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.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Worldview book blog

Over at reformationalUK I've started to blog through Bennie van der Walt's excellent new book on worldviews:
The Eye is the Lamp of the Body: Worldviews and their Impact.
Potchefstroom: ICCA
ISBN 978-1-86822-55-2; iii +304 pages

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Uganda trip

In July and the beginning of August my wife and eldest son went to Uganda to help build a nursery. Here are some clips from their trip

Sunday, 24 August 2008

The problem with complementarity as model for science and religion

Why do so many Christians like the concept of complementarity as model for the relationship between science and religion?

The term complementary to describe the relationship between science and religion is usually associated with Donald MacKay (1922 -1987). MacKay has been described by R. J. Berry as one 'who has probably contributed more than anyone this century to the Christian understanding of science '. One of the first uses of the term complementarity in this context was in a symposium on 'Mentality in machines', sponsored by the Mind Association and the Aristoltelian Society (1952).
MacKay later offered a more nuanced description of complementarity:

I call two or more statements complementary when (a) they purport to have a common reference, (b) they make different allegations, yet (c) all are justifiable in the sense that each expresses something about the common references which could not (for one reason or another) be expresses in the terms of the others - the commonest reason being ... that the terms belong to different logical categories.

Though the most common position held by evangelicals, it is not a uniquely evangelical or even Christian position. Brian Josephson , Plutarch (c. AD 45-120), a Baha'i, Khursheed, also belong to this category. An empirical study by Helmut Reich identified complementarity as the main approach to the interplay between science and faith by adolescents.
The complementarity position is often described as being analogous to different views of the same mountain, an architect's plan and elevation drawing, binocular vision, the wave-particle duality of electrons and light, and the hardware and software on computers. In the same way as electrons and light can be described by both waves and particles, so too can reality be explained by both religion and science without contradiction. Science and religion cannot be reduced to each other. They offer different, supplementary levels of explanation, which are true provided they are not contradictory, so the complementaritists argue
Complementarity despite its popularity is not without its problems. Polkinghorne notes that it is not an instantly explanatory concept. Ian Barbour is unsympathetic towards complementarity. He is dubious about extending the use of the term to explain science and religion. He is so for several reasons. It provides 'no justification for an uncritical acceptance of dichotomies'; it cannot be evoked to deal with inconsistencies. Models should be called complementary only if they 'refer to the same entity and are of the same logical type'; such as describing God as a Father and a Shepherd; or electrons as waves and particles, but not to two differing entities such as science and religion.
By describing two apparently contradictory events as complementary does not help in ascertaining the truth or validity of either of those events. In such a case complementarity is unhelpful. Can two incompatible events be described as complementary? For example, the Big Bang theory of origins and Genesis 1 may be viewed as complementary; but they could also be contradictory. Complementarity does not help in determining whether they are contradictory or not.
Complementarity also serves to divorce science from religion. This charge is denied by Bube. He notes (citing James Moreland ) that 'complementarity is compartmentalism' is a very common misinterpretation. And yet, the interaction that Bube insists that there is is very minimal: 'Complementarity recognizes that valid insights from science and theology both deal with the same reality and must be integrated', writes Bube, and yet he gives no indication of how it might be achieved in practice. This is why complementarity is placed within a soft independence position in my categorisation. Complementarists tend to deny independence in theory but acts as if religion and science were largely independent in practice. Professing complementarists, but practising independentists? One means of support for a complementarist position, proposed by Van Till, is to say that there is a 'functional integrity' within creation. Van Till draws upon Augustine and Basil and yet he is guilty of eisegesis in that he reads them in the light of his complementarist perspective - and of a very selective reading of Augustine, in particular.
Adherents of complementarity tend to use the Baconian metaphor of the two books: the book of scripture and the book of nature. This metaphor was probably first used by Francis Bacon in his The Advancement of Learning and the New Atlantis (1605; sections 1.1.3, 1.6,16) It was adopted by

...those who inclined towards developing the idea of neutrality, or separateness, or autonomy, of science took a position that became epitomized in the metaphor of the two books, the Book of Scripture and the Book of Nature, both created by God as manifestations of His omnipotence and omniscience, but books different in character that had to be kept apart.

