Not a Sermon but a Dialogue: presentation; Q&A; informal chatting; blog
I. “Taking Every Thought Captive.”
i. Christians are defensive about our faith.
ii. We need not be defensive, we have justifiable faith, “warranted” belief.
iii. We must believe that our faith is credible if we are to commit ourselves to rigorous discipleship.
iv. We can be sure…
1. Our thoughts can matter: today, why Christians should be scientists.
2. Next week: Dawkins’ God, responding to naturalism.
3. Third week: Creation vs. Evolution
b. We are not to be defensive, but assertive in our dialogue with competing world views.
i. Paul said,
2Cor. 10:3 For though we live as human beings, we do not wage war according to human standards,
2Cor. 10:4 for the weapons of our warfare are not human weapons, but are made powerful by God for tearing down strongholds. We tear down arguments
2Cor. 10:5 and every arrogant obstacle that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to make it obey Christ.
ii. Paul meant
1. God has a plan that moves from creation to reconstruction of his world.
2. Humans instinctively deny or thwart that plan.
3. Paul insists that his role and the role of all believers involves dismantling those arguments.
EBC, Murray J. Harris, “refers to any human act or attitude that forms an obstacle to the emancipating knowledge of God contained in the gospel of Christ crucified and therefore keeps men in oppressive bondage to sin. Closely related is the expression pan noema (“every thought”). By this Paul probably means every human machination or foul design that temporarily frustrates the divine plan (cf. “every act of disobedience,” v.6) and so needs forcibly to be reduced to obedience to Christ.”
4. This fits into the larger sweep of the human mandate…
Gen. 1:26 ¶Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness, so they may rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move on the earth.”
iii. We apply this by…
1. Not being defensive and fearful.
2. Not being mean and Personal,
3. But by thoughtful, reflective dialogue.
c. In the context of the Sciences.
i. We have three realms in competition and conflict.
2. Philosophy—skeptical about psychiatry, religion and recently critical of scientism’s naivete.
3. Theology—wonderful history largely obscured by discredited liberalism and extreme fundamentalism.
ii. Scientists’ self-explanations are often confusing and raise barriers between philosophers, theologians and practicing scientists.
1. Some prefer to ignore the other realms.
2. Some insist on a ‘complementarian’ view, emphasizing that each discipline pursues truths in its own realm, and the realms do not overlap.
3. Others believe that truth is truth; Christians have said, “All truth is God’s truth.”
iii. Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions launched a critical rethinking of the philosophy of science.
1. Kuhn earned a Ph.D. in physics from Harvard.
a. While doing his work there, he became more interested in the logical foundations of the practice of science than physics itself.
b. He taught at Berkeley, Princeton and MIT; died of cancer at 73 in the 1990s.
c. He wrote a monograph in the 1940s that was published in 1962, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.
Throughout thirteen succinct but thought-provoking chapters, Kuhn argued that science is not a steady, cumulative acquisition of knowledge. Instead, science is "a series of peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions" [Nicholas Wade, writing for Science], which he described as "the tradition-shattering complements to the tradition-bound activity of normal science." After such revolutions, "one conceptual world view is replaced by another" [Wade].
During periods of normal science, the primary task of scientists is to bring the accepted theory and fact into closer agreement. As a consequence, scientists tend to ignore research findings that might threaten the existing paradigm and trigger the development of a new and competing paradigm. For example, Ptolemy popularized the notion that the sun revolves around the earth, and this view was defended for centuries even in the face of conflicting evidence. In the pursuit of science, Kuhn observed, "novelty emerges only with difficulty, manifested by resistance, against a background provided by expectation."
And yet, young scientists who are not so deeply indoctrinated into accepted theories - a Newton, Lavoisier, or Einstein - can manage to sweep an old paradigm away. Such scientific revolutions come only after long periods of tradition-bound normal science, for "frameworks must be lived with and explored before they can be broken." However, crisis is always implicit in research because every problem that normal science sees as a puzzle can be seen, from another perspective, as a counterinstance and thus as a source of crisis. This is the "essential tension" in scientific research.
Normal science "is predicated on the assumption that the scientific community knows what the world is like" (5)—scientists take great pains to defend that assumption.
To this end, "normal science often suppresses fundamental novelties because they are necessarily subversive of its basic commitments" (5).
Research is "a strenuous and devoted attempt to force nature into the conceptual boxes supplied by professional education" (5).
A shift in professional commitments to shared assumptions takes place when an anomaly "subverts the existing tradition of scientific practice" (6). These shifts are what Kuhn describes as scientific revolutions—"the tradition-shattering complements to the tradition-bound activity of normal science" (6).
New assumptions (paradigms/theories) require the reconstruction of prior assumptions and the reevaluation of prior facts. This is difficult and time consuming. It is also strongly resisted by the established community.
When a shift takes place, "a scientist's world is qualitatively transformed [and] quantitatively enriched by fundamental novelties of either fact or theory" (7).
iii. Bottom line: it is difficult to consider new ways of perceiving the world when focused on a world-view or a paradigm that seems to explain most of the data at hand.
i. Philosophy of science challenges scientists to be more reflective and transparent about their work.
ii. Biblical world view is foundation of the sciences.
i. We are stewards of the earth: we must be “green.”
ii. We are stewards of knowledge: we must be scientists.
iii. We will always struggle to know: we will never fully understand all things.
Prov. 25:2 It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, and it is the glory of a king to search out a matter.
II. Dawkins’ God, March 11th
III. Evolution vs. Creation, March 18th, followed by panel discussion over lunch