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Education for Human Flourishing … Do we need the soul? (RJS)

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IVP is publishing a series of books designed to help college students in a
variety of disciplines integrate a Christian worldview into their approach to their discipline.

The first book in this series is by Paul Spears and Steven Loomis entitled Education for Human Flourishing: A Christian Perspective. This book addresses the question of the integration of a Christian worldview with education and the philosophy of education. The book is directed toward K-12 teaching in particular, but can also apply to higher education.

As a professor, an educator, and a scientist I was interested in this book. There is much in the book that is very good – good insights worth discussion. On the other hand this book fails in the goal of integration. It will not help Christian teachers or scholars move from
compartmentalization to integration. This is a book mired in the culture war outlook of the evangelical ghetto. It is rooted in the evangelical subculture, speaks only to that culture, and takes an adversarial approach. Not only does it take an adversarial approach with respect to secular humanism or scientific naturalism – it is dismissive of fellow Christians, even evangelical Christians, who take views with which Spears and Loomis disagree. 

This brings up some questions I think we need to consider in depth.

What does it mean to integrate a Christian worldview into all aspects of life – and especially into academic disciplines and professions? 

How should we think through our views – and teach them?

Should we emphasize a mere Christianity or should we divide along party lines?

I was rather abrupt and blunt above. Let me give an example of what I mean using the opening chapter of the book.

Spears and Loomis propose that a Christian view of education and the profession of teaching designed for human flourishing must start with a proper understanding of the nature of humanity. This is an excellent starting point – and I agree completely. The first chapter of the book – entitled Humanity Revisited -  presents their view. 

What do Spears and Loomis say?

Things
such as consciousness, the immortality of souls, freedom of the will, and God are real entities that cannot be investigated empirically. Dualism is an important metaphysical concept that undergirds our anthropological investigations.

We believe that dualism, and specifically substance dualism, is the most effective way by which we can best explain the fundamental issues in human ontology. (p. 44)

This is a valid view – and one held by many Christians. But where do they go with it?

What stems the tide of the scientific onslaught is Christianity’s commitment to a super natural reality, which stands outside of the physical realm. Christianity and a understanding of dualism, which is rooted in both theological and philosophical principles, will enable us to develop a holistic understanding of human persons. (p. 44)

Holding to dualism to “stem the tide” strikes me as the wrong approach from the beginning. Shouldn’t we consider the options and the nuance in putting forth a Christian view of persons? But Spears and Loomis draw a sharp dichotomy.

This view of substance dualism is at odds with popularized notions of contemporary science. Broadly, views of about human ontology comes in two major forms: physicalism and dualism. Basically physicalism holds that humans are nothing more than material substances that can be examined through the senses. (p. 46)

They go on to construct a caricature of the general views.

Subjective first-person experiences have no place in the physicalist world. So when a physicalist talks about “Bob,” he or she will talk about things like Bob’s weight, his height or his shoe size, but will be unable to talk about anything that has to do with Bob’s subjective internal states as material phenomena, which is insufficient. (p. 47)

Later on the same page they allow no nuance and give this patently absurd example to explain why physicalism is insufficient:

Additionally, physicalism cannot explain why personal identity endures through physical change. … To illustrate, imagine that someone you know (lets call him John) is in a tragic automobile accident, is badly burned and loses a limb. … the person we are visiting in the hospital still identifies himself as John, and he gives historical accounts of himself that are consistent with what we know about our friend John. Physicalism can give no adequate account of why we know our friend who has been disfigured is still John.  … So we can see how physicalism fails to holistically articulate the fundamental properties that make up our anthropology. (p. 47)

It gets worse – they mention two kinds of dualism, property dualism and substance dualism, but…

Property dualism falls under many of the same criticisms as physicalism and therefore will not be discussed at length in this section. (p. 48)

Only their view is worth serious consideration … and what about other Christian thinkers who wrestle with a view of persons?

In theological circles it has recently become vogue to attack the notion of dualism. Some reject the notion of dualism because they believe that it is not a biblical notion but a Greek idea smuggled into Christian theology. Nancey Murphy, a philosopher from Fuller Theological Seminary, writes that humans are “at our best complex physical organisms; … we are Spirited bodies.” Given recent attacks inside of Christian philosophy and theology, it is even more important to turn to the Scripture to gain and understanding of our anthropology. (p. 50)

Spears and Loomis don’t deal with Murphy’s view – they put it down with phrases like “it has become vogue” and “attacks inside”  and then proof text their way to their view in six rather short pages.