Complementarity largely accepts that science is neutral in regard to religious belief. This is certainly the position of MacKay in practice if not in theory:

The discipline of science is autonomous in the sense that we need not have any explicit theological convictions in order to practise it. It has developed and been moulded under pressure of the data themselves - data to whose implications Christian and non-Christian alike find they must be obedient if their scientific enterprise is to succeed.

If the scientist is also a Christian, there is no implication that he should necessarily do better in science, still less that his scientific findings should differ from those of his non-Christian colleagues.

Here is a denial that Christianity has anything to do with science, and an endorsement of methodological naturalism. For MacKay science is divorced from any religious or cultural presuppositions; this is dangerously close to a positivist view of science: a science that must bow down to bare value-free facts. Science, for MacKay, is neutral with respect to religion and faith commitments.

The scientist's reasons for keeping his private emotions [and presumably religious commitments] out of the official picture is that, despite his enthusiasm for the subject, he would like to be able to be able to describe the world as it is - as it would be without him.

He also writes of 'the neutral character of scientific chance' and of a 'theologically neutral, scientific notion'. It appears that faith is the 'icing on the cake'; an additional extra, rather than an important essential to science:

As a scientist, I have the job of helping to build scientific language - at the scientific level - as a complete a description of the pattern of physical events as I can, regarding no accessible events as exempt from examination. As a Christian, I find that the very same pattern of events can bear an additional and vital significance as part of the activity of God himself.

This position is, I believe, unsound, no matter how attractive the complementary position is. We do well to recall the advice given to Archbishop William Temple by his tutor: a phrase is not a solution. It implies that religion has nothing to do with science: Do Christian commitments count for nothing when one does science? Complementarity enables MacKay to adopt a mechanistic approach to his science:

... my own research department at Keele is concerned with the mechanisms of the brain, and that our working hypothesis is that the brain is capable of being studied as a mechanistic system.

Viewing humans as mechanisms may be complementary to a Christian perspective, but is it a biblical option? Are complementarists content to leave their religious beliefs at the laboratory door? Complementarists thus endorse methodological naturalism.
To be fair to MacKay he recognizes that complementarity 'is not a universal panacea ... A good deal of consecrated hard work is needed on the part of Christians to develop a more coherent and more biblical picture between the two'.
At worst complementarity is a convenient label under which one can avoid compromising religious beliefs by accepting the secularisation of science. The term complementarity is best left to describe wave-particle duality or even mind-matter and free will-determinism, but not science and religion. Religious beliefs are much more integral to science than complementarity suggests.

(Taken from my paper 'A typology of science and religion' Evangelical Quarterly 2000)

six word stories

Six word stories:

Creation, fall, redemption. Who needs six?

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Money matters

I'm speaking at church tomorrow on 'money matters'. This is what I plan to say.

A one pound coin met a twenty pound note and said, "Hey, where've you been? I haven't seen you around here much."

The twenty answered, "I've been hanging out at the casinos, went on a cruise and did the rounds of the ship, back to England for a while, went to a couple of horse racing meetings, to the mall, that kind of stuff. How about you?"

The one pound coin said, "You know, same old stuff ... church, church, church."

“The rule is not to talk about money with people who have much more or much less than you.”
Katherine Whitehorn.

At the risk of violating this principle, I’m going to talk about money.

Money matters – it makes the world go round, or so the film Cabaret would have us believe! But does it?

There are usually a number of ways we see money:

1. Money is evil – a necessary one maybe but evil.
2. Money is good
3. Money is neutral – money in and of itself isn’t bad or good, it’s what we do with it.

I won’t embarrass you by asking which of them you would agree with.
In fact I’d argue that none of them are completely right!

I want to give you a few biblical tools for seeing money in a Christian perspective – or indeed any issue in a Christian perspective!

The best place to start is always at the very beginning – ‘a very good place to start’ (I must stop watching my wife's Sound of Music DVD – I should point out at this point, that though I have quoted two musicals – I don’t actually like musicals!)

1. Creation, fall and redemption
The big biblical story.
Creation – God saw that it was good
Fall – it’s not the way it’s supposed to be
Redemption – God in Jesus has and is putting things right.

How does this relate to money? It wasn’t created in Gen 1-2, isn’t it a human invention?

