Posted by: gcarkner | June 15, 2018

Welcome to UBC & GCU


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

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

Posted by: gcarkner | April 27, 2018

CSCA Conference TWU May 11-14

Some Reflections: Canadian Science and Christian Affiliation Conference

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

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

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

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


Gordon E. Carkner Scientism Full Lecture

Must We Remain  the Intellectual Prisoners of Ideological Scientism?

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

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

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


Philosopher Charles Taylor capturesits potency.

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


Five Cultural Markers/Identifiers of Scientism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April Book Launch: Mapping the Future

A New Book is Born, April 24, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gordon E. Carkner PhD

How to Use Mapping the Future Project: Dr. Gordon E. Carkner

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

Regent Summer Courses Regent Summer School


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Posted by: gcarkner | March 19, 2018

Gethsemane to Calvary

Garden of Gethsemane

Gethsemane by Rowan Williams

Who said that trees grow easily
compared with us? What if the bright
bare load that pushes down on them
insisted that they spread and bowed
and pleated back on themselves and cracked
and hunched? Light dropping like a palm
levelling the ground, backwards and forwards?

Across the valley are the other witnesses
of two millennia, the broad stones
packed by the hand of God, bristling
with little messages to fill the cracks.
As the light falls and flattens what grows
on these hills, the fault lines dart and spread,
there is room to say something, quick and tight.

Into the trees’ clefts, then, do we push
our folded words, thick as thumbs?
somewhere inside the ancient bark, a voice
has been before us, pushed the densest word
of all, abba, and left it to be collected by
whoever happens to be passing, bent down
the same way by the hot unreadable palms.

Rowan Williams, Remembering Jerusalem (Oxford: The Perpetua Press, 2001), p. 21

Giovani Bellini, The Agony of the Garden, 1459

Posted by: gcarkner | March 5, 2018

Expert Panel on Addiction, March 14, UBC

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Dr. John Koehn

John completed his medical education at the University of British Columbia, receiving certification from the Canadian College of Family Physicians. He acquired additional training in addiction medicine through completion of the St. Paul’s Goldcorp Addiction Medicine Fellowship and is certified by the American Board of Addiction Medicine. Currently, he is a consulting physician in addiction medicine at the Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, British Columbia, where he also teaches as a member of the UBC Clinical Faculty.

” I tell my patients that addiction is a treatable disease and that people get better when they take steps to address it. I am very hopeful for my patients because I’ve seen the difference that recovery can make in their lives.”


Dr. Gabriel Loh

Gabriel is currently Clinical Coordinator of Pharmacy Practice at Richmond Hospital and is also a Clinical Assistant Professor with the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at UBC.  Gabriel obtained his undergraduate Pharmacy degree at UBC in 2001, subsequently completed a hospital pharmacy residency at Saint Paul’s Hospital in 2002 and then a post-graduate Doctor of Pharmacy degree at UBC in 2007.  He has worked as a front-line clinical pharmacist in the Intensive Care Units at both Vancouver General Hospital and Richmond Hospital for the past 10 years and has helped care for patients and families with various addiction issues in his daily work.

“Addiction is a complex medical disorder that not only affects the individual but which can also destroy the lives of entire families and loved ones.  While various interventions and treatments are now available to help an individual manage addiction, the Christian community must not neglect the patient’s family members and caregivers who desperately need support and healing as well. While there are all sorts of therapeutic interventions and harm reduction strategies being promoted right now, I believe that a holistic approach that incorporates the physical-emotional-spiritual aspects would be most successful in breaking the cycle of addiction.”

Jadine Cairns, Registered Dietician, MSc. Nutrition

Jadine Cairns has worked as a registered dietitian for over 30 years and completed her masters in Human Nutrition at the University of British Columbia in 2003.  She has published and presented at national and international conferences in the area of eating disorders.  She was the President of the Eating Disorders Association of Canada and Chaired the National Eating Disorders Conference in 2014. Currently, Jadine works with the BC Children’s Hospital Eating Program for almost 30 years. She also has a private practice specializing in weight management, eating disorder and disordered eating issues.

