Posted by: gcarkner | October 13, 2018

GCU Panel on Jordan Peterson and Millennial Angst

Posted by: gcarkner | October 2, 2018

Innovation, Integration, Convergence

I’ve recently found a copy of Christian Scholarship in the Twenty-First Century, edited by Thomas M. Crisp, Steve L. Porter and Gregg A. Ten Elshof (Eerdmans, 2014).

Elizabeth Lewis Hall, a US psychologist who works at Biola, writes a chapter in this book called “Structuring the Scholarly Imagination: Strategies for Christian Engagement with the Disciplines” (pp. 97-124). This article has helped me begin to define what integration means for me and what it might mean for those I seek to encourage. You can also get a lot of the content through this video: https://cct.biola.edu/structuring-the-scholarly-imagination/

In brief, Christian faith can contribute to your motivation for studying, the epistemology you use when you study, the content of what you study, the process by which you study, or the outcomes of your study. Lewis Hall understandably gives more attention to content than the others. She explains that sometimes faith can tell us what study questions are worth entering into, and sometimes it can provide a broader (biblical, moral, or eschatological) framework in which to contextualize the answers we find. Sometimes faith can fill in the gaps in (i.e., complement) the answers we find. For instance, science can perhaps describe a phenomenon but not determine its purpose or meaning.

5 Ways Faith can relate to Scholarship: Motivation, Epistemology, Content, Process, Outcomes

These can be subdivided and Lewis Hall provides a typology of modes of Christian engagement with scholarship on p. 118. Near the end of the article, she explains how that, even if every Christian scholar sought integration, it would look differently in different disciplines, in different institutional contexts. Maximal integration is probably only possible when the scholarly community is also a worshiping community. She suggests a continuum of disciplines according to the intensity or frequency of Christianity’s bearing. At the latter end are disciplines that have the most to do with interpretation and the nature of humanity, those closest to the centre of human existence. This is where we relate to God and also where sin affects us most drastically. I suppose that those are the disciplines, like philosophy, where you could imagine a credible academic conference focused especially on Christianity’s relationship to the field of study.

What I liked best in Lewis Hall’s approach is that it leaves us with so much to say to those who are in the disciplines near the beginning of this continuum, say, perhaps, aquaculture or metallurgy. For them, and indeed for all scholars, a Christian motivation for studying is pertinent. Are we studying as an act of gratitude for what God has done for us? Are we motivated by love for the world that God so loves? A Christian process of study is also important. Are we studying in a generous, hospitable, loving manner, and are we striving towards the interdependence that the Scriptures say characterizes the Body of Christ? For the more interpretive, human-nature-focused disciplines, Christian outcomes matter greatly. Are the applications we make from our study likely to provide benefit to human lives – and particularly to the lives of the most needy?

I offer this brief review hoping that it will prompt further discussion about what integration means,

Stephen Ney PhD English Literature

UBC Vancouver, Canada

Posted by: gcarkner | September 27, 2018

The Robots Are Coming?

Martin Ester, PhD ETH, Zurich, Switzerland, Head of School of Computing Science, SFU

Martin Ester Research Interests:

  • Data Mining in Social Media
  • Recommendation in Social Media
  • Opinion Mining from Online Product Reviews
  • Data Mining in Biological Networks
  • Discovery of Cancer Markers from Gene Expression and Variation Data

Posted by: gcarkner | August 19, 2018

What’s New in GCU

Professor Alister McGrath, “God, Science and the Meaning of Life: C.S. Lewis and Richard Dawkins”

New Grad Students, Welcome to Canada and UBC

Find us on Instagram: gcuevents

Free pdf copy of The Great Escape from Nihilism for new GCU participants

Share your passion; meet new friends; find our more about GCU; meet some UBC professors

Adventure Lies Ahead

Graduate Christian Union (GCU) exists to help you reach your full potential as a graduate student and to find your best self. You can help us build a network and a friendly learning community among students. We are pursuing the deeper, richer life; we want to grow in hope, character and faith as well as academically. We would be delighted to meet you and hear about your journey, your passion and your areas of curiosity. This is a group of curious and fun people from around the globe. Join the adventure. We host people from many denominations and many countries.

Screen Shot 2018-08-18 at 5.42.33 PM

Fall Study Begins September 18  Investigating the Power of Agape Love: a Wager

  • Can such a love show us the path to the heart and depth of meaning, an exit from our despair, an entrance to a whole new stance towards self and the world, through a strong transcendence?
  • Could this be the light at the end of a tunnel that we humans have been seeking for a thousand years, the troika of faith, hope and love?
  • Can such love wrestle our fears, anxieties and insecurities to the mat?
  • Is this the space in which we can discover the truth, overcome our alienation from the truth, address the root of our incessant restlessness, and discover a resolution to our current crisis of identity?
  • Is agape perhaps the hub of all virtues and values, the preeminent virtue in our hierarchy of values?
  • Loyola Philosophy Professor Paul Moser is a profound thinker and writer on this topic: “God’s agape love directed at the human conscience is a deep invitational call to an existential depth.” Could this be a fundamental calling in life, the source of untold meaning and purpose?

