Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The God of the Academics


18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Romans 1:18-23

In 1998 James Tunstead Burtchaell published his book “The Dying of the Light: The Disengagement of Colleges and Universities from Their Christian Churches.”  Burtchaell wrote an accurate interpretation of history and at the same time gave a dire warning to all Christian colleges and universities.  Harvard, Yale, and fifteen other colleges had lost their Christian distinctive.  These seventeen higher institutions finally became secular.  Harvard was the first college founded in the US soil.  It was first founded as a Christian college.  400 years ago, all the students of Harvard College had to study theology as their basic foundation of all knowledge.  Theology, at that time, was well known as the Queen of Science.  But over time, some one hundred years later, Harvard became as secular as it could be.  Yale, then, was founded, with the purpose in mind to “replace” Harvard that the people had lost to the world.  But one hundred years later, Yale too followed the footsteps of Harvard.  And so many other Christian colleges fell under the spell of secularism.
The biggest concern was the nature of the academic culture ever since Rationalism became the dominant philosophical power.  Although Rene Descartes did not mean Rationalism to become a tool to dethrone God, yet it has been used by many unbelievers to attack faith.  Descartes’ philosophical method was meant to prove the existence of God to the point that it is undoubtable.  In order to do so, given the pressures of his time, he had to start from doubt.  From doubt he then employed the power of rational thinking in order to strip doubt of its power.  His maxim “Cogito Ergo Sum” became the powerful proof of existence, Descartes’ and God eventually.  Now, I don’t have the time and space to elaborate on that here, besides it would be quite technical to understand all Descartes’ philosophizing.
Reason then became the king that governs knowledge, at the expense of faith.  Even though actually reason does not contradict faith, the human sinful tendency to get rid of God dictates the use of reason and its momentum in the world to get rid of any faculty that links us to God.  Since faith was no longer at the center of knowledge, reason had to find its new golden boy.  Voila, science was there at the right time to become reason’s platform.  Science as we know it today arose to the pedestal after theology, the queen, was thrown aside.  Biology, physics, math, chemistry, dominated the world of knowledge through their “hard” evidence that scientists claimed to be the only way to prove what is true.  So for example, to know what tree is in front of us, we are to find the evidence.  Say an evidence is found and verified to be from the tree, which is the fruit of the tree, and the fruit is apple.  The conclusion then is that the tree in front of us is an apple tree.  With the concreteness of the evidence from science, science gains so much power over the verification of knowledge and truth.  All eyes were then on science.  Science was hailed as the savior of the world and eventually as the God of knowledge and truth.  With it the scientific method becomes the most reliable and the only legitimate method to seek the truth.  And this has been the norm ever since.  This was the culprit as to how those Christian colleges became secular in the first place.
Academics is the sphere where the pursuit of knowledge and truth is at its most concentrated form.  Faith no longer had a place in the academic world because faith could not produce “hard” evidence like science argued it should.  Since faith was the main link to God, the academic world then removed God.  With God removed, the academic world needs a new narrative.  For thousands of years the narrative had been supplied by God.  But now that the narrative from God was no longer believed, a brand new story needed to be invented, fast.  That’s when evolution became the only choice the unbelievers had.  Besides, evolution was believed to stem out from science.  And so when the theory of evolution met the unbelievers who were desperate for an alternative narrative to fill the void, the theory of evolution was quickly embraced as the sole interpretation of the origin of life.  It was right there and then that evolution became the truth.  And those who believed in evolution called themselves the enlightened.
This saga of the past 400 years is not something new.  It is an old story in a new form.  Malcolm Muggeridge, a famous British journalist who was converted to Christianity from agnosticism, said: “All new news is old news happening to new people.”  Long before theory of evolution took form, Paul already spoke about the wickedness of human heart in Romans 1:18-23.  The suppression of the truth is nothing new.  Psalm 19:1-6 revealed the truth:
1 The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
    whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
    and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
    and its circuit to the end of them,
    and there is nothing hidden from its heat.
But this truth, even though undeniable, has been suppressed by man.  Ever since Adam and Eve fell into sin and brought the entire world down, man has been the master of rejecting and suppressing the truth.  Wanting to be God, humans have endeavored to get rid of God.  Deep down in man’s heart, we know that God exists and that God created the entire universe.  The right emotion in proportion to such knowledge is fear and awe of God’s majesty.  Our attitude ought to be that of humility.
            But the sinful heart is proud.  With scientific reasoning as the main engine, the sinful heart challenges the true God.  In Romans 1:18-23 we are told of the limit of God’s patience on this matter.  Verse 18 points “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”  Humans are without excuse.  God’s punishment to such ungodliness is severe.  Sexual immorality, idolatry, and all kinds of evil deeds and their effects are the plagues God sends to punish man’s rebellion.  The unbelievers have become futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools.”  When writing his commentary on Luke 24:45, John Calvin said:
“There is no worse screen to block out the Spirit than confidence in our own intelligence.”
Jesus’ disciples on the road to Emmaus relied solely on their intelligence, and the result was that they were blinded of the truth.
            This disintegration between faith and knowledge could be fixed.  But not by human reasoning power.  Human intelligence can’t fix this.  Calvin spoke of man’s total depravity, which means that sin has permeated every human faculty including reason.  Only when man returns to their maker, we can be whole again.  Then and only then can we know the truth as it is.
