A little atheist myth about science.

Myth: Even when scientists believe in God, they become practical atheists whenever they do science; they never bring God into the laboratory.

FALSE

That is neither true historically nor conceptually.

Let’s consider the great pioneers of modern science – the scientists of the scientific revolution (who produced modern science as we know it). Believe it or not, they were not looking for “naturalistic” explanations of things. They simply looked for consistent explanations of things. The reason they believed that nature would behave consistently is because they believed that God ruled nature.

Atheists often tell us that that bringing God into the laboratory (bringing the theistic worldview into scientific endeavours) will lead to lazy inferences: that is, supernatural explanations. It is as if God becomes a conceptual crutch – an escape clause in every difficult anomaly whereby they can simply say, “God did it,” while atheists, who must assume nature causes everything, are left to do the hard work of figuring out the natural patterns and causes of things. (This is all part and parcel of the broader atheistic myth, that science and theism are essentially opposed.)

Of course, this would entail on the theist’s part an inconsistent model of nature – a nature that lacks the resources to produce the systems around us. For a scientist to invoke supernatural explanations for things would be to assume that nature, unaided by God, is unable to behave in the way that it has been observed to.

But the mistake this makes is not that it brings the theistic worldview into the laboratory; it is that it fails to consider the way in which God governs nature: rationally, consistently, and uniformly. The scientific revolutionaries – almost all of them Christians – didn’t make that mistake. They assumed that nature would behave according to intelligible patterns and laws, because they believed in a divine intelligence as nature’s lawgiver.

Thus when they came across an anomalous piece of data, rather than calling it a miracle, their way forward was not to suspend belief in a divine intelligence, but to invoke their belief in God by assuming that the anomaly must be a consistent part of a divinely designed pattern that had yet to be discerned.

Then they searched for the pattern. And the rest is history.

This myth does not seem to pass the test of history, let alone pure reason.

Physicist and TV presenter Brian Cox said on Q and A tonight that the power of science is that it’s the only discipline that admits its own fallibility.

Seems like a really nice guy, but I’m perplexed as to why he would believe something that is so obviously false: I’ve never met a philosopher, historian, economist, lawyer, literary critic, OR theologian, who does not admit their own fallibility and the fallibility of their discipline.

And yes, I meant it when I said theologian. Theologians consider the text they work with (e.g. the Bible) – their data source – to be infallible, but they consider their own interpretations of the text to be fallible.

Note that this is exactly the same as scientists, who consider nature – their data source – to be completely infallible: never lying to us, and never changing, but constantly being misinterpreted by us.

Scientists and theologians are no different in this regard.

To Know the Word

I’ve resolved that I now want to begin a journey of better knowing the Word of God.

There is such a difference between knowing about the Bible, and knowing the Bible.

It is just like any other piece of literature, really. I could tell you a lot about Immanuel Kant’s major work Critique of Pure Reason. I could tell you when Kant wrote it, why he wrote it, and what philosophical questions it addresses. I could tell you about who his influences were in writing it, as well as about the ways in which the book influenced generations of philosophers to come. I could even tell you many things about what views the book espouses.

But do I know the book? Am I familiar with it? Do I know Kant’s actual words? No I do not, because I have never read the Critique of Pure Reason. Not more than a few pages anyway.

In the same way, I think I know more about the Bible than I do the Bible itself. I can tell you a lot about the theology that the Bible contains. I can tell you how and when the books of the Bible were compiled together. I can tell you who wrote what book of the Bible, when they wrote it, and the historical context in which they produced it. I can summarise the message of many of the books of the Bible. I can even tell you a lot about how to read it.

But the thing is, there are many people to whom I could teach a lot of the above things, but who know the Bible itself better than I do.

I don’t want to just know about the Word of God. I want to know the Word. I want to be intimately acquainted with the words of the Scriptures such that their exhortations frequently feature in my conversations with others, that God’s promises saturate my prayers, that his commandments are the meditations that form the backdrop of my mind. I want to be so familiar with the Word of God, that I have a verse to stand on for every situation I face, and another one to encourage my brother in every trial.

Such a knowledge is not the product of intelligence. It is the product of devotion.

