Posted by: gcarkner | November 26, 2022

Music for Advent & Christmas

A group of people playing instruments

Description automatically generated Best Classical Christmas Music Carols from King’s College, Cambridge Mozart’s Christmas Masterpieces Classical Christmas HalidonMusic King’s College Choir: Nine Lessons and Carols O Holy Night, King’s College Choir

Nola Shantz MA piano & voice Traditional Christmas Songs, HalidonMusic (Mozart, Corelli, Beethoven, Bach)  The Piano Guys Christmas Playlist (creativity in overdrive)

Ruth Haley Barton Reflection, First Sunday of Advent

Posted by: gcarkner | November 17, 2022

Incarnation, Identity & Spirituality

Many people today claim to be spiritual but not religious. They know that their inner person needs care and attention, but they are not big on formal religion. So says Lethbridge sociologist Reginald Bibby in  The Emerging Millennials. Many people today are on a journey or search for their spiritual home; some have come to an existential identity crisis within this journey. Though successful at work, they remain restless and deeply unhappy. This can be very confusing and disorienting. I hear these stories from students all the time. Some successful, well-published faculty experience them as well, even university presidents. Sometimes we focus so heavily on science, business and technology (STEM subjects) that we neglect the very important issues of the ‘soul’ (our inner being). This can lead to terrible anxiety and deep inner pain. Often, it becomes a personal crisis. Where does one turn for wisdom under such circumstances?

Is there a possibility of re-enchanting our world, celebrating the physical and material, but realizing that there is more to life than mere matter, reproduction, sustenance and survival. We need wisdom to explore these delicate phenomena, to work towards wholeness and human flourishing. In my new book, I am exploring this journey, out of nihilism and into robust meaning–a quest for fuller reality and true fulfilment. Don’t we all long for epiphany, insight or revelation at different junctures in our lives? When is that breakthrough coming? I want to say that if you are in this place, it is OK; in fact, it is a good sign that you are getting in touch with something that makes you more human. Don’t ignore the stirrings, the longings in your heart. They are saying something important. Our desires are often deeper than we think: they cannot be satisfied with more stuff or more accomplishment. Don’t be blinded by science and work, even excellence, wealth and academic prizes. What if there is a source of goodness, meaning, hope and beauty beyond the universe, but deeply relevant to our everyday existence? Wouldn’t that be great to encounter, to discover?

These days, we continue to try to reinvent, assert, advertise ourselves, but to what end. Some of the greatest writers of all time (Augustine, Dostoevsky, Blaise Pascal, G.K. Chesterton, T.S. Eliot, C.S. Lewis, Boethius, Thomas Acquinas, Alvin Plantinga) understand that a human person does not actually self-exist but is derivative, part of a bigger picture, a larger drama in play. We need a deeper critique of culture, a more robust story to make sense of things. Humans need to grapple with their sources and with their destiny or calling. What narrative am I now in? Is this universe for or against us? Are we somehow lost in the cosmos? How do we get home (Ulysses)? Why do we have this deep need to be genuinely loved for ourselves and not just for what we accomplish, or what others can gain/steal from us? Why do we long for community and communion with a soulmate to authenticate and relax us, someone who matters, who understands us? Who or what can we really trust? Is life an adventure or just something to endure? Riveting questions indeed, worthy questions.

Abraham Heschel talks about the need for I-Thou dialogue to help us in this existential quest for meaning and hope for the future. This quest seems to be an attempt to ground ourselves, our identity, in something bigger. He reflects on Abraham and Moses who, to no fault of their own, were dramatically confronted with the presence of the divine. They learned from this encounter that love is prior to power. This had a large impact on their purpose in life, their sense of calling and identity. In fact, it changed the very course of their lives. There is a dramatic breach in the silence. Remember when you cried out in the night amidst your angst and unanswered questions, “Is there anyone there?” “Does anyone care?’ In a lightning bolt of insight, these leaders in making learned that God has not given up on us, that the divine wants a personal relationship with us, wants to partner with us for the good of ourselves and others. I assure you, we can get unstuck, escape our loop of cynicism, resentment and despair. If we long for love, Augustine said, that’s because it has been there all along, grounding reality. It’s not a fantasy.

Throughout history, those who live for something greater than themselves and greater than worldly desires have contributed immensely to the advancement of education, culture, and the common good. For those who accept the offer of “infinite joy” contentment is obtained, and a powerful purpose for living is found. (P. M. Gould, Cultural Apologetics, 79)

In the New Testament, Jesus carried a similar but even more profound message. He claimed to be the epiphany of epiphanies–God in human flesh and blood, the wisdom of the invisible God revealed in ancient Israel. He claimed that there is a God of love behind this universe. We are not victims of cosmic gamesters, tricksters, cold materialistic determinism or fate. He claimed that our existential angst could be dealt with. We can be healed and made whole spiritually. We can find that great love we long for. There is an ultimate source of our longings and desires for more. Someone sees our worth, really cares about us, for us, as an end. We can find our home, our identity, in God. Life is about gift, goodness and grace, other-orientation, not mere accumulation/consumption, survival and self-interest. There exists a whole ‘economy of grace’ below the financial economy of production and consumption, bartering and exchange. Jesus’ life offers a meta-critique of all that we are now striving for in contemporary, late modern culture. It is a rich picture of reality that includes rather than excludes. At the end of the day, we all have a critical theory. The world is not perfect, we know it in our bones. Towards an Incarnational Spiritual Culture is my critique which ends in the hope of a more robust and resilient identity and a re-enchanted world. We have a real future available, but we have to step into it bravely. The Incarnation is that kind story.

~Dr. Gordon E. Carkner, PhD in a dialogue between Michel Foucault and Charles Taylor on the moral/spiritual self.

Author, blogger, YouTube Webinar Producer, Meta-Educator with UBC Postgraduate Students

Diversity Skill Set & Wisdom for Dialogue

  • Able to pursue ideas amidst diversity and think for yourself.
  • Champion a continual search for the truth, and disagreement with lies and deception, propaganda, poor scholarship.
  • Beware: too much choice can be harmful to one’s psychological and sociological wellbeing.
  • Don’t buy into relativism or subjectivism (unfortunately, 70% of Canadians do just that). It cannot be lived well—definitely not good for human flourishing–promotes division and conflict.
  • Remember that your personal opinion might be poorly examined and ill-informed, weak empirically, bigoted or seriously biased.
  • Celebrate high values/virtues/ideals: honesty, trustworthiness, compassion, decency, respect for life, good environmental stewardship, taking responsibility for your behaviour and for others (inclusive humanism).
  • Shun dishonesty, cheating, abuse, exploitation, theft, fraud, plagiarism, things causing emotional pain and suffering to others, the not-so-good or dark side of human character.
  • Ask yourself what leads to a truly good life? Make plans in that direction. This is very creative.
  • Learn to distinguish between good, better, best decisions. Not all theories or worldviews are of equal value. There is a hierarchy among the moral goods.
  • Think about the longterm consequences of your actions and decisions, including the unintended ones.
Posted by: gcarkner | November 3, 2022

Conversion, Faith and Social Conditioning

In this webinar, Meta-Educator and author Dr. Gordon E. Carkner in Vancouver, Canada examines the critical question of the influence of social conditioning on the choice of a faith or a philosophical perspective/worldview. He shows that we all need to think more critically about what we believe and why. Rather than acquiesce to the social conditioning of our tribe, we should examine evidence, be open to dialogue, and never stop thinking until we get to a reasonable faith that sets us free into a responsible lifestyle. He encourages us to lean into a position of integrity and he also offers great resources to pursue this task. Great webinar for dialogue with a friend. What are your assumptions?

The challenge to each of us is not to passively acquiesce in our own social conditioning, nor to join an academic cheerleading squad of a cool philosophy professor. No one wants to be made out to be a fool. Complacency produces a stifling, dangerous religious or anti-religious bias. Oh yes, there is all that self-righteous indignation as well. Instead, the better approach is to think through the meaning of life and critically examine your current assumptions. Do you like where they take you? This applies to all worldview perspectives. Once examined, do commit yourself vigorously, consistently, but by all means…   

Never Stop Thinking!

—Rapprochement between Faith and Reason:

—Peter Kreeft’s top ten books:   

Freedom, Identity and the Good

See also The Great Escape from Nihilism by Gordon E. Carkner

We are missing paradise; we long for wholeness, the meaning of life beyond mere biological  existence, happiness, joy, fulfilment.

Constitutive language can open new spaces for human meanings and identity: new terms, new expressions, enactments, new fields of articulacy and how to recognize and bring to expression new domains of meaning. The disciplined languages of objective description suitable for science are comparatively late achievements of human culture.  In light of all this, it is clear that the regimented, scientific zone can only be a suburb of the vast, sprawling city of language, and could never be the metropolis itself.  (Charles Taylor, The Language Animal)

Posted by: gcarkner | October 18, 2022

UBC Lecture with Daniel K. Williams

Daniel K. Williams 

Professor of History, University of West Georgia.

How Should Christians Think about Partisan Politics?

October 25, 2022 @ 4:00 PM

Recording of the Event:

Review of Politics of the Cross:


Does it matter how Christians think about political proposals that touch on moral issues such as poverty relief, racial justice, immigration, abortion, marriage, sexuality, and other matters that relate to biblical principles and human dignity?  What happens when Christians disagree with each other on these issues?  Is one political position or political party more “Christian” than another?  In this session, Dr. Williams will explore the recent history of Christian political activity and the reasons why political disagreements among Christians have become more heated lately.  He will then look at some ways to transcend partisan thinking and pursue Christian principles in the political sphere that should challenge those on both the left and the right.


Daniel K. Williams received his PhD from Brown University in 2005. He is a professor of history at the University of West Georgia and has taught there since 2005. He was the William E. Simon Visiting Fellow in Religion in Public Life, James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, Princeton University, 2011-12. Dr. Williams’ research focuses on the intersection between politics and religion in modern America. He is author of numerous articles and books including: God’s Own Party: The Making of the Christian Right. Oxford University Press, 2010 which was the recipient of the 2011 Phi Alpha Theta Best First Book Award; The Election of Evangelical Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and the Presidential Contest of 1976. University Press of Kansas, 2020; and The Politics of the Cross: A Christian Alternative to Partisanship. Eerdmans, 2021 (the theme of this presentation). 