They are similarly abrupt and adversarial as they move through many other topics in education and the philosophy of education; labeling and dismissive.

Why do I bring this up?

I agree with Spears and Loomis that an understanding of the nature
of humanity is essential as Christian intellectuals in education
integrate their faith with their academic and professional thinking. I am not really arguing with their view here – but with the way they present their view and the way they deal with the options and with opposing views. I am undecided on the issue of substance dualism, some other form of dualism, or a Christian materialism such as that discussed in Kevin Corcoran’s book (we just blogged through this here). I don’t think substance dualism is the best option, but it is certainly
an option.  A view of ontological naturalism is not consistent a Christian worldview. But there are many nuanced Christian possibilities consistent with Scripture and our understanding of theology. Both alternative Christian views and non-Christian views must be dealt with honestly and fairly. Spears and Loomis fail on both counts.

I’ll be blunt – the approach used by Spears and Loomis here is a common and apparently accepted approach in evangelical scholarship. As long as this is an accepted approach to dealing with the intellectual questions raised in academia – evangelical thinking will not be taken seriously outside of the fold. More than this – as thinking Christians advance within their fields they will find it hard to (1) take evangelical scholarship seriously and (2) integrate faith with their intellectual and professional life. This is part of the scandal of the evangelical mind (to use Mark Noll’s phrase).

Enough of my opinion – what do you think? I’ve been abnormally blunt – lets start a conversation. If you disagree with me, or think I’ve been too harsh, explain why. Push back.

Do you think that the approach taken by Spears and Loomis is reasonable or right? If so why? If not how do you think we should tackle such problems?

And back to my initial question…

What does it mean to integrate a Christian worldview into all
aspects of life – and especially into academic disciplines and
professions?  How should we go about developing our mode of thinking and expressing Christian views?

If you wish to contact me, you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net



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Scot McKnight

posted December 17, 2009 at 8:24 am


RJS, the first thing that comes to mind is to respect the method and testable conclusions of a discipline, in this case scientific tests and the conclusions drawn, in order to teach students that empirical sciences, when tested and verified (do we use that term still?), are trustworthy. This builds trust and confidence instead of suspicion that will someday be undermined when the student confronts clear evidence.
Integration is not violent overwhelming of either faith or science but the mutual co-existence and respect for each other, with clear parameters set for what can be known in each field.



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dopderbeck

posted December 17, 2009 at 8:47 am


I haven’t read this book and don’t know anything of the writers so I can’t comment on them specifically. I might ultimately partly agree with them that, at the end of the day, some sort of dualism is important for a variety of “worldview” related reasons.
But, I agree with you completely that what I call the “worldview warrior” approach — which seems to be what you’re describing here — is unhelpful.
My thumbnail take: when evangelicals tried to re-engage with the rest of the world starting in the 1960′s and ’70′s, Francis Schaeffer was the intellectual hero. He did important work in getting evangelicals to value art, literature, politics, etc. His worldview, however, was steeped in Van Tilian antithesis, and that notion of antithesis in turn became a defining feature, often the defining feature, of subsequent evangelical cultural engagement, certainly in the “first wave” spearheaded by Schaeffer.
The second wave of evangelical cultural reengagement offered a somewhat softer version of Schaeffer’s antithesis, but was still shaped by it. In some ways, the second wave began to go back “behind” Schaeffer to his sources in the Dutch Reformed tradition, including Kuyper, and found there a somewhat more welcoming concept of “common grace.” Many of us who went to Christian liberal arts colleges in the 1980′s or thereabouts imbibed this second wave and are now in our middle years. Though the second wave was softer, it remained centered on the notion of antithesis. I suspect the book you’re critiquing falls into this second wave.
We’re now starting to see a third wave of evangelical cultural engagement, characterized by a bit more humility and openness to non-evangelical and non-Christian perspectives. The idea of antithesis remains — as it must, because it is a Biblical idea and richly woven into the broader Christian tradition — but it is more likely to be woven into a thicker account of “rationality” than what is on offer in the tradition of Schaeffer. Thinkers such as James K.A. Smith are characteristic of this third wave (see Smith’s newest book, Desiring the Kingdom.
Even as the crest of the third wave is building, the second wave is drawing back into the sea, and so the second and third waves are colliding in places. I’m not sure what can be done about this collision. There really is, I think, a subtle difference in worldview at play. Second-wavers are convinced that they possess an encompassing rational system that should be facially convincing to anyone who is freed of incorrect or irrational presuppositions. Their focus therefore is argumentation. Third wavers are more circumspect about the prospects for erecting any such encompassing rational system, whether labeled “Christian” or something else. While they don’t eschew argumentation, their focus is more on relationality and performativity.



