many people have found a satisfying balance between their scientific reasoning and their religious faith, Atheist author Sam Harris describes the conflict in more absolute terms.

The truth, however, is that the conflict between religion and science is unavoidable. The success of science often comes at the expense of religious dogma; the maintenance of religious dogma always comes at the expense of science.[1]

In other words, faith has no place for science, and science has no use for faith. The more we have of one, the less we can have–or should have–of the other. Therefore, there is an apparent fight for the minds of people between scientific reasoning and religious faith.

But, here’s the thing…

This is a fight that should have never been.

Here are three reasons why. Continue reading “Scientific Reasoning vs. Religious Faith: The Fight that Should Have Never Been”

Say It with Me: Plausibility Structures

This is the second installment of a series, introducing terms and ideas that may be unfamiliar to most but are increasingly necessary for the thinking Christian to understand.

The term will probably not work its way into your casual conversation any time soon. However, it may play a part next time someone talks to you about your faith. It should play a part next time you talk to someone about yours.

Continue reading “Say It with Me: Plausibility Structures”

How Could Someone Who Does Not Believe in God Judge Him?

Nonbelievers give many reasons for believing that God does not exist. Some say they cannot reconcile modern scientific thinking with belief in God. Some say that there is not enough historical evidence.

Then there is an entire category of questions about God with a different common theme: judging God’s character and actions. In this category, questions like the following are asked:

These are certainly legitimate questions, which Christian thinkers over the centuries have treated with care. But, notice the common denominator. The real alternatives assumed in these questions are not whether God exists, but whether he is justified in what he does, assuming he exists.

Here’s the thing…

Discussing God’s existence and judging God’s character are two very different endeavors. Yet, people act as though how God exists determines if God exists. It is as if they are saying only when God’s character and actions are acceptable to us will his existence be plausible to us. Continue reading “How Could Someone Who Does Not Believe in God Judge Him?”

How Could a Loving God Send Good People to Hell?

The problem of Hell is one of the most frequently asked questions about God, and one of the hardest to answer.

As with most questions about God, there is a lot behind this question. How do we reconcile the Biblical descriptions of Hell with a God who does not just show love, but as the Bible says is love? How could Jesus show so much compassion for people, and yet talk so explicitly about eternal weeping and gnashing of teeth?

What is behind this question differs from person to person. Some people would word their question better by asking, “Why would God send a person who sinned for a few years to hell for all eternity?” Some would ask, “Why would God not just forgive everyone so no one would have to be punished?”

Whatever emphasis resonates, the basic question remains the same. Why would a loving God send good people to Hell?”

Here’s the thing…

When we take our time to clarify what we mean in what we are asking, the answer reveals itself.

When we clarify certain things about God, we see that God’s love and judgment are complementary, not contradictory. When we clarify certain things about ourselves, we see that God’s justice is exactly that, justice. When we clarify certain things about Hell, we see that the solution for it is not the eradication of it; it is salvation from it. Continue reading “How Could a Loving God Send Good People to Hell?”

Both Sides of Every Story

open book apologetics worldviews

As quotable as C.S. Lewis is, my favorite quote of his has to be the following:

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

As was his style, in this one statement he says so much. The Christian worldview is not without its evidence. However, multitudes of skeptics over the centuries, to include Lewis, have been convinced, not only by the truth they see in Christianity but also by the truth that it enables them to see.

Ultimately Ultimate

We can categorize worldviews at the most general level by their concept of ultimate reality. They may be defined by how they answer questions about the nature of being, namely “What is there?”—what philosophers call ontology—and “Where did it come from?”—what philosophers call cosmology. Based on their answers to answers to these questions, every worldview essentially falls under one of three categories: naturalism, pantheism, or theism.

There are worldviews that affirm ultimate reality as ultimately physical. That is to say, “there is nothing more to the mental, biological and social realms than arrangements of physical entities.”[1] These worldviews are often grouped in the category of naturalism.

There are worldviews that affirm ultimate reality as ultimately spiritual. That is to say, there is only “a single spiritual entity, of which the physical world must be understood as a partial manifestation.”[2] These worldviews are often grouped in the category of pantheism.

Finally, there are worldviews that affirm ultimate reality as ultimately “owed to one supreme Being, who is distinct from Creation.”[3] That is to say, there is “a dualistic relation between God and the world,”[4] typically asserting that God is both transcendent, existing outside of and being sovereign over the physical universe, as well as immanent, existing inside of and being involved with the physical universe.

These descriptions are massively oversimplified by necessity. Each category includes a long list of specific philosophies and religions, many of which have precious little in common with others in the same category. Some seem to be more viable options than others. Some have many more adherents than others. However, the one thing that unites them is their view of reality, what is ultimately ultimate.

The question we have now is, which one is ultimately right? Continue reading “Both Sides of Every Story”

The Other Side of the Problem of Evil

Auschwitz problem of evil

The problem that the atheist has in the problem of evil is that in atheism there shouldn’t be a problem.


The problem of evil is a problem for everyone. It is a problem from the stage at a philosophical debate to the table at a corner coffeehouse. People struggle with the problem of evil because people struggle with evil.

Christians struggle with thinking and feeling our way through the problem of evil as much as anyone, and often more so. We are forced by reality to ask ourselves how we can believe in an all-good, all-powerful God that allows all this pain and suffering. Nevertheless, we understand a few things.

  • Logically, there is no reason to believe that the existence of evil and the existence of God are contradictory.
  • Emotionally, as terrible as pain and suffering are, Christianity offers the resources to find a peace that passes all understanding.
  • Existentially, there is hope in the fact that Jesus Christ took on himself the consequences of evil and demonstrated his power to ultimately deliver us from it.

In Christianity, we have both definition for and deliverance from evil.

But, what about the nonbeliever? The problem of evil is typically offered as evidence that God does not exist. It is usually the atheist who leaves the problem at the feet of the Christian and demands an answer. However, “Criticism without alternative is empty.”[1]

So, what answer does atheism offer for the problem of evil?

Here’s the thing…

It doesn’t, because it can’t. Continue reading “The Other Side of the Problem of Evil”