An accidental blog

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Monday, 27 June 2005

science and religion quotes 5 and 6

Mathematical truth ultimately depends on an irreducible set of assumptions, which are adopted without demonstration. But to qualify as true knowledge, the assumptions require a warrant for their assertion. There is no valid warrant for mathematical knowledge other than demonstration or proof. Therefore the assumptions are beliefs, not knowledge, and remain open to doubt.

Paul Ernest The Philosophy of Mathematics Education (Falmer, Basingstoke 1991) p. 14.

One would normally define a ‘religion’ as a system of ideas that contains statements that cannot be logically or observationally demonstrated. Rather, it rests either wholly or partially upon some articles of faith. Such a definition has the amusing consequence of including all the sciences and systems of thought that we know; Gödel's theorem not only demonstrates that mathematics is a religion, but shows that mathematics is the only religion that can prove itself to be one!

John Barrow The World Within the World (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1988) p. 257.

Religion shapes science

It has often been argued that science and religion are independent and each should pursue their own domain. This is fallacious; consider the following:

1. We all have a worldview

2. A worldview is shaped by religious commitments

3. All human activity is shaped by worldviews

4. Science is a human activity


5. Science is shaped by worldviews that are religious commitments.

If this argument is valid then religion shapes science.

Sunday, 26 June 2005

Mixing science and theology?

There is an interesting debate going on at Telic thoughts between Krauze, an intelligent design evolutionist and agnostic, and Lutheran George Murphy. In response to an article by Krauze on 'When mixing science and theology is OK', Murphy responds:

Actually my theology doesn’t rule out the possibility of science finding evidence of design or a designer. What it rules out is using the concept of God as an element of scientific explanation. When ID does that it is not a “result of science” but an importation of a theological concept into science.

But then, isn't Murphy's statement the importation of a theological statement - theology should not be imported into science - into science.

Read the debate - it's fascinating stuff.

Wednesday, 22 June 2005

Science and religion quotes no 4

Suppose we loosely define a religion as any discipline whose foundations rest on an element of faith, irrespective of any element of reason which may be present. Quantum mechanics for example would be a religion under this definition. But mathematics would hold the unique position of being the only branch of theology possessing a rigorous demonstration of the fact that it should be so classified.

F. De Sua cited in H. Eves Mathematical Circles (Boston: Prindle, Weber and Schmidt, 1969).

Tuesday, 21 June 2005

All of life redeemed website update

Danie Strauss, the south African Reformational philosopher, has sent me several of his papers. They have now been uploaded to the Strauss Pages of the All of Life Redeemed website. Several of the papers deal with a Christian approach to mathematics. Thought provoking and mind stretching stuff!

Monday, 20 June 2005

What's a worldview?

I have used the term 'worldview' in a number of posts recently, so I thought it might be worth defining 'worldview'.

Tom Wright defines a worldview thus:

Worldviews are ... the basic stuff of human existence, the lens through which the world is seen, the blueprint for how one should live in it and above all the sense of identity and place which enables human beings to be what they are. To ignore worldviews, either our own or those of the culture we are studying, would result in extraordinary shallowness.

Worldviews provide stories through which humans see reality. These stories in turn provide answers to the basic worldview questions. Questions such as

Who are we?
Why are we here?

Where are we?

What is wrong?

What is the solution?

The answers to these ultimate questions are based on faith, there is no way we can rationally justify the answers we give to them. We can never prove our answers to be wrong or right. They are faith comitments.

The story provided by a worldview and the answers it provides are expressed in the cultural symbols of a society. These symbols can be either events or artifacts - or both. Worldviews as well as providing a way of viewing reality provide a "way-of-being-in-the-world", praxis. Worldviews provide both a vision of life and a vision for life.

A worldview operates like a pair of tinted goggles - all that we see, hear and experience is colured by them - and it acts like a filter, preventing us from seeing anything we don't want to see. Two people can experience the same series of events and yet, because they adhere to different worldviews, interpret them very differently.

