About the Book
Table of Contents
Part III: Medieval Synthesis:Modern Fragmentation Chapter 6
Towards a Christian World View
ONE DAY AT the dinner table, we were entertaining a number of friends from distant parts of Canada and the United States. Not one of them was a child of God, nor even a member of any church. They were professional people, one of them an engineer, another a professor in a Canadian university. I felt that we must at least try to carry the conversation toward the things of the Lord. They all accepted that we were professing Christians, having known us for many years. But they had no interest really in anything spiritual ‹ only in matters of intellect. pg 1 of 24
After a while I asked the simple question, "What do you think is the purpose of being alive?" Amazingly, the question stumped them all, entirely. They had no answer; indeed, it seemed almost certain that not one of them had ever stopped to ask the question. They were, in short, all traveling First Class and enjoying the trip, but they had no idea whatever of where they were going. For them, it was literally true that to travel was more fun than to arrive.
Each of my friends became animatedly engaged in the general discussion which followed. But it was really only an academic exercise, an exercise of the mind, a discussion of what ought to be the goal in life rather than what was their goal personally. I think it embarrassed them before each other to speak personally beyond saying they wanted to accumulate means in order to do things. The idea that one might view life as a process of character building in preparation for another world that was to be more abiding and more real and more rewarding than this present world never once occurred to any of them. Nor, I am sorry to have to confess, did they end up by asking me what my goal was ‹ as I had hoped they would! This was not disrespect: it simply never occurred to them to do so. I genuinely believe that very very few people are ever really interested
in others unless they are the Lord's children. It looks like it in some professional people whose duty it is to be so, and who are trained to express their interest without being offensive to people's sense of privacy. But even with such people it is still largely a professional interest. It seems to me that only the Christian will persevere in prayer for other individuals as individuals. This is a kind of crucial test of real interest.
As I see it, we are called upon to keep alive in society the great truth that man is not merely a super-animal, but a child of eternity with a destiny that makes this life a corridor of training and development, that is a means and not an end in itself. We ourselves must try so to live that we shall increasingly please God, for only then do we fulfill the goal for which we were and are created. Every experience ought to contribute to this end. This is the perfecting of the saints.
But what of our impact, our "message" to the world about us, to those whose lives intermesh personally with our own? I believe we ought to seek constantly to remind men that they are indeed special creatures of God's particular concern, in need of forgiveness and cleansing and re-creating in order that they may be once more in fellowship with Him who sustains them and in whose hand their lives really are ‹ even though they are seldom aware of it.
And we ought to bear witness, too, to the fact that this is God's world ‹ God's universe, in fact ‹ created
for man's sake, as Hugo St. Victor put it. "The spirit was made for God, the body for the spirit, and the world
for the body: the world that it might be brought into subjection to the body, the body that it might be brought into subjection to the spirit, and the spirit that it might be brought into subjection to God." It is all of a piece.
The world was made for man, and man for God. Indeed, I believe (as I have sought to show in two other
papers 191)) that the Universe itself was designed for man. Man is indeed the measure of all things, but not man as an isolate ‹ man in fellowship with God.
Such an overall World View carries us back to the idea of the Medieval Synthesis which was a construct of faith and reason in harmony. But it was destroyed when reason, based on other premises, became inexorably opposed to faith. It is time to show that the modern premises ‹ the philosophy of scientific rationalism, of
191. "The Universe: Designed for Man?", Part
I in Science and Faith, vol. 8 and "A Christian World
View: The Framework of History," Part V in Noah's Three Sons,
vol. 1 of The Doorway Papers Series, Zondervan Publishing Company.
pg.2 of 24
biological reductionism, and of mechanistic determinism ‹ are half-truths of the most dangerous kind. They have neither ennobled society nor provided a rewarding world view for younger men and women; nor do they help or comfort those who are approaching the end of life's journey or already are walking in the valley of the shadow of death. pg.3 of 24
We have, then, two fundamental questions which engage man's attention: the chief end toward which he should be striving, and the means by which he will achieve that end. In the matter of ends, faith is more important than reason: in the matter of means, reason is more important than faith. So we find ourselves called upon, in the living of a fully rounded life, at certain times to exercise faith at the expense of reason and at others reason at the expense of faith. Faith and reason are not opposed; they merely apply in different situations. When we say they are not opposed, we ought really to say they should not be opposed ‹ for all too frequently they are. When this occurs, it generally means that one of the alternatives is being exercised inappropriately, often because means and ends have been confused.
Scripture does not oppose faith and reason. It recognizes clearly the value of both and the proper place of each, frequently linking them together yet never confusing them. It is by no means true that God attaches all importance to the exercise of faith and little or none to the use of the mind. Consider, for example, the background of those three men who, in the economy of God, were chiefly responsible for the communication
of the written revelation of God which we have in the Bible: Moses, Ezra, and Paul.
It is hardly necessary to say that Moses was well-educated. At the time of his coming of age, Egypt was close to the peak of her cultural greatness and her princes and nobles must have received the finest education that was then available in the world. Moses himself was a protégé of Hatshepsut, a princess of the ruling house. Such was the man chosen by God, not merely to lead the children of Israel out of bondage, but to hand over to them that part of Scripture which was fundamental to everything that followed, its first five books. Before Moses did so, he underwent an experience which has importance for us today because it shows that God is more concerned with the mind itself than with its content.
As soon as he had graduated and felt himself qualified as a leader, Moses offered his services to God and to his people at some risk to his own prospects, only to find they were rejected. For a very long time in the wilderness where he had fled in his confusion, he un-learned much of what he had been taught in Egypt. One
wonders why in the providence of God he had been given the opportunity to learn at all. The answer to this is, I think, that what God wanted was a mind that was highly trained rather than a brain that was filled with worldly wisdom. What God sought was a tool that He could use, an intellectual weapon through which to communicate His will to mankind. It took forty years to reduce a man who had probably held a high command, and was certainly learned in the true sense, to a state of humility and instructability in the things of God. (192) Moses was thereafter known for his meekness, but it would have been a mistake to have supposed that his humility was evidence of mental incapacity.
At the other end of Scripture, we have Paul, no less learned in the wisdom of the world and who, like Moses, was a born leader. There are many indications that Paul was of university calibre just as Moses had been, though there is some question whether he was actually a graduate of a university. (193)
As with Moses, so God dealt with Paul, sending him into the desert by himself ‹ not for forty years this time but only for three, since times were changed. Here God molded for His own purposes a highly trained mind to be the vehicle for the completion of the revelation begun with Moses. In both cases what God sought was a
In between these two mental giants there stands a third figure: Ezra. Ezra was educated in the Babylonian seat of learning, and in due time he was appointed the task of closing the canon of the Old Testament, overseeing the re-writing of it in the Aramaic script, instituting the Great Synagogue as a body of men who would both preserve it and help in its elucidation, and establishing the order of worship which in due course formed the pattern of worship for the Christian Church.
