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”
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Thinking about 2019

What does the year 2019 have in store for us? What does the gospel of Christ have for 2019?

If there is one thing that 2018 taught us, it is that none one knows what a year may bring.

Yet, our culture would have us believe that it offers an abundance of solutions to bring clarity to the mystery, direction to the confusion.

The next smartphone will solve all your problems. A quick internet search will provide you with all the answers. This new app will connect you to the world and possibly your soulmate. Buy this, live here, go there, be like them…and you will be happy. If that does not work, drink this, take those, and stream that until you forget about it all.

Christian author Trevin Wax calls these the myths of our culture. These myths are essentially lies that we believe because they appeal to our deepest longings. Every day, it seems like we are barraged by countless myths each more believable than the one before.

When confronted by the culture at large, we Christians—especially in America—feel overwhelmed by the constant fluctuation. We know there is solid ground in the truth of God’s Word. However, it seems like we are daily challenged by some new idea or trend even further removed from a Biblical understanding of the world than the previous one.

Christians often oscillate as much as the culture does. Some reject as much of the culture as possible with little regard for the people the fail to reach. Others accept as much of the culture as possible with little regard for the truth they fail to affirm. Meanwhile, our responsibility to be salt and light to the culture is largely neglected.

As Wax writes,

When we feel uncertain and confused about our rapidly changing society, we lack confidence in the gospel and in the power of the church. Many of us wonder: Are we truly up to the task of being faithful in this time?

So, what does it mean to be faithful in this time?

Continue reading “Thinking about 2019”

My 2018 Reading and My 2019 Goals

open book apologetics worldviews

John Wooden once said, “Five years from now, you’re the same person except for the people you’ve met and the books you’ve read.” I believe there is a lot of wisdom in that statement.

A year ago, I made a personal commitment to read 50 books in 2018. I am happy to report that I have achieved my goal.

Please do not read this post as a brag. I know people who have read twice that number this year. However, for me, this was a huge accomplishment from which I have benefited immensely. The only purpose of this post is to share what I have learned and encourage you in hopes that you benefit as I did.

This is my first time setting a number for books to read within a year. My purpose was twofold: not only to increase the quantity of books I read but also to improve the quality of books I read. I believe I accomplished both.

Some of the books I read were like coasting down a hill. Some were like fighting an uphill battle. Some of them have already made the list to re-read in 2019. Some I hope to never read again.

Either way, I feel as though I have taken a journey worth taking. It is a journey I plan on taking again in 2019. It is a journey I highly recommend. Continue reading “My 2018 Reading and My 2019 Goals”

Teaching Big Ideas to Young Minds: How?

Last time, I discussed the reasons why we Christian parents, pastors, and teachers should make it a goal to teach young people the big ideas about God, his Word, themselves, and the world around them. 

But, here’s the thing…

That can be a daunting task, especially when the distracted kindergartner or the apathetic teenager is sitting there in front of you. So, how do we go about teaching big ideas to these young minds? 

I would suggest five Es: exemplify, educate, explain, escalate, and express.  

Continue reading “Teaching Big Ideas to Young Minds: How?”

Teaching Big Ideas to Young Minds: Why?

Just the other day, I walked in on my students doing something amazing—they were discussing calculus. They were slinging terms left and right, talking quadratics and derivatives, differentiated and otherwise. I mean, I guess it was calculus. As if this dyslexic history major could tell either way.

It is the joy of teaching in a classroom following a calculus class. I take one look at the hieroglyphics that the previous teacher left on the board—I assume out of pride—and I just laugh. The students laugh at me laughing. It’s fun.

Then it’s my turn. I get to teach them Christology, soteriology, and anthropology. I teach ontology, epistemology, and cosmology. Sure, it may be Bible class and apologetics class, but far be it from me to ease up just because the topic turns spiritual. After all, they were just learning calculus!

My first year of teaching theology to high school freshmen, I remember looking over my syllabus with a fellow teacher. Scanning all the “-ologies”, he asked doubtfully, “Do you really think that freshman can handle this? Don’t you think this is over their heads?”

With an unbearably Will-Rogers-like smirk, I replied, “Maybe, but that just means they need to sit up taller.”

Why is it that we teach such big ideas and expect such deep thinking from our young people when it comes to so-called “secular” subjects, yet when it comes to the things of God, we are content to have them read a few verses and discuss a few practical applications?

We need to teach young people the big ideas about God our creator, the universe he created, and the image in which he created us—using the mind he created in us to use. That is to say, we need to teach young people theology.

Here are three reasons why. Continue reading “Teaching Big Ideas to Young Minds: Why?”

Thankful for Thanksgiving

I love Thanksgiving! I love the rest. I love the time with family. I love the food–way too much.

Thanksgiving is a time of reflection, which is always a good thing.

We all can point to ways in which our lives could have been vastly better. However, this is a time when we recognize that there are just as many ways, if not more, in which our lives could be devastatingly worse. This is a season in which we express how we are thankful that it is not.

The attitude and act of thanksgiving is a universal human experience. Gratitude is as human as an emotion as we can show. Whenever someone has a positive influence on our lives, by nature we have an appreciative response. Sometimes it is internal and unvoiced; sometimes its external and expressed. The point is that everyone, regardless of religion or worldview, can be—and should be—thankful to other people for their impact on our lives.

But, here’s the thing…

There is a difference between being thankful to and being thankful for.

This may seem like petty semantics, but the shift between these two prepositions, in this context anyways, is significant and worth our attention. Continue reading “Thankful for Thanksgiving”

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”