Next in GFCF Series

Thursday, January 26, 2023 @ 12 noon: Dr. Michael Ward, Black Friars, Oxford                                                                         

C. S. Lewis on Appearance and Reality in the Christian Life.

Posted by: gcarkner | October 8, 2022

A Rapprochement Between Faith & Reason

Mythology Currently Haunting the Relationship between Fides et Ratio

The Discourse on Faith and Reason Revised

Athens in Dialogue with Jerusalem

Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 2.12.44 PM

We suggest that our current state of skepticism in Western late modernity stems from a significant confusion about the relationship between various types of faith and certain types of reason. There is more than one type of reasoning or knowledge, and more than one type of faith. Alasdair McIntyre notes three massively different paradigms of reason in Three Version of Moral Inquiry: pre-modern, modern and postmodern. This important insight helps us understand the breadth of discourse at our universities. Faith is also a multivalent concept and applies equally to the hard sciences as well as relationships or the study of Holy Scripture or one’s personal spiritual journey and quest for meaning. There are several assumptions that have to be made in all these cases which cannot be proven by science. These are meta-scientific, yet crucial for our work in various disciplines. They are part of our hermeneutical grid or framework.

We need a critical assessment of current metaphysical, epistemological and anthropological assumptions in order to find liberation from the Nihilistic world picture that has taken us captive. We propose that it is possible to think critically and wisely within a different framework or horizon. We can discover a richer understanding of reason, belief and life itself. The larger horizon of reason gives it its fecundity or fruitfulness.

God, in the classical sense, asks humans to the table of reason, he proposes intellectual hospitality and dialogue. He asks them to test his wisdom and revelation against the reality of their lives and their best thinking, against their deepest aspirations and worst fears and anxieties. He asks them to pay attention to reality by all possible means, at all levels, to come to grips with the mystery of their humanity and the mystery of being itself. Brilliant biochemist turned philosopher, Michael Polanyi (see a separate post on his work), revealed that faith is operative at all stages of scientific research and discovery, both theoretical and experimental science. For Polanyi, scientific inquiry is above all a practice best understood as a kind of craft. Philosophical theologian Jens Zimmermann has added significant and accessible insight on this subject of science and the humanities in his recent publication: Hermeneutics: a very short introduction (Oxford University Press, 2015). The big issue is how we frame our convictions and thoughts, plus the kind of stance we take on reality, towards ourselves and other people, the world at large.

We want to face the hard question: Are we entering a post-truth society where spin doctors, tweets and fake news producers are taken seriously, despite the ‘facts’, where rage gives us an audience? Some are buying into this stance. This is fideism combined with blind loyalty and cult-like tribalism. Oxford scholar Terry Eagleton would call it the ideology of the aesthetic.The current attempts towards a pure reason or pure faith are really impossible to actualize. In fact, there  are no pure domains of reason or faith. They are intertwined. One cannot get rationalism without the other extreme: fideism. Both rationalism and fideism are abstract categories and don’t exist in real life. Sadly, rationalism seems to need good faith to be reduced to fideism for its very survival. For example, Nietzsche claimed that all the way down there are only interpretations; on the opposite extreme, positivists claim that there are only facts (especially scientific ones). Our YouTube Channel

What should we believe about faith and reason whatever our starting point or prejudgments? It is perhaps a life-long quest to understand the nuances of this faith-reason, knowledge-religion relationship. Nothing is more important for balance in our lives and our thinking inside and outside the university. Accomplished philosophical theologian Duke University scholar D. Stephen Long helps our quest giving us much to ponder in his profound book Speaking of God: theology, language and truth. Stephen was a past guest speaker at UBC in the GFCF series. I have chosen some priceless quotes below from Stephen and other great scholars and scientists to help us re-imagine a truce between faith and reason. It may even lead to a re-enchantment of the world and a renewal of culture.                              

Here are ten of the most common myths (misconceptions) about the relationship between reason and Christian faith. Perhaps it can help awaken us from our studied naivety, our intellectual slumber, our received prejudgments. These assumptions need to be re-examined  as to their cogency and coherence, their soundness, their plausibility. It is critical that we transcend the hard, abstract (often confusing) categories of fideism and rationalism. Both are a form of harmful dogmatism that leads people in the wrong direction intellectually and personally. Let’s face it, there are good ways to reason and bad ways to reason (talk to a professor of logic), and this matters immensely today. The following misconstruals are commonly believed, even by PhDs who are well published, and some of the top public intellectuals.

Ten Myths about Faith & Reason

In response, we appeal to some of the sharpest minds to examine and confront these confusions. In the end, clear thinking does matter. The unexamined assumption can lead one astray, even into harm’s way, and into violence. It is no accident of history that many of the top modern universities, (e.g. Harvard, Queen’s, McGill, Oxford, Cambridge, Princeton, the Sorbonne) have deep roots in the Christian faith, have been inspired by such faith (John O’Malley, Four Cultures of the West; Kelly Monroe Kullberg, Finding God at Harvard). Their campus mottos reveal this fact. Religious belief is no friend of ignorance nor the enemy of knowledge. Christian faith involves the mind as well as the heart and the body (the whole person), reason as well as intuition, attention to facts and interpretation, all types of human perception. It employs the full human linguistic capacity (Charles Taylor, The Language Animal). See for example the pursuit of wisdom in both science and theology in Tom McLeish’s Faith and Wisdom in Science. (OUP 2014) Psalm 110:10 says: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

Below, we take a stance/position of intellectual openness in the pursuit of a reasoned faith and faithful, responsible, noble reasoning. I believe that with effort we can we handle the pursuit of knowledge wisely, astutely and carefully. Philosopher Paul Gould notes: “We find truth when our thoughts, beliefs, or statements correspond to reality, when we are rightly related to the way the world is.” The reasoning process involves several components, including (1) the reception of facts from sensation, reports of others (i.e., testimony), memory, introspection, or the imagination; (2) the perception of self-evident truths (including laws of logical inference); and (3) the arrangement of facts to arrive at new truths that are not self-evident. 

Myth #1. Faith and reason are inherently incompatible, or in opposition.

“Philosophy should be the love of wisdom that prompts persons to use reason in the quest for truth, goodness and beauty…. Philosophy and theology have distinct tasks, but those tasks cannot be delineated solely in terms of nature and or reason and faith.” ~D. Stephen Long (statement about non-overlapping magisteria)

“The question of God… is one that can and must be pursued in terms of the absolute and the contingent, the necessary and the fortuitous, potency and act, possibility and impossibility, being and nonbeing, transcendence and immanence…. Evidence for or against God, if it is there, saturates every moment of the experience of existence, every employment of reason, every act of consciousness, every encounter with the world around us.” ~David Bentley Hart, philosopher, writer

 “As I try to discern the origin of that conviction [that the universe is orderly], I seem to find it in a basic notion discovered 2000 or 3000 years ago, and enunciated first in the Western world by the ancient Hebrews: namely that the universe is governed by a single God, and is not the product of the whims of many gods, each governing his own province according to his own laws.  This monotheistic view seems to be the historical foundation for modern science” Melvin Calvin, Nobel Prize for Biochemistry  (Chemical Evolution. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969, 258).

“Reason itself, and the deliberative processes that govern rationality, point to a reality ‘outside of the box,’ a world governed by truth and not mere survival instincts. The world is ontologically haunted by a self-existent, immaterial cosmic mind. As C. S. Lewis has said in Miracles, “To admit a cosmic mind is to admit a God outside Nature, a transcendent and supernatural God.” (Paul Gould, Cultural Apologetics, 137)

See Prayson Daniel’s Blog post on Max Planck:  Science and Religion

Clarification of the Concept of Faith

Faith is not wishful thinking, or the opposite of evidence, nor is it anti-science. Faith is a critical, reasonable trust (chairs, cars, doctors, bankers, husbands, mentors, professors). Clearly with all the scams today, good faith and bad faith must be discerned. But we cannot live without faith.

Good faith is a positive, hopeful openness to the fullness of reality and all the knowledge that is there to be apprehended (E.F. Schumacher, A Guide for the Perplexed; Jens Zimmermann, Hermeneutics: a very short history). It is the opposite of cynicism and reductionism, naïveté or paranoia about will to power. Of course, the object of our faith makes all the difference. We should never take a ride home from a drunk driver. In fact, current cultural superstitions, fantasies and self-deceptions are the enemy of good faith. They keep us from facing reality (Matthew B. Crawford, The World Beyond Your Head). We don’t want to build our lives on intellectual or personal sand. Popular Canadian author David Adams Richards (God Is, p.154) writes, “Faith is important because all of mankind’s other concerns are actually unsolvable without faith.” Cynicism will not solve problems; it folds its arms in a cold, self-righteous stance.

Charles Taylor has much to say about how science does not logically exclude religion or replace it in Chapter Fifteen of A Secular Age. I have a YouTube presentation of this point called Charles Taylor and the Myth of the Secular. People can discover faith within a secular or immanent frame. They can reach out of their immanent box towards the transcendent. He exposes the prejudices of a Closed World System that closes its doors to faith in anything beyond time-space-energy-matter concerns (the transcendent). David Bentley Hart (The Experience of God) and Thomas Nagel (Mind and Cosmos) do a brilliant job of deconstructing the presumptions of Naturalism with its false assumptions about science and religion.

Myth #2. Reason does not involve faith at any level of its operation.

“Modern rationalism makes us choose truth against beauty and goodness. Only a permanent, living unity of the theoretical, ethical and aesthetic attitudes can convey a true knowledge of being.” ~D. Stephen Long on the relationship of the culture spheres

“Philosophy has its limits, but it must be redeemed, and a place must be made for it within the gift we receive in sacred doctrine. Philosophy has its own integrity when it does not exceed its proper limits and seek to police the questions asked. The limits Wittgenstein placed on philosophy for the sake of a life worth living is similar to the limits Acquinas put on philosophy for the sake of the Christian life as a way of following Jesus into the truth of God.” ~D. Stephen Long Francis Collins “Why is it hard for scientists to believe in God?”