These three men, each educated in the best traditions of their age in recognized centres of learning, were God's chosen vessels through whom He shared His thoughts with mankind. They were all men of great faith undoubtedly, but it is apparent that they were also men of learning and administrative capacity.
Because of the times in which Paul lived he was, unlike Moses and Ezra as far as we know, forced to
192. According to Josephus, Moses commanded the Egyptian expedition which captured Mero, the capital of Nubia (see Antiquities of the Jews, Whiston's translation, Milner, London, undated, book II, chap.X, p.57). pg.4 of 24
193. On the matter of Paul's education, see chapter 2 of J. Gresham Machen's Origin of Paul's Religion, Macmillan, New York, 1925. On the other hand, see the remarks by F. W. Farrar in his Life and Work of St. Paul, Cassell, Petter and Galpin, London, undated, vol.I, p.38.
give more thought to the question of how far the Fall of Man had affected not only his behaviour but also his thinking processes. Paul had the experience in Athens of recognizing something which had taken place during the interval from Malachi to the birth of our Lord. In this interval of about four hundred years since the closing of the canon of the Old Testament, God had remained silent. I do not mean by this that He had not spoken to individuals, but only that nothing had been added to the Scriptures. During this same interval there had appeared in Greece a succession of men who may well have been the greatest thinkers the world has ever known. These men were true natural philosophers ‹ that is to say, they sought wisdom and understanding, apart from revelation, as an end in itself without the slightest desire to make it serve any practical aim. They thought about life, about human nature, about values, and about God. The sum total of their deliberations provided them with very few certainties about life and none about God Himself. When Paul went to Athens and saw the altar with its inscription, "To the Unknown God," then it appears to have struck him with tremendous force that the four hundred years of silence were God's method of showing that the natural mind is severely limited in its apprehension of spiritual truth. It was only, as Paul put it, "after that in the wisdom of God man by philosophy knew not God, then God sent forth His Son" (I Corinthians 1:21) to complete the revelation of Himself. Only then. . . . pg.5 of 24
The natural mind has in some way been infected by sin, and it is no longer capable of arriving unaided at the whole truth. Man requires not merely a regeneration of his fallen spirit, but a renewing of his mind (Romans 12:2), a renewal which quite literally brings a transformation in his thinking. This is a common experience, this transformation, for the educated man who becomes a Christian. It is rather as though one stood somewhat off-centre in a wheel, the spokes of which are the lines of thought which engage a man's mind and which he feels ought to unite somewhere but somehow fail to do so. The process of regeneration both supplies a whole new set of motivations for the spirit of man and also lifts him, as it were, and sets him at the centre of the wheel so that quite suddenly a whole lot of hitherto unrelated thoughts begin to form into a meaningful pattern. Not only does the Universe begin to make sense and life begin to assume meaning, but the will of God becomes clear in a new way. It is thus by the transformation resulting from the renewing of the mind that it becomes possible for a man to prove what is the good and perfect and acceptable will of God.
Christian faith has the unique effect of integrating life's experiences because it puts man in touch with the ultimate Disposer of all events. A. Cornelius Benjamin, speaking of man's need for this kind of integration and speaking as a scientist and not as a Christian, nevertheless wisely observed: (194)
It must be remembered that man's experiences constitute an organic whole which should not itself be torn apart by the act of intellectual abstraction in terms of which we try to understand it.
What is to be emphasized is that each of the value pursuits, uniquely characterized by the goal it seeks, nevertheless exhibits elaborate and complicated relationships to all other values and corresponding experiences.
Man achieves a satisfying life largely to the extent to which he is able to include the widest range of such experiences with the minimum of conflict between any two. . . .
Life is dissatisfying to the extent to which it is lacking in integration, how ever wide its sweep may be.
In writing to the Ephesians (4:23), Paul speaks of being renewed in the spirit of the mind. I think here he is referring not so much to the mere processes of thinking in a strictly objective sense, but to the bias of the mind which in many respects is far more important. Yet Paul does not neglect the fact that there is a content to the mind as well as a bent, and this content is influenced by the exercise of faith. If we accept divine revelation we may "know" many things which are not known by the man who rejects it. In Colossians 3:10 I believe Paul has this in view when he speaks of the new man which is renewed in knowledge. Writing to Timothy, Paul reminds him that God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). These three form a combination of great importance; any two of them without the third can lead to a disaster. Love and power without a sound mind is very likely to lead to passion. Power and a sound mind without love is very likely to lead to corruption. And love and a sound mind without power leads to futility.
What Scripture is telling us in all of this, I think, is not that man's mind unredeemed is useless, but rather that it has severe limitations. These limitations become particularly apparent when a man attempts to deal with his origin and his destiny, neither of which he can know with any certainty except by revelation, each determining the other. By use of reason alone, he can only surmise what his origin was ‹- the evidence being inconclusive, because it is quite conceivable that the form of the first truly human being was not unlike that of his animal contemporaries though he himself was constitutionally something completely different. There can be no
194. Benjamin, A. Cornelius, "Science and the Pursuit of Value,"' in Scientific Monthly, October, 1946, p.311. pg.6 of 24
certainty that what looked like man was man. As for the future, apart from revelation we have even less pg.7 of 24
upon which to base a judgment.
In his search to find a meaning for life, man is inevitably handicapped by this uncertainty as to what his own proper destiny is. Ultimately, he ends up by seeking the answer outside himself, outside the time-frame which hems him in. With few exceptions, and these only in very recent times (I have in mind Simpson and Huxley, for example), this quest for meaning has turned men's thoughts to God as the Controller and Ordainer of human destiny. Then it becomes of paramount importance for a man to know what God is like, for upon this hinges whether man may have hope or only uncertainty at the end. It was Job's plea in the face of personal catastrophe that he might be brought face to face with Him in whose hands his destiny lay (Job 23:3, 4). Yet in this most important of all quests, the natural mind has shown itself most inadequate. Only so far does man's reason lead him ‹ and never quite far enough. The wise men of the East were led by their natural understanding to seek the Lord (Matthew 2:2). But they were only able to get near; they were not able to find the Lord without help. For the last lap of their journey they had to inquire of the way from someone who already knew.
To know the Lord, man's mind has to undergo a transformation. Edwin Bevan, Toynbee's friend, said to him on one occasion, "Man's vision of God is like a dog's vision of his master. The dog by habit and association comes to know his master in a limited manner. But to know him fully the dog would have to forsake his canine nature for a human nature." The implications of this observation are tremendous. Human nature can know God only in a limited way. Handicapped by sin, this knowledge is incomplete and uncertain. Man needs something of the divine nature before he can know God ‹ and this acquisition is brought about by a re-birth which constitutes him a son of God.