When we think of money today, most of us would think of coins and notes, but it wasn’t always that way many things have been used as money:
“Amber, beads, cow, drums, eggs, feathers, gongs, hoes, ivory, jade, kettles, leather, mats, nails, oxen, pigs, quartz, rice, salt, thimbles, umiacs, vodka, wampum, yarns, and zappozats (decorated axes).”
It arose out of a need to trade and barter. Something in creation was attributed an agreed value. It is a response to the laws and norms that God has established in creation, norms for the way life should be. These include norms for economic life.

These norms can be violated by extravagance, dishonest competition, ripping each other off, oppressing and making money out of the poor.

God as creator is the source and sustainer of all things and that includes the economic aspect of life – as the verse we had read earlier says ( 1 Chronicles 29:10-14):

Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all.

He rules over all – do we believe that? He rules over finance, money, economics and economic theory. Yet, why do we act as if he doesn’t? Why the gap between belief and action?

In the fall creation is disrupted and distorted. The different aspects of life are often reduced and one becomes more dominant than the others. Many have idolised the economic aspect – money becomes everything, the bottom line is how much does it cost? How much is it worth? How much profit is there in it? Economic growth becomes an idol. It doesn’t matter who or what is sacrificed at the altar as long as it results in progress which is measured in economic growth.

Fortunately, that’s not the end of the story: we have redemption. Jesus comes and redeems all things. Money and economics can be redeemed. We don’t have to bow down before consumerism. Money needs to come under the lordship of Christ.

The tendency among far too many Christians is to fall into a dualistic view. We make some aspects of creation more important than others – we call some things spiritual and others secular or natural. This is a distortion of God’s good creation.

What was the first thing God asked humans to do? It wasn’t to pray or evangelise, or read the Bible activities evangelicals usually think of as spiritual it was to tend a garden. We need to re-evaluate what we regard as spirituality.

Related to creation and fall is the concept of structure and direction:

2. Structure and direction

<-- D I R E C T I O N -->

Everything in creation has a structure, economics, banks, finance etc. That structure is rooted in creation and is good. However, everything in creation is claimed and counterclaimed – as C S Lewis put it:

"There is no neutral ground in the universe: every square inch, every split second is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan."

God’s creation is good – then came the fall and disrupted the good creation, its pulled in opposite directions. Jesus comes to redeem and restore it.

The way we use our money is a matter of direction – do we use it obediently to God and his norms, or do we use it for our own ends?

Nothing in life is neutral – as Bob Dylan sings we have to serve somebody- and that includes what we do with our money – money matters!

A woman and her ever-nagging husband went on holiday to Jerusalem. While they were there, the wife died. The undertaker told the wife, "You can have him transported home for £5,000, or you can bury him here, in the Holy Land, for £150." The woman thought about it and told him he would just have him transported home.

The undertaker asked, "Why would you spend £5,000 to get your husband home, when it would be wonderful to be buried here and you would spend only £150?"

The woman replied, "Long ago a man died here, was buried here, and three days later he rose from the dead. I just can’t take that chance."

You see – money isn’t everything. There is more to life than an economic aspect!

Remember the three options:

1. Money is good
2. Money is evil
3. Money is neutral

What then is the Christian response?

The answer is 1 and 2 – money is good and money is evil, not in and of itself (its structure) but depending on its direction the way in which we take it.

Money is to be used obediently or disobediently, faithfully or unfaithfully, there is no middle ground. As Bob Dylan sang: we gotta serve somebody…

How can we redeem our use of money – I want to briefly look at three examples, banking, the theory of economics and our own use of money.

Banks (I've nicked this illustration from Mark Roques)

Bob Lavelle is a banker of an unusual bank in downtown Pittsburgh. He lends to people who are considered ‘high risk’ at the lowest practical interest rate. In complete contrast to the economic ideology of the world.

He aims to help his high-risk customers become low risk. He wants them to become good stewards of their homes and neighbourhoods. He lends money to them so that the poor blacks in Pittsburgh can become homeowners.
He has about 450 clients – 150 of them are delinquent, he visits these personally and discusses ways in which he can help them to help themselves – he doesn’t give up on them.