Eating Disorders

“Causes of Eating Disorders, simply put, is multi-factorial.  It has been described as a combination of genetics, internal personal factors and external (environmental) factors.  Not much can be done with genetics, but the goal of treatment would be to address the internal space of being human and to be aware of the environment where we live.  Is an eating disorder the result from our “addiction to health”, “perfectionism”, performance, or our need to preserve our self-image in the only way we know how?  The latest thoughts and research around what is helpful and has good prognostic outcomes include psychoeducation, dialectical behavior therapy, family base therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and self-compassion.”

Jay C. Wang, MD, a graduate of the University of British Columbia School of Medicine.
PGYIII Psychiatry Resident: Currently, Dr Wang is completing his specialty training in psychiatry.
“Having seen the effects of drugs and addiction on psychiatric patients, he is interested in the interface between psychiatry and addiction, and will be completing subspecialty training in addiction psychiatry in the following academic year. In his opinion, the treatment of addiction emphasizes the biopsychosocial approach, where medications, therapy, and social factors all have a role to play in helping a patient recover.”
Some Questions to Ponder

Is addiction a brain disease or a chosen habit or something in between?  If we call addiction a disease does that absolve individuals from moral responsibility?

Do you think decriminalization (rather than legalization) of opioids would increase or decrease the present addiction crisis?

Is there a danger that widespread use of opioid antagonists  might merely encourage greater use of opioids?   

Nicotine is far deadlier and more addictive than cannabis. Should the government be taking greater steps to prevent nicotine addiction?

Bill Newsome Lecture, January 31 @ UBC

In order for organisms to learn and successfully repeat behaviours that result in survival of the individual and the social encounters necessary for survival of the species, certain brain mechanisms for motivation, emotion and executive control must be activated.  Addiction occurs when these normal mechanisms become hijacked by particular substances. The common mechanism for this hijacking involves increased sensitivity to the neurotransmitter dopamine. Pleasurable behaviors including eating, drinking, music, video games, social and sexual interactions are all accompanied by dopamine release in an area deep in the frontal brain called the nucleus accumbens.   Substances that are abused also directly or indirectly activate this area, but psychostimulants, opiates, ethanol, cannabinoids and nicotine all result in bursts of dopamine release 3 to 5 times greater than that provided by normal reinforcers.

Dopamine release in this brain area flags whatever produced this dopamine spike as worth attending to, and any cues associated with it as worth learning. This is the normal brain mechanism which promotes learning of the behaviours necessary for survival.  Initial bursts of dopamine during successful behaviours causes positive reinforcement and results in the  longterm structural changes in synapses and dendritic spines which underlie learning. The mechanism works as it should if the organism learns, for example, where food is available. The problem arises with the supra-physiological amounts of dopamine produced by addictive substances. This learning of drug associated cues and pleasurable feelings leads to addiction.

Sensitization of the nucleus accumbens occurs during this addiction process. Drugs, alcohol and nicotine can restructure the synaptic pathways so they stimulate more dendrites than previously, but other normal reinforcers stimulate fewer dendrites. This action hijacks motivational processes and the person becomes focused only on the drug. Now the brain is sensitized to the drug cues and any reminder of the drug can cause craving and drug seeking even in abstinent former users. Cues associated with the drug such as paraphernalia or even specific places and people increase anticipatory activity in the sensitized nucleus accumbens and related areas and bring back the craving.