The distinction is one of great importance. Christians frequently suppose that a non-Christian cannot know God. But this is clearly not the case. Scripture tells us that Cornelius had answers to prayer before he was a Christian and, indeed, that his alms were accepted also (Acts 10:4). In the Old Testament there are a number of occasions upon which the heathen openly acknowledged God as sovereign and were rewarded for their faith ‹ Nebuchadnezzar, for example (Daniel 4:34-37). It is quite possible to believe in God without believing in Jesus Christ, as He Himself said by implication (John 14:1). But in this same passage Jesus went on to point out that while it was possible for any man to come to God as unto One who is the Judge of all men, only through Him could any man come to God as Father (John 14:6). And only by sharing God's nature as a child of His can
man come to know God as one person knows another. The natural mind is not able to achieve this kind of knowledge (I Corinthians 2:11). All this is first a matter of faith, and only after it is experienced does it partake pg.8 of 24
of the nature of knowledge and become reasonable in its own right. Looking back upon the experience, one
can to some extent rationalize it all, but without the faith which makes the transaction between God and man possible, it does not appear rational to others who have not experienced it, and no amount of logic will lead to the knowledge of this kind of truth. It is a case where to know the truth one must start with it: it cannot be reasoned out.
Faith, therefore, becomes a key to a new kind of knowledge (Luke 11:52). The key is not some particular form of religious conformity such as the scribes and Pharisees were trying to make it in the passage referred to. It is simply that kind of faith which is properly called "saving" faith.
We know from Scripture that man was created for God's pleasure (Isaiah 43:21; Revelation 4:11) and that this pleasure was to be the result of a special relationship which is appropriately set forth as that of a child to his father. But man's disobedience destroyed that personal relationship, and with it the intended fellowship also. It is our sins that separate us from God (Isaiah 59:1, 2; Habakkuk 1:13). The Lord Jesus Christ took upon Himself the blame and responsibility for our sins, paying the penalty in His own Person by becoming man and sacrificing Himself, the innocent for the guilty. "Saving faith" is a faith that wholly accepts this sacrifice and rests upon it as entirely sufficient to restore both the relationship and the fellowship which has been forfeited. On this ground, a man's position may be changed from that of one whose whole life is under judgment and who cannot therefore be pleasing to God, to one whose failures are forgiven and whose attitude toward sin has been fundamentally changed, and in whom God can once more be well pleased. Thenceforth all experience is providentially directed toward increasing the pleasure which God takes in that individual; and part of God's pleasure is to reconstitute the thinking processes of the individual so that he can gain a new understanding of the meaning of God's creation and acquire a new sense of purpose. Not only do his motives become gradually purified, but his powers of comprehension acquire a new dimension. Without this saving faith, it is "impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11:6).
This new way of looking at things does not take the form of a loosely related series of articles of belief; each of which may be held as a separate proposition. Rather, it is a system of beliefs having an organic unity in which no one element can logically be sustained in isolation. (195) The word logically is important, for the
system as a whole is logically defensible once certain premises have been granted. It is these premises which demand the exercise of faith, but so do all premises, including those which underlie the philosophy of science.
This is a point which needs careful consideration. In any system of thought, one must always start somewhere, and the validity of the starting point must always be accepted on faith. The scientist says, "I believe that there is but one kind of reality, the physical order of things, the nature of which will ultimately be understood only by the scientific method." The Christian says, "I believe that there are two kinds of reality, a physical one which is that acknowledged by the scientist, and a spiritual one which cannot be understood without the revelation of Scripture." It is pointless to set these two, the one against the other: each side must allow the other's point of view. The premises of the scientist are the unprovable basic assumptions of a mind unenlightened by revelation; the premises of the Christian are the unprovable basic assumptions of a mind enlightened by revelation. What both hold are basic unprovable assumptions. The premises cannot be argued logically because, if they are premises, they cannot be rational in the strict sense. If they were rational, they would have to be conclusions, i. e., "reasonable because" ‹ and the basis of these conclusions must then be sought further back. This process must be extended backward until a simple statement is reached which can be traced no further but is held as a matter of faith.
The basic premise of science is as we have stated it above, though it is not always expressed in these precise terms. And the basic premise is rational and the opponent's irrational. It is a though it too is not always so set forth. They can be enormously elaborated, of course, and there is a tendency on both sides to do just this, each trying to demonstrate by this elaboration that their own basic premise is rational and the opponent's irrational. It is a useless game: one cannot defend a basic article of faith by an appeal to logic. It simply cannot be done. If it were possible, the article of faith would cease to be an article of faith and become merely one more piece of
195. Jacques Maritain. in his Introduction to Philosophy (Sheed and Ward, New York. 1955, p.101), speaks of the Christian system of thought in its totality as pre-eminent among all other systems of thought because "in itself it realized a maximum of consistency in a maximum of complexity." And he adds: "Neglect of the least of its principles involves the most unexpected consequences, distorting our understanding of reality in innumerable directions." On the same point, James Orr wrote some years ago (God's Image in Man, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1948, p.7): "The Christian system is an organism, every part of which is sensitive to change in any other." And subsequently: "I do not think it can be sufficiently emphasized that Christian truth forms an organism ‹- has a unity and coherence which cannot be arbitrarily disturbed in any of its parts without the whole undergoing injury" (p.260). pg.9 of 24
derived knowledge. What is "rational" is rational because the steps leading up to it and upon which it is based are themselves demonstrable by the same reasoning process. If a premise rests on something, it is not a premise but a conclusion. Yet all Systems of thought begin with an assumption. In any argument, an "assumption" may merely be a fresh starting point within the system, somewhere along the line, chosen only for convenience in dealing with what follows without bothering with what went before. But always there is some basic premise, some root idea, some fundamental assumption, something which stands at the very beginning which must be "allowed" in order to proceed. This is held by both scientist and Christian as an "article of faith." It is of the greatest importance to keep this fact in mind when dealing with either the Christian World View or the scientific one. The two views are absolutely alike in this one aspect of their structure.