Worldviews operate at a pre-theoretical level. Our worldview may even be incoherent and inconsistent, but it will still mould us. Whether or not we are able to articulate our worldview is irrelevant, it will still influence how we think and live in the world: "We know more than we can tell", as Polanyi reminds us.

References and Further Reading

David K. Naugle Worldview: The History of a Concept (Grand Rapid: Eerdmans, 2002).
James H. Olthuis 'On worldviews' Christian Scholars Review 14 (2) 1985: 153-164.
Brian J. Walsh and J. Richard Middleton The Transforming Vision: Shaping a christian World View (Downers Grove: 1984).
N. T. Wright The New Testament as the People of God (London: SPCK, 1992).

Science and religion quotes no 3

Of course, the real reason modern theologians want to keep science divorced from religion is to retain some intellectual territory forever protected from the advance of science. This can only be done if the possibility of scientific investigation of the subject matter is ruled out a priori.

Frank Tipler, The Physics of Immortality, New York: Doubleday, 1994, p. 7 (cited by Glen Morton here)

Sunday, 19 June 2005

science and religion quotes no 2

Let us remember the words of our Savior, “No man can serve two masters.” And let us pray to God, that He will send faithful workmen into the harvest field, which is the entire earth, and which therefore includes also the domain of scientific knowledge.

Herman Dooyeweerd The Secularization of Science (closing paragraph)

What's your theological worldview?

Many bloggers have taken this quiz. So I thought I'd give it a try. I was amazed at what I came out as; it just shows how flawed quizzes like these are and how dependent on the compliler's worldview they are. I admire Wesley -but there is no way I am influenced 'heavly' by him.

You scored as Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan. You are an
evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God's grace
enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself
are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance
of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience
to which God has called us. You are influenced heavly by John Wesley
and the Methodists.

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan




Reformed Evangelical


Neo orthodox




Classical Liberal




Roman Catholic


Modern Liberal


What's your theological worldview?
created with

Thursday, 16 June 2005

Science and religion quote 1

None but a Christian can read one line of his physics so as to understand it rightly ... Your study of physics and other sciences is not worth a rush, if it be not God by them that you seek after.

Richard Baxter The Reformed Pastor cited in Rodney D. Holder God, the Multiverse, and Everything Ashagte, 2004, p. 155.

Botton and the anthroposophical worldview

Channel 4 this evening showed a programme called 'The strangest village in Britiain' as part of 'Only Human'. It was the story of Botton a village of handicapped people run along Rudolf Steiner's anthroposophical philosophy. (It's now available here.)

At one point in the documentary it suggested that Steiner's perspective was Christian. It is anything but. I dug up some old notes of mine about the anthroposophical worldview and have posted them here. My interest in Steiner stems from the time I stayed at a Camphill community for a weekend to see my youngest brother who was living there get married (he was a co-worker, not a villager).

The four elements of a worldview: story, questions, symbols and praxis are taken from Tom Weright's excellent The New Testament and the People of God (London: SPCK, 1992)


The story of anthroposophy is tied up with Rudolf Steiner’s (1861-1925) personal story.
Steiner has had many influences on him. The most notable being: Catholicism, Goethe, Theosophy and strands of Eastern mysticism.

He was born into a poor family in Feb 1861 on the Austrian side of the Austria-Hungary border. His clairvoyant experiences divide his world in two: one he could talk about the other he couldn’t. He soon developed an interest in science.

The attraction of Goethe for Steiner was that his scientific writings had provided a bridge “between Nature and Spirit”.

Goethe The year book for the Goethe society in 1897 said of Steiner:
What he has achieved through the harmonious working together of his critical and his productive faculties, has won the acclamation of all experts. It is thanks to his self-effacing and untiring effort that we now have in our hands in a well-ordered sequence and unified form a wealth of material which assures Goethe a deeper and more complex appreciation as a natural scientist (cited in Moffat, nd: 81).
Catholicism His connection with Catholicism came during his time in Vienna. Here he met writers and university professors who “gave him an insight into the spiritual traditions of the Church” (Lissau 1987: 7).

