Archive for March 2012

Assumptions and “deceit”

March 5th, 2012 — 2:28pm

“Modern scientists often research the past using the assumptions [sic] that all apparent ages must be real. But that is their assumption. They assume that God (or their idolatrous substitute for God) must have acted in the past in exactly the same way as they see him operating now. But again, that assumes more than they know. The ‘deceit’ arises not because God has deceived per­fectly innocent people, but because people have ignored Genesis and have deceived themselves about how much they know about God and how much they know about his ways in the past. They have assumed from the begin­ning that mature creation is untrue. A little humility would help.” (Vern S. Poythress, Redeeming Science: A God-Centered Approach, p. 120)

Comment » | Science, Theology, and Priestcraft

Underlying control beliefs

March 5th, 2012 — 1:54pm

“[Abraham] Kuyper appears to say something that is almost essential for the survival of the Christian academic community in a secular setting – that science cannot be regarded as a sovereign domain that sets its own rules to which Christians and everyone else must conform if they are to retain their intellectual respectability. As philosophers of science now are also recognizing, science itself is controlled to substantial degrees by assumptions and commitments. Christians, then, should be free frankly to state their metaphysical starting points and their assumptions and to introduce these into their scientific work in all areas of human inquiry; they should employ underlying control beliefs that differ widely from those of non-Christians.” (George Marsden, “The Collapse of American Evangelical Academia,” in Faith and Rationality: Reason and Belief in God, pp. 255–56)

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Subjects, objects, and science

March 5th, 2012 — 1:37pm

“Since the object does not produce the subject, nor the subject the object, the power that binds the two organically together must of necessity be sought outside of each. And however much we may speculate and ponder, no  explanation can ever suggest itself to our sense, of the all-sufficient ground for this admirable correspondence and affinity between object and subject, on which the possibility and development of science wholly rests, until at the hand of Holy Scripture we confess that the Author of the cosmos created man in the cosmos as microcosmos ‘after his image and likeness.’ ” (Abraham Kuyper, Encyclopedia of Sacred Theology, p. 83)

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Missed opportunities

March 2nd, 2012 — 9:56am

I know this quote is long, but it’s so good I cannot refrain:

“I think it is important to own up to the fact that perhaps some of our worship habits are a missed opportunity; that we fail to draw on the formative riches of the [historic Christian] tradition and thereby shut down channels for the Spirit’s work. I think we need to be honest that Christians in North America (and elsewhere) have perhaps developed some bad habits in this regard. We may have construed worship as a primarily didactic, cognitive affair and thus organized it around a message that fails to reach our embodied hearts, and thus fails to touch our desire. Or we may have construed worship as a refueling event – a chance primarily to get what I ‘need’ to make it through the week (perhaps with a top-up on Wednesday night), with the result that worship is more about me than about God, more about individual fulfillment than about the constitution of a people. Or we may have reduced gathered worship to evangelism and outreach, pushing us to drop some of the stranger elements of liturgy in order to be relevant and accessible. In all these cases, we’ll notice that some key elements of the church’s liturgical tradition drop out. Key historical practices are left behind. While we might be inclined to think of this as a way to update worship and make it contemporary, my concern is that in the process we lose key aspects of formation and discipleship. In particular, we lose precisely those worship practices that function as counter-formations to the liturgies of the mall, the stadium, and the frat house. We also lose a sense that worship is the ‘work of the people’ – that the ‘work of praise’ is something we can only do as a people who are an eschatological foretaste of the coming kingdom of God. In short, we lose the sense in which Christian worship is also political: it marks us out as and trains us to be a peculiar people who are citizens of another city and subjects of a coming King.” (James K. A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom, pp. 153–54)

Comment » | Of Worship and Work

Two books . . . and yet

March 1st, 2012 — 3:46pm

It is often said that God has written two books, the book of scripture and the book of nature. Both are true and trustworthy (it is said), because both are from God.

This book metaphor is frequently marshaled in support of the idea that, if we reach a conclusion after careful scientific study of the book of nature, that conclusion is as trustworthy as anything we have concluded from scripture – in fact, the assured results of scientific inquiry into God’s book of nature should chasten our ever-so-fallible interpretations of the book of scripture.

And this (it gives me no end of cheer to report) allows us to revise venerable interpretations of the Bible (Genesis, in particular) so we can sit at the table with the modern scientific community and not feel like idiots. If that isn’t a cause for thanks, now, what is? I mean, it’s just plain awful to feel one is lacking by the latest standards of intellectual credibility.

So what are we to make of this? Let’s leave aside for now the question whether God “speaks” to us in nature about nature (i.e., the book of nature includes science lessons) or about Himself, or perhaps both. That’s not a small question, by the way – we need to have some idea what God intends to say in the book of nature (what its contents are) before we get too confident about our inferences from it. But let’s just suppose for a moment that we were to get a “sure word” from the book of nature about something in nature – something really indisputable by every known standard of accepted science.

What if this “sure word” in the book of nature were to clash – absolutely, irreconcilably clash – with something in the book of scripture? Well, surely God wouldn’t lie to us in the book of nature, right? It’s absolutely reliable. So if the book of nature says “X” and our reading of the book of scripture says “non-X,” we need to listen to nature and revise our reading of the other book accordingly.

Okay. Now suppose (HT: Mark Horne) that the book of nature tells us fairly definitively that the body of a 90-year-old woman can’t conceive, that her body is (to borrow a phrase) “as good as dead”? God wouldn’t lie, would He? He wouldn’t deceive us. His providential laws of nature can be relied on absolutely; there’s no “God in the gaps” messing with things.

Abraham was a good scientist. When God told him Sarah was going to have a baby, he laughed (Genesis 17:17). “That just doesn’t happen. The book of nature says so.” Probably he heard God wrong. Better try a new reading of the divine promises, one that brings them into accord with the conclusions of accepted science.

There’s a technical term for that. It’s called unbelief.

My point is this: there are times when the book of scripture tells us, without equivocation, that God has done, is doing, or is going to do something that is impossible by every responsible reading of the book of nature. And faith says, “Yes, Lord.” Not because it is irresponsible, but because it understands that the cosmos isn’t governed by laws of nature; it’s governed by God. And He can do – He does do – stuff that makes no sense by the canons of accepted science. Why are we so afraid to accept this?

Comment » | Science, Theology, and Priestcraft

Real spiritualism?

March 1st, 2012 — 2:35pm

“No conceivable number of false mediums affects the probability of the existence of real mediums one way or the other. This is surely obvious enough. No conceivable number of forged bank-notes can disprove the existence of the Bank of England. If anything, the argument might as well be turned the other way; we might say with rather more reason that as all hypocrisies are the evil fruits of public virtue, so in the same way the more real spiritualism there is in the world the more false spiritualism there is likely to be.” (G. K. Chesterton, “Skepticism and Spiritualism”)

Comment » | Science, Theology, and Priestcraft

A wise word

March 1st, 2012 — 10:20am

“A truly Reformed engagement with culture — and the arts — is not synonymous with evangelical strategies that, trying to overcome their past fundamentalism, eagerly baptize popular culture by ‘finding God’ in every album and sitcom.” (James K. A. Smith)

Read the whole article here.

Comment » | Poets, Painters, and Playwrights

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