Thereafter, granted the one basic assumption, all that is built upon it must be rational. No part of the superstructure may be merely presented as an article of faith. The whole fabric of thought must be built logically, systematically, indeed almost inevitably. If a false conclusion is drawn at any point, the system will be weakened, though it may still embody a final truth because, being what we are, we sometimes manage to compensate for one error by introducing another, for one irrationality by another irrationality. (196) So a man
196. A beautiful illustration of this is to be found in Kepler's case. Koestler wrote (ref.105, p.33): "At the turn of the sixteenth century, one Johannes Kepler became enamored with the Pythagorean dream, and on this foundation of fantasy, by methods of reasoning equally unsound, built the solid edifice of modern astronomy. It is one of the most astonishing episodes in the history of thought, and an antidote to the pious belief that the Progress in Science is governed by logic." Subsequently, speaking of Kepler's calculation of the true nature of orbital movement: "Now at the very beginning of the hair-raising computations in chapter sixteen, Kepler absent-mindedly put three erroneous figures for three vital longitudes of Mars, and happily went on from there, never noticing his error. The French historian of astronomy, Delambre, later repeated the whole computation, but surprisingly, his correct results differ very little from Kepler's faulty ones. The reason is that toward the end of the chapter Kepler committed several mistakes in simple arithmetic ‹ errors in division which would bring bad marks to any schoolboy ‹ and these errors happen very nearly to cancel out his earlier mistakes. We shall see, in a moment, that, at the most crucial point of the process of discovering his Second Law, Kepler again committed mathematical sins which mutually cancelled out, and 'as if by miracle' (in his own words), led to the correct result." A few pages later (p.328) Koestler completes this fantastic story as follows: "The last step which had got him out of the labyrinth had once again been a faulty step. For it is not permissible to equate an area with the sum of an infinite number of neighbouring lines, as Kepler did. Moreover, he knew this well, and explained at length why it was not permissible. He added that he had also committed a second error, by assuming the orbit to be circular. And he concluded: 'But these two errors ‹ it is like a miracle ‹ cancel out in the most precise manner, as I shall prove further down.' . . . . The correct result is even more miraculous than Kepler realized, for his explanation of the reasons why his errors cancel out was once again mistaken, and he got, in fact, so hopelessly confused that the argument is practically impossible to follow ‹ as he himself admitted. And yet, by three incorrect steps and their even more incorrect defense, Kepler stumbled on the correct law. It is perhaps the most amazing sleepwalking performance in the history of science. . . ." pg.10 of 24
quite incompetent in the use of logic can nevertheless arrive at the truth. Many do. And because of the absence of logic, they end up with a truth that is held almost entirely by faith. This is all too often the position of the less-educated believer whose conviction is indeed Truth and yet who finds himself quite unable to defend his conviction before a logical opponent. Such a one inevitably comes to suspect reason. He knows he is right, but he cannot defend his position except by affirming his faith. pg.11 of 24
It may appear that I am labouring a point overmuch, but I suspect the low opinion of Christian theology which is held by those with scientific training is because the Christian World View is presented in a confused way. The confusion lies in this, that those of us who hold this view with conviction try to present the basic premises as though they were rational, and have been so lazy in working out the superstructure with the strictest attention to logical construction that it will not really stand up to critical analysis. When these inconsistencies are pointed out, we tend to be unprepared and retreat by saying, "Well, this is what I believe." In a way, we ought never to have to use the word believe any more than the scientist does. We ought to say, "This I know." Such knowledge would be perfectly defensible if the system itself were coherent. The only occasion to fall back upon faith should be in the presentation of the basic premises. Yet I do not claim for one moment to have so stated these Christian premises in a completely satisfactory way.
Stated the way I have presented it, the requirement seems clear enough. We exercise faith and admit it only when we introduce premises; and we avoid expressions of faith thereafter. However, it does not require too much thought to see that, having stated as part of our premise that we believe in the necessity of revelation, the revelation contained in Scripture, we must at the same time recognize that faith will be exercised also in the interpretation of this revelation. For example, two Christian men may agree that God introduced animal life by some act of creation ‹ both holding this an act of faith and presenting it therefore as a premise. But stated thus, it is not sufficiently well defined as an article of faith upon which to build a logical superstructure. For the question still arises as to whether God introduced every kind of animal by a separate act of creation or whether He merely created a few archetypes. What this really means is that the Christian premise is not something simple but quite involved, and it will not therefore be nearly as easy to present it adequately as it is for the scientist to present his premise, which can almost be stated in a single sentence. This is where we need a confluence of minds who not only have the same basic faith, but have training in a very wide range of disciplines.Such associations exist, but none of them have yet seriously undertaken the task of providing the Christian community with an adequate statement of faith with which to confront the scientific community. It is no simple
task because we have not yet succeeded in agreeing upon the meaning of the text of the early part of Genesis ‹ where most of our premises are rooted.
The situation might be thought to be hopeless. But it is not so. Each one of us, because of our very nature, feels it important to have some kind of working hypothesis about the beginning of things which to a more or less degree we are able to square with what we understand the revelation to mean. We are then in a position, if we will, to explore the logical consequences of this working hypothesis. If we do this honestly, we may find that it leads to conclusions which are clearly at fault. If these conclusions are arrived at by logical extension of our own private understanding of the premises, then we must assume either that our logic is not sound or that our private premise is not completely valid. Discussion with others might help to sort this out, and many conferences revolving around the question of the relationship between science and Christian faith are intended to do just this. But unfortunately, as a rule, resolution is sought not by the means of "logical extension" but by the much less effective means of "checking for scientific accuracy". This, I believe, is a fundamental weakness of all such joint efforts and will never carry us much farther than we now are toward a resolution of the problem, except possibly by reducing our faith and thus the tension between it and reason.
The Medieval Synthesis was an attempt to do just this, to extend by the use of the strictest logic the knowledge we have through revelation and to erect it into an elaborate and comprehensive superstructure that is logically defensible. It failed because certain unprovable things which were held as part of it were actually illogical extensions. The geocentricity of the Universe and therefore the immobility of the earth were two of these. It was logical that the earth was immobile if it was indeed at the centre. But whether this was a true conclusion depended not upon whether it was logical but rather whether the premise was a true one or not. This underscores the fact that a conclusion may be a perfectly logical one but untrue ‹ if the premise is false. Medieval scholars argued for the centrality of the earth on the basis of common-sense experience and then found support for this view from certain passages of Scripture which others, at the same time, were warning might not after all be that supportive. (197) They might be poetry. If a conference could have been called under ideal circumstances to study the pros and cons of the supposed support which was being drawn from Scripture, it might have become apparent that the biblical references, being indeed poetic, could not be forced into a kind of scientific strait-jacket. The question might also have arisen as to whether this might not equally be true of the early chapters of Genesis. But if this ideal conference included Hebrew scholars, they would readily have the
197. According to G. de Santillana (The Crime of Galileo, University of Chicago Press, 1955, p,27f.), Cardinal Conti had written to Galileo on July 7, 1612, observing that the daily rotation of the earth proposed by Copernicus did not seem to agree with Scripture unless it was assumed that certain passages must not be taken literally: but such an interpretation was permissible "only in the case of the greatest necessity." pg.12 of 24
answer by pointing out that while the Psalms are written in the original Hebrew as poetry, these portions of Genesis are not. Who knows what the course of theological history might have been if a measure of agreement could have been reached by free discussion of this critical point? It seems quite conceivable that the trial of Galileo might never have occurred.
