Posted by: gcarkner | August 16, 2017

Welcome to Graduate Christian Union (GCU)

 Welcome to UBC Fall Term 2017

We exist to help you reach your full potential as a graduate student and to discover your fullest self within a supportive community. You can help us build a creative network among postgraduate students at UBC. We respond to those pursuing the deeper life, those who want to grow in personal character as well as academically. This is your offer of a free coffee of you choice when you meet with one of our staff to share vision and the story of how you have come to UBC. Come join us at our fall reception September 13 (poster below). Share your passion and your curiosity to grow in new ways this academic year. GCU works hard to help you build a good learning curve. There are many people who believe in you and your future contribution.


Welcome to Graduate Christian Union

We Provide Opportunities to Expand Your Horizons

GCU begins its  program in September with a Dinner Reception on Wednesday, September 13 at 6:00 pm at the home of Professor Ed and Anne Jull, 1828 Western Parkway, at UBC. We enjoyed meeting so many good people at the GSS Clubs Fair on Friday, September 1, 3-5 pm. Graduate Student Centre. We sponsor discussion groups, retreats, films, speakers and fun outdoor hikes in the local mountains. We like international food and fun. GCU is a little bit like the UN with friends from around the globe. Write to to RSVP for the dinner reception, or if you want to be regularly informed about our activities and resources to enhance your experience at UBC. All of us are on a journey both academically and spiritually. We hope that GCU can add fun, wisdom and colour to that adventure. You have so much to offer to UBC and to other students, things from the heart of your passion. The group loves to explore important questions that lead to curious investigation and new discovery. We have just released a book last fall written by our staff support worker Gordon Carkner which gives the spirit of GCU and the forums GFCF. We think you will benefit from it as a personal resource for inspiration. The book is called The Great Escape from Nihilism: rediscovering our passion in late modernity. Available at the UBC Bookstore in philosophy and in the UBC library.

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Joined by his wife Ute,, and a brilliant, earnest group of UBC faculty, Gordon loves to hear stories from around the world and he enjoys the art of engaging Christian faith with culture and with science. GCU is all about dialogue, discussion, support and mutual stimulation, building ideas into positive action for the common good. We work hard to help you navigate UBC with class and to reach your goals.

Overview Graduate Christian Union Fall 2017

 GCU Dinner Reception for UBC Grad Students and Faculty: Wednesday, September 13 @ 6:00 p.m., 1828 Western Parkway RSVP

Saturday Hikes: Sept. 9 (Quarry Rock, Deep Cove, beginner, 1.5 hours), Sept. 16 (Sea to Summit, Squamish, advanced, 3-4 hours, $15 gondola) Ute:  Text: 778.840.3549 Get to know the natural vista beauty of the local mountains.

GCU Study Group Begins Thursday, September 21, 7:00 pm @ 277 West 16th Ave. (2 blocks east of Cambie Street on the north side) The Full Implications of the Incarnation.  Investigative-discursive in style.

Film Night Saturday, September 30: The Butler

Gallery 2.0 Dialogues–start Friday noon September 29 with Dr. Tim Huh from Sauder School of Business. Find the GCU sign on the table and friendly interlocutors.

Dr. Craig Mitton, School of Population and Public Health, October 20

Canadian Thanksgiving Dinner Celebration: Thursday evening, October 5

GFCF Scholarly Lecture Series: First one with UK Public Intellectual Baron Jonathan Sacks, Wednesday, October 25 @ 4:00 pm in Chemistry D200. The Dignity of Difference: Positive Moral Contribution of Religion in a Globalized World. 

GCU is here to help you enhance your UBC grad experience

  • Building a Christian Voice within in Academia: faith and reason in collaboration.
  • Discover Great Resources to support your thinking, research and broaden your horizons: theological, philosophical, historical, justice, etc.
  • Hospitality, meals, celebrations, friendship, collaboration.
  • Scripture Study Plus on theme of the Full Implications of the Incarnation (Thursdays at 7:00 pm). Starts with tea and dessert at 277 West 16th We add in TED talks, documentary clips, music, your creative input and questions.
  • Support, problem-solving and mentorship from UBC faculty members.
  • GCU Blog ( reaching students in 92 countries. Join UBC faculty, students, international writers, and GCU staff: spark a conversation and promote creative writing.
  • New 2016 Book for the GCU/GFCF Vision: The Great Escape from Nihilism: rediscovering our passion in late modernity by Gordon E. Carkner, Ph.D. It gives you some history of our dialogue and debates over the years.
  • Apologetics Training/Resources: Learn about constructive dialogue with a friend.
  • Prayer and Spiritual Support: Prayer meeting on Wednesday mornings on campus. Contact Ute Carkner Cell: 778.840.3549
  • Join our Listserv for GCU weekly updates: Gord Carkner, GCU Staff

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Key Words to Capture the GCU Narrative Curiosity, Community, Digging Deeper into Faith and Reason, Integration, Science-Religion Dialogue, Identity Capital, Big Questions, Meta-Biology, Meaning and Calling, Adding Value to Education, Moral Depth and Integrity, Culture Making, Justice and the Common Good, Creative Imagination, Good Scholarship, Innovation, Christo-centric Inspiration, Incarnational Humanism, Adventure and Fun, Celebrating Creation, Re-thinking the Secular, Social Relevance, the Virtuous Community.

