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Encountering Secular Science Michael Goheen Trinity Western University Langley, B.C., Canada.

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Presentation on theme: "Encountering Secular Science Michael Goheen Trinity Western University Langley, B.C., Canada."— Presentation transcript:

1 Encountering Secular Science Michael Goheen Trinity Western University Langley, B.C., Canada

2 Starting with the Gospel Restorative: Good news! God is restoring creation Restorative: Good news! God is restoring creation Comprehensive: Good news! God is restoring all of human life in the context of all of the creation Comprehensive: Good news! God is restoring all of human life in the context of all of the creation Story: Climax of long story of restoration Story: Climax of long story of restoration Mission: Given to church to make known Mission: Given to church to make known

3 The Spirit thrusts God’s people into worldwide mission He impels young and old, men and women, To go next door and far away Into science and art, media and marketplace, With the good news of God’s grace... Following the apostles, the church is sent– Sent with the gospel of the kingdom To tell the news that our world belongs to God. … In a world estranged from God, where millions face confusing choices, this mission is central to our being… The rule of Jesus Christ covers the whole world. To follow this Lord is to serve him everywhere, without fitting in, as lights in the darkness, as salt in a spoiling world.

4 Starting Observations Education good part of God’s creation Education good part of God’s creation That has been corrupted by sin That has been corrupted by sin Announcement of the kingdom includes education within its scope Announcement of the kingdom includes education within its scope Christian community sent to be good news in area of education Christian community sent to be good news in area of education Will involve an encounter with education shaped by other idolatrous beliefs Will involve an encounter with education shaped by other idolatrous beliefs

5 Gospel will shape every part of educational enterprise including: Purpose of education Purpose of education Pedagogy Pedagogy Curriculum Curriculum Structures Structures Leadership Leadership Evaluation Evaluation Content of subject matter in various disciplines Content of subject matter in various disciplines

6 Importance of Ideas So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through the hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. - Colossian Colossian 2.6-8

7 Ideas have legs Ideas have legs in the sense that they are not the disembodied abstractions of some ivory-tower academic, but are real spiritual forces that go somewhere, that are on the march in somebody’s army, and that have a widespread effect on our practical, everyday lives.

8 Slaves of ideas? The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed, the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt, from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas. (John Maynard Keynes)

9 Power of ideas My point is that in such seemingly innocent-looking words and phrases a whole idolatrous perspective on the world, a whole distorted mind-set and humanistic thought-pattern is subliminally propagated in our civilization.

10 Power of secularized scholarship ‘... science, secularised and isolated, has become a satanic power, an idol which dominates all of culture.’ (Herman Dooyeweerd) ‘... science, secularised and isolated, has become a satanic power, an idol which dominates all of culture.’ (Herman Dooyeweerd)

11 Idolatrous spirit of secular science Ideas must be free from all religious commitment Ideas must be free from all religious commitment Gospel religious optional extra Gospel religious optional extra ‘Dogma-free’ scholarship an illusion ‘Dogma-free’ scholarship an illusion Deeply indebted to humanist religion Deeply indebted to humanist religion Helpful to trace historical roots of secular science Helpful to trace historical roots of secular science

12 Dualism of Augustine Spiritual realm Heaven SoulChurchChristian life _____________________________________ Material realm Earth Body SocietyCultural life

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15 Two Storeys of Thomas Aquinas Spiritual realm GRACE Supernatural SoulChurchChristian life FaithRevelationTheology __________________________________________ Material realm NATURE Natural Body SocietyCultural life Empirical reasonNatural lawScience

16 From dualism to secularism “... in connection with the history of his influence the fact cannot be overlooked that the Christian mediaeval synthesis presented by Thomas is one of extreme tension, and in the dynamic of historical development had effects which were to prove self-destructive: there was to be an unprecedented and all- embracing movement of secularization and emancipation ‘at the lower level.’” (Küng) “... in connection with the history of his influence the fact cannot be overlooked that the Christian mediaeval synthesis presented by Thomas is one of extreme tension, and in the dynamic of historical development had effects which were to prove self-destructive: there was to be an unprecedented and all- embracing movement of secularization and emancipation ‘at the lower level.’” (Küng)

17 Secularism in succeeding centuries While scholastic theologians granted a limited degree of autonomy to the realm of our natural life (and natural reason), the Renaissance humanists so greatly expanded the autonomy of nature that there was no longer any need for the realm of grace. If God and Christianity were already basically irrelevant to most of life, why not make their irrelevance complete? (Walsh and Middleton)

18 Methodological Reason

19 Triumph of humanist vision Conflict with the church Conflict with the church

20 He sets the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved (Ps. 104:5). O sun, stand still... so the sun stood still (Josh. 10:12f.). The earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises (Eccl. 1:4f.).