It therefore appears to me of great importance that we should distinguish between the things which we hold entirely by faith and the rational conclusions which we draw from our beliefs, making no apology for our faith and making no mistake about our logic thereafter. I am sure that once the basic premises have been set forth acceptably, it should then be possible to use the scientist's own kind of argument to sustain all the rest. And we should have the courage to attempt such a presentation of the Christian World View. Such then, is what I believe to be the place of reason in Christian.
We have therefore considered the place of reason in the Christian faith, and we have now to consider the other side of the coin, the place of revelation in the scientific view of reality.
This question would have seemed completely meaningless a few years ago when scientific thinking was held to be ideally a kind of machine-like, objective, un-emotional, logical process carried on by an uncluttered mind as a sort of automated activity guaranteed to be infallible and to provide us with the ultimate truth. Today there is a rather more humble assessment of the "scientific mind." We realize today that scientists, like Christians, make basic assumptions which are acts of faith ‹ are, in fact, unprovable. And we also realize that scientists themselves are human beings. As such, they have their little biases and foibles and prejudices and blind spots and areas of gross ignorance where faith is called in to supply the deficiency of knowledge.
But laying aside the frailty of human nature and allowing for a moment that on the whole the scientific edifice or World View has provided itself a sufficient number of internal checks to make its logical consistency impressive, there is still one essential weakness in it ‹ one critical flaw ‹ which it is necessary to observe carefully.
We believe that there are two aspects of reality: those which are strictly physical, and those which are non-physical ‹ the material and the spiritual. Together they constitute the whole of reality. Obviously it is quite possible by a life of contemplation to concentrate on the spiritual world and to reduce involvement in the physical world almost (though not quite) to zero. In a negative way, the Indian mystic may do this.
On the other hand, it is equally possible to concentrate on the material world and virtually to ignore the spiritual. The materialist does this with varying degrees of "success." Experience shows that the physical
aspects of reality can, for many practical purposes, be dealt with without concern for the spiritual; this has had the effect ‹ as we have already noted ‹ of leading the general public to suppose that what the scientists have
pg.13 of 24
merely ignored is in fact to be denied altogether. As Kenneth Walker put it, "The scientists' report that the Universe worked like a machine led to the misconception that the Universe actually was a machine and only a machine." (198)
The reason why this incomplete view of reality can be adopted with impunity in certain situations is worth examining. In the scientific world view, any errors which may result from the assumption that the only reality is the material one tend to be systematically camouflaged. This is because the man who sets himself to deal only with the "precisely measurable" elements of reality naturally structures his experiments so that they require only physical reactions for their success. If he happens inadvertently to make demands upon nature which are beyond the capabilities of its purely physical reality, his experiments automatically fail and therefore he abandons them. Without realizing that he has biased his experiment, he is apt to be confirmed by their failure in his belief that there is no other form of reality. However, his failure is not due to the absence of a spiritual reality but because the experimental procedure has been designed to work only within a physical framework. And conversely, of course, when his experiments are successful, he is naturally confirmed in his materialistic belief, since his method does not bear fruit if employed to test spiritual reality.
Charles B. Wooster put this particularly well in a Letter to the Editor of Science in which he challenged certain assumptions made by the strict "determinists." He wrote: (199)
Wherever science has been successful, determinism has been found. Does not this irresistibly bolster the argument? Not irresistibly, and perhaps not at all if scientific method involves a deterministic bias [emphasis his]. When a scientist is given a set of data his first step is to seek some trace of order, some evidence of interrelation among the individual items. When he thinks he has found it, he constructs a hypothesis, which he then tests by examining the concurrence (or lack of it) between the deductive consequences of his hypothesis and appropriate empirical observations. What does he do if he fails to find any order in the data? He may seek more extensive data or more precise data. But if he continues to fail to find any order? I submit: he ultimately abandons this exasperating project and seeks a more promising one. Ergo, the scientist concentrates his efforts in the areas where causal relations appear. He prospects for determinism and that is what he finds [emphasis mine].
Now, this is the problem in part. But the determinist also has research tools designed to respond meaningfully only within the framework of mechanism. Moreover, he is not really dealing with data (i.e.,
198. Walker, Kenneth, ref.33, pp.98ff. pg.14 of 24
199. Wooster, Charles B., under the title "Determinism: Bias and Complementarity" in Science, vol.146, 1964, p.471.
givens) at all, but with capta (things taken). Nature gives no data. It gives everything there is ‹- itself as a whole phenomenon. We select out what our mental bias enables us to recognize as separable and so we bias our working materials from the start. On these biased so-called givens we turn our design-biased research tools. What then can we expect to find, except on very rare occasions, but "mechanism"!
Rene Dubos observed: "The
methods used by the investigator determine and limit the kind of observations
he can make. If scientists elect to study man only by physicochemical
methods, they will naturally discover only the
physicochemical determinants of his life and find that his body is a machinery
of atoms." (200) And
he then observed with insight: "The mechanical definition of human
life misses the point because what is human in man is precisely what is
Though repetition is burdensome, the point needs emphasizing by stating it in as many ways as possible. The scientific method has been designed specifically to give answers in the physical order of things and has proved therein highly successful. If it is applied in the spiritual realm, where it is entirely inappropriate, the result is not merely bound to be negative but also bound to reinforce the belief that there is no spiritual reality. The very success of the scientific method in its own bailiwick contributes to the misunderstanding.
But what does this success really prove? Only this: that one segment of the whole of reality can be artificially isolated for a certain type of analysis, and if this is treated by methods appropriate to the isolated segment, it can be handled with great success. And this is precisely all that it proves. As Charles T. Tart, Professor of Psychology at the University of California, put it, when data which make no sense according to the accepted view at the time are brought to our attention, the usual result is not a re-evaluation of the accepted view but a rejection or misperception of the data. (201) There is no possible bridge-building the way things are in the present climate of scientific determinism ‹ although it is clear that younger men are turning from science partly because of its uncompromising devotion to materialism, and this is causing some less inflexible scientific bodies to give second thoughts to their established ways. Even the recent change of attitude toward Velikovsky's catastrophic views is a straw in the wind. (202)
When occasionally something is observed that seems contrary to this scientific philosophy (a cancer in its final stages suddenly cured by faith, for example) (203) in order to preserve the view that there is only one
200. Dubos, Rene, ref.176, p.l32. pg.15 of 24
201. Tart, Charles T., "States of Consciousness and State-Specific Sciences" in Science, vol.176, 1972, p.1204.
202. The whole 1973 series of special issues of Pensee devoted to a consideration of Velikovsky's ideas reflects this altered climate of opinion (published quarterly by the Student Academic Freedom Forum, Portland, Oregon).
