Monday, April 26, 2010

Possibilities, Probabilities, and Presuppositions: Our Test-Tube Mindset

I'm completely off the cuff on this Monday, but have had a number of conversations recently that ultimately focused on our prison of pre-suppositions.

What am I talking about? Ultimately, it relates to our nature as human beings, the indwelling of sin, the condition of our hearts, and how we are subtly trained in how to think and our ability to discern.

We are children of the enlightenment: our schools, consensus opinions, and cultural norms are not shaped in a vacuum- they are ingrained into our very core through powerful, cultural systems.

And that is what 'pre-supposition' is all about. It is the core belief system that we all hold to (even subconsciously) that filters, fits, and even shapes the information we receive according to our world-view.

Now, people react with various levels of hostility when I say that ultimately, all men live by faith. It is the one statement that makes Richard Dawkins lash out in a temper tantrum.

He and many others would say that we must divide reason from faith. The mindset is that reason/science is reasonable and faith is illogical. The concept is sometimes coined "NOMA" and stands for non-overlapping magisteria- and basically says let's compartmentalize faith/transcendence/religion/supernatural into the realm of private/unknowable/nuanced/mystic experiences and keep it totally separate from science and technology.

This thinking has had amazing consequences (intended and unintended):

  • All belief has become relative and personal. You can have your belief, but it better stay inside and it cannot claim exclusivity.
  • Science/reason has become secular- seeming to be without morals. We will only stand by what we can observe through the scientific method.
  • The realm of the supernatural is rather ludicrous to the modern thinker and only represents what has yet to be discovered by science.
  • Anyone who believes in the supernatural is relegated to irrelevancy and is suspected of being too lazy to close the 'god in the gaps".

I wanted to stop here and confess with great heartache that the Church has performed so poorly in this area. At a time when we should have been engaging culture with confidence that God's truth would still compete and stand in the marketplace of ideas- we committed two fatal flaws.

Flaw #1: Some in the church decided to hollow out the message of Christianity and replaced it with a Jesus of deeds and morals and denied any supernatural testimony. This slippery slope was driven out of a desire to 'save face' to the skeptics, philosophers, and intellectual elite. So scholars began to chip away at foundation claims of Scripture. Any hard truth was softened by explanations of natural cause and effect. Word began to creep in 'myth'- 'legend'- 'agenda'- and these defenders of the truth capitulated at every challenge.
Flaw#2: Others in the church (maybe seeing an easy out) decided to drop contentious doctrine all together. This thinking was something like: "All this fighting over doctrinal issues is complicating the matter, just give me Jesus". Whether realizing it or not, it was a vote for NOMA. I imagine these people saying something like this: "I don't care what they say. Jesus said it, I believe it. You either are from a monkey or a man. Don't confuse me with science, I have my Bible- you have your science". Sadly, this was a retreat that is not warranted in Scripture.

What should have been our response? What should be our response now?
I guess you know me well enough by now to know that Princeton is close to my heart. The old reformers at Princeton stayed in the dialogue with unflinching anticipation and eager excitement.

The Princeton goal was finding the essential unity of  theology and science.

They believed this followed the tradition of Calvin- “ Science is the elegant structure of the world and serves as a mirror in which we see God”.

    “Science gives us the full accord of facts. It costs the church a severe struggle to give up one interpretation and adopt another, but no evil need to be apprehended. The Bible still stands in the presence of the whole scientific community, unshaken”. Charles Hodge

An example of this is how Hodge and Princeton reacted to Darwin's theory.

Princeton received “Origin” with great interest in 1859- the year it was published.
In 1862, Charles Hodge noted Darwin’s own admissions: “His frank admission of  the difficulties of the theory and in the absurdity of its conclusion”.
Hodge’s main problem with Darwinism was its commitment to random chance and not directed by God.
According to Hodge, the fatal flaw of Darwinism is the denial of design in nature. “If you deny design,you in effect deny God. Darwin says he believes in a creator, but if the creator, billions of eons ago, called a germ in existence and abandoned its development to chance has pretty much consigned himself to non-existence. So what is Darwinism? It is Atheism.”

Hodge rejected Darwin’s views, with respect, in 1862.

Did this mean that these men were anti-science?
Listen to their own quotes:

Hodge: “Science has taught us, the church, a lot about the Scriptures”

Archibald Alexander: “Science and the Bible are allies in establishing truth. God is author of both revelations. The truth has nothing to fear from the truth”.

What Charles Hodge did believe in was what he called the "Two fold evil".
Evil of Science- Formulating theories that ignore Biblical truth
Evil of Church- Persisting in interpretations that conflict with well established objective truth.

Now, I have to stop here because of the quote 'objective truth'.

This goes right back to the top of this long diatribe.

Our pre-suppositions could cloud our acceptance of what is objective truth and what is subjective premise.

An example would be evolution- where there are parts of Darwin's view in jeopardy by those who have further tested and studied the theory. Indeed, so much has changed in science: our ability to see into the cell, our break throughs in genetics, our discovery of wonderful mechanisms in living creatures for adaptation.

Where evolution passes out of 'hard science' into pre-supposition is the extrapolation of the mechanism of evolution as the only explanation for all of life. In other words, we take proven observation of successive, slight changes in living species and deduce that this system explains the emergence of life and proof of a non-directed cause.

I'm sorry if I have lost you..... but there are legitimate competing views and enough valid questions to say: We don't know how life began still- can't we keep all the questions open? We can't prove undirected development- can we keep the question a possibility?

Sadly, our culture has said "NO"- because anything outside the natural realm is not allowed. To even contemplate the supernatural is to open yourself up to ridicule and mockery. "This guy still believes in something as hokey as the virgin birth or resurrection."

But I will close with this last thought. If you take the average highly educated, multiple degreed scientist,  who would never accept God in any shape form or fashion- he actually uses 4 'l-words' that are hard to explain outside the existence of the God of the Bible.

The first is 'language'- communication is such an interesting phenomenon. As we learn other  languages it does not seem to strike anyone of the homologous structure of language. This one is easily dismissed by skeptics, but the personal/intimate nature of communication is so intriguing to me.

The second is 'logic'-it was pointed out to me recently that the acceptance and context of logic is a  personal, not an immaterial relationship. Logic is used, challenged, and supported in the context of personality.

The third is 'love'. What would there be in a realm of un-caused non-personal circumstances to produce beauty and love? Can the non-personal create personality?

The final one is 'law'. Where does our sense of fairness and rightness come from. Skeptics will say that so many cultures have differering norms of right and wrong that this is a poor argument. But regardless of the shifting standards- there is still a sense of 'oughtness'. A law on the heart... again with a strange hint of personality or relationship attached.

Well- I have been going way too long- and will be subject to ridicule of the skeptic as he calls me an illogical fool or neanderthal.

So next time you are watching CSI-Miami where the 'test tube' often disproves the testimony... ask yourself a question: Is that true? Is science always 100% without bias? Is it without flaw? Is it limited in any way? What are its boundaries?

Again- do not be anti-science..... just be willing to have a healthy self-suspicion. All men live by faith, even if it is faith in our reason.

II CORINTHIANS 4:3-4 "And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."

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