From Vienna he moved to Wiemar (1890-1897); there he came into contact with Ernest
Haekel and Freidrich Nietzsche.

Theosophy It was at Vienna he first met theosophists. Though it was at Berlin that this link developed. He eventually became the general secretary of the then recently formed German theosophical society. His links with it were severed as a result of a disagreement with Annie Besant over her view that Krishnamurti was a reincarnation of Christ. Hence on 2 February 1913 the Anthroposophical society was born.

Eastern Mysticism Anthroposophy has much in common with Hinduism, particularly the notions of karma and reincarnation. Anthroposophy though is very much a westernised version.

Steiner has also been very influential. He was not only concerned with education but also developed new approaches to art, architecture, agriculture, medicine and eurhytmy (not to be confused with eurhytmics – or even Annie Lennox!).


Who are we? Steiner’s anthropology is complex. He describes humans as many-fold entities:
Three fold as body, soul and spirit
Fourfold as four bodies: physical, ethereal, astral and ego
We are the same stuff as the earth and the universe; there are essential connections between all three

Man is not an animal to be trained. He is not an inanimate object to be processed. He is a being of body, soul and spirit, through his physical body he is related to the world of matter. He has a life force in common with the plants. Emotions and sensations he shares with the animals. In his inner core he is an individual possessed of the divine spark. Man is related to all things and is the centre of all things. His evolution is not yet complete. He has the possibility of infinite development. (Wilkinson 1975:7)

Where are we? We are in a mysterious universe, with which we have essential connections

What is wrong? One problem is that we gloss over the mystery; the advances in science have not been matched by a corresponding advance in spirituality.

What is the remedy? There needs to be a refining of the scientific method to overcome its materialism and an increasing self-knowledge. The human spirit needs a full unfolding. The purpose of education is thus the full unfolding of the human spirit.


Natural products particularly woollen garments and wooden artefacts. Very few right angles in their architecture. All reflecting a “back to nature” philosophy. Purple and mauve clothes. Much of their art is instantly recognisable.


The phrase “building alternatives” perhaps best describes anthroposophical praxis. The alternatives include Waldorf and Camphill schools, biodynamic farming, the use of natural products (particularly wood), colour therapy.

References and bibliography

Rudi Lissau Rudolf Steiner: Life, Work, Inner Path and Social Initiative (Stroud, Glos: Hawthorn Pres, 1987)
Rudolf Steiner Theosophy (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Ltd, 1922)
Roy Wilkinson Commonsense Schooling: Based on the Initiatives of Rudolf Steiner (East Grinstead: Henry Goulden, 1975)

Wednesday, 15 June 2005

Tuesday, 14 June 2005

Nancy Pearcey Interview

There is an interview with Nancey Peacy, author of the great book, Total Truth, here.
My thanks to Diet of Book Worms for pointing it out.

Gifford Lectures On-line

There is now a Gifford Lectures web site:
The online Gifford Lectures database presents a comprehensive collection of books derived from the Gifford Lectures. In addition to the books, the Web site contains biographies of each lecturer as well as a summary of the lecture or book. The Web site also contains a biography of Adam Lord Gifford, a copy of his will bequeathing money to each of the four major Scottish universities to hold the lectures, a brief description of natural theology, an introduction to each of the four universities, and news about upcoming Gifford-related events.
Past Gifford lecturers have included John Polkinghorne, Ian Barbour, Edward Caird, John Hedley Brooke, Antony Flew, Arthur Stanely Eddington and A. N. Whitehead.

Monday, 13 June 2005

Susie's prayer

This is a prayer that my wife wrote after the death of my father in February. It was partly inspired by Adrian Plass’s poem/prayer ‘Woman Behold Your Son’.