On the Progressiveness of Science and Conservatism of Religion

We all know how often science and religion are pitted against each other. And it happens in so many ways. Various inherent differences are suggested between these two enterprises. They say that science appeals to reason while religion appeals to authority; science improves society while religion hinders society’s progression. We’ve all heard the fairy tales – you might not call them fairy tales, but I do. Anyway. There’s one particular difference that I commonly hear suggested as existing between science and religion, which I want to address here. And that is that science is inherently progressive, while religion is inherently stubborn or static.

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We have been taught to believe that world history turned its big corner in the late 18th Century with the birth of modern democracy and the rise of modern science.

The Christian claim is that world history turned its corner when Jesus came out of the tomb.

– N.T. Wright

How Liberal Christianity Made Me More Conservative

As we walk through life, we change in all sorts of ways and for all sorts of reasons. One of the most important ways we change is in our worldview – our understanding of the world and everything in it. Our answers to life’s biggest questions can be reshaped several times throughout life, and to varying degrees. When people go to university, maybe more than any other time in life, they often find themselves radically reinterpreting the world, how it is, and how it should be.

The following is an intellectual partial-autobiography, of how and why my views on certain things changed: namely, my view about the Bible. This is the story of how I changed from a Christian with liberal inclinations who had a low view of the Bible, into a Christian who would submit his entire worldview to whatever the Bible says. And all because I ran into the views of radical pluralistic Liberal Christians – not because I reacted emotionally against liberalism, but precisely because the liberals had good arguments.

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The Sword

The sword can make people do many things.

For fear of death, people will be coerced into all kinds of action, since they value few things above their own life.

The sword can persuade entire peoples to vacate cities.

The sword can persuade people to offer up all their possessions.

The sword can persuade people to do heinous things – to steal, to lie, and even to kill their fellow man.

The sword can persuade people to do great things – to act justly to their neighbour, to follow good laws and customs, to adhere to peace and order.

The sword can persuade people to walk where you tell them to walk.

The sword can persuade people to speak how you speak.

The sword can persuade people to pray how you pray

To kneel how you kneel

To bow to whom you bow to

To preach what you preach

But the sword can never convince people to believe what you believe.

For a person’s beliefs exist within the sanctity of their own mind, and may not be effectually touched by blade or bullet. The enforcement of doctrine has not been entrusted to war, nor to legislation, but is reserved solely to the office of discourse.

It can get hard to tell the difference between being angry at people’s bad reasoning and being angry at the lies, being angry at the truth teller, or angry at the truth.

People can make it so hard to find the truth when they offer it to me in such an arrogant, offensive way, or offer me such bad arguments for their beliefs. Painfully I have to look past their shortcomings, because I know that people can argue badly for true things.

It’s this aching desperation for the truth itself that forces me to rise above the surrounding flames of error, foolishness and confusion. But haunting me the whole journey is the question of what really drives me. What if the truth is more frustrating, more aggravating to me than all this human folly? What if it’s the prospect of accepting this particular proposition that I find so intolerable, more than the behaviour of its proponents? Do I really seek the truth?

How can I ever reach it if I don’t seek it?

That thing called evidence.

It is remarkable how often I hear it said that there is no evidence for the existence of God. Of course this is uniformly said by atheists – not that remarkable – but what is truly jaw-dropping is when they say it in the middle of a debate against a theist, as if to bring to the table some agreed-upon axiom.

This is a fascinating speech by celebrated atheist, Sam Harris.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6BxzA3hbGc

If you watch the whole thing you’ll hear a lengthy, and challenging, moral criticism of the Christian faith. But if you were watch this in its entire context, you’d see that this was one of Harris’ speeches in a debate against William Lane Craig, about whether or not morality can truly exist without the existence of God. And then you would hopefully realise the futile irrelevance of Harris’ entire speech here, because rather than justifying the existence of morality in an atheistic universe, he simply presupposes his own atheistic moral law, and uses it to attack the moral standing of Christianity, making its God out to be a monster, and his followers out to be psychopathic – all the while unable to actually justify the reality of his moral categories without reference to a deity. In short: a disgusting, fat, greasy circular argument.

But putting that issue aside, if you watch the first 30 seconds of this video, you will hear him say in passing, “now happily there is no evidence that the Christian Hell exists”, and then if you watch the whole thing you’ll hear him repeatedly make very similar remarks. And thus the main reason I bring this video to your attention is that it is a classic example of an atheist, mid-debate, blurting out loud his assumption that there isn’t any evidence for God; just putting it out there in passing. This is wrong on many levels: it’s circular, it’s arrogant, and most importantly, it’s false.  Continue reading