December 29, 2010

Season of Reason

Christmas is over. Well it's mostly over, we still have all the clean up to deal with. On a superficial level we let some chores slide over the past few days, so there is a bit of a back log of laundry and dishes to work through. But there is also the dreaded cleaning up of the Christmas decorations. Oh well they need to come down sooner or later.

I hope that your Christmas was a merry one. Encase you read the blog prior to Christmas I am happy to report that we did have a merry Christmas as well.

Prior to Christmas I started noticing ads pop up about a fundraiser called 'The Season of Reason'. This fundraiser is put on by James Randi Educational Foundation. The stated goal of this not for profit origination is to raise up a new generation of critical thinkers, and to teach people the dangers of accepting paranormal and supernatural claims without critical reflection. Below is their graphic for the fundraiser.

I wonder if one flying pig can out race 8 (or 9) tiny reindeer? 

This is another example of the very popular false dichotomy between reason and faith. This is without a doubt becoming a very serious mounting problem. Even if their characterizing of normative Christian theological beliefs are poor the New Atheists and the critical thinking crowd are very good at forwarding this idea. They are experts in making people of faith look like either morons and buffoons poising culture or villains dangerously holding back much needed scientific development. 

Like it or hate it when it comes to public image the New Atheists are winning this fight. So what do we do about it? 

First we need to stop sending all of our best and brightest Christian young people to seminaries. Now hear me out. Yes we need intelligent clergy. We need people like Timothy Keller, who are well articulate well educated competent clergy that can talk with the emerging generation. But we also so desperately need are Christian biologists and Christian physicists, and Christian chemists, and Christian mathematicians, and Christian philosophers and so on. 

I'm clergy I'm gifted, skilled and trained to teach the bible, to give sermons, disciple people, to cast vision for the church and a whole slew of other things. What I am not gifted, skilled or trained to do is high level scientific research or philosophical debate, or economic development and a whole host of other things. Yes we need clergy, but we also need Christians that can thrive in the worlds of science, commerce, and philosophy without compromising  either their faith or their field of study.

I want to be clear on what I am saying. I do not think we need Christians to go into the field of biology to Christianize their findings. We need Christians to do actually biological research and show that their faith and the study of biology are not incompatible.

Second we need to think long and hard about sending people into Christian universities. My experience is when people go to these type of universities they tend to do so because they are afraid of what will happen to them at mainstream universities. This means they are either a) afraid that their faith will crumble under the weight of secular professors and peers OR b) they are afraid their moral compass will fail and they'll fall prey to sex, drugs and rock and roll. When did Christian discipleship get so sloppy that it crumbles as soon as it is challenged? If that is the only reason for the existence of Christian undergraduate universities, it is time to rethink the need to have Christian undergraduate universities. 

Finally we need to let doubt out of the closet. Everyone has some question, or some doubt, or some level of confusion. Lets talk about them for a change. Let's stop pretending that strong faith chases away doubt, and that praying harder is the answer to nagging questions. You have questions, I have questions, you have doubts I have doubts. Lets deal with them out in the open, lets ask the questions in house and try our best to answer them. After all outsiders are not afraid of asking the questions we shy away from, so we might as well get at it. 

Is today really the dawn of the season of reason? I hope so, but not the highly skeptical atheistic season the JREF are raising money for. Instead I hope that Christianity can show the world that faith and reason are not mutually exclusive. Because if we do, if the intellectual landscape if littered with people of faith than this argument shuts down and we can move on to more important things. We can once again move the debate back to is Christianity true, instead of what it is now; are Christians harmless idiots or insidious morons. 


  1. This is the same issue as pointed out by Craig Evans and Marva Dawn at Simpson last year about the "Jesus Seminar" being a small vocal minority who are savvy and cater to a media that wants negative news/hype re. Jesus, the Bible, etc. Oh yes, and just because they have academic qualifications (less true with James Randi, but similar with Hichens, Dawkins, etc.)

  2. (cont'd. sorry my post got cut off)the public and media accepts their verdict rather uncritically and make them the new darlings of the sound bite!


  3. Thanks David! Your right, this really is more of a problem of perception than reality. The truth is there are many may well educated well spoken critical thinkers within the Christian world.

    However we are not very good at fighting the perception battle on their terms, and we tend to lose out in public forms.