GCU is interdisciplinary and international, it creates a lively conversation as people bring their wealth of knowledge, experience and expertise to the table. They also bring their heart, humour and their joy to community. Let’s get to know each other and explore new horizons together during this important formation journey of postgraduate education. Looking forward to hearing your story and your aspirations for grad school. If you are exploring the Christian faith for the very first time, you are welcome to join our dialogue.


Join us on a nature hike!

The Full Implications of the Incarnation  Our theme this term is an intriguing investigation into the biblical narrative about incarnation, probably the most important distinction in the Christian faith. We will drill down into a variety of passages, Old and New Testament, to discern the big picture. I have been researching this issue over the summer, but even for a much longer time, took a course on the subject from a very bright Chicago professor, Daniel Treier of Wheaton College. My thinking has been enriched and expanded as well as empowered. I have also been writing about the contrast between Gnostic religion versus the incarnation. All this was striking and quite informative, and it put al lot of things into perspective. The full implications are staggering and far reaching for many disciplines, not just theology. So I invite you to join GCU in this vital dialogue and help towards the writing of a book on the subject. There indeed are exciting possibilities for the road ahead in 2017-18. Here’s a key quote from Dr. Jens Zimmermann, a strong advocate of incarnational thinking and living:

Christ the creative wisdom of God, and God’s active Word in creation, is enfleshed in the temporal-historical dimension of our world as the concrete Jewish Messiah, Jesus the Christ…. This is the Word through whom all things were made, and the Word hid in the eternal bosom of God, the Word who spoke through the prophets, the Word whose mighty acts defined the history of Israel. In Jesus the Christ, this Word has become flesh, and the eternal has become temporal, but without ceasing to be eternal…. In Christ temporality and eternity are conjoined…. In the incarnation, creation, the world, time and history have been taken up into the God-man, who is the center of reality…. Faith and reason are inseparable because their unity is in Christ. (J. Zimmermann, Incarnation Humanism, 2012, 264-5)

One more scholar, University of Virginia noted sociologist James Davison Hunter, clarifies how it impacts our lives:

If, indeed, there is a hope or an imaginable prospect for human flourishing in the contemporary world, it begins when the Word of shalom becomes flesh in us and is enacted through us toward those with whom we live, in the tasks we are given, and in the spheres of influence in which we operate. When the Word of all flourishing—defined by the love of Christ—becomes flesh in us, in our relations with others, within the tasks we are given, and within our spheres of influence—absence gives way to presence, and the word we speak to each other and to the world becomes authentic and trustworthy. (J.D. Hunter, To Change the World 2010, 252)

We have discovered in the incarnation a new transcendent-immanent horizon of vast and deep meaning as servants of the Word made flesh. This opens reality to us in fresh and amazing ways to a new fullness.

All the fragments of reality, all the words, are drawn to him as metal shavings are to a magnet. He is the primordial Word before all words—the Urwort—who as sharing in the divine essence is also an Überwort [super-word], the alpha and omega…. In the flesh he speaks words, fragments themselves which are cast out like a net to gather the original fragments, turned away from their telos by misused human freedom, leading them not to destruction, but to fullness. But it is a new fullness, one that will pass through the ultimate purification of the Word’s entering the dead silence which knows none of the creative tension of word-silence, that mutedness which is death. All of the words of His life, all that he would express of the One Who sent him, are gathered into that inchoate cry from that fixed point at which life’s speech collapses into silence…. Yet the Father raises this now formless Word to transformed life, sending the Spirit through this silent Word to begin to transform this silent Word back into the words that will transform all creation…. And so the Christian life begins after all the words of creation have been gathered up into the one Word Jesus Christ. (R. Gawronski, 2015, 188)

Looking forward to a great year of discovery and growth,

~Dr. Gordon E. Carkner, GCU Staff


Quotes from UBC Professors

Long hours in the laboratory, thesis proposals, the weight of comprehensive exams means that a grad student needs a support infrastructure. I can’t speak highly enough about getting involved with a group on campus like GCU, and also finding a good church home base. Also as you are walking into your office or biking into campus, try praying for your profs, fellow students, or admin staff; this can help stimulate surprisingly fruitful conversations. And don’t forget that you are here to serve undergrads with grace. Feel free to track me down for coffee; I love ideas exchange.