“Understanding the nature of reason is central to our conception of human existence. We have to resist a narrow conception of human rationality that excludes religion as irrational because such a view cripples our ability to analyze correctly the current state of Western culture. As Rodney Stark has argued in his book The Victory of Reason, Christianity’s ability to combine faith and reason with a progressive view of human nature laid the foundation for Western science and technological progress…. Building on Judaism, Christianity also allowed for the concepts of human dignity, personhood and individuality that have decisively shaped Western views of society…. Neither the best nor the worst features of modernity are comprehensible without the transformative influence of Christianity on Greco-Roman culture. Without religion, the West would not be what it is, and without understanding the religious roots of Western culture and their continuing influence on Western thought, we lack the self-understanding necessary to address our current cultural crisis.” (J. Zimmermann, Incarnational Humanism, 2012, 25 & 26). Prize winning American historian Tom Holland (Dominion) agrees.

Albert Einstein once observed that “science can help human beings attain some of their goals; science cannot, however, supply the goals.” This comes by way of transcendence of physical matter: Mind transcends brain.

See Roy Clouser, The Myth of Religious Neutrality; An Essay on the Hidden Role of Religious Belief in Theories (rev. ed.; University of Notre Dame Press, 2005).

Faith underlies rationality: In this view, all human knowledge and reason is seen as dependent on faith: faith in our senses, faith in our reason, faith in our memories, and faith in the accounts of events we receive from others (history). Accordingly, faith is seen as essential to and inseparable from healthy rationality (Alvin Plantinga, American notable philosopher).

“A theology of science — situates our exploration of nature within a greater task. Science becomes, within a Christian theology, the grounded outworking of the ‘ministry of reconciliation’ between humankind and the world.” ~ Tom McLeish (2014). Faith and Wisdom in Science, 209.

Myth #3. Modern reason has made Christian faith redundant; faith is a primitive and weak disposition of our medieval ancestors.

“The certainties which the church has received as a gift require its participation in humanity’s “comom struggle” to attain truth. The human search for truth, which is philosophy’s vocation, is not set in opposition to theology’s reception of truth as gift. What we struggle to understand by reason we also receive by faith. No dichotomy exists between the certainties of faith and the common struggle by human reason to attain truth. … the truths humanity seeks by common reason (philosophy) and the certainties of faith can be placed over against each other such that each illuminates the other and renders it intelligible until the two ultimately become one, which is of course what the incarnation does in reverse. The concretion of the one Person illumines the natures of both divinity and humanity. Faith seeks reason and reason assists faith. They mutually enrich each other.” ~D. Stephen Long

 “The common belief that . . . the actual relations between religion and science over the last few centuries have been marked by deep and enduring hostility is not only historically inaccurate but actually a caricature so grotesque that what needs to be explained is how it could possibly have achieved any degree of respectability.”  ~Colin Russell, Reputable UK Historian of Science.

“Science is simply incapable of supplying answers in the realm of ethics, theology, and the purpose of life. In dealing solely with observable and measurable phenomena, modern science actually has nothing to say about love, compassion, beauty, self-centredness, altruism or cruelty. It concentrates on secondary causes and questions. Unfortunately, some scientists conclude that since the scientific method cannot handle non-material matters, they have little legitimacy in a university curriculum. They argue that because non-material issues cannot be scientifically proven, there is no point in investigating primary causes and questions. From within their closed system of reasoning this may make sense, but they gloss over or ignore the most important questions of human existence…. Even the most brilliant scientist, after all, has no inherent competence in ethics or other non-scientific matters.” ~John R. Redekop, Respected Political Scientist, Wilfrid Laurier University and Trinity Western University.

What if, as Oxford mathematician John Lennox says, faith in a transcendent God helps make better sense of human experience, human reason and science itself?

It is idle to talk always of the alternative of reason and faith. Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all. ~G.K. Chesterton (1908). Orthodoxy.

For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.  – Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers. He is an astronomer who worked for NASA.

This subtraction view of secularity is contested by top Canadian McGill University philosopher Charles Taylor in his Templeton Prize winning book, A Secular Age (especially Chapter 15, “The Immanent Frame”).

“The change I want to define and trace is one which takes us from a society in which it was virtually impossible not to believe in God, to one in which faith, even for the staunchest believer, is one human possibility among others. I may find it inconceivable that I would abandon my faith, but there are others, including possibly some very close to me, whose way of living I cannot in all honesty just dismiss as depraved, or blind, or unworthy, who have no faith (at least not in God, or the transcendent). Belief in God is no longer axiomatic. There are alternatives. And this will also likely mean that at least in certain milieux, it may be hard to sustain one’s faith.”
~Charles Taylor, A Secular Age, 2012. 

Oxford Mathematician & Philosopher John Lennox in a Debate with Richard Dawkins

Myth #4. Faith is a credulous assent to unfounded premises, a belief in something that is untrue or at least suspect.

“Faith not only seeks and presumes reason, it converts it. Every account of reason assumes something beyond it, some enabling condition that makes it possible but cannot be accounted for it within its own systematic aspirations… Likewise faith can never be pure; it will always assume and use reason even as it transfigures it.” ~D. Stephen Long on the interdependency of faith and reason

“There is a difference between seeking to know things for the sake of knowledge itself and being willing to undergo renunciation to be possessed by truth.” ~ James Houston, Joyful Exiles

“Newton argued that the regulation of the solar system presupposed the ‘counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being’ and indeed hoped that his Principia would convince the thinking person of the existence of a Deity.” ~John Lennox, Oxford Mathematician/Philosopher

Clearly there exists both good faith and bad faith. Believing a lie or promoting a falsity, as in a Ponzi scheme, for the sake of an advantage or con is bad faith. Sophism is the application of good rhetoric in bad faith (disingenuous). Evidence is vitally important to good faith; clarity, consistency, coherence and unity are important to good faith. Exposing fantasy, superstition or Gnosticism is an essential goal of good faith. One needs good faith/integrity in signing a major contract for a merger of two companies, or entering a marriage. Faith is a form of knowing that can go beyond the evidence but should not contradict it, or be hopelessly uncritical or unexamined. Does the Christian narrative have resonance, or make good sense of our experience? Is it both plausible and desirable? That’s a key question. ~Dr. Gordon Carkner, philosophical theology, meta-educator UBC postgraduate students.

Because God is the God of the universe there is, at the deepest level, no secular learning for Christians. There is no secular subject matter. Indeed, in this perspective the only secular learning is the effort of these scholars and students who deny the existence of God. Second, there is no area of human existence or history which lies outside the realm of Christian inquiry. Third, the church has much to offer the university because it challenges the university to acknowledge the historic and continuing contributions of Christianity and to establish inclusive curricula. Fourth, the university has much to offer the Christian because it helps them to develop critical thinking, to enlarge their understanding of options, to improve learning skills, and to approach intellectual pursuits systematically and efficiently. ~John R. Redekop, Emeritus Professor of Political Scientist Wilfrid Laurier University and Trinity Western University(In this light, see also John W. O’Malley, Four Cultures of the West.)

In Scripture, faith involves placing trust in what you have reason to believe is true. Faith is not a blind, irrational leap into the dark. So faith and reason cooperate on a biblical view of faith. They are not intrinsically hostile. ~J.P. Moreland, Christian philosopher

Wonder (awe) rather than doubt is the root of all knowledge. Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement … get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed. ~Abraham Joshua Heschel

Critical realism is the attempt to find a middle way between the heroic optimism of the failed modernist search for certain truth, and the intellectual pessimism that so often leads postmodernism into a slough of relativistic despond.” ~ John Polkinghorne and M. Welker (2001). Faith in the Living God: A Dialogue.

Myth #5. Reason is a pure, disinterested obedience to empirical fact; methodological naturalism implies and requires belief in philosophical naturalism.

Tom McLeish in his fine book, Faith & Wisdom in Science, reminds us that science over its long history has a more complex culture than is often understood today (52, 53). Here’s his meta-perspective:

  1. Doing science is very old, even back to the ancient world of Greece and Rome.
  2. Science is a deeply human activity.
  3. Science is more about the imaginative and creative questions than it is about method.
  4. Science can be painful, entailing an immense amount of work.
  5. The relationship between ‘faith’ in all of its connotations and ”science’ is a long and rich one. The deeper we we have probed into its roots, the clearer becomes the theological background to every aspect of [science’s] nature. See Gregory of Nysa or Robert Grsseteste

“Naturalism, alone among all considered philosophical attempts to describe the shape of reality, is radically insufficient in its explanatory range. The one thing of which it can give no account, and which its most fundamental principles make it entirely impossible to explain at all, is nature’s very existence. For existence is most definitely not a natural phenomenon; it is logically prior to any physical cause whatsoever…. In fact, it is impossible to say how, in terms naturalism allows, nature could exist at all.” ~ David Bentley Hart, Philosopher (Key book: The Experience of God)

“Note that I am not postulating a ‘God of the gaps’, a god merely to explain the things that science has not yet explained.   I am postulating a God to explain why science explains; I do not deny that science explains, but I postulate God to explain why science explains.  The very success of science in showing us how deeply ordered the natural world is provides strong grounds for believing that there is an even deeper cause for that order”.   The issue here is that, because God is not an alternative to science as an explanation, he is not a God of the gaps.  On the contrary, he is the ground of all explanation, the very ground of being: it is his existence which gives rise to the very possibility of explanation, scientific or otherwise.” ~Richard Swinburne, top Oxford Philosopher. Swinburne examines the credibility of Christian faith using Bayes Theorem of Probability.