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RJS

posted December 17, 2009 at 9:01 am


dopderbeck,
So am I third wave?
Interesting thoughts. The problem I have with second-wavers (to use your taxonomy) is the infighting as much as anything else. But even more important – it simply doesn’t stand the external test for many of us.



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nathan

posted December 17, 2009 at 10:06 am


i don’t know if there is a single “Christian worldview”…to me it stands as a contested category as to its content…so i’m not sure if anyone really is clear on what exactly is being integrated.
i’d be interested to hear what people think…



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Your Name

posted December 17, 2009 at 10:19 am


Forgive me if I am uninformed but…. Is duelism necessiarily Christian? When I read church history, i understood that early theologians were seeking to address their world, their philosophical world, the science they understood at the time. Why would we keep their world view and integration of it instead of examine faith in the light of this world and the philosophy and science that exists today.



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joanne

posted December 17, 2009 at 10:21 am


sorry Your Name is me…. Joanne



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RJS

posted December 17, 2009 at 10:30 am


nathan,
I think that there are common features of a Christian worldview – a mere Christianity. There are also views that are “non-Christian.” But far too often what is called a Christian worldview is the view of a small segment localized in space and time and foisted on all as the answer. My point is really that we need some humility and conversation with give and take. We do not need pronouncements with an abrupt and adversarial tone.



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RJS

posted December 17, 2009 at 10:35 am


joanne (#5-6),
It would be an interesting conversation. Loomis and Spears coming from Biola and Wheaton do not deal with the question with any real integrity. Rather they treat the suggestion as a new fad to be presumptively disposed of, so they can move on to the important stuff.



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Rick

posted December 17, 2009 at 10:36 am


Nathan-
I think if we consider the term “worldview” we are talking about those core aspects of the faith, and how they relate to how we look at, and engage, the world. As RJS wrote in the previous post in this series:
“This really means understanding the essence of the faith and developing an ability to separate the essential from the peripheral. It also requires a background that places the faith within historic Christian thinking. What is, to borrow an illustration from Keith Drury, written in pencil, what is written in ink, and what is written in blood. This provides the breathing room to actually engage and eventually integrate.”
It would appear the dualism issue, for Spears and Loomis, is near the ink or blood categories. I would place it more in the pencil or ink categories.



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RJS

posted December 17, 2009 at 10:43 am


Thanks Rick,
You put in a few words what I tried to say in many. They treat this topic of dualism as though it is written in blood – or at least in indelible ink – and thus at the center of a Christian worldview and as though it should be obvious to all thinking Christians.
It seems to me that this is an erasable ink to pencil kind of issue.
If we wish to develop thinking Christian scholarship and the evangelical mind we need to defend the core and talk about the ink and pencil issues with honesty, humility, and fairness.



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rebeccat

posted December 17, 2009 at 10:53 am


My view of integrating our faith life and other aspects of our worlds rests on two things. First: all truth is God’s truth. If something is true, even if it doesn’t fit with what I have thus far presumed to know about God or the world, then it is true because God made it so. And if God made it so, it cannot be threatening to either God or to my faith. If truth cannot threaten God, then I should feel free to follow it where it may lead an be confident that by doing so, I will know God more and more. Secondly, in order to do this, I need to put aside my fear and sense of being threatened in order to actually understand opinions, ideas and facts which do not fit with what I believe to be true. I need to be able to accurately be able to understand and describe that which is foreign or disagreeable to me in order to interact productively with it. If I understand it and believe it to be in error, I will be able to make compelling arguments based on the perspective of those who hold such ideas. Or I may find that there is some truth present that I need to integrate into my own understanding. Or some combination of both. What I do not think works and should not be encouraged is defining a group of sacred cows that cannot ever be reconsidered and approaching anything which is different as a threat to be taken down. Nor do I think we should allow ourselves to define for other people what they think/believe/know. If you are going to argue against another person’s thinking, you must be able to do so based not on your view of their thinking, but on their own view. Anyhow, I’m not sure I’ve made much sense here, but it’s the approach I try to use.