~Dr. Craig Mitton, PhD

Associate Professor

School of Population and Public Health

As a graduate student several decades ago I found the Grad Christian Union community at my university uplifting spiritually and socially. In an often chilly secular environment, it was a great venue to meet other grads outside my own field and cultural background and develop friendships and join in events with those who shared the same core values. I am still in contact with several of these friends 30 years later. With some other faculty and graduate students, I helped to launch the Graduate & Faculty Christian Forum a number of years ago. Gord has been a solid advisor to this group as well 

~Dr. David Ley

Professor Department of Geography

University of British Columbia

There is no more important bellwether for our society and our culture than the university — and yet Christians within academia often travel incognito, which isn’t good for them, isn’t good for the university, and isn’t good for other Christians, who often feel alone when really they’re not. A ministry to grad students and thus provides a vital venue where Christians can connect, show their colours, and stimulate each other to play the full role they’re called to play as fully alive and “out” followers of Christ. Decide to be a public Christian at UBC.

~Dr. Dennis Danielson

Professor of English

University of British Columbia

Graduate research is often like looking for a lightswitch in a totally dark room. It can be frustrating at times. It certainly was for me! It was invaluable for me to have close connection with other Christians whom I could share that load with, and who were praying for me.

~Dr. Bé Wassink

Instructor, Materials Engineering

University of British Columbia

Posted by: gcarkner | August 3, 2017

GFCF Lecture Schedule for 2017-18

Wednesday, October 25 @ 4:00 p.m. Chemistry D200, 2036 Main Mall, UBC

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, philosopher, theologian, politician, one of the UK’s top public intellectuals, former Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregation of the Commonwealth 1991-2013. Baron Sacks will be brought to us by video.

Responses by: Dr. Olav Slaymaker, Professor Emeritus Geography, UBC; Dr. Jason Byassee, Professor of Hermeneutics and Homiletics, Vancouver School of Theology.

The Dignity of Difference versus the Clash of Civilizations: the Critical Moral Contribution of Religion in our Globalized World


Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, a top public intellectual, affirms that religion can be part of human controversy today, but he wants to strongly emphasize that it also can and should be a big part of the solution to contemporary tensions and conflicts. It is especially true for him that the morality carried by religious traditions has a vital contribution with respect to the powerful forces of globalization in late capitalism. He wants to celebrate the differences among religious traditions and use them to preserve and enlarge, not stunt, our humanity. Sacks, a man of conservative temperament who follows a very orthodox version of Judaism, is a large-hearted person who has come to respect the different ways humanity has expressed its search for meaning (the dignity of difference). The liberating thing about his book and this talk, The Dignity of Difference, is that he uses it to open the wisdom of the Hebrew tradition, not out of religious arrogance, but because he believes it will help us find a way to heal the troubles that beset us. The astonishing thing about his achievement is that his application of the Hebrew religious genius to the human condition works whether you believe in God or not. He wants a world where all can participate on a level economic playing field. Judaism has always had a healthy attitude towards the world, but it has always sought moderation in its adherents and a strong sense of covenanted responsibility toward the less fortunate. It is for this reason that Rabbi Sacks’s analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the global market economy is so compelling and hopeful. He is attentive to important nuances of the human condition and the variety of motives. There is much that resonates with people concerned about the common good.


An international religious leader, philosopher, award-winning author and respected moral voice, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks was awarded the 2016 Templeton Prize in recognition of his “exceptional contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimension.” Described by H.R.H. The Prince of Wales as “a light unto this nation” and by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as “an intellectual giant”, Rabbi Sacks is a frequent and sought after contributor to radio, television and the press both in Britain and around the world. Since stepping down as the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth – a position he served for 22 years between 1991 and 2013 – Rabbi Sacks has held a number of professorships at several academic institutions including Yeshiva University and King’s College London. He currently serves as the Ingeborg and Ira Rennert Global Distinguished Professor at New York University. Rabbi Sacks has been awarded 17 honorary doctorates including a Doctor of Divinity conferred to mark his first ten years in office as Chief Rabbi, by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey.