Oxford Physicist Ard Louis speaks on Science and Scientism

“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.” ~Philosopher David Bentley Hart reflecting on the ideology of scientism

Alvin Plantinga raises major questions about the compatibility of materialistic naturalism with science (Where the Conflict Really Lies, 2012, especially Chapter 10)

Comparing Creativity in Science and the Arts

Renaissance Thinker Tom McLeish, in his brilliant book The Poetry and Music of Science:

  • Challenges the obvious assumption that science is less creative than art and illustrates the contrary (contra C.P Snow’s ‘Two Cultures’)
  • digging down to a foundational core of science and humanities
  • Treats art and science on an equal footing and shows their interplay
  • Shows the points of contact between science and music, literature and visual art
  • Draws on historical and contemporary examples to provide a broader understanding
  • Brings medieval philosophy and theology to bear on current questions of creativity
  • Discusses the conscious and non-conscious mind involved in a breakthrough
  • Reports on individual conversations with artists and scientists and provides personal perspectives on their personal creative processes
  • Illustrates with rich and detailed examples such as a close reading of mathematics and music
  • Offers a rich conversation within academia and beyond–a wellspring of issues for dialogue and reconciliation

Four Stages of Creation: Ideation, Incubation, Illumination, Verification

“Art and science must both reassure and trouble, call on extension of both seeing and hearing, must both distance and immerse…. Art and science share the same three springs of imagination. The visual image offers perspective, insight, illumination. The written and spoken word bring the possibility of mimesis through the textual, the experimental, and the narrative form for the story of creativity itself. The wordless depths of number, the musical and mathematical draw on the ancient insights of the liberal arts at the limits of comprehension. These are the trinity of disciplines and of modes of creation that transport our present longings for a fruitful and a peaceful home in the world, toward a future in which we are less ignorant, wiser in our relationship, but no less caught up in the wonder of it.” (T. McLeish, The Poetry and Music of Science, 336, 339)

Myth #6.  Reason is morally and ideologically neutral, the same for all thinking human beings, therefore universal—unifying society.

“Science and theology do indeed take the entirety of nature as a fit subject of their narratives. There really only is one world, and our minds are the locus of both meaning and explanation within it…. In Judaism and Christianity the universe itself carries theological weight as our human environment–with both positive and painful consequences. Keeping science and theology at arms length artificially limits their domains of discussion–and this is inconsistent with the range of both of them. This is why for example, science cannot be value-free, nor a discussion of values science-free. ” (Tom McLeish, Faith and Wisdom in Science, 168)

“The good characterizes a public, successful performance of truth; it refuses fideism….Truth is an activity, a judgment inextricably linked to the good, and therefore to moral transformation. When I am pursuing truth I am pursuing goodness…. This truth both an undying fidelity and love, and at the same time a generosity towards others. By refusing to subordinate itself to ‘power’, understood as willful self-assertion, it best serves the tradition of democracy.” ~D. Stephen Long, Duke University theologian

Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor’s contention is that the power of materialism today comes not from scientific “facts”, but has rather to be explained in terms of the power of a certain package uniting materialism with a moral outlook, the package we call “atheistic humanism” or exclusive humanism. (C. Taylor, A Secular Age, 569) It works off an ontological thesis of materialism: everything which is, is based on “matter”, without explaining why this is taken as true.

“Intellectual virtues” are the deep personal qualities or character strengths required for good thinking and learning. To better pinpoint the concept, consider: What do we tend to associate with good thinking and learning? One familiar answer is knowledge. Good thinkers often know a lot; at a minimum, they aren’t ignorant. Another familiar answer is raw cognitive ability. Good thinkers also tend to be intelligent or to have a reasonably high IQ.

Good thinking and learning have a character-based dimension. They require the practice of qualities like intellectual carefulness, perseverance, honesty, humility, attentiveness, and thoroughness. These are intellectual virtues.

Read Alasdair McIntyre, Whose Justice? Which Rationality?; also see Roy Clouser, The Myth of Religious Neutrality; An Essay on the Hidden Role of Religious Belief in Theories (rev. ed.; University of Notre Dame Press, 2005).

All science is both theory and value-laden as Michael Polanyi notes in his book Personal Knowledge. It is personal knowledge held passionately by persons. Without a code of virtues and ethics, science could not be considered reliable knowledge.

James Sire in his very popular and helpful book, The Universe Next Door, demonstrates that ideology is at work in all viewpoints and discipline of academia including science. Our critiques and our reason are always implicated in a worldview. There is no such thing as a moral or ideologically neutral stance. The question is which ideology, and how does it stand up under scrutiny of the laws of logic: coherence, consistency, empirical justification, connection to reality, relevance. Whatever one’s worldview–Marxism, Atheism, Buddhism, Theism–one ultimately has faith in it and its plausibility, even if this is unconscious. Interpretation is always at work in our research and truth claims.

Also, in each area of research, there are very specific rules for good scholarship and if we do not obey them, we will never pass a PhD examination. Theories are also critical to the credibility of our research. The problems occur when a critical theory becomes an ideology: Marxism in late modern Critical Theory–social science.

Intellectual virtues, by contrast, are the character strengths of a good thinker or learner (e.g. curiosity, attentiveness, intellectual courage). While they intersect with moral and civic virtues in interesting ways, it is important to maintain a distinction between intellectual virtues and these other types of virtues.

Myth #7. Faith & reason exist as separate incompatible arenas; reason deals in physical causes only, while faith deals with supernatural/spiritual/magical causes.

“Polanyi probably criticised Popper, as most philosophers of science reject falsificationism.  Duhem and Quine showed, for example, that theories only make predictions when combined with a framework of background assumptions.  So when a prediction is false, the problem could be with the framework, not the theory itself.  Kuhn showed that all theories, even the best ones, are inconsistent with some of the data.  Hempel showed that many scientific statements aren’t falsifiable.  Bayesians (who are now the dominant group) reject Popper’s fundamental claim that theories are never probably true.  Popper is much more popular among scientists than among philosophers of science. Also, while there is disagreement among Bayesians and others, present views don’t allow such a sharp separation between science and religion.  Kuhn for example says that the present “paradigm” isn’t open to rational scrutiny, but shielded from criticism, and paradigm shifts are only partially rational.  Bayesians say that science depends on subjective judgements of plausibility in addition to logic and data, etc.”

-Dr. Richard Johns, Professor of Philosophy, Langara College, Vancouver, B.C.

“The church reminds the university that the two share a joint task–the preservation and accumulation of knowledge and the transmission of a common heritage. Both institutions need to rethink the past, question the present, and anticipate future revision of human understanding. Both need also to acknowledge that if they are faithful to their purpose, both will frequently find themselves in tension with society, in part for the same reasons: dissatisfaction with the status quo, challenging injustices, and raising controversial questions. Such commonality is to be expected given that both institutions emphasize the mind and both search for new insights. When the university acknowledges the limitations of the scientific method and the church concedes that it cannot provide final scientific answers, their two endeavours will increasingly overlap.” ~John R. Redekop, Political Scientist

Faith and Reason as Essential To Each Other: This is the Christian view that faith without reason leads to superstition, while reason without faith leads to nihilism and relativism.

Part of our task … is to awaken in others this innate longing for truth and  knowledge. We do this by arguing for the intrinsic worth of knowledge, that the pursuit of knowledge is valuable, pleasurable, and that every truth discovered, every piece of knowledge gained, illuminates the divine. Christians believe that all truth points to its source in Christ, the creator of all things.… We find truth when our thoughts, beliefs, or statements correspond to reality, when we are rightly related to the way the world is. Reason itself, and the deliberative processes that govern rationality, point to a reality “outside of the box,” a world governed by truth and not mere survival instincts. The world is ontologically haunted by a self-existent, immaterial cosmic mind. As C. S. Lewis has said in Miracles, “To admit a cosmic mind is to admit a God outside Nature, a transcendent and supernatural God.” ~Paul M. Gould, Christian Philosopher

It’s not just Christian scholars and pastors who need to be intellectually engaged with the issues. Christian laymen, too, need to be intellectually engaged. Our churches are filled with Christians who are idling in intellectual neutral. As Christians, their minds are going to waste. One result of this is an immature, superficial faith. People who simply ride the roller coaster of emotional experience are cheating themselves out of a deeper and richer Christian faith by neglecting the intellectual side of that faith. They know little of the riches of deep understanding of Christian truth, of the confidence inspired by the discovery that one’s faith is logical and fits the facts of experience, of the stability brought to one’s life by the conviction that one’s faith is objectively true.  William Lane Craig, philosopher

Of course, so much important human reasoning is not focused on the physical but on ideas.

Myth #8. Faith is the irrational belief in the opposite direction of where scientific evidence leads us.

“Faith adds less a material content to geology, physics, mathematics, evolutionary science, economics, etc., than the form within which they can be properly understood so that they are never closed off from the mystery that makes all creaturely being possible.” ~ D. Stephen Long

“There is no such thing, at least among finite minds, as intelligence at large: no mind not constrained by its own special proficiencies and formation, no privilege vantage that allows any of us a comprehensive insight into the essence of all things, no expertise or wealth of experience that endows any of us with the wisdom or power to judge what we do not have the training or perhaps the temperament to understand. To imagine otherwise is a delusion…. This means that the sciences are, by their very nature, commendably fragmentary and, in regard to many real and important questions about existence, utterly inconsequential. Not only can they not provide knowledge of everything; they cannot provide complete knowledge of anything. They can yield only knowledge of certain aspects of things as seen from one very powerful but inflexibly constricted perspective. If they attempt to go beyond their methodological commissions, they cease to be sciences and immediately become fatuous occultisms.” ~David Bentley Hart

“Living in a postsecular world means that secularism is no longer the standard for reasonable thought. If indeed it is true that Western culture continues to experience a crisis of identity and purpose, the dogmatic exclusion of sources of transcendent purpose (i.e. religion) seems unwise…. Such dogmatism is not secular thinking, if secular is taken at its root meaning of “this worldly”. Rather, the arbitrary exclusion of religion from reasonable discourse is secularist ideology, a fundamentalist rejection of all interpretation of the world, except the materialist one that excludes religion.”  (J. Zimmermann, Incarnational Humanism, 41)

“The most pervasive error one encounters in contemporary arguments about belief in God–especially, but not exclusively, on the atheist side–is the habit of conceiving of God simply as some very large object or agency within the universe, or perhaps alongside the universe, a being among other beings, who differs from all other beings in magnitude, power, and duration, but not ontologically, and who is related to the world more or less as a craftsman is related to an artifact….. Beliefs regarding God  concern the source and ground and end of all reality, the unity and existence of every particular thing and the totality of all things, the ground of the possibility of anything at all.” ~David Bentley Hart

Faith as addressing issues beyond the scope of rationality Faith Seeking Understanding as per St. Augustine: In this view, faith is seen as covering issues that science and rationality are inherently incapable of addressing, but that are nevertheless entirely real. Accordingly, faith is seen as complementing rationality, by providing answers to questions that would otherwise be unanswerable. This is true of many purpose, identity and meaning (why) questions. It offers a richer landscape to human rationality and includes the poetic, the story, the human narrative. See Alister McGrath, A Fine-Tuned Universe: the search for God in science and theology (2009) for a strong statement on complementarity of scientific rationality and theological reason; and Tom McLeish, The Poetry and Music of Science.