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RJS

posted December 17, 2009 at 10:56 am


Actually of course (to continue my thought in #10), we need to treat others fairly and deal with the blood issues with integrity as well.



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Jason

posted December 17, 2009 at 11:19 am


My wife is a seventh grade science teacher. I would like to get a book of this topic for my wife and I, but perhaps a bit more accessible, (i.e. less like torture to read). Any suggestions?



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RJS

posted December 17, 2009 at 11:57 am


Scot (back at #1),
On the science – faith front I think you are right. Integration is not violent overwhelming but the mutual co-existence and respect for each other, with clear parameters set for what can be known in each field.
On an academic, professional front integration requires an ability to approach the questions and ideas fairly. The Christian view does not need to shout down opponents. (If it does, perhaps the opponents are right after all.)
An approach in evangelical scholarship that “shouts down” or more commonly, “skirts and ridicules” the issues sets students and scholars up for a fall – or at least some serious soul-searching.
I think we see the impact of this in both Biblical studies (thinking here of the long conversations surrounding Dan Wallace’s post and the spill over here) and in the science, faith discussion. The Intelligent Design community may have some important points to make, but as long as they specialize in derision and ridicule, fail to interact with the evidence honestly, and argue on culture war rather than evidential grounds, they will never make an inroad, never get a hearing.



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dopderbeck

posted December 17, 2009 at 12:10 pm


On the question of “worldview” — IMHO, the concept is unfortunately overused today. Sometimes I think there’s a temptation to worship a “worldview” rather than the living Triune God revealed in the person of Jesus Christ.
I’m starting to think of it this way: the deepest and most basic reality for any human being is his or her participation in the life of the Triune God through abiding in Christ. As we abide in Christ we begin to experience and understand God’s creation of the eschatological future, the ultimate goal of His redemption and perfection of all of creation. In the times and places in which we as situated human beings live, we create cultural frameworks on which this eschatological project builds.
These frameworks — matrices of cultural ideas and practices — are like scaffolding for the deeper reality of the transforming life of God. To the extent these cultural frameworks are built out of relationship with God, they are “real” and enduring, not “merely” socially constructed, and indeed in some sense will be taken up into the eschatological “heavenly city.” However, they cannot be confused with the life of God itself. The telos of creation is that God will be “all in all,” not that some “worldview” will prevail.
All so-called “worldviews,” then, even the presumptively “Christian worldview,” are literally subject to “deconstruction” into the deeper reality that is God Himself. In this light, it’s a gross mistake to understand Christian discipleship as engagement in a contest of “worldviews.” Christian discipleship is about abiding in Christ so that we can participate in God’s mission to consume “all in all” with His perichoretic love. That will involve in every particular time and place some engagement of ideas, but not as an end in itself and not with regard to some supposedly neutral, detached concept of self-evident rationality.



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dopderbeck

posted December 17, 2009 at 12:12 pm


Jaso(#13) (and RJS): one very accessible book I’d recommend is Jens Zimmerman and Norman Klassen, The Passionate Intellect: Incarnational Humanism and the Future of University Education. I’m not sure Zimmerman and Klassen fully account for the effects of sin, but on the whole this is an excellent treatment, IMHO.



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Steven Loomis

posted December 17, 2009 at 12:50 pm


Friends,
Thank you for trying to address our arguments.
Allow me to enter the conversation by posing a question to the question above: “Should we emphasize a mere Christianity or should we divide along party lines?” If C.S. Lewis’s logic and line of thinking is one reliable criterion for ‘mere Christianity’, then would you be willing to show precisely where our logic and line of thinking veered from Lewis’s?
Looking forward to the conversation.



