Yes to Science; No to Scientism

There is a lot of confusion in the debate between science and religion (I use the term “religion” here as it relates to Christianity).

Science is a wonderful, glorious thing.  But scientism is the troll under the bridge that just loves to prance around when it can.  Science is way of knowing the physical and natural world – observe, measure, hypothesise, experiment, drawing conclusions and verification of the conclusions – and has enormously enriched and refined our knowledge of the world.  As Spandau Ballet so memorably sang in True, “I know, I know, I know this much is true.”  And this is the point – science is a search; a search for what is true; it is a search for Truth itself.  In this sense, it is, as G. K. Chesterton noted, “[Physical science] is either infallible or it is false.”  He adds with his usual razor wit, to mix these up is to confuse the role of a medical doctor who tells us that this or that food will kill us; but it is for the philosopher to say whether I ought to be killed.

Scientism is the reduction of all knowledge to the scientific form of knowledge, and this can take the forms of a strong or weak scientism.  The “strong scientism” is seen no more clearly seen than in the current debates around religion and science, especially from the fiercest critics of religion – the “New Atheists” (of whom there is nothing new at all), and which Alistair McGrath reminds us, that scientism is not only alive and well, but has “become the official ideology of the movement.”  John Crosby writes, “Scientism takes the paradigm for knowledge and truth to be the knowledge and truth gained by the natural sciences.  To the extent that philosophy or literature or religion is not amenable to the methods of natural science, it is treated as a sub-standard form of knowledge” (A. J. Ayer and his ‘Vienna Circle’ pals in the 20’s and 30’s and their logical positivism are foundational to the present situation).  It is quite perverse though how this has happened!  It creates a false distinction, as though one has to choose between science and nonsense, which is nonsense!  Scientism is a shame and a sham!  Nothing but an epistemological reductionism masquerading as an enlightened, open-minded, free-thinking and progressive world-view.

This was exemplified in a 2019 science and religion debate between John Lennox and  Peter Atkins over at Unbelievable?  These two are extremely clever men, but one is a Christian (Lennox) and the other an atheist.  The problem is that despite Lennox being a Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University, Atkins, with quite staggering arrogance, still dismisses Lennox’s Christian faith as immature, telling him and all other Christian/religious people  to “grow up!” It is this kind of allegiance to a scientific-only worldview (i.e. scientism) that even makes Richard Dawkins look sluggish.  Atkins made some good and interesting points, but overall, he only served to prove one thing: that he is so deeply locked into an epistemological method of scientism, with its great reduction and dismissal of any other form of knowing, that he does, in fact, look silly.  He betrays the almost universal consensus that there are non-scientific ways to knowing, as the famous atheist Bertrand Russell once admitted, in acknowledging that mathematics (of which Lennox is a professor!), is a doorway to religion and mysticism.

I do wish Atkins could argue properly with Lennox, rather like the early 20th century debates between Christian G. K. Chesterton and atheist George Bernard Shaw, who could properly argue but still hold a meaningful friendship.  Atkins despises Lennox and all other Christians, and it is at this point the meaningfulness of debate breaks down.  Once, when preparing for a debate, a rotund Chesterton said to a skinny Shaw, “To look at you, anyone would think there was a famine in England!”  Shaw replied, “And to look at you, anyone would think you caused it!”  Sadly, this kind of banter born out of mature relating and friendship is lost to many who hold to scientism.

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God of Violence Yesterday, God of Love Today? A review

This review in the Baptist Times of Helen Paynter‘s latest book is a comprehensive introduction for those new to the questions it explores; will bring new insights to those familiar with the subject: 

Review by Peter King 

Over the past few years I have become increasingly troubled by the violence in the Bible. Although this is a subject we don’t often talk about in our churches, I know from a number of informal conversations that many churchgoers (and others) have questions they would like to explore on these issues.
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Jurgen Moltmann on Complexity, Compromise and Concession in Society

Three years ago I published a post as I reflected on British politics in light of the Brexit phenomena; how words are a power-play and how extreme caution and wisdom is needed to avoid what it turns out, we have not avoided – a fractured country and an advanced political system that doesn’t know what to do.

As I write this, the UK is holding European elections, elections we never thought we’d have to partake, in light of the Brexit referendum.  I’m not interested in saying this or that about Brexit – good and true arguments can be made by both sides, but no-one is really listening to each other anymore, at least not in any substantive way.

What I am interested in, is not so much the specific thing that is a situational political event that our lives are living through, but a much wider fact of what it means to be a human being in a community/society like this:

I recently read these words of Jurgen Moltmann in his book ‘Man’ (p.96-97) where I was reminded that any human politics (Brexit included) form part of the much wider and deeper matrix and fabric of humanity:

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The Depleted Self – how narcissism is linked to bureaucracy

I am currently continuing my reading on the writings of former Professor of Pastoral Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary Donald Capps.  I hope to write a more detailed review of the book ‘The Depleted Self – sin in a narcissistic age’, but want to write something here that struck me about his one of his comments on psychotherapeutic literature relating to narcissism.  