“The reasoning process involves several components, including (1) the reception of facts from sensation, reports of others (i.e., testimony), memory, introspection, or the imagination; (2) the perception of self-evident truths (including laws of logical inference); and (3) the arrangement of facts to arrive at new truths that are not self-evident.” ~ Philosopher Paul M. Gould

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Myth #9. Faith is seated in the emotions or sentimentality; reason is a non-emotional, cool operation of the disinterested mind.

Does Christian faith measure up to the standards of reason? Always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks you for the reason behind your hope. (I Peter 3:15) This is the field of apologetics and philosophical theology. Naturalism some say negates the existence and validity of reason itself. Naturalistic materialism tells us that minds evolve from non-rational, blind, mechanistic processes. The phenomenon of intentionality is at odds with naturalism. There also is the problem of a foundation for human worth and rights, which atheist Duke University philosopher Alex Rosenberg highlights. On the contrary, we would expect a perfectly rational and good personal being to spread his joy and delight by creating a world full of epistemic, moral and aesthetic value. For in such a world, it is possible to love, know, act, and create. If theism is true, mind is both prior to matter and the cause of matter. See Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies.

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“We may define “faith” as the firm belief in something for which there is no evidence. Where there is evidence, no one speaks of “faith.” We do not speak of faith that two and two are four or that the earth is round. We only speak of faith when we wish to substitute emotion for evidence. The substitution of emotion for evidence is apt to lead to strife, since different groups, substitute different emotions.” ~Bertrand Russell, atheist philosopher

“The existence of consciousness is both one of the most familiar and one of the most astounding things about the world. No conception of the natural order that does not reveal it as something to be expected can aspire even to the outline of completeness. And if physical science, whatever it may have to say about the origin of life, leaves us necessarily in the dark about consciousness, that shows that it cannot provide the basic form of intelligibility for this world.” ~Thomas Nagel, Atheist Philosopher

“God alone has necessity in and of himself. That is, if the word “God” has any meaning at all, it must refer to a reality that is not just metaphysically  indestructible but necessary in the fullest and most proper sense; it must refer to a reality that is logically necessary and that therefore provides the ultimate explanation of all other realities, without need of being explained in turn…. God is absolute being as such, apart from whom nothing else could exist, as either a possibility or an actuality…. It is God’s necessity, as the unconditional source of all things, that makes any world possible in the first place.” ~David Bentley Hart

“In another important respect, still related to the scope of inquiry and learning, Christianity and the university share an agenda. To a large degree both address societal problems, express moral outrage when warranted, believe that many problems can be solved, and insist that society can and should be improved. Both frequently express a sense of responsibility and undertake societal activism. Over the years the areas of intentional involvement have included literacy, health care, social housing, immigration reform, assistance to refugees, care for the blind and aged, the preservation of historical records and documents, promotion of the arts, and much more. In many of these activities, I suggest, it has been the church and at times even government, rather than the university, that has taken the lead. There is no ultimate incompatibility between the two; the basic assumptions of Christianity and the basic assumptions of the university, including its emphasis on scientific methodology, are fundamentally complementary, not contradictory.” ~ John R. Redekop, Political Scientist

Faith as based on Warrant (Alvin Plantinga, Warrant and Proper Function): In this view, some degree of evidence provides warrant for faith. To explain great things by small. To find coherence within a worldview that holds to the supernatural or transcendent. Empirical and historical evidence can also be involved. Warrant is a very important concept of credibility. Evidence for the resurrection would also be a key example.

Faith and Reason are like two wings of the human spirit by which it soars to the truth. ~Pope John Paul II

Truth Calls; Reason Guides

Myth #10. Good reason requires a materialistic universe; materialism is a basic fact of deductive logic.

” There simply cannot be a natural explanation of existence as such; it is an absolute logical impossibility. The most a materialist account of existence can do is pretend that there is no real problem to be solved (though only a tragically inert mind could really dismiss the question of existence as uninteresting, unanswerable, or intelligible).” ~David Bentley Hart

“It would be possible to describe everything scientifically, but it would make no sense; it would be without meaning, as if you described a Beethoven symphony as a variation of wave pressure” ~Albert Einstein

Christian spokespersons, thus, actually perform a praiseworthy role when they insist that there must be openness to supernatural sources of knowledge and that a particular methodology ought not to delineate the limits of reality. Christians argue with credibility, I suggest, that a healthy, heuristically productive skepticism, which lies at the heart of scientism, must also be applied to the scientific method itself. Consistency requires nothing less. ~ John Redekop, Political Scientist

Leading Philosopher Alvin Plantinga argues that naturalism (which includes materialism) is in conflict with evolution, a main pillar of contemporary science. The argument centers on the status of our cognitive faculties: those faculties, or powers, or processes that produce beliefs or knowledge in us (e.g. perception, memory, a priori intuition, introspection, testimony, induction). His argument concerns the question of the reliability of  cognitive faculties (reliability of cognitive content)if we espouse naturalism and unguided evolution together. The probability is very low. Can we get to true belief, reliable knowledge by this path? Again it is an argument from coherence (or rather, in this case, incoherence). See Plantinga’s Where the Conflict Really Lies, Chapter 10.

Charles Taylor on the Myth of the Secular:

Reductive materialism is a major philosophical problem in contemporary academia. One can study constitutive components (physics and chemistry) of a larger reality such as biological life, but this is never a fulsome explanation. The real danger is that methodological reduction  morphs into ontological reductionism in the mind. This is a dangerous logical non-sequitor.

NASA Astronomer Jennifer Wiseman doesn’t see the many unanswered questions of space or the enormous nature of our universe as a reason to doubt her faith. Instead, she sees it as a reason to strengthen it. … “Let us praise God for the Universe and let us praise God for the gift of science that lets us explore and understand our Universe.”

 Can Matter be Creative?  by Philosophy Professor Richard Johns, Langara College

It is commonplace to compare living organisms to human technology. William Paley, for example, compared organisms to watches, in virtue of containing parts with obvious purposes that meshed together to produce a functioning whole. Richard Dawkins compared bats to spy planes, bristling with advanced technology. Also note that biologists consider human technologies such as cell phones and airplanes to be products of evolution, since their creators are themselves such products.

While life and technology are similarly functional, their origins are thought to be very different. The development of new technologies requires that engineers understand the problem to be solved, and have knowledge of physical laws, the properties of materials, and so on. In short, creative engineering requires understanding. This is especially crucial when solving very difficult problems, which may take many generations of engineers. The Wright brothers, smart fellows though they were, could not have made a supersonic jet. Solving the problem of supersonic flight required a long cumulative process of somewhat gradual improvements, involving many people, who each had to understand the successes as well as the limitations of earlier designs.

Evolution on the other hand is not an intentional process, according to the standard evolutionary theory (SET). (SET refers rather loosely to contemporary versions of the ‘Modern Synthesis’, or ‘Neo-Darwinism’, developed in the 1940s by Fisher, Haldane, Wright, etc.) Evolution is a purely physical process on this view, and no thought or understanding is involved, until perhaps humans arrive on the scene. Nevertheless evolution is often described as a ‘creative’ process, on account of the fantastic technologies it has produced. I will argue, however, that no physical process can be creative in the required sense.

Engineers have, we might say, a ‘bias’ towards functional structures. If you produced a vast number of structures randomly, all with the same probability, very few of them would be functional. Very few would ‘do something useful’, such as walking, swimming, flying, detecting remote objects, producing light, generating electric currents, etc. Random processes are therefore unlikely to produce anything functional. Engineers however don’t produce objects randomly. They’re much more likely to produce a functional object than a random process would be.

Can physical processes have a similar bias toward functional structures? Evolutionary biologists say, “Yes indeed!” (Richard Dawkins is especially clear on this point.) Were this not the case, evolution – a physical process – could never have produced the complex life we see around us in so short a time.

Here’s the difficulty. The process of evolution must have a strong bias toward making new functional structures, or it cannot explain life as we find it. On the other hand, the laws of physics themselves have no bias toward functionality. The laws of physics are very simple and symmetric, and have been shown to produce only objects that are either simple and repetitive, or complex but random-looking and haphazard (or a mixture of the two). Such objects are never functional to any significant degree. A bias toward functionality arises only, SET claims, with the first appearance of a self-replicating entity, whose descendants differ from one another in minor ways. This leads to a struggle for existence, a competition for resources among these variants, and an automatic ‘selection’ of the more functional types.

So SET is committed to four claims:

  1. (i)  The laws of physics have no bias toward producing ‘technology’, or functional structures.
  2. (ii)  The process of evolution, which begins with the appearance of self-replicators, has a strong bias toward functionality.
  3. (iii)  Evolution is a purely physical process.
  4. (iv)  The spontaneous appearance of a self-replicator may be improbable, but it isn’t fantastically improbable (or evolution would require a miracle to get going).

The conjunction of these claims is however in conflict with probability theory. The first claim entails that complex life is fantastically improbable relative to the laws of physics, too improbable to be a realistic possibility, even in billions of years. (In the Markov chain formalism that can be used to represent a physical system, it has very low ‘stationary probability’.) If this probability becomes much larger, upon the appearance of a self-replicator, then probability theory tells us that the appearance of a self-replicator must also be fantastically improbable, contradicting claim (iv) above. In technical language, if Prob(A) is some low number , but Prob(A | B) is some much larger value q, then Prob(B) is no greater than /q. In effect, the probabilities of events in a physical system are fixed by the laws of physics, and the initial state, and cannot change much thereafter. For an improbable event to become probable, an equally improbable event must occur first.