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dopderbeck

posted December 17, 2009 at 1:18 pm


Stephen (#17) — I haven’t had the opportunity to read your book. Is it accurate that you claim substance dualism is of fundamental importance to a Christian worldview?
I would say from the very brief paragraph RJS quotes in her post that you do not seem to be playing fair with Nancey Murphy or with nonreductive physicalism or emergentism generally. I wouldn’t characterize Murphy’s “Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies,” or Joel Green’s “Body, Soul and Human Life,” as “attacks” on dualism. Both of these books strike me as reasonable and irenic critiques of dualism, not as “attacks.” I personally am not sure that I find their position convincing or satisfactory, but to the extent I disagree with them I don’t feel compelled to posture my arguments as defenses of “the Christian worldview” against “attacks.” And even to the extent I find their view unsatisfactory, I don’t find traditional substance dualism compelling either, so I’m rather uncomfortable with the implication that all Christians must accept substance dualism as a matter of first importance.



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Steven Loomis

posted December 17, 2009 at 1:25 pm


Friends,
The second question I would pose has to do with this claim: “They are similarly abrupt and adversarial as they move through many other topics in education and the philosophy of education; labeling and dismissive.”
In the sociology of philosophy (see Randall Collins’ work), intellectual work is inherently a conflict of ideas (you are demonstrating this on your blog). We see this in Jesus Christ himself when dealing with people who knew better, e.g., the Sadducees. Science is a conflict of ideas or paradigms. Nearly all knowledge-centers are a contest of ideas. Fortunately, there is great freedom still left to dissent in the academy. Trying to raise a cost to our dissent in your blog seems to commit a kind of passive-aggressive tolerance fallacy. It might not be wise to make a big deal about our being adversarial because it seems to undercut not only the nature and traditions of academic work (see Lewis’s Socratic club work), but your own argument as well.
Can you please offer one instance within the chapters dealing with the application of integration (4-6) where we were wrong or in error?
Thanks.



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dopderbeck

posted December 17, 2009 at 1:42 pm


Stephen (#17) — just a couple of further quick thoughts, again going only on the paragraphs RJS cites.
You say in the book that Subjective first-person experiences have no place in the physicalist world.
This is incorrect, unless you’re unfairly loading the term “first-person.” Physicalism doesn’t deny that people/organisms have subjective experiences that are not directly accessible to other people/organisms, which is what I would take “first-person” to mean. I am now experiencing a range of sensations that are not directly accessible to anyone else as I sit at my computer pondering your arguments; on this, physicalists and dualists would agree. The question is whether my experience of these sensations and my responses to them are adequately accounted for by chemistry and brain states alone.
Here, the mere fact of subjective awareness does not seem to me to require a “soul” — it could be explained by consciousness as an emergent phenomenon, or it could be epiphenomenal and in truth illusory. Again, I’m not sure I like either of these explanations (I certainly don’t like the idea that consciousness is illusory!), but it would be unfair of me to claim that physicalism offers no account at all on this score.
You also say: “physicalism cannot explain why personal identity endures through physical change.”
This seems to me to be both question begging and false. It is question begging because the notion of “personal identity” and whether it must “endure through physical change” is something that neurobiology — and developmental psychology, and sociology, and other disciplines — is compelling us to think about more carefully.
It strikes me as not surprising at all that “personal identity” in fact evolves over time as our physical bodies and life circumstances change. Does anybody think that a newborn infant has the same sense of “personal identity” as she will have when she celebrates her 70th birthday? From a Christian perspective, this can be even more significant, given that we are entirely “new creations” in Christ!
This argument also strikes me as incorrect. Certainly a nonreductive physicalist would argue that the emergent property of “mind” supplies some persistent sense of “self” because it effects downward causation that impacts the physical system over time. Even reductive physicalists locate a persistent sense of “self” at least as a social construction that has proved vital to individual and group survival.
Again, it may be that the emergentist and social constructionist accounts of the persistence of “self” ultimately aren’t as strong as the dualist account — but it seems unfair and maybe even a bit absurd to suggest that the example of an amputee conclusively refutes physicalism.
All of this, I think, gets to RJS’ main point, which also is a concern of mine: in the pursuit of a “worldview,” do we sometimes skimp on serious critical thought that is open to the possibility of revision?