Now we have set the stage for long-term changes in motivation, emotion and executive control of behavior that occur in addiction. Due to physiological adaptation to the high levels of dopamine, chronic use leads to a decrease in the  subjective feeling of pleasure provided by the drug by a mechanism referred to as tolerance. Tolerance means an increasingly greater amount of the drug is necessary to produce the same “high”. Eventually drug users seek to avoid the distress, irritability and restlessness of the withdrawal symptoms produced when dopamine release in the accumbens is decreased if they do not continue to take the drug regularly. To prevent withdrawal with its resulting negative sensations and feelings, individuals become focussed on compulsively seeking more of the drug. Thus, in addition to changes in motivation, there are changes in emotional mechanisms. The memory of reinforcement also decreases the activity in the cortical executive circuits which normally provide inhibitory control over all adult behaviour and allow us to make wise decisions. Thus ability to regulate behaviour thus becomes impaired due to altered cortical control circuits.

~ Dr. Judith Toronchuk, Neuropsychologist  Hacking of the American Mind, Dr. Robert Lustig, Paediatrician.

Lustig’s Book: The Hacking of the American Mind: the science behind the corporate takeover of our bodies and Brians  Gabor Mate


Posted by: gcarkner | February 25, 2018

Reflections on the Core: Loves and Identity, James K.A. Smith

Brilliant Quotes from James K.A. Smith, You Are What You Love: the spiritual power of habit. (Brazos, 2016)

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James K. A. Smith

Canadian philosopher who is currently Professor of Philosophy at Calvin College, holding the Gary & Henrietta Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology & Worldview. He is a notable figure associated with radical orthodoxy, a theo-philosophical movement within postmodern Christianity (although Smith now questions the reality of radical orthodoxy as an ongoing theological movement: “Is ‘radical orthodoxy’ still a thing? I hadn’t realized”). His work is undertaken at the borderlands between philosophy, theology, ethics, aesthetics, science, and politics. Drawing from continental philosophy and informed by a long Augustinian tradition of theological cultural critique—from Augustine and Calvin to Edwards and Kuyper—his interests are in bringing critical thought to bear on the practices of the church and the church’s witness to culture, culminating in the need to interpret and understand what he has called “cultural liturgies”. He is also heavily influenced in his take on the secular age and disenchantment by Canadian iconic philosopher Charles Taylor. His work in this book is cutting edge as a faith and culture interface.

Jesus is a teacher who doesn’t just inform our intellect but forms our very loves. He isn’t content to simply deposit new ideas into your mind; he is after nothing less than your wants, your loves, your longings.


Worship works from the top down, you might say. In worship, we don’t just come to show God our devotion and give him our praise; we are called to worship because in this encounter God (re)makes and molds us top-down. Worship is the arena in which God recalibrates our hearts, reforms our desires, and rehabituates our loves. Worship isn’t just something we do; it is where God does something to us. Worship is the heart of discipleship because it is the gymnasium in which God retrains our hearts.


Learning” virtue—becoming virtuous—is more like practicing scales on the piano than learning music theory: the goal is, in a sense, for your fingers to learn the scales so they can then play “naturally,” as it were. Learning here isn’t just information acquisition; it’s more like inscribing something into the very fiber of your being.


Your deepest desire,” he observes, “is the one manifested by your daily life and habits.” This is because our action—our doing—bubbles up from our loves, which, as we’ve observed, are habits we’ve acquired through the practices we’re immersed in. That means the formation of my loves and desires can be happening “under the hood” of consciousness. I might be learning to love a telos that I’m not even aware of and that nonetheless governs my life in unconscious ways.


Similarly, if I am going to be a teacher of virtue, I need to be a virtuous teacher. If I hope to invite students into a formative educational project, then I, too, need to relinquish any myth of independence, autonomy, and self-sufficiency and recognize that my own formation is never final. Virtue is not a one-time accomplishment; it requires a maintenance program.


Jesus’s command to follow him is a command to align our loves and longings with his—to want what God wants, to desire what God desires, to hunger and thirst after God and crave a world where he is all in all—a vision encapsulated by the shorthand “the kingdom of God.”


As Blaise Pascal put it in his famous wager: “You have to wager. It is not up to you, you are already committed.” You can’t not bet your life on something. You can’t not be headed somewhere. We live leaning forward, bent on arriving at the place we long for.