There is no possible escape to this problem, as long as the probability of functional organisms is indeed very low at the beginning of time. But to drop this assumption (i) commits us to the view that the laws of physics themselves have a very strong bias toward functional objects, including computers and bicycles. Apart from there being no evidence for this at all (and much opposing evidence), it would seem to remove the need for SET in the first place.

In summary, if evolution is a physical process, then it can produce living organisms only if the laws of physics and initial state are ‘pre-programmed’ (so to speak) to do so. There is no question of a physical process creating such a disposition toward technology on its own. Physical systems, whether deterministic or not, are ruled by their laws and initial conditions.

Insights on Critical Realism by Alister McGrath, Roy Bhaskar and Ernan McMullin

See Alister McGrath on Critical Realism : Roy Bhaskar on Critical Realism

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We have shown that there are many misconceptions about faith and reason today. The myths are often quite divisive and reductive–promoting misinformation, confusion and bad paradigms. We suggest a new trajectory for the contemporary university would be to work on the compatibility and serendipity of faith and reason: with a view to promoting good scholarship, whole personhood and robust faith. After all, Christianity gave rise to the modern university and its committed pursuit of critical thinking, knowledge and wisdom. Where is the wisdom in ditching faith in our great academic institutions today? It is counter-productive and self-contradictory. It creates an abstract, poorer, and psychologically unhealthy environment. Why not commit to a future of integration, inclusion, and mutual enrichment–a rapprochement between faith & reason. Reason & Faith need each other to be their best self. We believe that this is the direction to human flourishing (M. Volf, Flourishing). The search for home that we find in culture today undergirds the pursuit of goodness, beauty, truth and unity and finds it fulfilment in God. Home is a place to stand and a story in which to live, to discover shalom or wholeness. Home is a metaphor for the heart’s and the mind’s deepest longings. Home is a place to stand and a story in which to live (shalom). Cornelius Plantinga writes:

Shalom means a universal flourishing, wholeness and delight–a state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Saviour opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights.

(C. Plantinga Jr., Not the Way its Supposed to Be, Eerdmans, 1995, 10)

~Dr. Gordon E. Carkner, Meta-Educator with UBC Postgraduate Students, Author, Blogger, YouTube Webinar Producer

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Posted by: gcarkner | September 20, 2022

Beauty & the Imagination: Paul M. Gould

The imagination is crucial to how we experience, understand and act in the world. Philosopher Paul M. Gould notes about the imagination that it is: (1) a faculty of the mind; (2) it mediates between sense and intellect (i.e. perception and reason), the human mind and the divine mind; (3) it is a faculty for meaning and invention. It is crucial to our lives, playing a significant role in perceiving, creating, dreaming, meaning, judging, learning, and moralizing. Imagination helps us narrate our lives, serving as a guide to explore the various facets and dimensions of our longings, aiding us in drawing connections between art and our lives. We are in fact Homo Imaginus. We are captured by that which capture our imagination.

Without the imagination the mind lacks the ‘raw materials’ needed to judge something as true or false. The will possesses nothing to judge as worthy or unworthy of our devotion. (P. Gould, Cultural Apologetics, 74)

Beauty plays a key role in awakening us and sustaining our longing for what is true and good, awakening our longing for our spiritual home–which involves an epic journey as in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Beauty in a way calls us home. It awakens and transports us out of the mundane into the enchanted, brings heaven (divine presence) to earth (our lives).  “Beauty is a divine megaphone to rouse a disenchanted world.” (P. Gould, Cultural Apologetics, 104) We are called to love God with our whole being: including our aesthetic skills, sensibilities and perceptions, our creativity and inventions. We are talking about art, music, symbol, poetry, the beauty of creation and story: all are part of our aesthetic currency. But it can also be a blog, video, architecture piece, or a garden sanctuary.

Genesis 1-3 reveals God as an artist and gardener as Andy Crouch writes in his book Culture Making. The Maker was thrilled with his creation. We who are made in God’s image should be creators and cultivators of goodness, truth and beauty in what we make and how we attribute meaning, think and reflect. The most beautiful thing we can do is to locate our life in God’s story, his narrative of healing, redemption and re-enchanting the world. A life of self-denial and service to God and neighbour is a most beautiful phenomenon (Mother Teresa, MLK). Philippians 2:15 suggests that we are called to “shine like stars in the universe (our holiness and goodness, our values and virtues). Seekers who attend to divine speech see that meaning and beauty find their source ultimately in Jesus the Christ, the humble carpenter from Nazareth.

Artists curate beauty, aiding us in seeing reality as it is, painting the world in its proper light and helping us to see it as enchanted, mysterious and sacred. Artists help us to see and understand truth… We are moved to worship God, who is the source of all things…. Art and the imagination help us to see the meaning of the world, our lives and the things we make. (P. Gould, Cultural Apologetics, 103)

In a world of increasing loneliness, angst and darkness, authentic beauty calls and invites people to consider something beyond this broken world. Jesus took on our sin and ugliness, horror and pain of this world so we can find forgiveness, hope, healing and wholeness (Jimmy Myers). Beauty and goodness may be the first window for people to recognize the divine; sometimes we need to clean it. Jesus is the source of beauty, he lived a beautiful life. He taught sometimes with puzzles, metaphors, stories. We were meant to wonder, to delight in, to be in awe. Moses’ tabernacle was a divinely crafted model that pointed to a greater reality—mediating the very presence of God.

Art, as we know it, stands on the threshold of the transcendental. It points beyond this world of accidental and disconnected things to another realm, in which human life is endowed with an emotional logic that makes suffering noble and love worthwhile. Nobody who is alert to beauty…is without the concept of redemption—of a final transcendence of moral disorder into a “kingdom of ends.”  (Roger Scrutin, Beauty, 156)

Let’s cultivate the imaginative this academic year reasoning, writing and living at UBC. Let’s live large into our fullest possible reality (transcendent and immanent).

When we see the world as Jesus does, we see it in its proper light. We receive it as gift, as sacred. By perceiving the world as enchanted, we savor it, and find sustenance in it…. The path of return to God lies through creation itself. We can’t return to this God-infused reality by denying or devaluing the material world. All that God has made is good. All is intrinsically valuable and sacred, even as it is broken and bent…. Creation is haunted. Creation ushers us into God’s presence as we learn to see God in and through all he has made. (P. Gould, Cultural Apologetics, 83)

Dr. Gordon E. Carkner, Meta-Educator with UBC Postgraduate Students

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George MacDonald, Phantastes.

C.S. Lewis, Voyage to Venus.

Roger Scrutin, Beauty.

Andy Crouch, Culture Making: Recovering our Creative Calling.

J.R.R. Tolkein, Lord of the Rings

James K.A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom.

Ralph C. Wood, Flannery O’Connor and the Christ-Haunted South Check out the books on art, literature, poetry and spirituality

Video from our Last Lecture with Michael Higgins

Posted by: gcarkner | September 15, 2022

GCU & Re-enchantment of Reality

The goal of this video is the healing of all of our relationships. The discussion examines the power of commodity-think and the disenchantment it causes. But we can put our creativity and ingenuity to work on a new paradigm of Contentment, Gratitude, Compassion.

The book Cultural Apologetics by Paul M. Gould is an inspiring read, a mature statement on Christian witness in late modernity. He complements the work of Charles Taylor. It is also about re-enchanting the world. Let’s pursue the hope-filled, redemptive wisdom track in life: through imagination, reason and morality revived.

Our disengagement  from and objectivization of nature is a fundamental shift, which moves us from seeing things and people as gifts to viewing them as commodities for use and consumption. In this new immanent framework, meaning resides in our individual appetite and the “good life” is identified with our consumption.  The satisfactions of pleasure (hedonism) rule the day.” ( P. M. Gould, Cultural Apologetics, 2019, 57)

“The possibility of re-enchantment is always very real.” ~C. S. Lewis

Grad students find a home and a lively conversation in Graduate Christian Union

Let’s meet up for coffee or lunch at a place close to you: Gord 604.349.9497

We’d love to hear about your background and passion.

Join our stimulating lectures [].

Study in Ephesians–The Discovery of a Re-enchanted Outlook on Life

We have decide to study the Book of Ephesians on Wednesdays at 12-2 pm. Join in as soon as you can and bring along a friend. We hope to meet in Sauder, but are still searching for an appropriate room

Sources of InspirationPractice Resurrection by Eugene Peterson; Towards an Incarnational Spiritual Culture by Gordon Carkner; Cultural Apologetics by Paul Gould (see quotes below).

Let us know if you can make it,

Gord & Ute Carkner

GCU Staff/Meta-Educators

Text: 604.349.9497 (Gord) Email:

778.840.3549 (Ute)

Quotes from Paul Gould, Cultural Apologetics

“Without the imagination the mind lacks the ‘raw materials’ needed to judge something as true or false. The will possesses nothing to judge as worthy or unworthy of our devotion.” (74)

“We long for God and a magical world full of deep mystery, beauty, holiness, and wholeness, a reality behind the material cosmos.” (75)

“Throughout history, those who live for something greater than themselves and greater than worldly desires have contributed immensely to the advancement of education, culture, and the common good. For those who accept the offer of “infinite joy”, contentment is obtained, and a powerful purpose for living is found. “ (79)

How does Jesus see and delight in reality? Nothing is mundane; everything is God-bathed, God-permeated, full of wonder and delight. He is ever present. When we see the world as Jesus does, we see it in its proper light. We receive it as gift, as sacred. By perceiving the world as enchanted, we savor it, and find sustenance in it…. The path of return to God lies through creation itself. We can’t return to this God-infused reality by denying or devaluing the material world. All that God has made is good. All is intrinsically valuable and sacred, even as it is broken and bent…. Creation is haunted; it ushers us into God’s presence as we learn to see God in and through all he has made. (83)

Brainstorming Sessions on Various Topics

Discover GCU Resources for Academic Research and for Life and Wellness

Lecture by Michael Higgins September 22 2022

Posted by: gcarkner | September 8, 2022

Priorities for Success as a Postgrad Student

UBC Bird’s Eye View

Be proactive – take responsibility for your own grad school experience.

