Tag Archives: faith

a trinity of ‘knowledge-lights’…

Epistemology is the most foundational of topics in philosophy.  How trustworthy is human knowledge?  Or worded another way: How much ‘faith’ (Greek ‘pistis’ for ‘trust’) can we put in what we think we know?  At one end of the spectrum, you have narrow, ‘verificationist’ epistemologies (such as: logical positivism & naive realism) that only trust knowledge that can be ‘verified’ by empirical methods.  At the other, you have skeptical ‘post modern’ epistemologies (such as the phenomenalism of Maurice Merleau-Ponty – The Phenomenology of Perception) which hold that all we can truly ‘know’ is the ‘sense data’ of our perceptions.In his book, The New Testament and the People of God, N.T. Wright follows the thought of renowned Catholic philosopher Bernard Lonergan (particularly his Generalised Empirical Method) discussing a kind of middle-way between positivism and phenomenalism: ‘critical realism’.  Elsewhere, he has described an ‘epistemology of love’, where love is that which a) respects the ‘otherness’ of the other, while at the same time b) remaining in rich subjective relationship to it.  Critical realism is first critical in that it is aware of its potential for self-deception and the distortion of perception, but it is not so critical that it does not take the second post-critical step of then daring to describe the reality it believes it actually ‘knows’.

I’ve been recently intrigued, however, by a talk on Epistemology by Mark Strom (audio here) where he claims that all human knowledge involves not only acts of love, but also faith and hope.  I find this really compelling.  Our knowledge of any activity, person, principle or thing involves faith, hope and love – in some form, and at some level.

Scientific knowledge, for an interesting example, involves all three.  The natural scientist must first have faith (Greek pistis, meaning ‘trust’) that his object of study, the natural world, will, under the exact same conditions, always behave exactly the same way in the present and future as we’ve observed it to in the past.  She also hopes that the hunch followed will be fruitful, that the experiment designed will be sufficient, and that the knowledge gained will be helpful and worthwhile. And finally, there is also love – the relational dynamism between a subject and object; in the case of science, between the observer and the observed, the cosmologist and the cosmos, the neurologist and the neurons.

Faith, hope and love (I thought for a few minutes today), then can be thought of as the ‘vehicles’ by which knowledge comes to us.  However, this, I decided, is too anthropocentric a metaphor.  Better to see them as ‘lights’ by which we are enabled to ‘see’ Truth.  But of course, this vision remains imperfect, blurry and ‘dim’…

Love never ends. Prophecies? They will be set aside. Tongues? They will cease. Knowledge? It will be set aside. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, but when what is perfect comes, the partial will be set aside. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became an adult, I set aside childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully knownAnd now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” – Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians 13:8-13

activist theologian

I picked up a copy of Gustavo Gutierrez‘s ‘A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics and Salvation‘ for a) my growing interest in the biblical theme of ‘Freedom’/’Liberation’, and b) the ‘Themes in a Missional Spirituality’ block-course I’ll be taking this semester at Carey Baptist College – with guest lecturer – and author and theologian – Charles Ringma (very exciting!).

He ends the Conclusion with this:

We must be careful not to fall into intellectual self-satisfaction, into a kind of triumphalism of erudite and advanced ‘new’ visions of Christianity.  The only thing that is really new is to accept day by day the gift of the Spirit, who makes us love – in our concrete options to build a true human fellowship, in our historical initiatives to subvert an order of injustice – with the fullness with which Christ loved us.  To paraphrase a well-known text of Pascal, we can say that all the political theologies, the theologies of hope, of revolution, and of liberation, are not worth one act of genuine solidarity with exploited social classes.  They are not worth one act of faith, love, and hope, committed – in one way or another – in active participation to liberate humankind from everything that dehumanizes it and prevents it from living according to the will of the Father. (p.174)

‘big question’ essays

Cheers to Bryson for directing me to an essay, which I discovered was one over several over at The John Templeton Foundation.

The essays are comprised answers to ‘big questions’ from a variety of perspectives – theist, atheist and agnostic.  They make for interesting reading whatever your beliefs are.

Two of the ‘big questions‘ essays were of particular interest to me: “Does the Universe Have a Purpose?” and “Does Science Make Belief in God Obsolete?“.

Some other bits which may be of interest to some readers include:

  • Does Evolution Explain Human Nature?
  • Debates between contributers to the Science/Belief essay (Christopher Hitchens v. Ken Miller; Jerome Groopman v. Michael Shermer; and Steven Pinker v. William D. Phillips).
  • A Brief interview with (physicist/cosmologist) Paul Davies concerning multiverse theory
  • assorted video content (look for it) :)

thanks ian…

Thanks, Ian Luxmoore

…for a friendly, respectful, engaging and thoroughly enjoyable conversation about life, god, the universe, morality and all the rest.

mixed responses

The Christian response to the ‘Faithful Science’ day-conference have been mixed.

Most of the appreciative and complementary feedback has been email or verbal.  As for the less-appreciative feedback, unfortunately it’s been more public.

First, the Christian newspaper “Challenge Weekly” published a (to say it kindly) selective and less-than-inaccurate piece entitled “Conference fuels Controversy” (which can be viewed here – scroll down about half way), which, among other things, made the bizarre and out-of-left-field claim that some of the presenters held views more like Deism (which was anything but the case).