 Tuesday, September 18 at 7:00 p.m., 277 West 16thave. (just two blocks east of Cambie on north side of street). Come through the gate by the mailboxes, down the walk and up the stairs. Warm greetings await. From campus, take #33 bus (16thave./Shoppers Drug exit) or #99 B-line (Cambie exit). Call or text Gord 604.349.9497 if disoriented. Google maps can help.

 

Other Features of the GCU Community Life

Faculty Mentors

On Campus Discussions

Evening Study/Discussion/Investigation

Cool Lectures

Hospitality

Apologetics

Prayer Support: Wednesdays with Ute

Thought Provoking Articles in GCU Blog

Great Resources

Ideas Exchange over Coffee

Faith & Culture Discussions

Meet an International Artist

 

Connect with GCU: gcarkner@shaw.ca (Gord); ucarkner@shaw.ca (Ute) We would love to meet you and share about the opportunities available in this outreach to UBC graduate students. It is a lot to navigate a higher degree and we want to help. Enjoy the information, inspiration, resources and articles found in this Blog.

Eight Habits of Effective Graduate Students
  • Builds a strong relationship with their supervisor, solidarity with colleagues
  • Deals with anxiety before it builds up too much–gets professional help if necessary
  • Has a life outside of work: social, church, friendship, volunteer work
  • Takes good notes on research, cataloguing things well, for good retrieval when writing up
  • Reads outside of one’s discipline for enlightenment and creativity
  • Meets people from other disciplines and takes time to adore a child or pet a cat
  • Sleeps a sufficient amount (~8 hours), not in the lab; gets sufficient exercise and engages nature
  • Cultivates a spiritual life to build meaning and perspective–personal flourishing
  • Develops good presentation skills, verbal and visual

Key Books to Change Your Life, Shape Your Outlook

Check out the Regent College Bookstore, best in the West (Westbrook at University)

David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God.

James Houston and jens Zimmermann (eds.) Sources of the Christian Self.

Jim Wallis, The (Un)Common Good.

Gordon Carkner, The Great Escape from Nihilism.

Jens Zimmermann, Incarnational Humanism.

Eugene Peterson, Practice Resurrection.

James Sire, The Universe Next Door.

David Brooks, The Road to Character.

Jonathan Sacks, Not in God’s Name.

Miraslov Volf, Flourishing.

 James K. A. Smith, You Are What You Love.

Charles Taylor, A Secular Age.

Matthew Crawford, The World Beyond Your Head.

Posted by: gcarkner | August 18, 2018

Alister McGrath @ UBC on September 19, 2018

 

Professor Alister McGrath 

Andreos Idreos Professor of Science and Religion,

Director of the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion, Oxford, Gresham Professor of Divinity

Probing the Viability of Natural Theology for the Twenty-first Century. 

 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018 @ 12:00 noon

Woodward (IRC) Room 3

Abstract

Are there viable pathways from nature to God? Natural theology is making a strong comeback, stimulated as much by scientific advance as by theological and philosophical reflection. There is a growing realization that the sciences raise questions that transcend their capacity to answer them—above all, the question of the existence of God. Alister McGrath examines the apparent “fine-tuning” of the universe and its significance for natural theology. Exploring a wide range of physical and biological phenomena and drawing on the latest research in biochemistry and evolutionary biology, McGrath outlines our new understanding of the natural world and discusses its implications for traditional debates about the existence of God. He develops a rich Trinitarian approach to natural theology that allows deep engagement with current intellectual and moral complexities. He will pose some key questions for discussion.

Biography

Alister McGrath is the Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion at the University of Oxford, and is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading theologians. After an undergraduate degree in chemistry and a doctorate in molecular biophysics from Oxford, McGrath turned to the study of theology. He has a special interest in the relation of science and religion, and has published widely on this topic. As a former atheist, McGrath has an especial interest in the “New Atheism” of writers such as Richard Dawkins. McGrath’s bestselling books include the market leading Christian Theology: An Introduction (6th edition, 2017) and the award-winning C. S. Lewis—A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet (2013). Areas of reflection: Science and religion; natural theology as a legitimate field of theological reflection, and as a framework for furthering the dialogue between science, religion, and literature; critical realism in science and theology; the theological utility of scientific philosophies of explanation; theological models of engagement with the natural sciences, especially those of T. F. Torrance and Emil Brunner; the application of biological models of evolution to cultural contexts, especially the development of Christian doctrine; the “New Atheism”; “two cultures” issues, especially defending the value of humanities in a scientific culture.

https://www.regentinterface.com/

 

Alister’s presentation was superb. I have thought a lot about natural theology and yet Alister had something new to say about its re-emergence in this decade with a refreshing nuance. He also said it with style and without a wasted word. The energy in the room was palpable and every question was well directed. Alister’s responses were so good that the energy never left the room. ~Professor Emeritus Olav Slaymaker, Geography

Executive Hotel Vancouver Airport,

7311 Westminster Highway,

Richmond, B.C.