Also worth reading Jonathan Sacks, Not in God’s Name: confronting religious violence. (2015)


Wednesday, November 29 @ 4:00 p.m., MacLeod Building 254, 2356 Main Mall, UBC

Dr. Thomas Heilke, Professor of Political Science, and Associate Dean of the College of Graduate Studies, UBC Okanagan

 A Close Examination of the Foundations of Democracy: Religion and the Current Crisis


Limitless human potential and progress will result in this-worldly, pan-humanist fulfilment for all people groups. Inclusive pluralism, tolerance and respect will rule the day. Human possibilities will extend into a perfected and still perfecting future, supported by and supporting human autonomy, equality, and freedom. These expectations (or values) form one stream of the Western political tradition—liberal democracy. It functions as a political “myth” that regulates our thinking about public discourse, political leadership and perhaps reality itself. The myth has often been thought to originate within religious sensibilities and thought-ways, especially (but not exclusively) those of Christianity. Recent national and international political shock events have cast doubt on this myth and its inherent hopes for democratic polities like Canada. Therefore, we want to circumspectly probe: What indeed are the foundations of such a myth? Can a rigorous examination of current events help us think more clearly about the meaning of such foundations in the light of institutions and emotions, virtues and vices? Included in this inquiry, we contend, is the understanding that they are arguably based in the same religious sensibilities that underpin the hope of human progress. Professor Thomas Heilke will argue that the sources can be fruitfully examined, but also that their theological origins—alongside the parallel theological origins of progressivist thinking— must be more clearly discerned.


Thomas Heilke received his PhD from Duke University in 1990. After 23 years as a faculty member and a variety of administrative positions at the University of Kansas, he has been Professor of Political Science and Associate Dean of the College of Graduate Studies UBC Okanagan since January, 2014. He is the recipient of three teaching awards, and has written on a variety of topics in political philosophy, including civic friendship, political theology, the political thought of Friedrich Nietzsche, Eric Voegelin, John Howard Yoder, and Thucydides, and Anabaptist political thought. He has authored or co-authored four books and edited or co-edited six further volumes. His work has appeared in journals that include American Political Science Review, Political Theory, Polity, The Review of Politics, and Modern Theology. Among his published books are Voegelin on the Idea of Race: An Analysis of Modern European Racism (1990); Nietzsche’s Tragic Regime: Culture, Aesthetics, and Political Education (1998); Eric Voegelin: In Quest of Reality (1999). He co-edited with Ashley Woodwiss The Re-Enchantment of Political Science: Christian Scholars Engage Their Discipline, (2001). He belongs to the American Political Science Association and the Phi Beta Delta Honor Society for International Scholars.


Wednesday, January 31, 2018 @ 4:00 p.m. – Dr. William Newsome, Neurobiologist, Stanford University

 Of Two Minds: A Neuroscientist Balances Science and the Big Questions


Wednesday, March 14, 2018 @ 4:00 p.m. – Expert Medical Panel Discussion on Mitigating the Addiction Crisis

  • 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 Resident UBC—St. Paul’s Hospital, Providence Health.
  • Jadine Cairns, Nutritionist, Children’s Hospital, Specialist in Eating Disorders
  • Gabriel Loh, Doctor of Pharmacology UBC—Clinical Coordinator Pharmacy Proctice, Richmond Hospital, Vancouver Coastal Health, Clinical Assistant Professor UBC

Interesting Interview with Dr. Robert Lustig University of California San Francisco, author of The Hacking of the American Mind

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Posted by: gcarkner | June 6, 2017

What Does Information Teach Us?

 Is Information a Sign of the Transcendent?

Here’s something to tease the cranium. We are all part of the Information Age and this amazing internationally wired world. We hear about massive amounts of metadata. But information is neither matter nor energy. It is something else entirely. The highest density of information is found in for example, DNA as a code, as well as more ubiquitously in nature. Embryonic development is a kaleidoscope of information activity. The laws of nature contain incredible amounts of information. A large variety of human reason is based on much information that we often take for granted. Information involves purpose or meaning, language or signs, semantics, syntax, statistics, mathematics and exists at many levels. It comes close to the notions of constraint, control, communication, knowledge, data, form, education, understanding, perception, representation, entropy. Information is also a multi-billion dollar industry. And information has large moral and political implications. Below we examine a key aspect/dimension of information as it relates to our worldview, social imaginary or interpretive grid on reality. It contains strong hints within itself and its very nature.

Essential Laws (Characteristics) of Information

  1. Matter cannot create something non-material.
  2. Information is a non-material entity.
  3. Information is absolutely vital to regulate the material medium or realm. We cannot function without it or imagine a world without information and lots of it. We study it, parse and analyze it incessantly; we count on it every day in every realm of life and work.
  4. Information cannot originate in space or thin air via itself, sui generis. It actually needs a source.
  5. No information exists without being coded in some fashion (binary code, words, mathematics, graphs, etc.). This is essential to make it usable, shareable and powerful. It can also be encrypted to protect who receives or has access to particular information like our bank account PIN.
  6. All codes result from intentional choice by a person with intelligence and rational capacity.
  7. Thus, codes require intelligent input or programming from outside the system, as per a computer. All computers are programmed by individual persons or groups of people.
  8. No new information emerges without an intelligent sender or creator/inventor/artist at its ultimate source.
  9. All chains of information can be traced back to an intelligent life source. This is a very significant fact.

