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”

Advertisements

Book Review: So the Next Generation Will Know (McDowell & Wallace)

As a Christian parent, are you concerned that your children have doubts about the faith you are passing on to them? As a youth pastor or minister, are you troubled by the apathy so many of the kids in your youth group show toward spiritual things? As a Christian educator, are you worried that you are out of your depth with the questions your students have about the Christian worldview?

Being all three, I can relate. The fact is that the generation currently coming of age, Generation Z as they are called, are living a profoundly different adolescence than even the most recent generation before them. So, how do we Christian parents, pastors, and teachers help them stay grounded in the faith and thrive in the culture?

Here’s the thing…

Thankfully, we have some help.

In their newest book, So the Next Generation Will Know (set to release May 1), renowned Christian apologists Sean McDowell and J. Warner Wallace offer a guide to engaging what is quickly becoming the largest and most secularized generation. Continue reading “Book Review: So the Next Generation Will Know (McDowell & Wallace)”

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”

Beware the Secular/Sacred Split

Charles Spurgeon was famous for referring to the gospel as a caged lion. “It does not need to be defended,” he would say, “it just needs to be let out of its cage.”

Keeping that analogy in mind, when we Christians are commanded to give a reasoned defense for the hope we have in Christ (1 Peter 3:15), we must simply let the gospel out of its cage. The question we must ask is, what cage is preventing the gospel to move freely in people’s hearts and minds?

Christian philosopher Nancy Pearcey has a suggestion:

Today the cage is our accommodation to the secular/sacred split that reduces Christianity to a matter of private personal belief.[1]

Continue reading “Beware the Secular/Sacred Split”

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”

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”