Posts by Richard Gunton

Can Christian thinking enhance academic work?  It's our conviction, at Faith-in-Scholarship, that it can.  So I'm excited to tell you about a paper offering a positive contribution to philosophy of science on the basis of a Christian philosophy.  It's about scientific objectivity.  Common definitions of objectivity call for a 'view from nowhere', or guaranteed repeatability of results, or getting nature to reveal herself, and often imply some kind of inerrancy.  Instead, we propose that objectivity is projection: representing a complex system using numbers, diagrams, photographs or videos, for example. 

Left and right arrows

I want to ask some questions about what may be the most prominent rift among Christians in our day, evident in scholarly writing as well as campaigning and, dare I say, in a large chunk of the discussions I see among my acquaintances on social media.  I must tread carefully here! But I offer the following in the spirit of biblical faithfulness and reconciliation, hoping to stimulate more-gracious, higher-quality discussion than I'm familiar with on these issues.  Above all, I am expressing my grief about the polarisation that I see.

We're starting a new series looking at the phenomenon of Covid-19, this strange disease that has spread to virtually every part of the world's population over the last 18 months or so and is attributed with the deaths of more than 3 million people so far.  This basically biotic event is having wide-ranging effects on human societies and cultures, and can thus be said to be making history.  As such, it raises lots of important questions that we ought to be interested in from a Christian perspective.

Worshipping in a graveyard

I attended an open-air service this weekend, at our local parish church. Our family has moved house recently and we haven't yet settled into a new church. But this open-air gathering seemed hugely appropriate right now, just after Easter.

First of all, this church sits next to a large green space where people of all ages come to meet out of doors, walk dogs, throw frisbees, etc. So our outdoor worship event felt like a public witness: a community's reminder that there are followers of Jesus in their midst - people who find it worthwhile to gather on a chilly spring morning to raise their voices in worship and hear again the story of the first Easter.

Today I want to share a fascinating story of Christian celebration of biodiversity.  In the highlands of Ethiopia, circular church buildings are surrounded by patches of the forest that once covered the landscape.  Varying from less than a hectare up to thousands, these forests host a wide diversity of both animals and plants, and include individual trees hundreds of years old.  But as farming has intensified, the church forests have been shrinking and their regeneration is threatened by cattle grazing.

We posted on the secularization of science last summer, in connection with Herman Dooyeweerd's essay of that title.  Like me, you may have been surprised to learn that for Dooyweerd, the 'secularization of science' reached its culmination around the Renaissance, just as theology began to be marginalised in Western culture.  This might seem to belittle the Christian faith and piety associated with subsequent scientific thinkers, from Copernicus and Galileo to Boyle and Faraday, for example.  Isn't secularization a more modern phenomenon - perhaps even driven by scientific progress itself?  I want to explore some links between the earlier and later phases of this secularization, and where we might be heading now. 

My post on Revelation and Science has raised quite a lot of interest. Even before I finished it I thought of some further important things to say, and further conversations with friends have revealed (if that's the word) other important points

Book of nature graphic

Where does scientific knowledge come from?  Today I want to share some thoughts on this and to reflect on the surprisingly widespread view among Christian thinkers that science is a form of divine revelation. 

The Territories of Science and Religion by Peter Harrison (2015) is one of the most illuminating books I've read recently.  I'd like to enthuse with you about a book that gave me much food for thought regarding Christianity as a 'religion' as well as the nature of 'science'.

I want to share some experiences from inviting Christian friends to contribute to a course on "the values of nature", and my own shifting position on one of the major ethical issues of our age.

Until recently I tried to steer clear of academic treatment of ethics and values.  I was trained as a natural scientist, where ethics were never discussed except as extrinsic issues to be avoided (or navigated with minimal fuss) when planning research projects.  Then the term "values" also seemed to have postmodern overtones of subjective preferences detached from any normative reality.  Finally, I felt, as a Christian, that ethics was so closely tied to my faith that it was daft to imagine it could be studied in a neutral secular way.  But was I being narrow-minded?