August 5 @ 4:00 p.m.

 Recovering Moral Agency in Jordan Peterson in Dialogue with Charles Taylor

JP Recovery of Moral Agency 

Transcendent Turn to Agape Love  PP 2.0 Meaning & Suffering

Faith is not the childish belief in magic. That is ignorance or even willful blindness. It is instead the realization that the tragic irrationalities of life must be counterbalanced by an equally irrational commitment to the essential goodness of Being. It is simultaneously the will to dare to set your sights on the unachievable and to sacrifice everything, including (and most importantly) your life. You realize that you have, literally, nothing better to do.  ~Jordan Peterson

 

Jordan Peterson is perhaps one of the most admired and controversial psychologists alive today. Ironically, the more people attack him, the more popular he becomes.

The Peterson phenomenon reveals not only a deep political polarization within society, but also a serious existential crisis in the West.

Given these intense feelings around Peterson’s stance, the International Network on Personal Meaning (INPM) has decided to offer a dispassionate, measured and critical review of Peterson’s book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos as a part of their Biennial Meaning Conference.

Dr. Paul T. P. Wong and Dr. Gordon E. Carkner will answer questions such as: Why is Peterson’s book a runaway bestseller? How can these 12 rules transform a life and improve society? In an age of accelerated change and uncertainty, why are Dr. Peterson’s views a promising and hopeful way to build resilience amidst life’s inevitable challenges?

Dr. Gordon Carkner will elucidate Peterson’s claim that spiritual truth, rooted in enduring ancient myths and wisdom literature, is just as important for wellbeing as scientific truth. Dr. Carkner will explain why a spiritual worldview is critical to grappling with Peterson’s project.

Dr. Paul Wong will explain the 12 rules and introduce psychological exercises based on these rules. He will also examine Peterson’s radical view that one cannot flourish without embracing the reality of suffering and aiming high towards a better future.

Brief Biographies

Paul T. P. Wong, Ph.D., C.Psych., is Professor Emeritus of Trent University and Adjunct Professor at Saybrook University. He is a Fellow of the APA and the CPA, and President of the International Network on Personal Meaning and the Meaning-Centered Counselling Institute Inc. Editor of the InternationalJournal of Existential Psychology and Psychotherapy, he has also edited two influential volumes on The Human Quest for Meaning. A prolific writer, he is one of the most cited existential and positive psychologists. The originator of Meaning Therapy and International Meaning Conferences, he has been invited to give keynotes and meaning therapy workshops worldwide. He is the recent recipient of Carl Rogers Award from Div.32 of the APA and a member of a research group on Virtue, Meaning, and Happiness funded by the Templeton Foundation.

Gordon E. Carkner holds a Ph.D. in philosophy of culture (University of Wales, 2006). Dr. Carkner works at the University of British Columbia as a meta-educator and campus chaplain, where he seeks to both complement and engage the regular discourse among graduate students and faculty. Gordon is a visionary, passionate about dialogue on salient questions of meaning and identity, faith and culture.  His project extends to his role as team leader in the interdisciplinary UBC Graduate and Faculty Christian Forum Lecture Series—a dialogue on faith and academic concerns. His recent publication, The Great Escape from Nihilism (2016), thematically parallels Peterson’s book, offering a critique of Western culture amidst the search for identity in late modernity. His research and writing interests lie in questions concerning freedom, identity and the good, secularity, worldviews, and philosophical anthropology.

Jordan Peterson: A Five Part Blog Series from Psychology Today; The Concept of Identity (Part I)

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/theory-knowledge/201808/jordan-peterson-part-i-five-part-blog-series

Identity Politics and Polarization (Part II)

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/theory-knowledge/201808/identity-politics-and-political-polarization-part-ii

Peterson’s Psychology and Philosophy of Life (Part III)

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/theory-knowledge/201808/jordan-peterson-s-psychology-and-philosophy-life-iii

The Controversial Sparks and the Emergence of the 100 Foot Wave (IV)

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/theory-knowledge/201808/controversial-sparks-and-the-emergence-the-100-foot-wave

What the Peterson Controversy Means for Our Culture (V)

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/theory-knowledge/201808/what-the-peterson-controversy-means-our-culture

Peterson raises the Big Life Questions that are often missing or trivialized in our educational and friendship experience. He is unafraid to go where others fear to tread. His genius is the understanding that suffering and tragedy are at the nexus of it all, that we ignore the religious questions to our peril, that science is great but not sufficient for human wellbeing, that we humans are more complex and mysterious than we can imagine. Ancient wisdom is a precious thing in his estimation; we need great epics, great stories to inspire us, to bring our feet back to terra firma, and make sense of our lives, shape our passion, develop a vision. The Bible is the foundational story of Western civilization, so worth finding out how it can help us understand ourselves; it is a key part of our narrative, like a wise parent or grandparent, full of sage advice. But fundamentally, he is calling us to authenticity: to embrace, invest in, speak and live the truth in our post-truth age, to aim for the good, and even the greater good, the common good. He has faith in the goodness of Being. This produces alignment and coherence through all aspects of our lives, over time. He invites us into a sacrificial, heroic quest to live robustly, abundantly, fruitfully, to make our contribution. Like Russian author Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, whom he much admires, he believes that we are not in this world to pursue happiness, to be entertained, but for moral growth , to grow in the virtues, to become attentive and take responsibility for our part in the human big picture. This offers a more hermeneutical outlook or social imaginary, one which authenticates human subjectivity and the quest for purpose and meaning. We discuss this in more detail below. Philosopher Bernard Lonergan has parallel concerns in his Principles of Self-Transcendence.

