Tag: god and galileo

Tolle Lege: Scientism and Secularism: Learning to Respond to a Dangerous Ideology by J.P. Moreland

It was a joy to hold in my hands this week a book that I think makes up for that evolutionary bit of nonsense Crossway published earlier this year called “God and Galileo” by David Block and Kenneth Freeman (you can read that review here).  What Block and Freeman claim Galileo’s 400-year-old letter teaches us about faith and science is that the one must bow to the other in matters of the physical universe.  “Science needs to be falsified using the scientific method, not by simply quoting the Scriptures…It is the domain of scientists to verify or disprove scientific theories.  It is not the place of theologians to falsify scientific ideas using bare scriptural arguments (80).”  Even though this quote lies within the chapter titled “The Fraud of Scientism,” the book itself as a whole is just one grand example of the very thing they weakly identify as fraudulent.  In fact, in rereading that chapter, I never was able to pinpoint a direct argument against scientism, other than their refutal of the current theory of a multiverse.  

God and Galileo” really serves to exemplify the kind of weak scientism that J. P. Moreland claims has crept into the church in his book “Scientism and Secularism” (Crossway, 2018).  According to his definition, “Scientism is the view that the hard sciences—like chemistry, biology, physics, astronomy—provide the only genuine knowledge of reality (26).”  Moreland further distinguishes between strong scientism, which “implies that something is true, rationally justified, or known if and only if it is a scientific claim that has been successfully tested and that is being used according to appropriate scientific methodology (29)” and weak scientism, which “acknowledges truths apart from science, granting them some minimal rational status even if they don’t have scientific support (30).”  Block and Freeman do this very thing by making  sharp distinctions between “the nature of truth and the truth of nature”(66),  “intellectual discernment and spiritual discernment”(97), and “material and spiritual” systems (104). There is  a book of Scripture and a book of nature (43) and “the book of nature can never be suppressed”(81).  I would argue that Romans 1:18-23 suggests otherwise but I’ll leave the arguing to Moreland who does a far superior job than I ever could.  Oh, and I must mention in speaking of Moreland’s superiority, that there are sections of his book I’ll have to go back and reread because they were honestly way over my head.  I’m thinking specifically of chapters 7-9 which dealt with non scientific knowledge and first philosophy (pretty pathetic of me since I was a philosophy major but clearly I need to review).

Moreland’s greatest strength, and the thing that I think makes this book a necessary read, is that he not only puts forth a clear and thorough examination of scientism but how in its weaker form it has infiltrated the church.  “Weak scientism, when believed and put into practice, leads to a constant revision of doctrines that the church has held for centuries under the pressure of scientistic political correctness (72).”  The implications reach far beyond the origins and age of the universe affecting the foundations of human identity, gender, the nature of sin etc…(73).  The effects of scientism have been marked and destructive and yet we’ve been practically incognizant of its presence, so subtle has been its infiltration.  Moreland contends that truth need not be compartmentalized with science always taking the superior position over theology.  There needs to be a reintegration of the Christian world view into every discipline.  For too long, “Christians compartmentalized their faith, kept it tucked away in a private compartment of their lives, and did not integrate their Christian ideas with their work” (185).  

This book serves as a huge encouragement for Christians who have been left grasping for reasons to have confidence in a Biblical worldview and courage in applying that worldview to all of life.  

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* Even though I was given a copy of this book by the publisher I am under no obligation to write a favorable review.

Tolle lege: God and Galileo by Block and Freeman

Well, it’s a fine quandary I’ve been put in.  I was so excited to do a book review of God and Galileo by David Block and Kenneth Freeman (Crossway, 2019) because it seemed to combine two of my favorite subjects, theology and science.

Sadly, this book was neither a responsible treatment of either God or Galileo.  Rather, it was a thinly veiled attempt to justify the authors deeply rooted evolutionary beliefs.  By evolutionary, I don’t just mean the “a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day” variety.  I mean the whole “big-bang produced stars produced carbon-based people” variety.  Here’s an exact quote in case I got the order mixed up.

“For many different reasons, we could not live in a universe that was much smaller (or much hotter).  First, enough time is needed for the hot big-bang universe to cool off, for matter to form, and then for the matter and radiation to decouple.  Next, we are carbon-based human beings.  Carbon is manufactured deep in the interiors of stars.  Galaxies must first form, then stars within those galaxies must be born and complete their life cycles; the end products of the more massive stars are the exploding supernovae.  It is these explosions that unlock carbon and heavier elements from stellar interiors into space, from which new stars are formed.  As best we can understand it, this process—from the birth of the universe to us being here, orbiting a star that is enriched in carbon—takes billions of years (106).”

Now here’s my quandary.  The authors have cleverly inserted a shield of defense within the text to prevent anyone outside of the field of science from criticizing their statements.  The very first chapter contains this warning to any potential critics.

“Serious prejudices against the book of nature often stem from those whose exposure to the scientific method is limited.  To be ‘well grounded in astronomical and physical science’ requires as much training as does psychiatry or neuroscience in the medical world.  Astronomers would be foolish to pronounce on discoveries in neuroscience or psychiatry;  we have not been trained in those specialties.  Galileo’s letter demonstrates how crucial it is to be thoroughly grounded in astronomy before pronouncing on scientific discoveries.  Paraphrasing Augustine’s message rather bluntly, don’t pontificate about matters that you do not understand 32-33).”

Should I, the reader, heed such a warning?  Must I accept their statements as a matter of course based on the simple fact that they were made by experts in the field of astronomy?  After all, I wouldn’t want to fall into the camp they describe here:

“Some with theological or political authority and no experience in science are ready to make judgments on the goals, methods, and conclusions of science.  Instead, such individuals would be wise to adorn themselves with caution and humility in matters outside their realm of expertise (68-69).”

They continue,

“Science needs to be falsified by using the scientific method, not by simply quoting scriptures.  This is indeed the thrust of Galileo’s entire letter to the Duchess, that it is the domain of scientists to verify or disprove scientific theories.  It is not the place of theologians to falsify scientific ideas using bare scriptural arguments (79-80).”

Well there you have it.  Only a bonafide scientist can dare question another scientist.  This book contains a boatload of scientific theory, and I don’t just mean Galileo’s then-controversial heliocentric model.  It is laden with current evolutionary cosmology.  But it is not the job of the reader nor I dare say the publisher to question its content which is why, I suppose, Crossway did its humble duty in publishing it.

But it also contains a boatload of historical narrative, philosophical posturing, poetic waxing, and yes, theological pontificating.  Sadly, I am an expert in none of those fields.  So even though this book appeared to me oozing with logical fallacies, epistemological garbling, literary chatachresis, and theological error, I’ll humbly leave it to the experts in those fields to point it out to the authors.