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dopderbeck

posted December 17, 2009 at 1:45 pm


Stephen (#19) — there is a difference in serious academic work between “conflict” that is fair and open to correction, and “conflict” that views any alternative approach as an “attack.” Would you agree?



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nathan

posted December 17, 2009 at 2:02 pm


thanks for the responses from RJS, Rick and “doper” (for short, LOL).
i’m still skeptical about the category of “christian worldview”…but i have some stuff to chew on from here.
again, thank you…i might jump back in later…
peace.



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Matt Jenson

posted December 17, 2009 at 2:26 pm


I wonder whether a bit of the issue is that this is a book on education that cares about philosophical and theological articulations of education but still wants to talk about education. This isn’t a long defense of (say) substance dualism, but it is a discussion that wants to call educators back to examining the philosophical and theological issues in play in education. So my guess is some will lament ANY talk of philosophy in this book, while others will deride the brevity of the treatment (a brevity that might involve moving quickly past other options). All of which to say, I suspect that calling this merely a case of worldview-warring is an incomplete account.



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Randy G.

posted December 17, 2009 at 2:33 pm


I suggest that anyone wanting to discuss worldviews, particularly for addressing a Christian philosophy of education, should read Brian J. Walsh’s essay “TRANSFORMATION: DYNAMIC WORLDVIEW OR REPRESSIVE IDEOLOGY?” in The Journal of Education and Christian Belief. There, Walsh responds to a request for help with a survey that a graduate student is doing to measure how well Christian colleges inculcate Christian worldviews. It really gets at the way that for some people the entire concept of “worldview” has suffered arteriosclerosis and become little more than ideology. An excellent book precisely on the topic of Christian spiritual formation and Christian education is James K. A. Smith “Desiring the Kingdom.”
Some exerpts from Walsh
All he was doing by means of this survey was measuring what these people thought about the world, not how they actually lived. This student felt that if he could ascertain the basic furniture of their intellectual framework then he would be able to discern the effectiveness of their Christian college education.
I wrote back and suggested that the student had not understood what worldviews were all about and that this survey would not give him real insight at all. I suggested a different kind of survey that would ask different kinds of questions. Things like,
-What kind of involvement do you have in your neighbourhood? What are the local social and political issues that you are concerned with? How do you enact that concern?
-Would you please send us a photograph of your living room? [Which could be then analysed in terms of the art on the wall, whether there is a television, video game, etc. in the room, and how the furniture is set up in relation to such entertainment technology.]
-Could you estimate for us how much time you spend watching television each day? ?
-How much time surfing the net?
-Would you send us a list of your favourite television shows and web sites? ?
-Could you please send us a list of the meals you have shared with your family in the last two weeks? What was on the menu?
-Where do you buy your groceries?
-What is your principle means of transportation?
-Would you be so kind as to send us your last three credit card statements?
-Would you give us permission to sift through your garbage at the side of the road for the next three weeks? We promise not to make a mess, we just want to see what kinds of things you throw out.
BRIAN J . WALSH: TRANSFORMATION: DYNAMIC WORLDVIEW OR REPRESSIVE IDEOLOGY?



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Ryan

posted December 17, 2009 at 3:09 pm


Funny thing, I was reading what R.J. Neuhaus had to say about the Christian university this morning as an excuse not to study for an exam in a few hours (Hmm…I wonder what I’m doing writing this, then?)
(1) Should we emphasize a mere Christianity or should we divide along party lines?
Emphasizing a mere Christianity is the ideal, however, at some point we have to admit there’s difference between us. That being said, I have been quite amazed at the ability for professors and students of varying Christian backgrounds to come together to find unity in faith. My own university (an Evangelical one) helped establish a small Catholic college that acts as the Catholic arm of the university. The cooperation is stunning all the way from the professors and their informal ecumenical dialogues (as well as some ‘formal’ in the sense of symposiums) to the student ministries folks who are working together to create an ecumenical spirituality group that reads some of the great Catholic saints and mystics (its being led by our Evangelical campus pastor and a Catholic prof). Needless to say, differences do exist, but we bear them together in love.