• Think about what you really want from graduate school, and identify opportunities to attain those goals.

• You are transitioning from being told what to do, to deciding what to do. You are your own boss.

• Don’t wait for faculty members to come to find you. Take the initiative and build relationships with faculty in your department. Make a special priority of getting to know your mentor/supervisor.

You need to stand out to make it through grad school! And to do that, you need to develop more pronounced academic or personal habits than you already established during your college years. Practicing these habits can:

  • increase confidence, competence, and self-esteem
  • reduce anxiety brought about by tests and deadlines
  • prevent cramming
  • significantly reduce the hours spent studying and instead give more room for the other facets of life.

Participate in the intellectual community of your department and the campus.

• Seek input and collaboration from faculty members and your peers – don’t isolate yourself. Sometimes a great idea emerges from a different department of study.

• Attend optional seminars and lectures within and beyond your program or department.

• Attend and present at conferences.

• Begin thinking of yourself as a member of your profession and academic field. Put on that cap.

Ask questions.

Learning things in grad school would always require asking questions. It may not be enjoyable to some, but this is one of the most effective ways to know certain things you are curious about. 

The perfect time to ask questions in the university or school is once you get accepted. Your entrance to such a new journey would require you to list some essential questions that you need to ask certain people. This will eventually prepare you for what to face for graduate school. 

Be original!

Graduate students’ one major ticket into surviving grad school is to have an excellent research paper. But what makes other students stand out from the rest is that they have uniquely crafted research that reflects their specialty in their chosen field. 

A research paper is a comprehensive paperwork that emphasizes interpreting a chosen topic or argument and supporting references to validate your point. You can gather and use four types of research data when doing your research paper for grad school. Make sure to choose the best one that can make your research interesting and impressive. Here are the ways on how you can be original in making your research paper in grad school: 

Know your program requirements and timelines.

Masters students

• Coursework

•Comprehensive or qualifying exams

• Research thesis or major project 

• Public presentation and/or defense of thesis or project

Doctoral students

• Coursework

• Supervisory committee

• Research proposal approval

• Comprehensive exam 

• Dissertation completion and defense

Find your study spot.

Your study space is an excellent booster to your ability to study efficiently. As a grad student, it’s vital to this stage of your life to create a study environment that fosters productivity and minimizes distractions. So make an effort to manage your study space. After all, a comfortable space sharpens the mind and improves concentration. 

Create your designated space.

  • Decide between an open or closed environment. Customize this spot to your liking. 
  • Invest in materials that can make this area suitable for studying.
  • Keep away from loud areas or distractions like television.
  • Find a comfortable desk or table with ergonomic seats.
  • Commit to studying only in this space and always keep it clean.

Create and follow an annual plan.

• Track your specific program requirements (e.g., courses taken, comprehensives, research, thesis, etc.).

• Schedule meetings with your supervisor and committee. They are there to serve you.

• Publish articles and produce patents, copyrights, artistic works, performances, designs, etc.

• Attend conferences and make presentations.

• Apply for fellowships, scholarships and research grants.

• Think “next stage” —develop an individual professional development plan for the future. Set up a LinkedIn profile.

  • Set one specific, achievable goal. A goal can lead you to a direction you can focus on – set one that’s considerable and has an endpoint. This can lend you a hand in staying motivated.
  • Integrate your goal into your day-to-day life. Think about an objective that you can quickly and frequently do or choose goals that interest you so that it wouldn’t seem like an obligation; instead, it will be like a routine. Then set a timeframe on it.
    • Break down large goals into digestible micro-goals and easy tasks. When faced with a big overwhelming task, it dramatically helps divide the task into more manageable parts and steps. The strategy will help you rid of stress and procrastination. And achieving these smaller steps can build confidence too.

Establish positive relationships with your supervisor and members of your committee.

• Schedule regular meetings with your entire supervisory committee – at least once a year.

• Have a clear purpose for each meeting, and communicate the agenda in advance to your supervisor / committee.

• Follow up on items discussed in meetings – keep your supervisor informed of your progress and challenges.

• Act as a “junior colleague” – ask questions, advance ideas, show interest and support for shared goals.

Bring a professional approach to your studies and interactions.

• Build key skills: organization, preparedness, collegiality, budgeting.

• Take workshops on teaching; write a grant proposal.

• Mentor an undergraduate researcher.

• Learn about research ethics and scholarly integrity. You are building a reputation for a lifetime.

Set up a Document Management System. As you proceed to your graduate programs, you will accumulate numerous documents, such as research materials, readings, assignments, essay papers, and manuscripts. Here are ways to keep your documents well-organized:

  • Use binders, shelves, filing cabinets, and folders.
  • Label your documents accordingly and keep them within reach.
  • Sort them periodically and keep away what’s no longer necessary.
  • Categorize and store your electronic documents like research ideas, professional credentials, articles, and study materials in separate folders named accordingly for easy tracking and retrieval. Store and share bigger files using Dropbox, Box, or Google Drive.
  • Organize your emails. If possible, create an email exclusively for your graduate school work, create labeled folders, delete spam, and unsubscribe from emails that are no longer useful.

Seek balance and a support network in your life. Have some fun and adventure while you work on your degree.

• Remember that you have friends and family outside grad school. Find a church home in town.

• Seek out the many resources on your campus that can help you through the tough times (join a graduate student organization like Graduate Christian Union or attend GFCF (Graduate & Faculty Christian Forum) thought-provoking lectures.

  • Be inspired by others. Feel motivated by reading books, watching motivational shows/videos, and talking with your mentors or friends or family that you look up to.
  • Seek social and emotional support. Open up to your family and friends about your struggles and plans. If you have a mental illness, there are mental health care plans available that can aid with the cost of counseling. All these can help you manage the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Be with positive people. Being surrounded by positive colleagues, friends and family can boost your positive self-talk. Look for support groups with the same interest and endeavors as you.

Nurture Your Mental Health:

  • Maintain a regular schedule. Sticking to a consistent schedule will condition your mind and body to follow a daily routine. Devote yourself to a well-prepared timeline to prepare for your day.
  • Distinguish “real problems” from “hypothetical problems.”  A real problem can be addressed at the moment like you would resolve flooding in a home. A hypothetical worry essentially wastes your time because it hasn’t happened yet, like the flood causing problems on the wooden floor. According to Dr. Matthew Whalley and Dr. Hardeep Kaur of Psychology Tools, real-problem worries require that we look into them, while hypothetical worries will have to be dealt with in the future.
  • Try “postponing” your worry. It might sound like procrastinating, but it greatly helps when you give yourself a moment to reflect and take action. For example, you can tell yourself, “I will only let myself worry between 8 am to 10 am today.”
  • Choose the news you should be listening to. Try to read good and helpful news, and limit your overall news intake, such as reading the news once a day.
  • Avoid panicking and overthinking. According to Standford School of Business, it’s critical not to overthink the light decisions and underthink the big ones. In grad school, learn to decide on important matters and never over-analyze petty stuff!
  • Prioritize the things that you can manage. Using your energy for more important things is much worth doing than waste it on something unpredictable. There is a higher chance of accomplishing many productive things once you develop a habit of prioritizing things you have control over. 
  • Incorporate positive distractions. Instead of dwelling in sad problematic news, watch your go-to movies or series, go to wholesome blogs, and watch relaxing videos or interesting clips. You can also spend time with your people to calm yourself out. Use your downtime to focus and prioritize pleasant distractions.
  • Be kind to yourself. Treat yourself with loving-kindness and mind your health. Do simple tasks that give you the feeling of progressing. Making your bed first thing in the morning keeps you from getting back in!
  • Set realistic goals.  The best goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. Divide your tasks into tiny chunks, and decide on one activity at a time. It helps to finish one chapter of your reading instead of skipping pages and rushing to the next. Michelle Obama Reflects

Be optimistic!

Optimism is a healthy habit that helps us become happier and calmer. It can save people from depression and anxieties. An optimistic mindset and outlook make people more resistant to unnecessary thoughts that lead to stress. It may even help people live longer.

Your success in grad school is closely dependent on how capable you think you are! If a graduate student is convinced that they can overcome everything, they will face challenges head-on and a strong positive outlook.

Join a study group.

A wide array of study groups are always present in graduate schools and universities. Study groups promote a lot of different benefits. Here are some ways how study groups are helpful for you as a graduate student: 

  • They keep you accountable. Study groups mostly have a regular meet-up session where members undergo in-depth discussions about lessons and topics. It establishes a sense of routine wherein you can always follow how the discussions are going and stay up to date with the topics being discussed. 
  • They keep you sane. Your mental health would need a slight pause to make sure you are still focused on your tasks. The social interaction you get from such a set-up can help you ease up and realize your thoughts and priorities without being too hard on yourself. 
Posted by: gcarkner | July 28, 2022

Do We Still Have High Ideals and Hopes?

In Search of a Few Good Adventurers/Interlocutors

Some see this as such a cynical age that they wonder whether ideals and the pursuit of excellence have currency anymore. We want to protest. As a ministry to graduate students at UBC and beyond, in Graduate Christian Union and the Graduate & Faculty Christian Forum, we are diligently on a quest. It is not an easy, safe or superficial desire. Quite the contrary, we are looking to find and nurture the next generation of culture- and nation-shapers, builders of the literary imagination, institution-shapers, breakthroughs in science and medicine. We are looking for the future apologists, justice-seekers, politicians who care about the common good and the weaker members of society, peace-negotiators, international relations adjudicators, advocates for the poor.

Show us the new prophetic voices who will shape public policy towards a more fair, merciful and just society, musicians captivated by beauty, medical people with an ear to their patients as persons, educators and thinkers with vision to make a more human world. We adjure you; step up into your calling wise counsellors and healers of broken hearts, leaders with moral depth, substance  and self-awareness. Become people who can benefit from the wisdom of history and pursue robust vision for a more compassionate world–even when the going gets tough.