71evB0k1zILFirstly, narcissism is far more than mere obsessional “self-love”, following Narcissus who fell in love with his own reflection, leading to his own suicide.  Capps very helpfully takes the reader through a maze of discovery drawing on contemporary theories, and critiques the Church for failing to distinguish between the old cultural value of guilt and the contemporary ones of shame, a cause itself of anxiety.  Theologians and Churches have rather denounced “narcissistic behaviour” and being locked into a “guilt” framework have thus focused on moralistic remedies that address superficial behaviours, and not underlying ontological causes and conditions.

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Sabeel-Kairos 2019 Conference – a celebration of Palestinian culture, solidarity and action

Sabeel-Kairos 2019 Conference – a celebration of Palestinian culture, solidarity and action

Below are the details for the upcoming Sabeel-Kairos Conference which I commend to you, and published here with permission:

Sabeel- Kairos Annual Conference:
Faith in Action 2019

Our annual conference will be held at 10am-4:30pm on Saturday 29th June at Carr’s Lane Church in Birmingham.
£30 including a buffet Lunch

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Tickets are selling fast, so make sure you get yours by BOOKING NOW for a great day of Palestinian culture, solidarity and action.  Don’t take our word for it, read what our supporters said about last year’s conference and book below:“Excellent.   Dynamic, clear and very thought provoking”

“a fantastic conference”

“I am Re-energised after the conference”

“loved the sales tables and to be with so many ‘like minds’ for a change.”

“Thank you for a stimulating, challenging and thought provoking conference in Oxford today.”

“The first impression when I arrived was so good in that it was a ‘full house’”

“The day ended in a warm prayerful way to send us away with thoughts to fill our minds and to share”

“excellent speakers”

“Speakers were great and interestingly varied in their focus”

“The conference theme was highly relevant.”

“The theme was good because it answered the oft-asked question ‘what can I do?’ with practical suggestions.”

“hard act to follow when looking to the future.”

“The food was marvellous”

COME ALONG to learn more about Investing for Peace, taking part in real activism, take part in campaign actions and meet like-minded people.
Ethical investment
Campaign Action
Lunch
Palestinian Crafts and Photography
Palestinian and expert speakers
War on Want
Activist Workshops
Palestinian Food
Great Day
Rifat Kassis, Palestinian Activist.  Founding member and Director of Kairos Palestine
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David Cronin, Journalist, Activist and Author of ‘Balfour’s Shadow’

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Prof Adam Sutcliffe, of King’s College London and Independent Jewish Voices who will lead a session on antisemitism

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There will also be a campaign workshop by Ryvka Barnard of War on Want and Charlotte Marshall of Sabeel-Kairos.

buy Palestinian food and crafts and view photo exhibitions.
Come along to meet like-minded people, have good discussions, eat, drink, buy Palestinian food and enjoy Palestinian culture.  We are expecting this to be a great day and we can’t wait to see you all there!
£30 including a buffet Lunch

Sabeel-Kairos AGM 2019

The Annual Sabeel-Kairos AGM will take place towards the end of the day, and we invite all members to stay and take part and vote for new trustees and hear about our news.  If you are not yet a member but would like to vote and join in, please complete the membership form and pay here.

We are expecting to have space on the board for a Treasurer and another Trustee.  As well as someone with an accounting/ finance background to be treasurer, we are looking for another trustee with potential fundraising, HR or charity governance experience.  We welcome all people to stand for these positions at the AGM, from anywhere in the country, all ethnic backgrounds, ages and denominations.  Please consider standing for one of these roles to help support our small, but dynamic and energetic charity!


Sabeel-Kairos
was formed in 2017 as a result of the merger of Friends of Sabeel UK and Kairos Britain.
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Kairos Britain
A network of individuals, organisations and faith communities seeking a just and lasting peace in the region based on the realisation of full human and political rights for all.Friends of Sabeel UK
Supports the Sabeel Theology Centre in Jerusalem in its work for the promotion of religion for the benefit of the community.
Supports and encourages the Christian community in the Holy Land (Israel and the Palestinian areas of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem) in their life and witness.
Raises awareness in the United Kingdom concerning Christians in the Holy Land and promotes links with them.

P. T. Forsyth a Man of Faith

See the short video (June 2019) on The Fuel Cast, filmed at Torre Abbey ruins, Torquay.

Who was P. T. Forsyth?

Peter Taylor Forsyth was born in Aberdeen, Scotland on this day in 1848 to a working-class family, and was educated there through his university years.  Afterwards, he became a Congregationalist minister serving in five successive congregations in England at Shipley, London, Manchester, Leicester and Cambridge.  

 

 

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Jeremiah the Man of Faith

See the short video on The Fuel Cast, filmed at Torre Abbey ruins, Torquay.

JEREMIAH

Jeremiah is a towering figure in the Old Testament at the time of the 7th and 6th  centuries BC.

 

In many ways, he is the nearest a man can get to chasing after God’s own heart.

A phrase commonly associated with King David.

But without his particular “weaknesses.”

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