            The start of the restoration is faith.  True is this statement “Faith Seeks Understanding.”  St. Augustine said, “credo, ut intelligas,” which means “believe, so that you may understand.”  St. Anselm followed Augustine and said something similar, “credo ut intelligam,” which means “I believe so that I may understand.”  Even the scientific method that is reflected in the thesis writing must start with faith, which in the scientific term is called a hypothesis.  Hypothesis is understood commonly as “a proposition made as a basis for reasoning, without any assumption of its truth.”  Voila, the scientific method that hails evidence even must start with faith, the very element that they mock and reject.  Therefore, faith in God cannot be easily dismissed just because there is no “hard evidence” as demanded by the unbelievers.
            Let me demonstrate.  Evidence that is demanded by unbelievers is almost always empirical evidence.  When a Christian evangelizes an unbeliever, almost always the unbeliever asks for proof of God’s existence, which is evidence that can be measured by the senses.  The unbeliever demands to see God, to hear His audible voice, to touch God physically, or to smell His scent.  Or through the defiance of the law of physics or common sense, such as the performing of a real jaw dropping miracle right in front of his/her eye.  The unbeliever might ask: “You believe in God, now prove to me that He hears you and gives you what you need.  Ask God for a slice of pizza.  If a slice of pizza magically appears on your hand, then I shall believe He exists.”  The unbeliever wants to know first based on empirical evidence before believing.  Without empirical evidence the unbeliever would not believe.
Let us apply this to a common life situation.  Harry has a heart problem.  He goes to see a doctor.  The doctor says that Harry needs to have a major heart surgery or he will die in a month.  The doctor explains that it is a dangerous surgery that can result in death.  If you are Harry what would you choose?  Why do you choose what you choose?  If you choose to have a surgery, do you believe the doctor’s diagnosis that you would die in a month without the surgery?  If you choose to pass the surgery, do you believe the doctor’s explanation that the surgery is dangerous?  Now comes the big question: “How do you know that the doctor is right?  What is the empirical evidence?”  What is the empirical evidence to the doctor’s diagnosis that you would die in a month without surgery?  You haven’t died yet.  What is the empirical evidence to the doctor’s explanation that the surgery is dangerous?  You are not on the surgical table yet being operated by the doctor.  Then, why believe before any empirical evidence?
Can we then operate in the way the unbelieving scientific method suggests?  That we must have the empirical evidence first before we believe?  Or actually even before we can prove anything, we first believe in something.  Isn’t it then unfair to demand that faith in God must first be proven through empirical evidence when all other belief works by first believing before empirical evidence appears?  Even evolution theory, when believed as fact, cannot provide the empirical evidence before it was accepted as true.  For evolution does not have the empirical evidence that the process of evolution ever happens; it is never seen, never observed, never captured, and so on.
Now, God is trustworthy.  His testimony and revelation is true.  He reveals in His word that He is the one that created the entire universe.  God reveals who He is through the Scriptures and the universe.  When God reveals through the Scriptures, the revelation is called Special Revelation.  When He reveals through the universe, the revelation is called General Revelation.  These two do not contradict each other.  The Special Revelation is more authoritative than the General Revelation because through the Special Revelation God speaks and relates directly to man, whereas in General Revelation God speaks and relates indirectly to man.  In Special Revelation God reveals His grand purpose that is never revealed in the General Revelation, which is the Redemptive purpose of God through Jesus Christ.  The Fall mars the entire universe, including our interpretative faculty.  Thus as we observe the world and use our faculty to interpret it, we run the risk of misinterpreting it.  But in Special Revelation God Himself gives His interpretation of the world, and thus it can’t be wrong.  All of those are the reasons why the Special Revelation is more superior than the General Revelation.
Now, as we dive into academic studies, we must be aware of the philosophy behind the academic world.  God is still the King of the entire world, even the world of academia.  When we observe the world, study nature, analyze the universe, we must first have faith in the Creator.  In Him alone we will find the truth.  If we don’t, we run the risk of suppressing the truth.  Faith and knowledge do not contradict one another.  In fact, knowledge needs faith.  In the study of epistemology (the study of how one can know), we can never start from knowing before believing, but instead we always start from believing before knowing.
Arthur Holmes said: “All Truth is God’s Truth.”  Holmes explained that God is the rightful owner of truth.  Cornelius Van Til said that we only borrow the truth from God, with or without realizing it.  Any truth discovered by man is truth that God owns.  An unbeliever might discover truth in a laboratory, the truth found does not belong to the unbeliever but to God.  Francis Crick and James Watson were unbelievers, but their work was important to the world, in that they discovered the structure of the DNA molecule.  In 1962 Crick and Watson was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine.  The truth of the DNA structure belongs to God, not Crick, not Watson, because all truth is God’s truth.  Crick and Watson only borrowed it from God.  God gave Crick and Watson His common grace so they could uncover the mystery of molecular biology.
There are many Christian scientists that keep their integrity in faith and knowledge intact.  People like Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei, Nicholas Copernicus, Isaac Newton, Sir Francis Bacon, Blaise Pascal, Robert Boyle, Michael Faraday, Gregor Mendel, Max Planck, are among the rank of Christians who never betray their faith even as they dig deep into the scientific world.  God’s “20invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.  All glory, praise, and honor unto God forever and ever.  Amen!

1 comment:

Elia Yovan said...

If so, suppose the Christian be the best (salt and light) in every area of life, especially in science and tech, the area where God seems really disappear nowadays.