  • Be Attentive: pay attention to what is happening around you
  • Be Intelligent: examine your assumptions, reflect, self-criticise
  • Be Reasonable: speak carefully and listen to others
  • Be Responsible: own your part in the greater scheme

Important Questions that Peterson Raises

How do we fight nihilism, scientism and totalitarianism? How do we re-enchant the world after the death of God in Western culture?

How do we get rid of our false/less noble self and embrace/move towards our ideal/best self?

Where do we find the metaphors, symbols and human models to inspire us and give us hope?

Why is sacrifice and delayed gratification important to our wellbeing and that of others?

How do we revive the human story of meaning and drama, purposeful and effective action, the battle between good and evil (inside and outside ourselves), as a key part of our current understanding of the cosmos?

How are consciousness and the material order linked, genuinely unified?

How can we tell the truth, listen to our conscience, and why is it often so difficult to do so? What are the consequences of living by the lie, by expedience?

Where do find the moral courage to do what we know is right, speak the truth, no matter the cost?

Why is religion important to our deepest self-understanding and our most noble pursuits?

How can we face the dark side of our character, our personhood, without hating self, becoming depressed or devastated? What can be done with this knowledge constructively?

How can articulate speech change the world? Why is freedom of speech something worth protecting?

Has Christianity given believers a pass on ethics (cheap grace), based on a false view of justification by faith?

Tale of Two Cities: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way–in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

Thoughtful interaction with the work of Peterson by a scholarly PhD https://alastairadversaria.com/2018/03/30/understanding-jordan-peterson/

Hermeneutical Keys to Peterson: a. Existentialism, a mixture of the atheistic and theistic kind (James Sire, The Universe Next Door, chapter 6.); b. Jungian myths and archetypes: Bible as mythopoetic stories filled with helpful archetypes, not as history or genuine facticity; c. Suffering and tragedy as a marker: a unifying and universal human experience. Meaning comes in reducing suffering; d. A binary relationship between Good and Evil: He encourages us to choose the Good, aim at the Good; e. Stoic Virtues can work in one’s own life, even in the face of the absurdity of the world; f. War against nihilism (moral relativism) and totalitarianism. We must balance between Chaos and Order; g. Consciousness, Being Awake and Alert,  is vital for human wellbeing.

Two Ways of Seeing/Reading/Understanding the World 

a. The Epistemological Way of Seeing:

The set of priority relations within this picture often tends towards a closed world position (CWS) within the immanent frame (Charles Taylor, A Secular Age, 2007, chapter 15). Its assumptions include proponents like Descartes, Locke, and Hume. Taylor calls this the modern buffered self. We find this approach rooted in Anglo-American philosophy. The connection between self and world is an I-It relationship.

  • Knowledge of self and its status comes before knowledge of the world (things) and others (cogito ergo sum).
  • Knowledge of reality is a neutral fact before the individual self attributes value to it.
  • Knowledge of things of the natural order comes before any theoretical invocations or any transcendence. Transcendence is often problematized, doubted or repressed—for example, in reductive materialism. This approach tends to write dimensions of transcendence out of the equation as a danger to wellbeing (superstition). Science morphs into scientism.
  • Human meaning is much harder to capture in this frame of reference—leading to disenchantment. It can cause alienation and lead to skepticism, or promote disengagment from a cold, mechanistic, materialistic cosmos.
  • Language is the Designative type (Hobbes, Locke, Condillac)—instrumental, pointing at an object, manipulating objects, and often in turn manipulating people as objects. It is a flattened form of language, which does not allow us to Name things in their depth of context, their embeddedness. Poetry, symbol, myth are missing. Scientific rationalism is dominant: evidence and justified belief.
  • Power and violence hides under the cloak of knowledge and techne: colonization, imperialism, war, environmental exploitation, Global North versus Global South. Hubris is an endemic problem.
  • Ethics is left to the private sphere of individual values, because of the fact-value split or dualism—moral subjectivism results. This often leads to loss of moral agency and nihilism, partly due to the loss of narrative and the communal dimension of ethics.
  • Human flourishing is a central concern within this immanent frame: reduction of suffering and increase of happiness/wellbeing. Health, lifespan, safety, entertainment, economic opportunity, consumer choice are key cultural drivers. This results in a thinself, focused on rights, entitlements, opportunities to advance one’s own personal interests.

b. The Hermeneutical Way of Seeing:

The working assumptions of this approach includes proponents like Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Gadamer, the later Wittgenstein, Charles Taylor and Jens Zimmermann. We find this approach rooted more in Continental philosophy. The connection between the self and the world is an I-Thou relationship.