Plausible Logical Conclusions

  1. There must be a transcendent (beyond time-space) source and sender of information, producing immense input into the world system (universe) from beyond the material realm, since matter itself cannot produce information.
  2. This sender must be supremely intelligent; the top sender/source must have command of huge amounts of information.
  3. Therefore, this sender must be essentially omniscient/supremely knowledgable regarding information needed in the world, needed to run the world and maintain its order–an essential part of its infrastructure.
  4. Also, this sender must be eternal, because information was needed in the whole history of the universe and beyond its origin. It could not have emerged by itself at the origin of our universe.
  5. This sender must be intensely purposeful and supremely powerful to manage and direct all this information creatively, fruitfully and productively. Otherwise there would be much more chaos and a lot less order to the universe. Meta-data is the tip of the iceberg of such mega-information.
  6. The sender must be a non-material component (aka spirit) of all reality. The sender must transcend physical reality, and cannot be reduced to it or its evolution over time.
  7. The Judeo-Christian Bible is a higher level of information than mere mathematics; all levels of information occur in the Bible. Hints of such a transcendent sender of information is attested to in Scripture: Psalm 14:1; John 16:30; Revelation 18; Psalm 90:2; John 4:24. John 1 speaks of the Word or Logos that was there at creation, the Word that appeared and communicated to humans throughout history, the Word that revealed itself in the person Jesus Christ. He claimed to be part of a Trinity of divine Persons
  8. Science has its appropriate boundaries (David Bentley Hart). For example, it can answer the What questions, but does not pretend to answer the ‘Who or Why questions’ (purpose) behind all that exists and this massive amount of highly organized and specialized information. Therefore, we can conclude that philosophical materialism is insufficient as an explanation (philosophers Thomas Nagel and Alvin Plantinga). We cannot accept the two common myths (wrong assumptions): a. the universe is composed solely of matter and energy (plus anti-matter); b. atheistic evolutionism’s view that information derives from the material sources alone, ie. that it emerges out of raw energy-matter. It does no such thing. See Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies.
  9. Therefore, we must be open to the idea of a transcendent personal Creator beyond the time-space-energy-matter realm, who sourced, purposed and authored the world and input all this immense store of information, without which we ourselves and the universe could not flourish or even exist. There is at the end of the day a poetry to the world of information that we enjoy.

For a more extensive philosophical dialogue of this sort, see The Great Escape from Nihilism by Gordon E. Carkner.

See also: David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, and Bliss.

Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies.

Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos.

Nancey Murphy & Warren Brown, Did My Neurons Make Me Do It?

Charles Taylor, The Language Animal.

p.s. This is roughly along the lines of the Transcendent Argument for God which can be found in a slightly different format at

See also the blog post David Bentley hart’s Provocative Take on Naturalism

Posted by: gcarkner | May 1, 2017

Ghost in a Machine? Identity Crisis?

The Ongoing Debate about the Relationship between Mind & Brain

(Self, Soul, Mind, Consciousness)

Professor William Newsome, distinguished neurobiologist from Stanford, will visit UBC and Lower Mainland January 29-31, 2018 to open up some of these questions.


Is there a ghost in the machine? Mind-Brain Debate

Richard Swinburne (Oxford), Raymond Tallis (Manchester),

Martha Robinson (University College London) & Dr Stuart Derbyshire (Birmingham)


William Lane Craig, The Materialist and the Mind


Professor Raymond Tallis debates RSA chief executive Matthew Taylor

Neuromania: can neuroscience explain human behaviour and culture?

See also the volume Carl Cramer, Explaining the Brain.


Four Principles of Self-transcendence from Philosopher Bernard Lonergan

Be Attentive

Be Intelligent

Be Reasonable

Be Responsible

Thomas Nagel’s Big Question in Mind & Cosmos.

1. He discusses the conflict between reductionist and antireductionist views of reality: he is convinced as a philosopher that physicalistic and naturalistic view of the human brain (and the universe) is fundamentally flawed.

“My aim is not so much to argue against reductionism as to investigate the consequences of rejecting it— to present the problem rather than to propose a solution. Materialist naturalism leads to reductionist ambitions because it seems unacceptable to deny the reality of all those familiar things that are not at first glance physical. But if no plausible reduction is available, and if denying reality to the mental continues to be unacceptable, that suggests that the original premise, materialist naturalism, is false, and not just around the edges.” (p. 15)

2. Nagel focuses on three different aspects of the the amazing world of mind: consciousness, cognition (mental functions such as thought, reasoning, and evaluation) and value. In each case, he explains why a reductionist explanation is inadequate. In the chapter on consciousness he writes:

“What kind of explanation of the development of these organisms, even one that includes evolutionary theory, could account for the appearance of organisms that are not only physically adapted to the environment but also conscious subjects? In brief, I believe it cannot be a purely physical explanation. What has to be explained is not just the lacing of organic life with a tincture of qualia but the coming into existence of subjective individual points of view— a type of existence logically distinct from anything describable by the physical sciences alone.” (p. 44)

“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.” (p. 53)

According to the reductionist point of view, every aspect of reality can be explained in terms of physics, chemistry and the initial conditions of the universe. The origin and development of life, consciousness, and the capacity of human beings to understand the universe via science can all be explained in terms of biochemical processes that are governed by the laws of physics and chemistry. For an alternative well-informed perspective, see Alister McGrath’s excellent work A Fine-Tuned Universe. Philosophy of mind and Christian theism (to name just two domains of human knowledge) has long held there are problems with this view of reality. From these disciplines the explanation is offered that nearly every aspect of the life of the mind is best explained by appealing to a comparable cause, another mind.

Other Scholarly Reading on Neuroscience, Philosophy of Mind & Religion

(in consultation with Dr. Judith Toronchuk, Biopsychology, Trinity Western University)

Barrett, Justin. Why would anyone believe in God? AltaMira Press, 2004.

Barrett, Justin. Cognitive Science, Religion, and Theology: From Human Minds to Divine Minds. Radnor, PA: Templeton Foundation Press, 2011; Born Believers.

Beauregard, Mario. Brain Wars: The Scientific Battle Over the Existence of the Mind and the Proof That Will Change the Way We Live Our Lives, Harper One 2012.; The Spiritual Brain: a neuroscientist’s case for the existence of the soul. (with Denyse O’Leary)

Brown, Warren S. and Brad D. Strawn. The Physical Nature of Christian Life: Neuroscience, Psychology, and the Church. NY: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

Corcoran, Kevin. Rethinking Human Nature. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2006.

Green, Joel. Body, Soul and Human Life. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008.

Green, Joel, ed. What About the Soul? Neuroscience and Christian Anthropology. Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 2004.

Green, Joel and Palmer, Stuart. In Search of the Soul: Four Views of the Mind-Body problem. Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2005.

Hasker, William. The Emergent Self. Cornell University Press, 1999.

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

Jeeves, Malcolm. Human Nature: Reflections on the Integration of Psychology and Christianity . Radnor, PA: Templeton Foundation Press, 2006.

Jeeves, Malcom.ed., Rethinking Human Nature: A Multidisciplinary Approach.Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011.

Jeeves, Malcom and Warren Brown. Neuroscience, Psychology and Religion. Conshohoken, PA: Templeton Foundation Press. 2009.

McNamara, Patrick. The Neuroscience of Religious Experience. Cambridge University Press, 2009.

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

Murphy, Nancey. Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies? New York, NY: Cambridge, 2006.

Murphy, Nancey and Warren Brown, Did MNeurons Make Me do it?: Philosophical and Neurobiological Perspectives on Moral Responsibility and Free Will. Oxford: Clarendon, 2007.

Newberg, Andrew and Mark Waldman, How God Changes Your Brain: Breakthrough Findings from a Leading Neuroscientist. Ballantine Books, 2010.
Russell, Robert John et al (eds.) Neuroscience and the Person: scientific perspective on divine action 4. Vatican City State: Vatican Observatory, 1999.

Schjoedt, Uffe. “The Religious Brain: A General Introduction to the Experimental Neuroscience of Religion”, Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 21 (2009): 310-339.

Schloss, Jeffrey & Michael Murray (eds.) The Believing Primate: scientific, philosophical and theological reflections on the origin of religion.

Swinburne, Richard. The Evolution of the Soul. Oxford University Press.

Posted by: gcarkner | April 16, 2017

Resurrection by Peter Paul Rubens  An MIT Physicist, a Harvard Philosopher, and a New Testament Theologian Reflect on the Meaning of the Resurrection 

Posted by: gcarkner | March 15, 2017

Theology of Science: a Thought-Experiment

Theology of Science: the Quest for a Robust Narrative of Science’s Purpose or telos

“Science is the participative, relational, co-creative work within the kingdom of God of healing the fallen relationship of humans with nature.” ~Tom McLeish


Below a summary of Tom McLeish’s insights last November in his Lower Mainland Tour.

Science (aka Natural Philosophy in medieval times) is the love of wisdom about natural things. Our relationship to nature is a key aspect of the way to wisdom that reconciles us to nature, and we should never deny or forget this. The biblical authors agree. See Book of Job or Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (Romans 8; 2 Corinthians 5:17) In this light, science has a very long human history, longer than we often think—it is a deep cultural narrative. Modern science is a new chapter in a very old book about human culture. Science makes us more human.