Father, today I don’t want to live in obedience,

I don’t want to be different,

I feel the loss of normality,

the pain of disability,

the injustice,

loss is compounded by angst

Today I fancy normality,

today I would like to just be lucky,

not chosen,

not equipped,

just lucky will do fine.

Lord the sorrows and the love that

flows mingled down needs

transforming into something worth

the sword that caused it.

Life, wholeness, joy.

When Lord?

Eternity seems an age away Lord

to sit down for a feast.

Can we have a cuppa now?

The trouble is lord I know too

much about you.

I can’t help but trust and battle

through the storms because you

are my only hope.


I received much of your

lifegiving to not wait for the next


You’ve got me bent over a barrel Lord!

Trouble is there’s no one quite like you!

And you know it!!

Thanks Lord, for everything.

Susie Bishop © 2005

Twilight Study Guide

Over the last few months I have been slowly going through Dooyeweerd's In the Twilight of Western Thought (Craig Press, 1960). In the process I have been writing a study guide to it - first and foremost to help focus my reading and then in the hope that it might help others.

Paul Robinson has kindly offered to put it on line on his New Critique web site. The first two chapters are on-line already here and others will follow. Any comments and suggestions greatly appreciated! So far I have reached half way through chapter 6.

Twilight provides an excellent introduction to Dooyeweerd's thought. In many ways it is Dooyeweerd's own study guide to his other writings.

Sunday, 12 June 2005

Science and the Study of God

I was asked to write a review of Alan Padgett's Science and the Study of God last year. It was published in Themelios 30 (1) Autumn 2004: 75-6. My original review exceeded the word count and so I had to pare it down. I was much happier with the fuller review, so I thought I'd post it here.

Science and the Study of God: A Mutuality Model for Theology and Science

Alan G. Padgett

Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003,

xiv + 218 pp., p/b., £15.99/ $22

Philosopher and theologian Alan Padgett is a Methodist working at a Lutheran Seminary, he is the author of the fascinating God, Eternity, and the Nature of Time which is the product of his PhD supervised by Richard Swinburne. Such an eclectic and ecumenical background stands him in good stead in tackling the interdisciplinary subject of the relationship of science and theology.

Science and the Study of God provides a significant contribution to the burgeoning science-theology debate. Padgett’s aim is to provide a model for the interaction of science and theology: a model which is characterised by collegiality or mutual respect; somewhere between Ian Barbour’s dialogue and full integration models. Padgett writes for ‘anyone who has done some hard thinking about religion and science and would like to reflect more fully on conceptual issues and theological problems that the current dialogue brings up’ (x). And he does so very well.

What is refreshing about Padgett’s approach is that he takes seriously the idea that theology can inform the physical sciences. This is in stark contrast to many of the science-religion heavyweights who maintain that there is a dialogue between science and theology and yet they only seem to allow for a one-way conversation. As Padgett puts it, ‘science, philosophy, and theology are colleagues. One partner should not dominate the others’ (p. 68).

I also appreciated Padgett’s discussion of worldviews. This is a crucial and yet neglected area of science theology integration. Padgett – rightly, in my opinion – sees the interaction between the two disciplines at the worldview level. Where I would part company with Padgett is that I think he doesn’t take the role of worldviews deep enough!

The first of nine chapters introduces the mutuality model, the second examines the philosophical background essential for it: that of realism: ‘the subjects studied in the special sciences exist independently of the investigator’s experience of them’ (p. 29). Padgett takes issue with the critical realism espoused by most in this field and describes his view of realism as dialectical. He sees dialectical realism as a corrective to the individualistic and synchronic view of epistemology that a critical realist view often entails; dialectical realism is among other things, communal and diachronic. He also makes a good case for realism in religion: this is the viewpoint of almost all believers and theology is the study of God. This realist view takes seriously the ‘need for theology and science to mutually inform and modify each other’ (p.45).