Formative Christian worship paints a picture of the beauty of the Lord–and a vision of the shalom he desires for creation–in a way that captures our imagination….The biblical vision of shalom–of a world where the Lamb is our light, where swords are beaten into ploughshares, where abundance is enjoyed by all, where people from every tribe and tongue and nation sing the same song of praise, where justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like an everlasting stream–is the vision that should be enacted in Christian worship.


Our wants and longings and desires are at the core of our identity, the wellspring from which our actions and behavior flow.


The place we unconsciously strive toward is what ancient philosophers of habit called our telos–our goal, our end. But the telos we live toward is not something we primarily know or believe or think about; rather, our telos is what we want, what we long for, what we crave. It is less an ideal that we have ideas out and more a vision of “the good life” that we desire.


But once you realize that we are not just thinking things but creatures of habit, you’ll then realize that temptation isn’t just about bad ideas or wrong decisions; it’s often a factor of de-formation and wrongly ordered habits. In other words, our sins aren’t just discrete, wrong actions and bad decisions; they reflect vices. And overcoming them requires more than just knowledge; it requires rehabituation, a re-formation of our loves.


Not many people can confront the truth about themselves. If they did they’d run a mile, would take an immediate and profound dislike to the person in whose skin they’d learned to sit quite tolerably all these years.


Indeed, the telos for a Christian is Christ: Jesus Christ is the very embodiment of what we’re made for, of the end to which we are called….and how does this happen? By being regularly immersed in the drama of God in Christ reconciling the world to himself, which is precisely the point of Christian worship–to invite us into that story over and over again, ‘character-izing’ us as we rehearse the gospel drama over and over.


To recognize the limits of knowledge is not to embrace ignorance. We don’t need less than knowledge; we need more. We need to recognize the power of habit.

Dialogue on Human Rights

Date: Feb 28, 2018
Time: 7pm – 9:30pm
Place: The Centre, 777 Home Street, Downtown Vancouver
Room: The Commons
RSVP at:

*RSVP required to attend. 

This was a very good event, a fair exchange between two different worldviews. A key question discussed was the rooting or grounding of the good of human rights. There was good humour and kindness between candidates. ~Dr. Gordon Carkner

A video will be available through Apologetics Canada. Conference in Abbotsford March 2-3

Key Questions from a Conference in Langley, BC with James K.A. Smith:

Since all beliefs are currently contestable and fragile, in a secular age, what are the plausibility conditions necessary for Christian belief?

Within the current immanent frame described by Charles Taylor, what does faith in the transcendent look like and how is it accessible? Everyone is feeling cross-pressured by other beliefs and doubts.

With the Nova Effect of multiplication of convictions and beliefs, spiritual journeys, what are the chances or opportunities of Christian re-enchantment of life?

In a secular age, can we bring the transcendent into our politics? Christian politics starts in community.





Posted by: gcarkner | February 6, 2018

Thirteen Good Books for 2018

Thirteen Top Apologetics Resources for 2018

You Can find them all at Regent College Bookstore

~Dr. Gordon Carkner


  • Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies.
  • David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God.
  • James K.A. Smith, You Are What You Love.
  • Alister McGrath, A Fine-Tuned Universe.
  • David Brooks, The Road to Character.
  • Miraslov Volf, Flourishing.
  • Jonathan Sacks, Not in God’s Name.
  • Andy Crouch, Playing God.
  • Steven Bouma-Prediger, For the Beauty of the Earth.
  • Tom McLeish, Faith and Wisdom in Science.
  • N.T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God.
  • Craig & Meister, God is Good; God is Great. 
  • Tim Keller, Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical.

