Saturday, May 18, 2013

Quote of the Day

This encompassing outlook on the Christian faith has never been better expressed than by the leading character, Charles Ryder, in Evelyn Waugh's novel Brideshead Revisited:

The view implicit in my education was that the basic narrative of Christianity had long been exposed as a myth, and that opinion was now divided as to whether its ethical teaching was of present value, a division in which the main weight went against it; religion was a hobby which some people professed and others not; at the best it was slightly ornamental, at the worst it was the province of "complexes" and "inhibitions" -- catchwords of the decade -- and of the intolerance, hypocrisy, and sheer stupidity attributed to it for centuries. No one had ever suggested to me that these quaint observances expressed a coherent philosophic system and intransigent historical claims; nor, had they done so, would I have been much interested.

Within the context of such an outlook, individuals with standing in a particular professional field sometimes feel free, or even obligated, to cloak themselves in the authority of their area of expertise and make grandiose statements such as this by a professor of biological sciences:

Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear. ... There are no gods, no purposes, no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That's the end for me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning to life, and no free will for humans, either.

Logically viewed, this statement is simply laughable. Nowhere within the published, peer-reviewed literature of biology -- even evolutionary biology -- do any of the statements of which the professor is "absolutely certain" appear as valid conclusions of sound research. One trembles to think that an expert in the field would not know this or else would feel free to disregard it. Biology as a field of research and knowledge is not even about such issues. It simply does not deal with them. They do not fall within the province of its responsibilities. Yet it is very common to hear such declamations about the state of the universe offered up in lectures and writing by specialists in certain areas who have a missionary zeal for their personal causes.

Dallas Willard
Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge

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