  • Self is not the first priority: the world, society and the game/drama of life come first. We only have knowledge as agents coping with the world, and it makes no sense to doubt that world in its fullness. Taken at face value, this world is shot through with meaning and discovery.
  • There is no priority of a neutral grasp of things over and above their value. It comes to us as a whole experience of facts and valuations all at once, interwoven with each other.
  • Our primordial identity is as a new player inducted into an old game. We learn the game and begin to interpret experience for ourselves within a larger communal context. Identity, morality and spirituality are interwoven within us. We sort through our conversations, dialogue with interlocutors, looking for a robust and practical picture of reality.
  • Transcendence or the divine horizon is a possible larger context of this game. Radical skepticism is not as strong here as in the epistemological approach. There is a smaller likelihood of a closed world system (CWS—closed to transcendence as a spin on reality) view in the hermeneutical approach. In a sense, it is more humble, nuanced, embodied and socially situated.
  • Language use is the Expressive-Constitutive type (Herder, Hamann, Humboldt, Gadamer) The mythic, poetic, aesthetic, and liturgical returns. Language is rich and expressive, open, creative, appealing to the depths of the human soul. Language is a sign.
  • Moral agency is revived within a community (oneself as another) with a strong narrative identity, in a relationship to the good, within a hierarchy of moral goods and practical virtuous habits that are mutually enriching and nurturing. One is more patient with the Other, the stranger: hospitality dominates over hostility.
  • The focus of human flourishing is on how we can live well, within our social location—a whole geography of relationships that shape our identity, and which we in turn shape as well. This is a thick version of the self, open to strong transcendence, within a meaningful whole.

Peterson’s phenomenological approach (attention to actual human experience) seems to fit better the hermeneutical way of seeing, as he attempts to recover meaning and purpose, to re-enchant the world, to authenticate human subjectivity, drama, moral agency, purpose, consciousness and concientiousness (the deep things of the soul). He is trying like a collosus to span the two ways (respects neuroscience and evolutionary psychology as a limited discipline), but to recover meaning and moral agency, he leans towards the hermeneutical. Science is necessary but not sufficient for our psychological understanding; he pricks the bubble of scientism, the ideology. Culture scholar Jens Zimmermann (Hermeneutics: a very short introduction, OUP, 2015) opens our minds to the history, complexity, richness and breadth of the interpretive taskHe also shows that hermeneutics is operating in both the sciences and the humanities—they are not incommensurable.

One can also find some good interface with Peterson’s ideas of the good in the blog series Qualities of the Will, and Musings about Agape Love https://ubcgcu.org/2015/03/22/is-agape-love-a-source-of-the-good/

Posted by: gcarkner | June 15, 2018

Welcome to UBC & GCU

New Grad Students, WELCOME to Canada and UBC

GCU, Graduate Christian Union exists to help you reach your full potential as a graduate student and to find your best self. You can help us build a network and a friendly learning community among students. We respond to those pursuing the deeper life, those who want to grow in character as well as academically. We would be delighted to meet you and hear about your journey, your passion and your areas of curiosity.

We will be at the GSS/Graduate Student Society Fair on August 30th

Fall GCU Dinner Reception Wednesday, Sept 12, @ 6:00 pm 1828 Western Parkway

Stay tuned for hikes in local area

Be in touch with us: gcarkner@shaw.ca (Gord); ucarkner@shaw.ca (Ute) We would love to meet you and share about the opportunities available in this outreach to UBC graduate students. It is a lot to navigate a higher degree and we want to help. Enjoy the information, inspiration and articles found in this Blog.

Posted by: gcarkner | April 27, 2018

CSCA Conference TWU May 11-14

Some Reflections: Canadian Science and Christian Affiliation Conference

Approximately 150 scientists, theologians and philosophers gathered to discuss some of the cutting edge concerns in the science-theology interface. It was a well-organized event by the CSCA Team. The plenary talks were all excellent. People were especially moved by the speech by President of UBC Santa Ono, and his decision ‘not to be a stealth Christian’ when he entered the world of university administration. I thought Richard Middleton on the Fall and Genesis 3, and Robert Mann on cosmology and theology were particularly impressive and insightful. Katharine Hayhoe from Texas Tech University gave a great presentation on climate change/atmospheric science. She is a courageous, well-informed, and influential scientist and spokesperson for responsible stewardship.