203. Although I do not have the original reference, the circumstance is referred to by Sir Charles Marston in his book The Bible Comes Alive, Eyre and Spottiswoode, London, 1937, p.3.
kind of reality, science is forced to ignore the evidence or to deny it or to demand a kind of "proof" which can never be provided. (204) It can never be provided because science demands that the proof be the kind of proof which can only be obtained within a purely physical system and by an experimental method which has been specifically designed for dealing with that aspect of reality. This kind of experiment does not apply to a frame of reference which takes into account the whole of reality by including the supernatural also.
Miracles occur ‹ but they cannot be proved to have occurred by this method, for such a proof as is here demanded involves "repetition at will." The scientist will say, "Let me see you do it again. . . ." And this would not be a proof of "miracle" at all, but only a demonstration of the existence of some new law of nature not previously recognized. The form of proof demanded is not appropriate to the miraculous event, since such an event by definition is exceptional and not repeatable at will.
I believe that miracles are occasions upon which God suspends or supersedes or accelerates or in some way modifies the natural order so that an event occurs which is entirely exceptional. A miracle then, according to this view, would be an indication that God is interfering in the natural order by an act of will because it pleases Him to do so. To make miracles merely the operation of a higher law is, in effect, to say that God is imprisoned by laws ‹ even if the laws were originally of His own making. I do not believe that God is bound in any way whatsoever, by any laws which He has appointed. Phenomena and experiences which are not accountable in
204. R. E. D. Clark has rightly observed that when the scientist, to justify his unbelief, demands proof, he is very seldom influenced by the proof when it is produced. He merely demands further proof of a higher order, and thus the gap is never bridged (Science and Religion, vol.1, no.5,1948, p.200). In Science (vol.123, 1956, p.9f) are some articles on extrasensory perception entitled "Science and the Supernatural." In the first, S. C. Soal of England, remarks (p.10): "Price (a critic) evidently thinks that extrasensory perception should be established once for all by an absolutely fraud proof, cast-iron experiment. The late F. C. S. Schiller, the Oxford philosopher, used to argue that such a hope was illusory. Even if such an experiment were feasible, we should find that as the years passed and the experiment faded into history, fresh doubts would begin to be raised about the reliability of the experimenters or the possibilities of collusion." This clearly reveals the part which the will places in all belief systems. It is analogous to Clark's remark that the evolutionists demand evidence of creative design, but when shown it, merely raise the standard of the evidence they require or the kind of proof they will accept. And this goes on indefinitely, so that the bridge is never crossed. This demonstrates that such forms of unbelief are not really rational at all, though they are always claimed as such. The point is well illustrated from the number of occasions upon which scientists have publicly announced that if such-and-such a thing could be shown, they would at once abandon their old view and adopt the new one. Yet, when these conditions were fulfilled, they did not do what they promised. For specific illustrations of this form of evasion, see the following: Merson Davies, The Bible and Modern Science, Pickering and Inglis, London, undated, p.201; Alexander Goldenweiser, Anthropology, Crofts, New York, 1945, p.506; Walter Kidd, "Plan and Purpose in Nature", Transactions of the Victorian Institute, vol.31, 1897-98, p,216; E. L. Grant Watson, "Facts at Variance with the Theory of Organic Evolution" in Transactions of the Victorian Institute, vol.70, 1938, p.4; and Herbert Wendt, I Looked for Adam, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1955, p.117 pg.16 of 24
strictly physical terms (I would include self-consciousness here) are not so much outside of or contradictory to the natural order but involve another dimension. The Kantian argument has relevance here. It states that whenever we find an apparent contradiction to be a fact, this can be taken as evidence for the existence of a hitherto unsuspected dimension of the problem. For example, if two mutually exclusive objects have the same co-ordinates (x, y), this is evidence that they must be displaced in a third dimension (z). (205)
So long as science refuses to recognize the possibility of a third dimension to the problem, refuses to use appropriate methods of experiment, or denies that such experiments can lead to useful conclusions, just so long will its partial view of reality be erroneously accepted as the only view of reality. We do well to remember, as Ewen Cameron observed, that "the laws of nature are now considered simply to represent our ways of conceptualizing data." (206) Laws do not ‹ for all their success in application ‹ necessarily encompass the whole of reality. If we may be allowed to continue the analogy, I think it would be useful to say that it is in the realm of this third dimension that the limitations of the natural mind are most evident. And because God recognizes these limitations He has provided us with revelation. This revelation does not give us all the information we would like, but it supplies us with certain pieces of knowledge, certain facets of truth, which are otherwise entirely beyond our reach but are absolutely essential to our understanding of our own destiny.
Man has a spiritual life which cannot be explained merely as a kind of epiphenomenon or extension of his physical life. Psychology tends to deny this, to constrict itself by limiting its field until it becomes merely an extension of neurophysiology. So long as this view of the spiritual side of man is held, it is natural not to look any further than the natural order for the explanation of human behaviour. But revelation makes it clear both from the circumstances of man's origin and his subsequent history that his behaviour, his needs, and his aspirations cannot be accounted for merely by reference to neurology or physiology. Scientific "ignorance" of the truth in this matter has rendered it, for all its successes elsewhere, quite unable either to provide society with a value system that will lead to the achievement of the "good life" or, which amounts almost to the same thing, a satisfying world view. Having denied or ignored God's revelation of man's origin, science has been unable to define his destiny effectively and therefore is unable to supply "meaning." Because of its refusal to exercise a broader faith in the matter of its premises, the scientific method has critically handicapped itself in the service of man. It is here that the acceptance of divine revelation would be appropriate to the scientific view of reality.
205. This is quoted by "D M. M." in his review of Karl Heim's Christian Faith and Natural Science (SCM Press, London, 1953) in Christian Graduate, September, 1953, p.121. pg.17 of 24
206. Cameron, D. Ewen, ref.149, p.555.
A few years ago, a very great scientist, Max Planck, in a paper entitled, "Meaning and Limits of Exact Science," virtually acknowledged what has been stated above. He wrote: (207)
If we take a closer look and scrutinize the edifice of exact science more intently, we must very soon become aware of the fact that it has a dangerously weak point ‹- namely, its very foundation. Its foundation is not braced, not reinforced properly in every direction, so as to enable it to withstand external strain and stresses. In other words, exact science is not built on any principle of such universal validity, and at the same time of such portentous meaning, as to be fit to support the edifice properly.