The third chapter examines the quest for the historical Jesus; this serves to illustrate the myth of the independence of religion and science: there is no neutral, value-free scientific approach to the historical Jesus. He examines two version of the neutrality myth: the ‘neutrality two-step’ and the ‘prejudice of perspective’.

I was a little surprised to see no mention of Roy Clouser’s Myth of Neutrality the standard text on the neutrality fallacy! Perhaps Padgett’s ecumenicalism doesn’t stretch as far as neocalvinism.

In chapter 4 ‘Science and worldviews’ he examines the so-called hard sciences; if the social sciences are not value-free what about natural science? He argues, along with most contemporary philosophers of science that ‘our paradigms influence our scientific practice (and thus the body of scientific knowledge)’ (p. 67). To do this he briefly traces the history of science from positivism to postmodernism and shows that ‘value commitments play a role in the criticism and growth of knowledge’ (p.68). Along with Popper, he agrees that there is no neutral observation and with Polanyi that scientific practice is guided by personal interests: ‘…science is guided by values, which cannot be justified by science itself’ (p. 68).

In chapter 5 he uses process theology and its desire to subordinate theology to a Whiteheadean philosophy as a foil to show that ‘theology must not lose itself to philosophy’ (p.104). For Padgett, ‘Christian theology is based on Christian revelation and Christian faith, it cannot be philosophy and should never pretend to be’ (p. 91). I felt that in this chapter Padgett came very close to the neutrality two-step he criticised earlier and I would have liked to have seen some discussion of how worldview affects philosophy and theology. Though I would wholeheartedly agree with his conclusion that ‘human reason must be cleaned and redeemed by faith for a meaningful knowledge to God to progress’ (p. 103).

The next chapter looks at the place of theology in the academy. He sees the goal of theology is to worship God. He then goes on to address the questions that this raises: including, how then can theology be an academic discipline and how then can it legitimate its truth-claims?

The issue of time and thermodynamics is then used as an example of how science and theology can be integrated (chapter 7). He concludes that they are mutually supportive: ‘Thermodynamics supports the Christian doctrine that time is linear, while Christian doctrine supports the dynamic, irreversible view of fundamental physics.’ (p. 135). In chapter 8 he uses an example form the social science – the incarnation – as an example in ‘theological method, with particular reference to formal logic’.

The final chapter summarises and there is a lengthy appendix that deals with the role of induction in a post-foundationalist world. There is a 15-page bibliography and a 9-page index.

In short: if you read one book on science and theology this year [2004] , make it this one!

Saturday, 11 June 2005

Angels and Demons: science and religion

Dan Brown is a publishing phenomenon. At present he has four books in the bestsellers list, including The Da Vinci Code at number one.

He has hit on a winning formula: short chapters that end with a hook, a conspiracy theory and an international media event such as the election of a US president, or the election of a new pope.

The Da Vinci Code has caused much stir among Christians, and rightly so. (See here.) Though many seem to forget that Brown – despite what he says in the ‘FACT’ section at the front of the book – is writing fiction. It’s easy to confuse genres, something that postmodernism seems to encourage. Much less has been written about his other books.

What concerns me most about his Angels and Demons is his view of science and religion and how they relate – not least in on e of the characters: Maximillian Kohler, the ‘director general of CERN’. Kohler has a totally out-dated positivistic view of science. It is a view not unlike that of the two evangelistic atheists Richard Dawkins and Peter Atkins. For Kohler science is the angel and religion the demon.

Brown’s Kohler talks with the hero Robert Langdon:

'The men and women of CERN are here to find answers to the same questions man has been asking since the beginning of time. Where did we come from? What are we made of?’

‘And these answers are in a physics lab?’

‘You sound surprised’

‘I am. The questions seem spiritual.’