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RJS

posted December 17, 2009 at 4:20 pm


Steven Loomis,
Thanks for commenting. Before I respond let me ask a question.
What is the purpose of this text? This actually plays a role in my thinking about the book.
I like the general premise from the series preface by Moreland and Beckwith. I think that we need to be training Christian scholars who can integrate and engage.
I am a Christian, a scientist, and a scholar – so this is the background I bring to the table.
My real quarrel here is with some of the language and phrasing of this book. The example above with the quote on dualism and Nancey Murphy’s thinking is an example … just using a phrase like “it has recently become vogue to attack the notion of dualism” and the rest of this discussion places the text in something of an adversarial position. I don’t think that it handles the nuance of Christian thinking well.
I don’t have the book with me – it is at home – so I can’t cite an example off the top from other places in the text. But there is an underlying thread that essentially builds up walls rather than thinks through the science faith interface. Again it is in the word choice and the illustration choice. (The paragraph on John and the physicalist is an example of illustration choice).
So – what would I have liked to see?
I would have liked to see a text that helped future teachers wade through some rather complex waters with a Christian perspective, where they learned to think “Christianly” (in a big tent way).
What I see is a text that uses examples and language choice to steer future teachers to a specific subset of Christian positions with the implications that these are obviously true, as anyone with sense will see. Only non-Christians or “liberals” or … would disagree.
It seems to me that this does not actually help students integrate a Christian view into their scholarship. It channels them into your position (which is a valid position). It doesn’t teach them to think.



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Steven Loomis

posted December 17, 2009 at 7:13 pm


RJS,
Thanks very much for your post, and again for the examination of our book on your blog site. Regrettably we are in finals week at my college and I?ve got 110 essays to grade. Please forgive me if I cannot now offer a full treatment of the posts.
Regarding your post (#26), the purpose of the book is indeed well spelled out by Moreland and Beckwith. What will enhance the fruition of deep-seated faith-reason integration, is not the wall-flattening, can?t-we-all-just-get-along approach; it is thinking Christianly (that is, brilliantly) about the social structure that prevent the education good from being realized. It is, as you read, a much more serious issue and social phenomenon than I can do justice to here. But because the issue we identify in the book (and elsewhere) is so serious, so omnipresent, and could bring about Lewis’s abolition of man, the Christian in-fighting on the matter of physicalism-dualism is, if I can put it this way, of secondary concern to me at the moment. My point here is that we can?t get to that question or debate it properly in a technical model of production. (I mean something specific by this which admittedly will likely be foreign to your readers but I cannot unpack it now.)
I do very much appreciate, as a matter of style, the rigorous debate about the philosophical issues, which is why I am (and Paul is) attracted to Lewis?s work and the concept of mere Christianity. It would like to see a little more charity involved while debating. RJS, your preference for a book that ?helped future teachers wade through some rather complex waters with a Christian perspective, where they learned to think “Christianly” (in a big tent way)? was delivered to IVP editors last spring. It is in fact the book you read. Please remember, this is a very basic text written for new educators. Like all books, it is meant to provoke conversation, challenge, and engage in the contest of ideas. As we said, we propose we don?t impose.
The ? ?What I see is a text that uses examples and language choice to steer future teachers to a specific subset of Christian positions with the implications that these are obviously true, as anyone with sense will see. Only non-Christians or “liberals” or … would disagree? ? is simply not in my DNA. I don?t do political or theological ideology. That does not mean Paul and I do not take seriously our own ideas or those of others (e.g., Murphy?s). There are certain defeaters for physicalism, well-articulated by a cadre of our colleagues as well as by our own work (e.g., Paul’s blog and my and Rodriguez’ C.S. Lewis: A Philosophy of Education), that we can offer on another occasion. But the more important work for Christian intellectuals right now concerns the technical model being widely applied across a variety of social institutions (education, justice systems, medicine, etc.). On that threat we should at least all be in a thoughtful position to unite.
The comment that the book is representative of what my former colleague Mark Noll wrote about in the Scandal is unfortunate, but is certainly one view.
I hope to dialogue with you further, once my work here is done.
All good wishes and Merry Christmas to you and your audience,
Steven