If Bob sold the bank tomorrow he would be a rich man. Since its inception the bank has seen its working capital go from $500,000 to $17 million.

He is making a difference (and a profit!) by redeeming economics and banking and by transforming the lives of the poor and oppressed.


Economics – do we know what a Christian view of economics is? Where do we get our economic theory from Adam Smith or Maynard Keynes, Karl Marx or …. Is it a choice between free market economics or neoclassical economics or Keynesian economics?

How do we help Christian students studying economics at university? Do we leave them as prey for the secular ideologies of the world? It requires hard work and hard thinking, most importantly it requires a transforming of the mind – to think through these issues in a Christian way.

One Christian economist is Bob Goudzwaard – read his stuff.

On a personal level

Have we bought into the myth of more is better? What about our chequebook or credit card statement – does it give away the fact that we are Christians? Could it be used in a court of law as evidence that we are Christians?

We need to be set free from the idolatry and ideology of worldy economics so that we can be free to give.

In which direction are we moving with regards to money and finance?
Money does mater to God – it needs to come under his lordship. We can’t serve both God and mammon.

The most subversive act we can do with money is not to save for a rainy day, but to give it away, to sow it for the kingdom. Remember where money comes from:

For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Odds and sods

I have just returned form a rather wet and blustery week in a tent on the Gower. I'm attempting to wade through the 1000+ items in my Google reader. Here are some of the highlights so far:

Rick Warren of Saddleback has interviewed both the US presidential candidates - I wonder if this would ever happen in the UK? Who would have the clout to request interviews and be granted them by the four (I include the Greens!) main parties? [HT Trevin Wax]

A brief review of Tom Wright's excellent Suprised by Hope

David Koyzis's sermon on Jospeh forgives his brothers

Epiginoskein on Radical Orthodoxy and tweaking Dooyeweerd

Stephen Law is starting a book club - this month's is Dawkins's The God Delusion

Bill Kinnon has been away from blogging for a week and updates us on Lakeland/ Todd Bentley

Jon Swales asks for help on a missional/ non-missional typology of neo-calvinism

Byron Borger recommends some books on a christian view of sport

Andy Crouch has a new blog 'culture making'

Dooyeweerd appears on a 100 works in philosophy meme created by Brandon of Siris

Sunday, 10 August 2008

10 types of people

song chart memes
more graph humor and song chart memes

Purpose in the living world? by Klapwijk

Jaap/ Jacob Klapwijk's new book is due out in Nov. Details here.

You can hear Jaap speaking on 'Is there a purpose in the living world? Some thoughts about creation and emergent evolution' from Sept 2006
abstract audio recording (.wma)

Friday, 8 August 2008

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Veritas Forum: science and religion

What is the relationship between science and religion? With Alvin Plantinga, Quentin Smith, Richard Gale and William Lane Craig from 2004. It starts off with four ten minute presentations on how they view science and rligion - each one then gets five mins response.
Finally a free for all Q&A from the audience.
[HT Prosblogion]

Andy Crouch on culture

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Alexander Boddy by Gavin Wakefield

Alexander Boddy:
Pentecostal Pioneer
(Studies in Pentecostal and Charismatic Issues)
Gavin Wakefield
Foreword by N T Wright
Paternoster Press, Milton Keynes, 2007
ISBN 978-1-84227-346-3; pbk; 245 + xiv pp; £17.99

Revd Alexander Boddy is a shadow in the history of Pentecostalism. This may be because his Anglicanism was embarrassing to the Pentecostals and his Pentecostalism embarrassing to the Anglicans. In the most of the histories of the pentecostal movement he sometimes get a sentence or two, a few paragraphs or even a few pages and yet he remains largely enigmatic. Until now - at last we have a book-length biography. Boddy was a pioneer in a number of senses: travel writing and pentecostalism.

His By Ocean, Prairie, And Peak: Some Gleanings From An Emigrant Chaplain’s Log, On Journeys To British Columbia, Manitoba And Eastern Canada is still available now as print-on-demand book by Kessinger Press, and To Kairwan the Holy was republished in 1985 and is still available from Darf Press.

