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Archive for May, 2012

In Section 25 of Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics, we looked at the fulfillment of the knowledge of God. In Section 26, Barth delved into what it means for God to be knowable. Now in Section 27, Barth discusses the limits of that knowledge–namely where it begins and ends. He seemingly starts by reiterating where we left off in the previous sections:

“God is known only by God. We do not know Him, then, in virtue of the views and concepts with which in faith we attempt to respond to His revelation. But we also do not know Him without making use of His permission and obeying His command to undertake this attempt. The success of this undertaking, and therefore the veracity of our human knowledge of God, consists in the fact that our viewing and conceiving is adopted and determined to participation in the truth of God by God Himself in grace.” –Karl Barth (CD II.1, p.179)

While this opening remark is well rooted in the discussions of God’s revelation being a gift of His grace, Barth’s develops each word as part of an even more well defined picture. Barth confirms that the starting and ending points must be contained within God, but he also intends to show how it is that we can know anything about God on this basis. (more…)

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John 1:1-5
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Shedding Light on the Old, Old Story
Most people when starting a discussion about science and faith start with Genesis. That makes sense since it is a book about beginnings of Creation and culture. But John reinterprets all of that and then some. In five short sentences, he renews the whole story of Scripture.

We know from Genesis that God created by His own Word. “Light be. Light was.” From John, we learn that the Son of God was that Word. That Word created all things and has now “moved into the neighborhood” (The Message by Eugene Peterson). The Word is not just heard, HE is visibly and even tangibly revealed to us.

In Genesis, we also learn of the beginnings of humanity, sin and death. The Word has provided light for all people and now reveals Himself personally. He is Light that will not be extingished, but will overcome all darkness including our self-willed ignorance.

A Better Light to Read By
Dr. Carl Sagan begins his book Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark with the inscription of a Jewish proverb. “It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” As the subtitle explicitly states, for Dr. Sagan, science is that savior that will overcome all means of ignorance including religion. (more…)

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In my third year of InterVarsity staff, the New York / New Jersey region required all new staff to finish their three-year training by developing a thesis of sorts. This study would then be the basis of a specialty for speaking to students on campus. Most picked typical themes for a general college audience such as multi-ethnicity, social justice, and gender roles. The work of my colleagues represented everything that made me proud to be part of InterVarsity.

Given my background in science, I thought it important to use my experience to further discussion of these issues. Dr. Sagan’s basic premise for critical thinking and how we learn was outlined in Demon Haunted World as being “wonder” and “skepticism”. This epistemolgy (how we know what is true) was deliberately meant to image “chance” and “necessity” as basic to his evolutionary understanding of science and the nature of the “Cosmos”.

Previously, I had read dozens of books across the spectrum of Christian understanding. It was a tortuous process in which I rejected view after view for various reasons. Finally, through this project, I would find a theologian who made sense of the science and faith chaos for me. But more on that in a moment… (more…)

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An “apologetic” is not an attempt to say “I’m sorry”. It actually means to “give reasons why” you believe something is true. I guess that would make this post an “apologetic on why I don’t rely on apologetics”.

It’s not that I don’t think Christians should think deeply about their faith. Quite the opposite. Sometimes, apologetic thinking masks the deeper issues and prevents us from getting to what truth in theology is all about: faith thinking and faith acting.

The Comprehensive Nature of Truth
I’ve been involved in a number of online chats about faith, skepticism and other issues. Each time I find myself frustrated because no one issue or discussion can capture the breadth of why I believe as I do.

C.S. Lewis once wrote, “I believe in God like I believe in the sun, not because I can see it, but because of it all things are seen.” It’s not that I believe one thing, but many things in every area of life which point to God. There isn’t a single focus or even a particular set of arguments that lead me to believe as I do. I see the fingerprints of God everywhere. It all fits together because it originates in God and finds its purpose in Him.

At Best a Starting Point
At their worst, an apologetic just creates a circular argument. While we may frown on people who use simplistic circular arguments, the most intelligent among us simply use bigger and more well-constructed circular arguments. (more…)

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In Section 25 of Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics, we looked at the fulfillment of the knowledge of God. Here in Section 26, Barth delves into what it means for God to be knowable.

“The possibility of the knowledge of God springs from God, in that He is Himself the truth and He gives Himself to man in His Word by the Holy Spirit to be known as the truth. It springs from man, in that, in the Son of God by the Holy Spirit, he becomes an object of the divine good-pleasure and therefore participates in the truth of God.” –Karl Barth (CD II.1, p.63)

In large part, his target is to discredit natural theology as a means to knowing God from every direction he can imagine. Barth will settle for nothing outside God’s own gracious self-revelation as the only means to knowing God. Later, we will see why he is so insistent on this stance, but for now we will review his argument at face value.

Without God, there is no revelation. It is an act of grace or good will toward humanity that he reveals Himself at all. There is no necessity that He do so, but He chooses to do so. (more…)

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I’m speaking tongue-in-cheek, of course. However, I have long been annoyed by both Christians and atheists who imply or even outright state that science is an inherently atheistic process–that somehow “theistic scientists are actually practical atheists”. Though if we truly believe that faith or lack thereof is inherently assumed in the scientific method, then my question is at least as legitimate.

Again, both Christians and atheists have suggested that Christians either need to reinvent their own form of science or reinvent religion to be more like science. Dr. Carl Sagan once went so far as to say, “‎If there was a church that was based on the truth, then it would be indistinguishable from science.”

I talk more about my experience with Dr. Sagan here. For those not familiar with Dr. Sagan, the following clip may be helpful. This is from one of his last interviews about his book The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark with Charlie Rose.

It may be easy for us as Christians to spot the arrogance of an atheist who would dismiss, or at least reinvent, the whole history of religion. However, it is equally arrogant for Christians to set out and develop their own special “science”.

As Christians, we should start by remembering that God created all things and that absolutely nothing was created apart from God. Any study of any part of the universe is a study in what God has made and continues to maintain. We cannot reinvent the object, nor can we reinvent the proper method of study. It must be engaged on its own terms–studied according to its nature. (more…)

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For some reason, I like to play with fire. Spending time with thoughtful skeptics is one of my favorite pastimes. By way of example, I was at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) one night and followed up with a student who wanted to know the differences between Jesus and Spinoza. He happened to be looking at a summary of Spinoza’s key positions on his laptop computer. After asking him to scroll through I said, “There’s the problem! In Christianity, God isn’t definable by a propositional statement.”

He stood up, flushed and agitated, bursting out loud, “What do you MEAN God is not definable by a propositional statement?” The result was a very late night and one of the best conversations I have ever had about God.

For those who don’t know me, I was one of the last undergraduate students to sit under the teaching of Astronomer, and well-known skeptic, Dr. Carl Sagan of Cosmos fame. If you are younger than me, then you may be more familiar with his best selling novel Contact which later became a motion picture starring Jody Foster. Dr. Sagan also won a Pulitzer Prize for The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence.

Our class was simply called “Critical Thinking”, but there was nothing simple about it. Admission to the course was by essay only, and it became more challenging from there. With over 25 books on the syllabus, we were expected to read at least 2 each week. The final project was an open debate against a classmate, with Dr. Sagan jumping into the discourse at will! At times, he read from a manuscript of his as part of the lesson. This manuscript later became one of his last published books The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark.

I wish I could say that I came out of the course unscathed, but I can’t. I definitely can’t! (more…)

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