Science, Faith, and Human Worth


Sigmund Freud famously argued that scientific advance has led to a radical reevaluation of the place and significance of humanity in the universe, deflating human pretensions to grandeur and uniqueness. Before Copernicus, we thought we stood at the center of all things. Before Darwin, we thought we were utterly distinct form every other living species. Before Freud, we though that we were masters of our own limited realm; now we have to come to terms with being the prisoner of hidden unconscious forces, subtly influencing our thinking and behaviour. And as our knowledge of our universe expands, we realize how many galaxies lie beyond our own. The human lifespan is insignificant in comparison with the immense age of the universe. We can easily be overwhelmed by a sense of our insignificance when we see ourselves against this vast cosmic backdrop…

The Christian narrative allows us to frame these questions in a very different way than that offered by a bleak secular humanism. By allowing their personal narratives to be embraced and enfolded by the greater narrative of God, Christians see things in a new way—including their own status and identity. We are no longer mere assemblies of molecules, neutrons, or genes; we are individuals who can relate to God, and whose status is transformed by God’s love and attentiveness toward us…

Through inhabiting the Christian narrative, we come to see ourselves, as medieval writer Julian of Norwich famously put it, as being enfolded in the love of Christ, which brings us a new security, identity, and value. Our self-worth is grounded in being loved by God.

–Alister E. McGrath,
Narrative Apologetics

What Is Missing?

clouds earth hearts 1920x1200 wallpaper_www.wallmay.com_87 copyThe philosopher [Immanuel] Kant was right long ago to notice that moral activity implies a religious dimension. The atheist [Friedrich] Nietzsche also saw the point and argued forcefully that the person who gives up belief in God must be consistent and give up Christian morals as well, because the former is the foundation of the latter. He had nothing but contempt for fellow humanists who refused to see that Christian morality cannot survive the loss of its theological moorings, except as habit or as lifeless tradition. As Ayn Rand also sees so clearly, love of the neighbor cannot be rationally justified within the framework of secular humanism. Love for one’s neighbor is an ethical implication of the Christian position.

This suggests to me that the world’s deepest problem is not economic or technological, but spiritual and moral. What is missing is the vision of reality that can sustain the neighbor-oriented life style that is so urgently needed in our world today.

–Clark H. Pinnock,
Reason Enough

The ethical bankruptcy of humanism

Clark pinnock copyAlthough the world cries out for justice, the basis for it has been disintegrating now that the vagaries of human will have come to replace faith in divine justice and eternal law. Although there is still a broad cultural consensus that it is right to be committed to the well-being of others, the rise of secular humanism makes it more and more difficult to support and explain any such obligation . . . All that the secular humanist has is his own present existence. Nothing has a rational claim to be of greater value for him. Therefore, no ethical claim which involves self-sacrifice, unless it promises due recompense, can win his assent.

The secular humanist who performs an act genuinely altruistic and self-sacrificing is presupposing the falsity of his humanistic beliefs. Loving our neighbour is not a rationally defensible ethic within the humanistic system. It is an ethic theologically grounded in the gospel and respected long after the erosion of faith because of its recognized rightness. It does not and did not grow out of humanistic soil. Logically speaking secular humanism is ethically bankrupt and its assumptions about reality when taken to their logical conclusions turn out to be inhuman and anti-human. The world’s deepest problems are moral and spiritual, not economic and technological.

–Clark Pinnock

Skepticism, injustice, and your own truth

Clifford StaplesThese days I spend a good deal of my time in the university talking with students who are both philosophical skeptics and advocates for “social justice.”

. . . I tell them if you are someone interested in righting wrongs and seeing justice done, you might want to think twice about being a philosophical skeptic, i.e. someone who believes that “we all have our own truth,” and that there is no objective truth. Why? Well, if there is no truth, no objective reality independent of individual perceptions, then there is no injustice either, as the political philosopher Norman Geras observed some years ago. You can’t claim one minute that all truth is subjective and then the next minute claim to have been wronged and expect anyone to believe you if they too live by your philosophy. By that philosophy, anything you say is just your “take” on it, just your story, and which could be told differently. You were raped? I don’t think so; that’s just your reality. There was a Holocaust? Nah, that’s just one way to look at it. Everyone has his or her “own truth” and so why is the Nazi truth any less valid than anyone else’s? You can’t claim to be a philosophical skeptic and then turn around and say “Well, obviously there is injustice in the world.” No, there are no more facts that are not interpretations. That’s no longer an option if there is no truth “out there,” beyond subjective perception.

. . . Skepticism is a plague on the universities, where I spend most of my time, and where most of my time there is spent fighting it. Today university students are led into or confirmed in their skepticism by my colleagues, often the very same professors who claim society is overflowing with obvious injustices. So why would these smart people be so unconcerned with such philosophical incoherence? To make sense of it you have to realize that the universities today in the main serve more as re-education camps than as universities. Skepticism might be untrue, but it is useful to the goal of convincing students to embrace a secular humanist perspective. Once you convince someone that there is no truth it is much easier to convince them of “your own truth,” i.e. ideology.

–Clifford Staples
The Ethical Failure of Philosophical Skepticism