‘Mr Langdon, all questions were once spiritual. Since the beginning of time spirituality and religion have been called on to fill in the gaps that science did not understand. The rising and setting of the sun was once attributed to Helios and a flaming chariot. Earthquakes and tidal waves were the wrath of Poseidon. Science has now proven those gods to be false idols. Soon all Gods will be proven to be false idols. Science has now provided answers to almost every question man [sic] can ask. There are only a few questions left, and they are the esoteric ones. Where do we come from? What are we doing here? What is the meaning of life and the universe?’

Langdon was amazed. ‘And these are questions CERN is trying to answer?’

‘Correction. These are questions we are answering.’

Demons and Angels Corgi edition, 2001 p. 43

…Langdon added, ‘the unification of science and religion was not what the church wanted.’

‘Of course not,’ Kohler interrupted. ‘The union would have nullified the church’s claim to be the sole vessel through which man [sic] could understand God. So the church tried Galileo as a heretic, found him guilty, and put him under house arrest. …

Demons and Angels Corgi edition, 2001 p. 51-2

As well as repeating the god-of-the gaps fallacy and the Galileo myth, Brown’s Kohler is advocating a conflict model of science and religion. This idea that science conflicts with religion and thus makes religion redundant has its historical roots, at least in a popular form, in the writings of John Draper and subsequently by Andrew Dickson White's (1832-1918) two volumed book A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1897)

Historians of science, such as Lindberg and Numbers, John Hedley Brooke

, and Colin Russell have shown that the main thesis of White’s and Draper’s work was based on misinformation and half-truths, and have exposed the naivety of the conflict category. Nevertheless, the conflict metaphor is still prevalent. It provides a pertinent example of how worldview colours perception of reality. The combatants in the conflicts that did exist were not science and Christianity; rather the combatants were, as Brooke notes, the adherents of the new science and the adherents of the sanctified science of the previous generation.

Science and religion are not in conflict, neither are they totally independent. The fallacious view of science as objective and value-free, and faith as subjective and value-laden, has long been demolished by philosophers of science. Unfortunately, these views are still propounded by the popular media. Faith is integral to the scientific enterprise. It is this that Brown’s Kohler misses.

Pete Steen (1935-1984): SteenFest

There are plans a foot to publish a popular fetschrisft for Pete Steen. Steen is the author of the now sadly out o print The Structure of Herman Dooyeweerd's Thought Wedge: Toronto, 1983. This was his doctoral dissertation presented to Westminster Theological Seminary.

Steen writes of his research:

“As I tried to bring real critique on Dooyeweerd’s conception of the supra-temporality of the heart, I found myself involved in the problems which needed far greater critical attention. I then went on to develop a series of studies on other various facets of Dooyeweerd’s system. For clarification and development…I was driven to consult other key members of this school, namely K.J. Popma, D.H. Th. Vollenhoven, and J.P.A Mekkes. The more I involved myself in these men, the more I realized, on the one hand, that these men shared some of my criticisms…and, on the other…how much I was in the grip of the nature-grace ground motive (to use Dooyeweerd’s way of stating it.) This gradual awareness…meant a change in my outlook…I became increasingly critical of myself in terms of Dooyeweerd and his school…At the same time the increasing importance of this school for Reformed theology became my burden. At that point, I was criticizing Reformed theology from the point of view of the school rather than vice-versa…”

“An important facet of the problems to be dealt with in this dissertation is that they are the same problems which are important in Reformed theology. The Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee has not been very successful in bringing its reformational thinking to bear on the Reformed theological community because to a great extent there remains a lack of clarity on certain point within the school itself. The double purpose of this dissertation then, is to bring clarity to these problems in Dooyeweerd, and at the same time, point out some new directions for Reformed theology.” [from Ch. 1: Preliminary Considerations, in The Idea of Religious Transcendence… Steen (1970) p.1-3.]

He is an important figure in the Reformational/ neo-calvinist movement.

There is a mailing list set up for all those interested here; and a brief bio and description of the 'SteenFest' available here