It was his travels that opened him up to other Christian traditions and a willingness to learn from others. As regards his Pentecostalism most know of him through Smith Wigglesworth. It was to Boddy and his wife Mary that the Bradford plumber went to to receive a pentecostal experience. Boddy through his travels had been in touch with Thomas Ball Barrett - another early key Pentecostal figure that deserves more attention. Barrett came to Sunderland in 1907 at Boddy's request. This resulted in a pentecostal experience for Boddy and his wife and as a result many others came to seek the same experience. Not least, Smith Wigglesworth. Boddy launched a magazine Confidence that provided an overview of the movement (these have now been released on CD) and ran the Sunderland Conferences from 1908-1914. It was these and Boddy's leadership that provided the foundation of the British Pentecostal movement.

Wakefield takes a broadly topical view rather than a strict chronological perspective on Boddy, this is helpful in evaluating different aspects. A useful time line is provided to help keen an eye on dates and the succession of events.

The book sets Boddy in his geographical and cultural context, Wakefield makes extensive use of Boddy's writings so that Boddy is able to 'speak for himself'. I would have liked to have seen more analysis of Boddy's worldview and an examination of nature/ grace groundmotive that characterises much of early Pentecostalism. Suprisingly, Boddy seems to avoid the dualistic tendencies that characteristed a lot of early Pentecostalism and that despite the early influence of the Keswick theology upon him.

Wakefield obviously has a high regard for Boddy as one who combined Anglicanism with Pentecostalism. Boddy wasn't as extreme as some that came after him. This may be due in part to his travels, his was no narrow perspective, he was able to observe different cultures and appreciate what was good in them and in part to his Anglicanism and his desire not to see a separate movement emerge, he had a deep 'catholicity of Spirit' that wanted to combine the best of different traditions.

There has been very little written about Boddy. We have Peter Lavin's Alexander Boddy - Pastor and Prophet: Vicar of All Saints' Sunderland 1886-1922 (Wearside Historic Churches Group for All Saints’ PCC, Monkwearmouth, Sunderland. 1986) and Edith Blumhofer's "Alexander Boddy and the Rise of Pentecostalism in Great Britain." Pneuma 8 (Spring, 1986): 314 ff as well as Wakefield's brief Grove Booklet. This then is a welcome and substantial addition to the literature. It is useful not only for understanding the place of Boddy but for the beginnings of the Pentecostal movement in Britain. A ten-page bibliography is an excellent resource for further study.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Bruce Wearne's Open Book

Bruce, among other things and when he's not compiling annotated bibliographies, writes Bible stories for children (and parents). A new series of them based on John's Gospel are being published in Sight magazine the first is up here.

Also check out Bruce's pages on All of life redeemed. I've recently added a few great papers:

"And miles to go before I sleep" Naked Wasp (Chisholm Student Union Inc) Vol. 12(6) p. 18. (a golden oldie!)

A Collection of Essays:

• What are Sociological Concepts?
• Civil Religion
• Empiricism
• Objectivity

• Goudzwaard and deLange
• Cope and Kalantzis & Preece
• Seerveld festschrift
• Pollard
• Noll
• Noll
• Bededetto
• Bonino
• Wallerstein
• Clouser
• Skillen
• Hutchinson and Ogbu

PART FOUR - Positive Contributions
Max Weber
Recasting the Sociological Encyclopaedia
Bargaining with the Business Enterprise

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Is belief in God made obsolete by science? ...

... is a new paper by Roy Clouser available via the Clouser pages on All of life redeemed here.

He starts:
That anyone could take this title question seriously betrays the abysmal ignorance of the nature of religious belief that is so common nowadays. Science, understood as hypotheses about the nature of the cosmos, couldn’t possibly make obsolete any answer to another question, the question as to the identity of the self-existent reality on which all else depends.

And continues:
So let’s get this much clear right away: there is not, and never has been, a religion on earth whose scriptures ever asked anyone to believe it on blind faith. Neither have the scriptures of any religion attempted to prove its doctrines as though they were theories. Rather, the ground that every religion has pointed to as the way to know the truth of its teachings is the direct experience of their self-evident certainty.
Great stuff!

Christian law resources is a website set up by Adries W G Raath and Shaun De Freitas. There are 56 articles on the site that will be useful for those interested in Biblical Constitutional and political research.