Posted by: gcarkner | August 19, 2018

What’s New in GCU

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

New Grad Students, Welcome to Canada and UBC

Find us on Instagram: gcuevents

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

Share your passion; meet new friends; explore fresh ideas

GCU Study Question of the Week: How does agape love help us to overcome evil with the good? Romans 12

Adventure Lies Ahead

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

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

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

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


Other Features of the GCU Community Life

Faculty Mentors

On Campus Discussions

Evening Study/Discussion/Investigation

Cool Lectures



Prayer Support: Wednesdays with Ute

Thought Provoking Articles in GCU Blog

Great Resources

Ideas Exchange over Coffee

Faith & Culture Discussions

Meet an International Artist


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Connect with GCU: (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, inspiration, resources and articles found in this Blog.

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

Key Books to Change Your Life, Shape Your Outlook

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

David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God.

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

Jim Wallis, The (Un)Common Good.

Gordon Carkner, The Great Escape from Nihilism.

Jens Zimmermann, Incarnational Humanism.

Eugene Peterson, Practice Resurrection.

James Sire, The Universe Next Door.

David Brooks, The Road to Character.

Jonathan Sacks, Not in God’s Name.

Miraslov Volf, Flourishing.

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

Charles Taylor, A Secular Age.

Matthew Crawford, The World Beyond Your Head.

Posted by: gcarkner | August 18, 2018

Alister McGrath @ UBC on September 19, 2018


Professor Alister McGrath 

Andreos Idreos Professor of Science and Religion,

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

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


Wednesday, September 19, 2018 @ 12:00 noon

Woodward (IRC) Room 3


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


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


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

Posted by: gcarkner | July 15, 2018

Summer Retrospective on Peterson

Executive Hotel Vancouver Airport,

7311 Westminster Highway,

Richmond, B.C.

August 5 @ 4:00 p.m.

 Recovering Moral Agency in Jordan Peterson in Dialogue with Charles Taylor

JP Recovery of Moral Agency 

Transcendent Turn to Agape Love  PP 2.0 Meaning & Suffering

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Brief Biographies

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

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

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

Identity Politics and Polarization (Part II)

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

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

What the Peterson Controversy Means for Our Culture (V)

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

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

Important Questions that Peterson Raises

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughtful interaction with the work of Peterson by a scholarly PhD

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

Two Ways of Seeing/Reading/Understanding the World 

a. The Epistemological Way of Seeing:

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

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

b. The Hermeneutical Way of Seeing:

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

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

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

One can also find some good interface with Peterson’s ideas of the good in the blog series Qualities of the Will, and Musings about Agape Love

Posted by: gcarkner | June 15, 2018

Welcome to UBC & GCU

New Grad Students, WELCOME to Canada and UBC

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

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

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

Stay tuned for hikes in local area

Be in touch with us: (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, inspiration and articles found in this Blog.

Posted by: gcarkner | April 27, 2018

CSCA Conference TWU May 11-14

Some Reflections: Canadian Science and Christian Affiliation Conference

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

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

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

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


Gordon E. Carkner Scientism Full Lecture

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.





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