To be sure, exact science relies everywhere on exact measurements and figures, and is therefore fully entitled to bear its proud name, for the laws of logic and mathematics must undoubtedly be regarded as reliable. But even the keenest logic cannot produce a single fruitful result in the absence of a premise of unerring accuracy.
No phrase has ever engendered more misunderstanding and confusion in the world of scholars than the expression "Science without presuppositions". It was coined originally by Theodor Mommsen and meant that scientific analysis and research must steer clear of every preconceived opinion. But it could not mean, nor was it intended to mean, that scientific research needs no presuppositions at all. Scientific thought must link itself to something, and the big question is, Where?
Many people, before and since Max Planck, have questioned whether scientific knowledge is capable of providing complete answers, the chief point of criticism almost always reverting to the matter of values. It is assumed that we need greater control over nature and more and more sophisticated power sources ‹- but why do we need these things? To what ultimate end? In the English journal Endeavour, E. F. Caldin raised this question shortly after the war. He said: (208)
Science, then, is not an adequate description of nature; it is a portrait made by an observer with a particular point of view and a definite limitation of his vision. From natural science we cannot learn what material nature is for, how and why it exists at all, and why it has any laws. . . . Science by itself throws no light on its own value, nor on values in general. It is not a royal road to knowledge of every kind.
pg.18 of 24
- More recently still, in the American journal, Science, Prof. Hugh S. Taylor underscored these limitations even more specifically. He observed: (209)
- 207. Planck, Max, in Science, vol.110, 1949, p.319.
- 208. Caldin, E. F "Value and Science" in Endeavour, October, 1946, p.161.
209. Taylor, Hugh S. "One Scientist's Attitude to Thomistic Philosophy" in Science, vol.117, 1953, p.198.
We need to insist on an increased appreciation by our students of science of points of view other than that of the inductive sciences. . . .
What I think the scholastic philosophers are trying to tell the scientists is that science, in spite of all its manifold contributions to the health, welfare and development of human life, does not and can not provide us with a philosophy, a way of life.
I think Taylor's meaning is clear enough: he is not really saying that there is no such thing as a scientific philosophy, but only that a scientific philosophy is not really a satisfactory philosophy to live by. The unsatisfactory element in it results from its failure to set forth clearly an appropriate goal for man to live and strive for. And this failure in turn results from an inadequate view of what man is because of a false view of man's origin. Even Julian Huxley admits the present inadequacy of scientific philosophy when he says, (210)
Some system of belief is necessary. Every human individual and every human society is faced with three overshadowing questions. What am I, or What is Man? What is the world in which I find myself, or What is the environment which man inhabits? and, What is my relation to that world, or What is man's destiny?
Men can not direct the courses of their lives until they have taken up an attitude to life: they can only do that by giving some sort of answer to these three great questions: and their belief system embodies that answer.
What Huxley is underscoring is that knowledge by itself provides no spring for action unless value judgments are made on the basis of this knowledge. In his biography of George E. Coghill, Judson Herrick points out that "scientific facts are not worth what it costs to discover them unless they can be so interpreted as to lead to value judgments as guides to more satisfying purposeful action." (211)
pg.19 of 24
210. Huxley, Julian, ref.97, p.16. Huxley is admitting the inadequacy of humanism in its present forms. In reviewing Bertrand Russell's Human Society in Ethics d Politics, T. S. Simey underscores the fact that "rationalism as a creed" is equally inadequate. He speaks of young people in universities who are attempting to make major decisions about what they will do with their lives and observes, "Rationalism is a dead creed for them, despite current attempts to accept emotion as well as reason as a significant influence in our lives. It has not yet been replaced in the Western world by anything that stands the tests of criticism and experience, and the younger generation of thinkers must be regarded as facing the intimidating task of discovering a new philosophy and a new faith, or re-discovering an old one." (Nature, 25 December, 1954, p.1162).
211. Herrick C. Judson, George Elliot Caghill: Naturalist and Philosopher, University of Chico Press, Chicago, 1949, epilogue.
Clearly what man needs is guidance. For this he needs knowledge which evidently the scientific method cannot provide. But Christianity can provide it. Prof. Cornelius Jaarsma, in a monograph published in the United States, expressed this very effectively when he wrote: (212)
Faith is not the asylum of ignorance to which are assigned the things we believe but do not understand. Nor is faith the sphere of religion and reason or understanding the sphere of knowledge. Neither is faith based on reason in the sense that we believe a thing true or false because we understand it. The Christian faith is the source of knowledge which is basic to the true understanding of all things experienced.
Jaarsma's final sentence here is most important, for although it seems paradoxical, faith is in very fact a source of knowledge ‹ not just any faith, but Christian faith, the faith which is rooted and grounded in Scripture.
One of the most distressing qualities of life today is the lack of ‹ one ought perhaps even to say, fear of ‹ convictions. The scientist who has convictions, or at least the scientist who expresses them, is likely to be suspect. Convictions indicate bias, and we have been taught that bias is a naughty word. The absence of convictions robs life of color and makes men generally cynical about the matter of dedication. Edmund W. Sinnott, in a paper published in the journal, Science, examined this modern trend and felt that it was severely detrimental to human well-being and that to a large extent responsibility for it must be attributed to the basic philosophy of the scientific method. He said: (213)
One of the serious problems of our day arises from the fact that certain high qualities in human life, much treasured in the past, are slowly breaking down, and that to replace their values men are turning to substitutes which are often fraught with peril. The ancient virtues of tolerance and open-mindedness, for example, tend easily to degenerate into a tepid neutrality: and to restore the spiritual motive power thus lost as convictions evaporate, we are tempted to revert to dogmatism and authority. . . .
Today when easy going tolerance is so often the ideal attitude and security is commonly reckoned the highest blessing, we may well forget man's tremendous capacity for dedication, his eagerness to nourish convictions, his persistent quest for certainty. The significance brought into his life by a cause and a creed often seems to him compensation enough for the loss of freedom. . . .
Man at heart is an adventurer. He craves something to stir his pulse and lift him out of routine. But to gain it he too often resorts to harmful expedients, to the hysterical stimulation of speed or alcohol or hectic restless living. He gets his thrills second hand by watching games or movies or the TV screen. Whipped up enthusiasm is no sound substitute for the rich stimulation life can know if its highest possibilities are fulfilled.
pg.20 of 24
- 212. Jaarsma, Cornelius, "Christian Theism and the Empirical Sciences," issued as a monograph by American Scientific Affiliation, August, 1947, p.7.
- 213. Sinnott, Edmund, ref.166, p.123.