The conference fielded a tremendous range of topics in the breakout sessions: history and philosophy of science, carbon nanotechnology, biblical studies, astronomy of neutron stars, physics and theology, cognitive psychology and faith, ecological concerns, climate change, transhumanism and artificial intelligence, human evolution, Canadian Parks and Leisure. Medicine was represented by Janet Warren. The discussions appealed to a broad range of specialties.  I came away inspired with new insights and new lines of discussion to explore at UBC: for example, Artificial Intelligence, Nanotechnology and Transhumanism. As I was discussing with the new Dean of a local bible school, Christian anthropology seems to be one of the current hot topics in various fields. My workshop on Scientism seemed to go over well, followed by a good question period. It was an amazing experience to pack a key group of insights into a twenty-minute talk.

Plenty to wrestle with among good colleagues. I connected with old friends, and made some new ones. Richard Middleton and I worked together back in the day at the University of Guelph and developed the Ten Myths about Christianity project. As I met this week to debrief with some UBC faculty who attended, we found some lively future topics to discuss in GFCF. One of the plenary speakers, Cosmologist Robert Mann from University of Waterloo, will be doing a guest lecture for us in January of 2019: Multiverse and Theology/Current State of Physics. To carry the conversation forward, Professor Alister McGrath of Oxford University will also be working with us in September on the topic of the Future of Natural Theology.

One prayer request coming out of this conference would seem to be the encouragement of new young thought leaders in the discourse of science and faith. The alienation/misunderstanding/confusion between science and Christianity, within the believing community and beyond, is still one of the pressing questions in our day. It is also one of the top reasons why young Millennials leave the church in adolescence.

 

Gordon E. Carkner Scientism Full Lecture

http://csca.ca/uploads/Schedule.pdf

Must We Remain  the Intellectual Prisoners of Ideological Scientism?

People welcome the benefits that modern science has brought us: disease control, transportation and communication wonders, space travel, phenomenal wealth production, personal empowerment, conveniences of all sorts. But the venerationof science (which has often morphed into an ideology) is called Scientism. It is a metaphysical claim about the impossibility of metaphysics. Heavy priority is placed on what the five human senses can tell us about the immanent time-space-energy-matter world,in contrast to a transcendent one, a naturalorder in contrast to a supernatural one. Science becomes the paradigm of all roads to truth. Scientism offers a metanarrative to explain everything of importance, answer all question worth investigating.

Scientism (and the philosophical positivism of A. J. Ayer) has been discredited by many philosophers and scientists in the twentieth century. Yet this ideologystill seems to dominate much popular thinking, even within academia. Leading neuroscientist William Newsome of Stanford in a recent speaking tour of UBC and TWU, noted that the major conflict between science and faith stems from an ideology, which promotes reductionism. For a belief to be considered valid or credible, scientism requires that it be scientifically testable. Thus, much claim to knowledge is devalued, discredited or excluded. We are required to be skeptical even about things that we know to be true by common sense.

A valid, while limited, approach to knowing (science) morphs into a dogma: an exclusivist ideology (scientism). In many people’s minds, it assumes its location within a ‘Closed World System’.

 

Philosopher Charles Taylor capturesits potency.

We can come to see the growth of civilization, or modernity, as synonymous with the laying out of a closed immanent frame; within this civilized values develop, and a single-minded focus on the human good, aided by the fuller and fuller use of scientific reason, permits the greatest flourishing possible of human beings…. What emerges from all this is that we can either see the transcendent as a threat, a dangerous temptation, a distraction, or an obstacle to our greatestgood. (C. Taylor, 2007, 548)

 

Five Cultural Markers/Identifiers of Scientism

a. Epistemological Claim: No knowledge is deemed valid or justified unless its claims can be tested and verified empirically through experimentation, observation and repetition. This criterion is part of an intellectual house of the mind which controls the way people think, argue, infer, and make sense of things. Truth claims that do not submit to this kind of scrutiny become irrelevant, invalid, implausible, or unacceptable. This principle of knowledge is heavily weighted or biased towards the instrumentaland mechanistic. Its attraction is to greater certainty, especially of the mathematical type.

b. The Utopian Sentiment: Science is the futuristic guide to human progress, both intellectually and culturally. Past tradition, especially that influenced by Christian religion (or any religion), is taken as false opinion or superstition (even dangerous). The growth of scientific knowledge is thought to guarantee social and political progress. Scientism entails a warfare model in the science-religion relationship, a posture that began mid-nineteenth century (C. A. Russell, Cross-currents, 1985). It assumes that, as science advances religion is culturally displaced, demoted in importance to the point of irrelevance. This extreme optimism is the tone we often find in Wired Magazine, or the Humanist Manifesto. Quentin Schultze speaks to this in his Habits of the High-Tech Heart(2002). Here’s a statement that captures the sentiment.