How do we develop and release this narrative into the culture in positive ways? The deepest imagery and iconography in his project is one of a healing narrative. We seek a healing relationship with God, fellow humans and his creation. Pain and suffering are not excluded from the purview of science. Wisdom and pain always conjoined, as we see in the wisdom literature, especially Job. Theological questions are always in the background when we are doing science. Why not make them more explicit. The power of Tom’s challenge is to build a theology of all science—a bit breathtaking. We ought to proceed with skill and optimism that we can do this, even within the current limits of our understanding.

Key Words: Relational-Creation-Wisdom

Pursuit of wisdom applies to both science and technology. We are privileged to rumble with Tom’s paradigm shift in thinking about these issues. Science is at the heart of, and part of, a Christian worldview. What would the Lordship of Christ mean for science? How do we get our philosophical categories corrected—confront Deism, grapple with Contingency, the Demi-urge, scientism, materialistic naturalism, dualism of the natural and supernatural, the dumbing down of speech. We seem to need new hermeneutical ways of seeing and interpreting reality.

As Tom points out, the roots of science are very old and part of the healing story of the biblical narrative. This insight is thoroughly profound.

Leadership is needed to promote a healthier, more positive narrative of science in church and on campus. God’s call to scientists is to come and heal the broken relationships in the world. Science can be a form of delight, of worship, not of nature, but of God and appreciation of his redemption of the whole world.

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

This involves a deep level of curiosity and quest for understanding of how all knowledge holds together and is grounded. This outlook positions us within faith, not just Cartesian doubt. 

This Proposal Rests on Some Key Assumptions 

  • There is a long history of human and non-human interactions—as old as mankind.
  • It is a high view of the human ability to re-imagine nature.
  • The dual structure of wisdom and knowledge. Both are vital to human flourishing.
  • Our engagement with nature is often ambiguous and painful. Often we are in terror of nature and we fear its chaos (hurricanes, floods, volcanoes, earthquakes)
  • We must recognize the balance and serendipity between order and chaos. Randomness explores its shape within limits. Creativity is order emerging out of chaos. Chaos with limits/boundaries provides the condition for order and creativity.
  • The Creation Question is central, but must be rearticulated to meet the full textuality of Scripture: Job 30-40; Proverbs 8; Psalms 19, 33, 104; Isaiah 40, 45; Jeremiah 10; Hosea 2; John 1; Genesis 1-3.
  • Questions are more important than the right answers—Job 38-40. Look again at your world with me, your God. God invites us to creatively explore his world with tough questions. This is the spirit of science from ancient times.

How does the big Christian narrative play in this discussion of a theology of science? Creation, Fall, Redemption, Consummation.

Consequences of this Vision

  • There are no pre-determined histories or boundaries for science and technology—rather all are meant to be theo-centric, and within the aegis of the pursuit of wisdom.
  • Our thought-relationship with nature is therapeutic.
  • The church can celebrate the deep humanity of science.
  • This discourse on wisdom can help heal the relationship between two cultures on campus (science & humanities).
  • We gain new insights into the narratives (many wrongheaded) that inform public debates about science and technology.
  • There is potential for a positive relationship between science and the media.
  • We discover a mutual task for inter-faith dialogue as well.

Pagan Narratives of Despair about Nature/Science Narrative of Ignorance, Fear, and Harm. This leads to such problems as:

  • Alienation/Being kept in the dark—conspiracy theories; scientists are secretive and super-specialized.
  • Chaos—be careful of the consequences of scientific work (Fracking, nanotechnology, GMO foods, etc.)
  • Punishment—nature will punish us if we are bad.
  • Exploitation—rich get richer, poor get poorer
  • Nature as sacred, therefore untouchable
  • Evil—potential Pandora’s Box of troubles

Tom notes that the intellectual and practical framing of science through society and church is currently a problem—the church is largely alienated from science, and particularly weak on a theology of science, enmeshed in culture wars about evolution. Can we in our theology take the whole of known reality, the whole of truth, seriously? N.T Wright is a good example/model of a healthier framing of science. Liturgy for science is needed to break down dualism. Most common command ins Scripture is “Fear Not…” We must be much more proactive and positive and not give in to fear and negativity.

Key Title: Faith & Wisdom in Science. OUP 2014

Tom McLeish’s Medieval Big Bang talk at St. John’s College, UBC November 4, 2016: 

Tom McLeish TWU Talk on the CSCA YouTube channel. It is very similar to the UBC talk in early November:

See also new collection of essays edited by two outstanding Christian scholars (Jamie Smith and William Cavanaugh) promises to take the Christian tradition forward in its engagement with the biological sciences:


Posted by: gcarkner | February 22, 2017

C.S. Lewis Scholar Reconsiders Love




Audio File: 

Jason writes in order to capture our imagination:

“I intend to offer a definition of love itself (the genus of which the “four” loves are species), of Charity or agape in The Four Loves (it is not what we think it is), and of “Christian love” (if such a thing exists).

