God, Revelation & Authority Vol. 1, Chapter 10

Posted: January 31, 2011 in Uncategorized

The rise of “scientism” (i.e., science as the final judge for any truth claim and therefore a type of secular God) has taught an entire generation that if a statement is not empirically verifiable than it is essentially meaningless.  This has led a cadre of scientists to make increasingly pejorative comments about Christianity.  Today even the most respectable scientist may be labelled a “traitor” if he or she professes to believe in the resurrection of Christ. 

The rise of “scientism” has also encouraged the church to turn its back on theology and embrace an emotional piety.  Church becomes no more than Oprah’s couch where we go to “feed our spirit” while we seek intellectual identity from secular institutions. 

Yet, “scientism” has failed to deliver happiness or even a mild contentment.  Postmodernism arose partially out of the growing disenchantment with science’s claim to deliver objective truth while constantly revising “truth.” 

Moreover, science failed to construct a comprehensive worldview because it cannot connect all things into a compelling paradigm that is comprehensible and yet it constantly insists upon intruding upon metaphysical questions. 

Scientism took another blow when philosophers and literary scholars began to question if it is even possible for a scientist to be “objective.”  For example, even the decision of what to include in a laboratory study is subjective. 

Skeptical philosophers also banged away at the assumptions laying behind the so-called objective endeavor.  Many successfully quoted thinkers like David Hume who argued that even causality is assumed and cannot be proven (i.e., if you strike an 8-ball how do you know it wasn’t really an invisible demon that moved that actually moved the ball?). 

Henry writes,

Thomas Kuhn reflects the growing academic skepticism that contemporary science is progressively refining “the truth” about the real world. Scientists maintain the impression of progress, he notes, by rewriting their textbooks frequently and eliminating errors, and their newer hypotheses are not based nearly as much as scientists presume on rational or empirical supports (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions). Because of limitations of method, science has so little basis for fixed and final truth about reality that it must stand ready to alter every pronouncement it makes and then to alter that alteration ad infinitum. But Christian theology has historically identified such affirmations not as scientific truth, but as dated opinion.

Henry argues that science is refined opinion but not truth and that only divine revelation can grant our inherent need for certainty. 

Henry concludes chapter 10 by writing,

Hart is near the mark when he concludes that science supplies disintegrated bits of information, whereas knowledge is integrally associated with meaning and a fully integrated vision of man in relation to God, the cosmos and society. Scientific method may explain a great deal, he emphasizes, but it cannot establish the meaning of events and relationships. The fact is that empirical science has no firm basis whatever on which to raise objections to Christianity, not because scientific and historical concerns are irrelevant to revelation and faith, but because scientists must allow for possible exceptions to every rule they affirm, and for the empirical vulnerability of the rules themselves.
 At the end of the day, science relies on a number of invisible referents (i.e., causality) but it then hypocritically claims that any such referent is unverifiable and therefore meaningless.  Henry is not arguing that science is evil or that theology should not engage science but only that those who adhere to the narrow view of “scientism” need to admit their own limitations and the possibility that truth exists, which cannot be verified with the scientitif method. 

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