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Snow Geese Migration, Fraser River in Vancouver

Posted by: gcarkner | February 3, 2018

National Science & Faith Conference, May 2018


Posted by: gcarkner | January 14, 2018

Leading Stanford Neuroscientist Bill Newsome at UBC/TWU    Bill Newsome January 31 @ UBC

This is where the fulcrum of our fears lie: that humans as a species and we as thinking people, will be shown to be no more than a machinery of atoms. The crisis of our confidence springs from each person’s wish to be a mind and a person in the face of the nagging fear that one is only a mechanism. ~Jacob Bronowski, Mathematician, Biologist and Historian of Science

“In my lifetime, there has never been a moment like this one… in terms of the speed and acceleration of discovery.” William Newsome, director of the Stanford Neurosciences Institute, says new technologies are allowing researchers to make significant progress in understanding the brain.


Co-sponsored with the Canadian Science & Christian Affiliation and UBC Graduate & Faculty Christian Forum. Other lectures in the series at 

Supported financially by the UBC Murrin Fund and Oikodome Foundation

What about our brains allows us be one person at the office and a very different person at home? Professor William Newsome explains how a constant rewiring of neural connectivity enables the “socially sensitive” production of behavior.

See also the January 6-12 Issue of the Economist.

Read: Explaining the Brain: mechanisms and the mosaic unity of neuroscience by Carl F. Craver

Compare post on Ghost in the Machine.

Further Reading on neuroscience and faith, the body-soul question:

Nagel, T.,  What is it like to be a bat?; (2012) Mind and Cosmos.

Brown, W.S. & Strawn, B.D. (2012). The physical nature of Christian life: Neuroscience, psychology and the church. NY: Cambridge University Press.

Jeeves, M. & Brown, W.S. (2009). Neuroscience, psychology, and religion: illusions, delusions, and realities about human nature. West Conshohocken: Templeton Foundation Press.

Brown, W.S. and Murphy, N. (2007). Did My Neurons Make Me Do It?: philosophical, and neurobiological perspectives on moral responsibility and free will. Oxford Clarendon.

Markham, Paul N. (2007). Rewired: Exploring Religious Conversion. Eugene, OR: Pickwick

Murphey, Nancey. (2006). Bodies and souls, or spirited bodies? New York, NY: Cambridge

Green, Joel & Palmer, Stuart. (2005). In search of the soul: four views of the mind-body problem. Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Jeeves, Malcolm, ed. (2004). From cells to souls–and beyond: changing portraits of human nature. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

Jeeves, Malcolm. (2006). Human nature: reflections on the integration of psychology and Christianity. Radnor, PA: Templeton Foundation Press.

Swinburne, R. (2007). The Evolution of the Soul. Oxford. Bill Newsome on State of Neuroscience Bill Newsome on Free Will Test of Faith Series with Bill Newsome

Awards and Prizes

  • Rank Prize in Opto-electronics
  • Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award (American Psychological Association)
  • Karl Spencer Lashley Award (American Philosophical Society)
  • Champalimaud Vision Award
  • Pepose Award for the Study of Vision at Brandeis University
  • 100 Published scientific articles
Next, GFCF Panel on Addiction

Wednesday, March 14, 2018 at 4:00 p.m.

Woodward IRC Room 5, GATE One UBC


Distinguished Panel Members

John Koehn, Addiction Medical Practitioner, New Westminster, Royal Columbia Hospital, completed a Fellowship under Dr. Evan Wood, BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS

Jay Wong, Psychiatry UBC, Providence Health, front line addiction worker, under Dr. Evan Wood

Jadine Cairns, Nutritionist, Children’s Hospital, Specialist in Eating Disorders

Gabriel Loh, Doctor of Pharmacology, Vancouver Coastal Health, Clinical Assistant Professor, works at Richmond Hospital. 


Various types of addiction, especially drug, food and alcohol, are showing up as a major social and health problem in Canadian society. It has been recognized by the Royal College of Physicians as a training priority. In recent years, substance abuse and the concurrent disorders have been highlighted in the media through the fentanyl crisis. This interdisciplinary panel of healthcare professionals will address various aspects of the problem and propose some ways forward from within their fields of expertise. Faith-based and medical solutions will be explored as a long-term solution to this vexing problem that deeply challenges so many lives.




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