21 People give ear to an upstart astrologer who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon. Whosoever wishes to appear clever must devise some new system which of all systems, of course, is the best. This fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but Sacred Scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth. -Martin Luther

22 The Copernican theory undoubtedly contained a challenge for the Catholic theology. But instead of accepting the challenge and reflecting on faith in a new perspective, the Church opted for an easy conservatism, keeping the enemy at bay by means of its anathemas. This failure to accept the challenge of a new world picture was a great loss to the Church and to Christianity. -Max Wildiers

23 Triumph of humanist vision Conflict with the church Conflict with the church

24 Triumph of humanist vision

25 Historical results Creation separated from presence of God Creation separated from presence of God Natural laws built into creation Natural laws built into creation Can be discerned by autonomous reason Can be discerned by autonomous reason Controlled to harness laws for social uses Controlled to harness laws for social uses Technology and rational organisation of society Technology and rational organisation of society

26 Creation according to Scripture

27 Secular world devoid of God’s presence

28 Deistic world devoid of God’s presence

29 Descartes method

30 Three uses of word ‘law’ Word God speaks to give creation order Word God speaks to give creation order Lawful regularity we experience in creation Lawful regularity we experience in creation Attempt at scientific, analytical formulation of these regularities Attempt at scientific, analytical formulation of these regularities E. D. Fackerell E. D. Fackerell

31 Fact-Value Dichotomy

32 Neutral Reason? Subjective factors affecting knowledge: Social -Tradition -Community -Language -Culture -History -Faith Personal -Feelings -Imagination -Subconscious -Gender -Class -Race

33 Two Idolatrous Positions Rational Objectivism: Academic theory is religiously neutral (modernity) Rational Objectivism: Academic theory is religiously neutral (modernity) Radical Relativism: Knowledge of reality is product of our beliefs only (postmodenity) Radical Relativism: Knowledge of reality is product of our beliefs only (postmodenity)

34 Testing our times by the Spirit’s sure word But rebel cries sound through our world. Some, crushed by failure or hardened by pain, give up on life and hope and God; Others, shaken but still hoping for human triumph, work feverishly to realise their dreams. As believers in God we join this struggle of the spirits Testing our times by the Spirit’s sure word

35 Testing our times Rational Objectivism: Academic theory is religiously neutral (modernity) Rational Objectivism: Academic theory is religiously neutral (modernity) Response Response  Agree: Stable creation order all can know  Disagree: Beliefs shape our theories Radical Relativism: Knowledge of reality is product of our beliefs only (postmodernity) Radical Relativism: Knowledge of reality is product of our beliefs only (postmodernity)Response  Agree: Beliefs shape our theories  Disagree  Religious beliefs most important  Constant order of creation that can be known

36 God’s Ruling Word The Bible shows us a personalistic world, not impersonal law. What we call scientific law is an approximate human description of just how faithfully and consistently God acts in ruling the world by speaking. There is not mathematical, physical, or theoretical cosmic machinery behind what we see and know, holding everything in place. Rather God rules and rules consistently - Vern Poythress - Vern Poythress

37 Three uses of word ‘law’ Word God speaks to give creation order Word God speaks to give creation order Lawful regularity we experience in creation Lawful regularity we experience in creation Attempt at scientific, analytical formulation of these regularities Attempt at scientific, analytical formulation of these regularities E. D. Fackerell E. D. Fackerell

38 A Biblical Example John’s use of classical pagan thought John’s use of classical pagan thought

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40 In the synoptic gospels the Kingdom of God is: Central image for the Jews Central image for the Jews Central image for Jesus Central image for Jesus Central image for Matthew, Mark, Luke Central image for Matthew, Mark, Luke

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42 In John’s gospel... He employs images popular in classical culture and philosophy He employs images popular in classical culture and philosophy Heaven/earth, life/death, light/darkness, flesh/spirit Heaven/earth, life/death, light/darkness, flesh/spirit

43 Do we have a different gospel?

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45 John 1:1,14 In the beginning was the logos......and the logos became sarx....and the logos became sarx.

46 Encounter with pagan thought Insight: Order to world Insight: Order to world Idolatry: Order not spiritual principle that permeates universe but given by Jesus Idolatry: Order not spiritual principle that permeates universe but given by Jesus

47 Discernment What is insight into God’s creation? What is insight into God’s creation? What is idolatry that twists that insight? What is idolatry that twists that insight?

48 Christian School Teacher? Deepen our understanding of the Western story and its idolatrous beliefs Deepen our understanding of the Western story and its idolatrous beliefs Need to tackle this as an educational community Need to tackle this as an educational community Need for spiritual weapons Need for spiritual weapons  Roots into the gospel  Prayer

49 Prayer In ‘... our vocation to war against the spirit of apostasy...’ we cannot ‘battle this spirit in our own power. The warfare to which I refer is one of faith, a struggle even with ourselves, in the power of the Holy Spirit, a struggle which finds its dynamic in a life of prayer.’ (Herman Dooyeweerd)


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