The next century can and should be the humanist century. Dramatic scientific, technological, and ever-accelerating social and political changes crowd our awareness. We have virtually conquered the planet, explored the moon, overcome the natural limits of travel and communication; we stand at the dawn of a new age…. Using technology wisely, we can control our environment, conquer poverty, markedly reduce disease, extend our lifespan, significantly modify our behavior, and alter the courseof human evolution. (Humanist Manifesto II, 5)

c. Intellectual Exclusion or Hegemony: Insights from the humanities, philosophy and theology are treated with suspicion. Scientific rationalism dismisses faith as mere fideism(belief without good reasons, non-evidential). To be poetic is taken to be trivial or irrelevant. Scientism’s inherent materialism entails that “science” refuses mystery, the metaphysical or anything transcendent, the miraculous, even the metaphorical or epiphanic. Certain human ways of knowing are simply written off, ignored or treated with contempt.

d. Anthropological Implications: People are viewed as sophisticated cogs in the cosmic machinery, or simplified as the most intelligent animals (higher primates). All human characteristics, including the mind or the soul, are believed to be explicable in terms of bodily functions (neuron networks, DNA makeup, biochemistry orphysiology, or at bottom physics and chemistry). A philosophical (ontological) reductionism and determinism is at work. The higher is explained in terms of the lower, mind in terms of brain, human social behavior in terms of ant colonies. Humans are appreciated mainly for their instrumental value: their earning capacity, socio-political usefulness and their excellence of giftedness (Further discussion leads to: E.F. Schumacher, A Guide for the Perplexed, 1977; Craig Gay, The Way of the Modern World, 1998; Thomas Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos, 2012).

e. Scientism and Ethics: Science is seen to normatively provide a more reliable and superior decision-making guide. It becomes the new alternative to religion and traditional morals in discerning the good and shaping the moral self (Sam Harris, The Moral Landscape: how science can determine human values, 2010). Science takes the place of dominance as a culture sphere, absorbs and redefines morality in scientificcategories, according to a scientific agenda. (Aesthetics, Ethics, Religion: Calvin Schrag). Someone captured by scientism might say that the scientific principle and scientific rationality is applicable to all things, all arenas of life, all culture spheres. Religious or personal moral values are to be kept to the private sphere of one’s life, but not to be part of public discourse (Lesslie Newbigin,1986).

In Summary: Scientism is the notion that natural science constitutes the most authoritative (if not the onlylegitimate) epistemology or form of human knowing. It is superior to all other interpretations of life. Such an outlook assumes a materialistic, immanent, Closed World System (CWS), a system which entertains a spinthat rejects the validity of any transcendent elements to reality. Philosopher David Bentley Hart captures this in his cryptic way.

An admirably severe discipline of interpretive and theoretical restraint [modern empirical science] has been transformed into its perfect and irrepressibly wanton opposite: what began as a principled refusal of metaphysical speculation, for the sake of specific empirical inquiries, has now been mistaken for a comprehensive knowledge of the metaphysical shape of reality; the art of humble questioning has been mistaken for the sure possession of ultimate conclusions. This makes a mockery of real science. (D.B. Hart, 2013, 71)

Charles Taylor: reduction of language to  designative type (vs expressive-poetic)

Our language has lost its constitutive power. This means that we can deal instrumentally with realities around us but their deeper meaning (the background in which they exist) the higher reality which finds expression in them, is ignored and often invisible to us. Our language has lost the power to Namethings in their embedding, their deeper, richer and higher reality. The current incapacity of language is a crucial factor in our incapacity of seeing welland flourishing. Our language, our vision and our lives often remain flattened in late modernity. (C. Taylor, 2007, 761)

Academic Virtues Worth Preserving:
  • Integrity of scholarship, protection against the evil of cheating and plagiarism, preserving the value of liberal education
  • introduce students to bodies of knowledge and traditions of inquiry
  • equip students with analytical skills that will enable them to move confidently within those traditions and to engage in independent research
  • be current in the literature of the field, teach well and be available for consultation with students
  • in publishing, one should acknowledge predecessors and contributors, provide citations to the sources and give accurate account of the material presented
  • thoroughness, perseverance, intellectual honesty, conscientious in the pursuit of truth
  • avoid politicizing the classroom
  • interrogation of ideas and events: history, why the thought is significant, prevailing answers for questions it raises, where do the answers come from
  • pursuit of truth wherever it may be found and wherever it may lead, combined with wisdom on how to use it
  • believing in Christ as Veritas brings us to the assumption that all truths ultimately cohere, and can therefore be explored critically, without limit or fear
  • understanding Christ as divine logos, bringing order and meaning out of chaos and disorder
  • therefore, we have confidence to investigate different narratives–open to learning from everyone and anyone
  • love is the foundational fact of existence and essential to the pursuit of truth
  • love must be central to academic work, providing it with integrity
  • Honesty and transparency
  • Critical rigour and humility–all people are finite and fallible
  • welcome correction of error-–stress test of criticism
  • intellectual fearlessness–willing to go beyond predecessors
  • truth applied to the common good of society and health of the planet
  • humility to learn from others, and often especially those who disagree with you most sharply
  • promotion by merit and equality of opportunity for men and women
Posted by: gcarkner | April 25, 2018

April Book Launch: Mapping the Future

A New Book is Born, April 24, 2018

We want to announce  Gord’s new book, Mapping the Future: arenas of discipleship and spiritual formation, now live on Amazon as an e-book. We hope that it will prove an inspiration for creative thinking and ministry. The tools and resources in this volume should help to build confidence as Christians take every thought captive to the Lordship of Christ, and challenge opposing narratives. Much work has gone into this geography of spirituality and we are very grateful to all contributors. We would love to have your feedback, or perhaps you would like to review it on Amazon.