Predictably, the “letters to the editor” section in subsequent issues have been spotted with a handful of  readers who were concerned/shocked by the conference.  And, also not a surprise, a fresh write-up by CMI (Creation Ministries International) was subsequently published (here), entitled “Genesis not a Myth”, warning against a roadway to “spiritual disaster”.

The CMI article is also up here at their own website in very similar format, though more specifically targeting the Faithful Science conference.

I’ve offerred a couple of responses to Challenge, hoping to a) correct factual errors, b) help to clarify relevant issues, and c) challenge (no pun intended) readers to be more patient, and not assume what “those christian evolutionists” actually believe.  Also, I’ve responsed to the CMI article and am hoping for some positive interaction there.

Also, I’ve had some dialogue (which is absolutely exemplary in terms of tone, patience, etc.) with an I.D. advocate who is a member of my church and attended the conference.

Here’s to (hopefully!) fruitful dialogue and interaction in the next… however long.  :)

faithful science

Announcing “Faithful Science“…

A one-day Science & Faith conference – coming August 1.

Speakers and topics: Continue reading

on reading genesis 1-3

What Genesis 1-3 is not: a play-by-play, atom-by-atom historical and scientific account of creation.  The author/community which produced the text clearly had other things in mind than producing such a thing.*

This is widely accepted by people who should know: scholars in fields relevant to Genesis 1-3 (biblical scholars, ancient near east religion scholars, hebrew linguists, experts on ancient semetic poetry, etc. – see relevant examples in the Denver Seminary Old Testament bibliograpy – updated annually). Yael Klangwisan spoke on Genesis recently at a TANSA event at Laidlaw college, and a very informative PDF of her slideshow can be found here.

Unfortunately there are two kinds of people I know of that both tend to insist that Genesis 1-3 is intended as a ‘factual’ report of the exact, literal events of creation.  These two types of people are (who would have thunk it!?) young-earth Creationists (YEC’s)… and many (not all) atheists.

YEC’s are convinced that science supports their literal interpretation (see pretty much anything on this site)…

…and some atheists are convinced that this literal-and-only-literal-gosh-darnit interpretation has been replaced by science (see the opening statement of Richard Dawkins from his 2007 debate with John Lennox – and I’ll put a transcription of it as the first comment below).**

Meanwhile, there are those who are willing to listen to what Genesis is really trying to get across, and who refuse to use science to prove their religious or anti-religious views.

*Many/most/all? of the characters in the Bible, for example, would have been aware of the poetic and metaphorical nature of Genesis 1-3, though would naturally have had little/no reason to question whether or not it took 6 days for God to create the world, etc.  A prime example of just how much the literal-ness of this text does not matter in Jewish thought is the story of when Ray Vander Laan asked the world-class Jewish scholar, Jacob Neusner how long the days of creation were; to which the reply after a long pause was “I’ve never thought about that.”

** No… wait… Dawkins doesn’t only say that the literal interpretation of Genesis 1-3 is replaced by science, he says that religious explanations in general are replaced by science…  Wow.

evolution conference: june 25-27

Mark your calendars and register!

TANSA (Theology and the Natural Sciences Aotearoa) presents:

The Theological Meaning of Evolution

Conference to celebrate and interact with Darwin.

Thursday June 25th at 7pm to Saturday June 27th at 6pm

Key Note Speaker: Dr. Christopher Southgate, author of The  Groaning of Creation University of Exeter
Local Speakers: Assoc. Prof. Ruth Barton (Auckland), Assoc. Prof. John Stenhouse (Otago), Assoc. Prof. Peter Lineham (Massey), Dr. John Owens (Good Shepherd), Dr. Grant Gillett (Otago), Prof. Neil Broom (Auckland), Dr. Stephen Downs (Flinders), Rev.Hugh Bowron (Holy Trinity)  and theologians from Laidlaw Carey.

Contact Nicola @ nicolahc (at) laidlaw (dot) ac (dot) nz

for details
Please click here for poster, and registration form.

(copied from here)

related magisteria

Whether or not one agrees with Gould’s famous dictum that Religion and Science are Non-Overlapping Magisteria, it occurs to me that unless a given Religion says absolutely nothing at all about the things which Science also investigates, then at least they will be related.

A far better question, of course, is how they might be related.

2009 gifford lectures

The 2009 Gifford Lectures, “A Fine-Tuned Universe: Science, Theology and the Quest for Meaning”, presented by Alister McGrath, are all up online in PDF format.

Lecture 1: Yearning to make sense of things - 2009 Gifford Lecture 1.pdf

Lecture 2: Why we still need natural theology – 2009 Gifford Lecture 2.pdf

Lecture 3: The mystery of the constants of nature – 2009 Gifford Lecture 3.pdf

Lecture 4: The enigmas of evolutionary biology – 2009 Gifford Lecture 4.pdf

Lecture 5: Natural theology and the quest for meaning – 2009 Gifford Lecture 5.pdf

Lecture 6: Conclusion: clues to the meaning of the universe? – 2009 Gifford Lecture 6.pdf

Also in book form: A Fine-Tuned Universe: The Quest for God in Science and Theology