“Charity has undeniably been the most misunderstood of the ‘four’ loves, even or especially among his most devoted readers.”

“The word agape, too, had a more or less fixed meaning in the imagination of his contemporary Christian readership. This assumed fixed meaning, I now suspect, was actually part of the mindset Lewis wanted to correct. And it probably continues to be the default understanding of many Christians.”

“So absorbing is the description of these loves that one’s critical faculties are lulled to sleep.”

“There are not ‘four’, nor are they even ‘loves’.”

The Four Loves—a simple and memorable title, brilliant really, but at the expense of creating a false expectation.”

“One of the most peculiar facts about The Four Loves is that it never tells us what love is. If you comb its pages for a definition of love, you will leave empty-handed.”

“Lewis dissected love but never patched it back together.”

“Charity or agape in The Four Loves is not what we think it is. It is actually surprisingly practical, mundane, and even ‘secular’.”

“Strictly speaking there is no such thing as a ‘Christian love’, only a Christian praxis of love.”




Thursday, February 23 @ 6:30 pm


Biography of Martin Luther, the 16th-century priest who led the Christian Reformation and opened up new possibilities in exploration of faith. The film begins with his vow to become a monk, and continues through his struggles to reconcile his desire for sanctification with his increasing abhorrence of the corruption and hypocrisy pervading the Church’s hierarchy.

He is ultimately charged with heresy and must confront the ruling cardinals and princes, urging them to make the Scriptures available to the common believer and lead the Church toward faith through justice and righteousness.

Starring Joseph Fiennes and Peter Ustinov

Posted by: gcarkner | February 3, 2017

Angela Duckworth: Psychology of Grit


See also Character Quest button on this Blog.

Angela Lee Duckworth (born 1970) is an American psychologist and popular science author. She won a 2013 MacArthur Fellowship. She is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania. She’s also the Founder and Scientific Director of an educational nonprofit called Character Lab. Her lab studies grit and self-control. What builds resilience into our lives and careers? This is a young genius who has done her homework.

Duckworth earned an A.B. in neurobiology at Harvard College in 1992. She then graduated at the University of Oxford in 1996 with an M.Sc. in neuroscience on a Marshall Scholarship, and at the University of Pennsylvania in 2006 with a Ph.D. in psychology. Her first book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, was released in May 2016. A review of this book in the New York Times called Duckworth “the psychologist who has made ‘grit’ the reigning buzzword in education-policy circles.”

See also Brené Brown, Rising Strong: the reckoning, the rumble, the revolution. Speigel & Grau, 2015. The most transformative and resilient leaders Brown has met have the following characteristics:

a. Recognize the central role that relationships and story play in culture and strategy.

b. Stay curious about their own emotions, thoughts and behaviours.

c. Understand and stay curious about how emotions, thoughts and behaviour are connected in the people they lead and how those factors affect relationships and perceptions.

d. Have the ability to lean into discomfort and vulnerability.

e. Identify the things that kill trust and creativity in order to nurture cultures and conditions that allow good people to do what they do best.

f. Leaders with resilience live BIG: revealing a commitment to setting boundaries, standing in their integrity and expressing  continued generosity. They refuse to give in to self-righteousness, ego, self-protection, anger, blame or avoidance. Living in their integrity means choosing courage over comfort, choosing what is right over what is fun or easy, choosing to practice their values rather than just profess them. Such leaders extend generous interpretations to the intentions, words and actions of others (giving them the benefit of the doubt).

Why do we love the TV program Grey’s Anatomy? Specifically, we think, because Shonda Rhimes pays attention to all these elements as she shows the complexity of training young surgeons.

Words to the Wise in our Uncertain Times

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

You are the salt of the earth.

You are the light of the world.


Posted by: gcarkner | January 29, 2017

Paul Davies on Faith and Science

Reprint from PAUL DAVIES (thought provoking article on the nature of science and the laws of physics)

The New York Times, 
November 24, 2007

Tempe, Arizona.

SCIENCE, we are repeatedly told, is the most reliable form of knowledge about the world because it is based on testable hypotheses. Religion, by contrast, is based on faith. The term “doubting Thomas” well illustrates the difference. In science, a healthy skepticism is a professional necessity, whereas in religion, having belief without evidence is regarded as a virtue. 
The problem with this neat separation into “non-overlapping magisteria,” as Stephen Jay Gould described science and religion, is that science has its own faith-based belief system. All science proceeds on the assumption that nature is ordered in a rational and intelligible way. You couldn’t be a scientist if you thought the universe was a meaningless jumble of odds and ends haphazardly juxtaposed. Read More…

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