No one doubts that we exist in challenging times. Mapping the Future is a robust, pro-active vision, a legacy document of what we might become, and how we might build out from where we are. It involves the energy of youthful entrepreneurs and creatives, as well as the deep wisdom of elder statespersons, and the voices of ancient saints. On display is a wealth and breadth of material available in contemplation, spiritual formation and personal transformation, enough to profoundly inspire and encourage any Christian leader or genuine seeker. Drawing on a variety of traditions, this document charts a progressive spiritual adventure, articulating broader horizons for exploration, leading to undiscovered spiritual paths. Reif Larson writes: “A map does not just chart, it unlocks and formulates meaning; it forms bridges between here and there, between disparate ideas that we did not know were previously connected.” The reader will enjoy how this fresh discussion puts fire in the belly and offers practical resources.

Key Words: Spiritual Imagination, Contemplation, Divine Conspiracy, Meaningful Suffering, The Eternal Paths, Incarnational Humanism, Engaging Faith, Social Impact Spirituality, Re-enchantment of Reality, Personal Transformation, Markings for the Journey, Call to Depth and Christ-consciousness, New Horizons of Meaning, Carrying the Name of Christ, The Transcendent Turn.

Take Every Thought Prisoner, and Rethink it (II Corinthians 10: 5)

Christians rightly approach the world with faith, hope and confidence, rather than anxiety, alienation and emptiness. The reason is that, as we experience deeper alignment with God and his higher purposes, we will be honoring the truth, and speaking more sincerely into reality. This grounds us emotionally, morally, spiritually, socially, and empowers our articulate voice to speak prophetically, winsomely, constructively, to map a better future. Our fruitful words will be more genuine and powerful, fine-tuned by the divine logos. There is no room for cynicism or despair amidst the uncertainty, fragmentation and confusion of geo-politics. Paul writes in II Corinthians 10 and Ephesians 6 that we are fully equipped with just the right weapons containing special power, so that we can demolish fantasy-driven narratives. These false alternatives (obfuscations) keep many from seeing and experiencing the good, the beautiful, the pure and the true. They rob people of their joy and wellbeing. Indeed, a kind of spiritual blindness, deficit consciousness, or sleepiness emerges. The multidimensional wisdom of God gives us a special capacity to expose and demolish such pretensions in the light of Christ and the gospel of the kingdom.

The new covenant, sealed in Christ, provides a healing stream of fresh water for our friends, neighbors and colleagues. Once we get our head around this gospel, it can transform our entire outlook. We are immersed in a new paradigm, we become captivated by the fullness/robustness of our calling and mission within our sphere of service and influence. We are freed to move towards our best self, reconnect with the other, bring peace to society. We can make good plans, promote the good, model integrity of life as the higher definition of the ‘good life’.

From this vantage point, we can have the transcendence we require to manage the chaos and promote order, shalomand agapelove. It is no small thing to put on the mind of Christ. In fact, it can be painful when we rid ourselves of fantasy and dead wood, die to the old self and put on the new self. But we must pursue it with every fibre of our being. This will bring a deep coherence to our fragmented lives, we will discover ourselves to be fruitfully engaged with the world. No longer do we need play the role of victim or live a lie, we can play the hero and build capacity in others. This is the path beyond our dysfunctional addictions to wholeness, and onward to mission effectiveness.

Gordon E. Carkner PhD

How to Use Mapping the Future Project: Dr. Gordon E. Carkner gcarkner@outreach.ca

  • Pastors Conferences
  • Build Confidence in Christian Identity and Witness
  • Themes for Think Tank Sessions for Christian Leaders
  • Developing a Long-term Strategy for a Community like Richmond, Ladner, Abbotsford or Mission: explore how churches could work together on developing some arena
  • Denominational Meetings—Pick a Theme for Future Emphasis
  • Personal Stimulation for any Christian Leader—Imagination Builder
  • Long-term Reading Schedule for any Christian
  • Transitional Leadership Conferences
  • Courses on Spiritual Formation—help students build bibliography
  • PhD or DMin Research Ideas. Help give direction to building bibliography.
  • Long-term Thinking for Christian Educational Institutions: Universities, Bible Colleges and Seminaries. Some of the ideas could spark course curriculum development.
  • Spark Development of New Parachurch Ministries; Encourage Connections between Organizations of Common Cause—Networking
  • Reading Suggestions for Christian Faculty
  • Spark the Imagination for Parachurch workers on campus and elsewhere—ideas for apologetics, Christian awareness week, Teaching and Equipping in Student Gatherings, Mission Awareness, Long-term Vocation Tracks
  • Reading for Seekers interested in exploring the Christian faith for all it’s worth
Posted by: gcarkner | April 20, 2018

Regent Summer Courses

https://www.regent-college.edu/summer Regent Summer School

 

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