It appears that we are all constantly reminding ourselves that for man "ends" are of paramount importance, that they are indeed more important than "means." At one time, universities concerned themselves largely with man's ends; since it is in this quest above all that man requires wisdom, education in centres of higher learning was primarily concerned with wisdom. Study was directed to this end, while technology was left entirely to "trade schools". Great importance was attached to philosophy as a natural source and theology as the divine source of wisdom. The study of history was important because of the moral lessons it could teach. Classical literature was studied because it contained the cumulative wisdom of the past. But with the shift of emphasis from ends to means, university life changed gradually, and the content of study became factual. Data occupied more and more space in the curriculum and ideas less. Today the arts seem to be fighting a losing battle in the larger universities which lean more heavily for their reputation upon applied sciences, in the pursuit of which funds are more readily available and enrollments are larger. Today, as has been reported all too frequently, all too sadly, we see an increasing number of Ph.D.s (doctors of philosophy) whose knowledge of philosophy in spite of the degree is abysmal, and who can hardly put together an English sentence without errors in spelling or grammar. Those who are to be tomorrow's leaders not only lack a satisfying philosophy of life but do not even have the means to construct one.
The basic materials for such a "construct" have been lost. Sir Walter Moberly wrote: (214)
Mores, ways of life, the recognition of binding obligations, are bound up with some accepted view of the nature of man and of the world, though this may take the form less of a doctrine of the mind than of a picture dominating the imagination. But it is just this common picture of framework that has now so largely disappeared.
Over a large part of Europe and Asia binding convictions are lacking and there is confusion, bewilderment, and discord. The whole complex of traditional belief, habit, and sentiment, on which convictions are founded, has collapsed. All over the world indeed the cake of custom is broken, the old gods are dethroned and none have taken their place.
pg.21 of 24
- This is a not unnatural consequence of a habit of mind fostered largely by the scientific community which,
in its determination to be objective, has shied away from any involvement in the treatment of values. The
- 214. Moberly, Sir Walter, The Crisis of tie University, SCM Press, London, 1949, p.16.
scientific method is directed toward the attainment of exact knowledge by a method which theoretically excludes any information that has not been derived by the same technique. This has rendered it what might be called a "closed system of understanding". But as soon as any system closes itself in this way, it deprives itself of the power of self-analysis and therefore of self-criticism. pg.22 of 24
The possibility that the scientific world view is in reality quite incomplete is denied by those who hold it firmly. They do not deny it because they are necessarily pigheaded and do not want to admit such a possibility, but because they cannot admit it. One soon discovers this in conversation. The closed system of reasoning, in which their minds are imprisoned by training and in which the experimental evidence which carries weight with them confirms for them at every turn, makes any admission of inadequacy quite impossible. It is simply inconceivable.
Until the inadequacy is demonstrated by some other means than logical argument ‹- a crisis in their lives, for example ‹- such an admission would be tantamount to intellectual suicide. While present deficiencies are admitted, it is held that they will be repaired in due time by more "science" and not by any appeal outside of it.
Of course, what is really at fault is the basic premise, not the constructs which have virtually built themselves upon it. The deterministic view of things is so inevitable the moment it is decided that the scientific method is the only valid way to explore reality, that any alternative hypothesis which is incapable of experimental verification by this particular method never can be admitted. Once the first step is taken wholeheartedly, the rest is inevitable. Man, as a human being in the biblical sense of having a significance beyond time and space, is annihilated ‹- to be replaced by man the animal, highly complex but still essentially animal, having animal aspirations.
Thus a whole dimension to life is lost. Having no way to deal with it, it is first of all ignored and then denied. The dimension which is lost is the most fundamental one of all, the spiritual one, the very dimension which is the basis of the only goal for man worthy of his potentialities.
Mechanistic determinism is a harsh reality, we are told, an inescapable conclusion from the scientific evidence. But what if the scientific evidence is only part of the evidence? Paul said, "If in this life only we have hope, we are of all men most miserable'' (I Corinthians 15:19). Indeed we are! No wonder the great promises of science are incapable by themselves of providing society with a philosophy of hope, but tend only to breed a
sense of pointlessness and futility. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the basic need which we all have at certain periods of our lives for a worthwhile goal is not being served by the scientific world view. Young people find it an excuse for selfish indifference rather than a challenge to a nobler life and are disappointed that even enlightened selfishness fails to bring satisfaction. Older people find in it justification for the abandonment of their once-high ideals rather than an encouragement to renew them, and in self-justification they look cynically upon those who have retained them. The efforts which have been made by Julian Huxley and George Gaylord Simpson to provide a kind of ersatz destiny based on eugenics is not realistic. And since the two world wars, humanism no longer carries much conviction either. pg.23 of 24
From what source, then, shall this need be supplied? To my mind, Christianity ‹ I think one ought rather to say, Christian theology ‹ can alone supply this need. But it will not be the theology of Medieval times, which for its basic assumptions rested with equal weight upon Scripture and Tradition. It must be a theology which bases its premises entirely within Scripture. These premises should be carefully formulated and then presented without apology and with no appeal to reason. And then, when this is done, the logical consequences should be worked out with the strictest attention to rational argument and with the fullest possible use being made of all the factual knowledge that is relevant to the exploration and elaboration of these logical consequences. I believe if this were done with complete honesty, the Christian faith would achieve a respectful hearing where, at the present time, it is merely politely ignored; and theology would once more provide a set of guiding principles which could enormously simplify and make more effective our educational processes by restoring a proper goal.
I do not believe that this is the most important objective of the Christian Church, but I do believe it has a responsibility here which has been seriously neglected. Besides its prime concern for the personal salvation of the individual, the Church must also bear a clear witness before the world to the fact that man is not just a superior kind of animal, but that he has a unique relationship to God, involving not only a unique origin ‹ of which Genesis provides the details ‹ but setting before him a unique destiny of which the rest of Scripture has given a sufficient account. This witness must be given before all men, not merely those who are Christians; these things apply to all men.
No synthesis which is not firmly based upon these great truths can possibly provide for man a satisfying world view by which he may order his daily life and fulfill his role in society.
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved
Previous Chapter *
End of Part III * Next
Chapter (Part IV)
I believe that even in a society which rejects the gospel, the Church is still called upon to bear witness to the fact that man is not an animal, that man is a unique creature of unique significance in this Universe, unique in origin, of unique design, and of unique destiny, and, whether redeemed or unredeemed, related in a special way to the Creator. This uniqueness stems not only from the circumstances surrounding man's creation and fall, but also from the fact that after death he will live again to face judgment for what he has been in this life.
Man is not a superior animal, but a child of eternity. I am persuaded that the world needs constant reminding of this fact, and that there can be no understanding of "the phenomenon of man" unless his special origin and destiny are recognized fully. The ills of society cannot be properly diagnosed, nor can any proper provision be made for the real fulfillment of human aspiration, even at the ordinary social level, unless the true nature of man as a fallen but redeemable creature is acknowledged.