Say It with Me: Reductionism

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

Stephen Hawking died in March of 2018. He battled a disease for fifty-five years that should have taken his life in two. Dr. Hawking pushed the boundaries of human understanding while inspiring wonder in millions. Astronomer Royal Lord Martin Rees eulogized, “Few, if any, of Einstein’s successors have done more to deepen our insights into gravity, space and time.”

Rarely does such an intriguing combination of intellect, personality, and circumstances intersect. A mind of that caliber and a life of that character has much to tell us about ourselves and the universe we inhabit.

As Dr. Hawking drew close to death, he shared his thoughts on the prospects of dying. Hawking believed that science had eliminated the notion of a personal creator, and he was outspoken in his belief. He believed that the universe was only the result of quantum fluctuations. He believed that humans are no more than biological machines. So, when commenting on death his worldview came through.

I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.[1]

Despite the monumental life he lived, in the end, he was reduced to a computer whose components had failed. This world-changing mind was reduced to a failing machine. The man who changed how we view the world was reduced by his own worldview.

Stephen Hawking was so much more than his worldview allowed him to be.

Here’s the thing…

People are more than their worldviews often allow them to be. This is because their worldviews contain a fatal flaw known as reductionism. Continue reading “Say It with Me: Reductionism”

Mending the Secular/Sacred Split

Many Christians find themselves living in two separate worlds, one on Sunday and the other the rest of the week.

They may see their faith as an add-on that merely supplements their daily routine. The effect that being a Christian has on their lives is limited to nominal traditions and comfort in times of crisis. They do not see their Christianity as having any implications on their jobs outside of being an upright, honest, hard-working, gospel witness while doing it.

On the other hand, they may see their faith as being somehow beyond their day-to-day. Worshiping God is something done in a Sunday service. Serving God is something done in organized church ministry. They see their jobs as John Beckett describes “a second-class endeavor—necessary to put bread on the table, but somehow less noble than more sacred pursuits like being a minister or a missionary.”[1]

In other words, they have bought into the secular/sacred split, dividing all of life into a two-story house that Francis Schaeffer described decades ago. They have relegated “real world” issues and “everyday” life downstairs along with all things secular. They have confined their Christianity upstairs, as it were, with personal preference, subjective values, and everything else sacred.

But, this is a huge departure from the Christian life as prescribed in the Bible, doing everything in Jesus’ name (Colossians 3:17) and to God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31)

So, here’s the thing…

We need to mend the secular/sacred split. Continue reading “Mending the Secular/Sacred Split”

A Brief History of the Secular/Sacred Split

In the previous post, I introduced a way of viewing human experience known as the secular/sacred split. In a nutshell, it is the idea that all our thoughts and actions belong in one of two distinct categories:

Secular—all that is physical, practical, tangible, and temporal

Sacred—all that is spiritual, abstract, intangible, and eternal

It is profoundly obvious that ideas shape history. However, I believe it may also be said that history shapes ideas. The secular/sacred split is an excellent illustration of the interplay between an idea and history writ large.

In this post, I would like to give an immensely oversimplified but hopefully accurate history of this idea.

Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. So, if we see where this idea has taken us in the past, we can make the choice as to whether we want to go there again. Continue reading “A Brief History of the Secular/Sacred Split”

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”

Every Christian an Apologist

Last week, I mentioned the U.S. Marine Corps’ legacy of “Every Marine a rifleman.”

In my research on the phrase, I came upon one Marine’s explanation of what that means:

It means if needed any Marine regardless of job can stand a post such as convoy escort, guard duty, etc.
It means if your position were overrun by the enemy, you could stand up and defend yourself and your position without being completely lost.[1]

Here’s the thing…

As with theology, apologetics is a discipline in which every Christian should have some training. Christian apologetics is the personal discipline of giving a reasonable defense of the Christian faith. We are called on by Scripture–and by necessity at times–to defend our post, and to always be ready to do so.

Every Christian to one degree or another ought to be an apologist.
Continue reading “Every Christian an Apologist”

Why: A Short History

Asking why is a habit that is near and dear to all our hearts. It’s one of those things that is simply a part of being human.

At every age level, we ask why.

My six-year-old son, like every six-year-old, asks why about everything just out of sheer curiosity. It never gets old…to him.

I’ve noticed the teenagers I teach ask why about everything. However, it is out of a genuine concern for understanding and with a pure commitment to respect for authority. (They also often ask me why I’m so sarcastic.)

We adults look at teenagers and ask why. Just why?

By the way, teenagers need not resent that statement. Every adult has had that moment where they looked back in time at themselves. We remember something we said, something we wore, something we did, or something we did to our hair, and we ask ourselves why.

Many why questions we have in life are much more imperative in nature. These are the questions about who we are as people, what we ought to believe, how we ought to live. Perhaps the most important questions we will ever ask concern our identity as Christians.

But, here’s the thing…

It is precisely those questions of eternal importance which we so often avoid. We hear a why brought to conversations about our beliefs and we fall back, not willing to see where those conversations may lead.

The Bible, however, exposes this as more than a bad habit. It is disobedience of the most dangerous sort. We are commanded to “be ready always to give an answer” to every why. Continue reading “Why: A Short History”