Let’s inspire the world, new artists and writers, telling great stories, capturing beauty. Let us listen to the heart of human pain and struggle, be conscientious stewards of creation, people who want to leave a positive environmental legacy. Take care of the earth, oceans and air. Together we can be problem-solvers, engineers and architects who craft a more accessible, just, and compassionate world. Young scientists and technologists, you care about ethics, you are bullish on mapping the human and creational benefits of your work. Truth-seekers, don’t stop with superficial conclusions, instead, think through and pursue the point rigorously until you get fully clarity and logical turpitude. Use reason well. Young lawyers, maintain your moral compass, fight for the common good, maintain a strong concern for justice and democracy, fairness and holiness. Young philosophers, examine the evidence, fathom the logic of the case, lead us into wise reflection and wise life decisions. Help us to recover ethics and virtue, to build towards reconciliation.

Young business entrepreneurs, maintain an environmental conscience and a strong stewardship priority. Be generous, build useful and good businesses that add social value and watch out for the disadvantaged. Priestly people, develop your theological acumen and your art of soulcraft. Keep your integrity and lead by example. Become people of deep prayer and reflection.

Postgraduate and professional students, refuse to permit ‘technique’ or utility, consumption, power or profit to be the final word, or the defining posture. Understand how modernity has shaped you negatively, stolen your soul, and fight against it. Be willing to think differently and sense the need to explore how you can shape and contribute creatively to late modernity in fresh ways, to build a new narrative which is life-giving, creative and constructive. Don’t just copy old templates and parrot ideologies that can grind you down and lead you into the trap of nihilism, angst and anomie. Young professors, focus on the flourishing of your students. Mentor them with diligence and care. Champion their successes. Point them in positive directions towards constructive projects to pour themselves into.

Truly, this is an exciting trajectory, a high privilege and a robust calling. Is it too idealistic? No indeed. Nothing is more pressing than the creative improvement of our world, healing broken hearts, and paving a way to a better future. We need leadership, peace-makers with courage today like never before, integrity and substance, well-roundedness and optimism. Many have travelled before us through the halls of academia with such high ideals, people who refused to be sheep and decided to be thoughtful servant leaders with emotional intelligence, focused on developing those who worked for them. We all can do our part for the greater good, take responsibility for others and especially for our own actions and shortcomings. Below are some of the speakers who have inspired us at UBC in past years:

GFCF Visiting Scholars have helped us produce excellent dialogue. They have also modelled incarnational spiritual culture at UBC for some thirty plus years. Here are some of our top participants: Ray Aldred, Dennis Alexander, Stephen Barr, Jeremy Begbie, Francis Collins, Sy Garte, Brad Gregory, Owen Gingerich, Malcolm Guite, Deborah Haarsma, Ian Hutchinson, David Livingstone, Simon Conway Morris, Alister McGrath, Tom McLeish, Bill Newsome, Alvin Plantinga, John Polkinghorne, Jennifer Wiseman.  These gifted and gracious people have made a huge difference, embodying the love and wisdom of Christ. They have travelled from afar to extend an invitation to dialogue on faith and culture from within each of their fields: the humanities, social sciences, hard sciences, medicine, art and music. They have provided a significant witness for Christ and Christianity in the Academy, embodying a beautiful combination of academic excellence and philosophical/theological wisdom. Lectures & Webinars GCU & GFCF

Don’t let grad school make you cynical. GCU and GFCF are in pursuit of moral and intellectual goods, in pursuit of truth, beauty, wisdom and goodness. We are rooted in a strong consciousness of transcendence, combined with incarnational relevance (faithful presence). We are an ongoing conversation that has existed here at UBC for three decades, building out from a core position of faith, hope and love. We seek to build constructive community networks of like-minded scholars and scientists. We mentor, inspire and resource students.

Together, we grapple with the transformative impact of delving deeply into the Christian narrative of meaning and purpose, to take on the full mantle of its redemptive, society-healing heritage–agape love. GCU & GFCF want to introduce you to some exemplars and great resources during your academic career. We believe that the Christian faith has never been more relevant to a hurting world. [Visit]

~Dr. Gordon E. Carkner, Meta-Educator with UBC postgraduate students, author, blogger, YouTube webinar producer.

John O’Malley, Four Cultures of the West.

Alister McGrath, A Fine-Tuned Universe.

David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God.

Curt Thompson, The Anatomy of the Soul.

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

Francis Collins, The Language of God.

Tim Keller, God and Reason.

Paul Gould, Cultural Apologetics.

UBC President Santa Ono speaks on: ” Faith Seeking Understanding”

7 PM, Wednesday, September 28, University Chapel

sponsored by Scriptorium Study Centre

Radcliffe Camera Library Oxford
Posted by: gcarkner | July 26, 2022

GFCF 2022-23 Lecture Series

GFCF @ UBC (The Forum) Speakers for the 2022-23 Academic Year

1. September 22, 2022: Michael Higgins, Principal of St Mark’s College and President at Corpus Christi College, UBC      

An Open Inquiry into the Ongoing Clerical Sex Abuse Crisis

Join Zoom Meeting


This will involve Michael’s state of the art exploration when it comes to clerical abuse of children:  improvements made, new challenges that have surfaced, suggestions moving forward. He co-authored with Peter Kavanaugh the ground-breaking book Suffer the Children Unto Me.


Michael W. Higginsa native Torontonian, is an author, scholar, Vatican Affairs Specialist for The Globe and Mail, Papal Commentator for the CTV Network, educator, CBC Radio documentarian, columnist. He has served as President and Vice-Chancellor of two Canadian Catholic universities, St. Jerome’s University in the University of Waterloo, Ontario, and St. Thomas University, Fredericton, New Brunswick, and as Vice-President for Mission and Catholic Identity at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut. He was named Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Catholic Thought in the Fall of 2020. He is currently Principal and President respectively of St. Mark’s College and Corpus Christi College, at University of British Columbia. He is author of several important books and a recognized Thomas Merton scholar.

2. October 25, 2022: Daniel K. Williams, Professor of History, University of West Georgia.                           

How Should Christians Think about Politics?


Does it matter how Christians think about political proposals that touch on moral issues such as poverty relief, racial justice, immigration, abortion, marriage, sexuality, and other matters that relate to biblical principles and human dignity?  What happens when Christians disagree with each other on these issues?  Is one political position or political party more “Christian” than another?  In this session, Dr. Williams will explore the recent history of Christian political activity and the reasons why political disagreements among Christians have become more heated lately.  He will then look at some ways to transcend partisan thinking and pursue Christian principles in the political sphere that should challenge those on both the left and the right.


Daniel K. Williams received his PhD from Brown University in 2005. He is a professor of history at the University of West Georgia and has taught there since 2005. He was the William E. Simon Visiting Fellow in Religion in Public Life, James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, Princeton University, 2011-12. Dr. Williams’ research focuses on the intersection between politics and religion in modern America. He is author of numerous articles and books including: God’s Own Party: The Making of the Christian Right. Oxford University Press, 2010 which was the recipient of the 2011 Phi Alpha Theta Best First Book Award; The Election of Evangelical Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and the Presidential Contest of 1976. University Press of Kansas, 2020; and The Politics of the Cross: A Christian Alternative to Partisanship. Eerdmans, 2021 (the theme of this presentation). 

3. January 26, 2023: Dr. Michael Ward, Black Friars, Oxford                                                                         

C. S. Lewis on Appearance and Reality in the Christian Life.


C. S. Lewis knew well that Christians walk “by faith, not sight”, as the apostle Paul puts it (2 Corinthians 5:7).  But what is the difference between faith and sight?  How does faith differ from delusion?  Michael Ward will explore these themes as they are presented in Lewis’s writings, especially his fiction, and in particular his best-known works, the seven Chronicles of Narnia.


Michael Ward is the author of the award-winning Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis (Oxford University Press), co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to C. S. Lewis (Cambridge University Press) and presenter of the BBC television documentary, The Narnia Code. A member of the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Oxford in his native England, Dr. Ward is also Professor of Apologetics at Houston Baptist University.  He studied English at Oxford, Theology at Cambridge, and has a PhD in Divinity from St. Andrews University, Scotland. He played the role of Vicar in the film ‘The Most Reluctant Convert: The Untold Story of C.S. Lewis’ and handed a pair of X-ray spectacles to Agent 007 in the James Bond movie ‘The World Is Not Enough.’ In real life he is a Catholic priest, assisting at Holy Rood Church, Oxford alongside his work as an academic. His latest book is After Humanity: A Guide to C.S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man (Word On Fire Academic). 

4. Tuesday, March 14 @ 4 PM: Dr. Matthew Lynch, Old Testament Professor @ Regent College

 The Land Keeps the Score: Violence in Creation According to the Old Testament


Most scholarly and popular treatments of violence in the Old Testament focus on social or personal dimensions of violence and its impact. Similarly, contemporary Christian attempts to grapple with the challenges of violence in Scripture often focus on the ethics of human-on-human or divine-on-human violence. While important, these approaches fail to address the Old Testament’s emphasis on the land as a victim of human violence. According to the Old Testament, the land bears the marks of violence because violence is, fundamentally, an ecocidal phenomenon. This talk explores this reality in Scripture and its implications for contemporary ethical reflection. 


Matthew Lynch spent the final year of his doctoral studies in Göttingen, Germany, remaining there as a postdoctoral researcher for another year following the completion of his PhD. He was subsequently hired at the Westminster Theological Centre in the UK, serving for seven years there in roles including Dean of Studies, Academic Dean, and Lecturer in Old Testament. During this time, he also lectured at Nashotah House and Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He is the author of First Isaiah and the Disappearance of the Gods (Eisenbrauns),  Portraying Violence in the Hebrew Bible: A Literary and Cultural Study (Cambridge, 2020), and Monotheism and Institutions in the Book of Chronicles: Temple, Priesthood, and Kingship in Post-Exilic Perspective (Mohr Siebeck, 2014). He also has a forthcoming volume entitled Flood and Fury: Engaging Old Testament Violence (IVP). Matthew is a founder and co-host of the OnScript podcast. He is married with two children.

These lectures are in part sponsored by the UBC Murrin Fund

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