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dopderbeck

posted December 17, 2009 at 8:41 pm


Steven — it’s really too bad that you didn’t engage any of the substantive critiques raised here.
I read Moreland’s preface to your book and I think I see why it irked RJS and why it would irk me (I am a Christian law professor, BTW, so I’m well acquainted with these issues of intellectual engagement).
One of Moreland’s first statements is “The Bible is true.” Then he proceeds with the usual conservative evangelical notion that the Bible and other knowledge ultimately must line up exactly. Here we have problem #1: analytic philosophers trying to do theology.
What do we mean when we say the Bible is “true” or “trustworthy” or authoritative? Is there no room at all in your worldview for a Bible that incarnationally reflects its human situatedness? Could it be that the Bible is “true” for the purposes for which God gave it to us without it being in “concord” with truth from, say, the natural sciences or archeology at all points? Could it be, as Barth suggested, that the “revelation” contained in the Bible is not a set of static propositions on the shelf?
Moreland then goes on to suggest that we need to present Jesus as an “intelligent” person who spoke “authoritatively” about everything. Really? Or do we rather need to understand Jesus as the incarnate Christ who participated in human weakness, including the limitations of culture and context common to Second Temple Jewish peasants?
Finally, Moreland states that “spiritual warfare” is primarily a battle of ideas, and suggests that the task of Christian scholarship is to win this war of ideas. So, according to Moreland’s approach, there is no alternative to the culture wars — indeed, the culture wars are our calling. By extension, Christians have the “best” ideas and must defeat everyone else’s ideas. Again — really? Does this have anything to do even with the nature of the scriptures, and even of Jesus’ own teachings, which participate and draw directly from the secular knowledge and wisdom of their own times? Is God’s grace not operative at all outside the narrow confines of Christendom?
Here is my question: in your view, do Christian scholars primarily need to adopt an adversarial stance towards other scholarship? It seems clear to me from Moreland’s preface to your book that his answer, at least, is yes.
Sorry, but I reject that approach. It has gravely damaged the witness and intellectual integrity of the Church, IMHO. It’s particularly destructive because it dresses up what really is anti-intellectualism in seeming intellectual philosophical garb.



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Nicholas

posted December 17, 2009 at 9:09 pm


First, this review glosses over most of the book and fails to engage with its arguments, because the reviewer does not agree with the conclusions or does not like style.
Second, the existence of a soul is hardly controversial in mainstream Christian theology. It has been (and I am sure will be) disputed, but good luck finding materialists in large numbers in the church.
Materialism was an option to the early church, but was rejected.
The belief in a soul has been nearly universal in all places at all times. Catholics have believed in it. Orthodox have believed in it. Protestants have believed in it.
It is certainly true that a great many modern folk in the academy, some of them Christians, do not, but it is it true that it is (over the span of church history) really a controversy?
As for “culture war” language . . . shouldn’t people learn to tolerate more diverse linguistic styles rather than dividing us into camps about metaphors.
The Bible after all uses warfare metaphors.



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Steven Loomis

posted December 17, 2009 at 9:33 pm


Dear “dopderbeck,”
I offered some reasons why I cannot at the moment engage in the substantive issues raised. I have suggested where you might find the locations where I (or Paul) have discussed some of them.
Should you like to engage in a formal debate, I’d be happy to oblige. Select the academic journal, we’ll together contact the editor, and you and I will debate on any question raised by my book in an academic setting (a journal). I’m available at Wheaton College.
It might be helpful to know your name so I can refer to a person and not an anonymous blog ID.
All good wishes and Merry Christmas.
Steven Loomis



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dopderbeck

posted December 17, 2009 at 9:48 pm


Steven — my ID isn’t anyonymous, it’s my first initial and last name. I’ve done a few guest posts here on “Law.” Google me and you’ll find me — and here is my own blog.
I’m not really interested in the kind of “debate” you suggest; I’d rather have a more organic converstion in a forum like this. I’m happy to continue talking here, but you didn’t have time, you shouldn’t have popped in here.
I think Jamie Smith has it right in his “Desiring the Kingdom”:

worlview-talk has misconstrued the nature and task of Christian education because the operative notion of worldview at work there has been tied to a stunted, rationalistic picture of the human person; in short, “worldview” has gotten hitched to the wagon of a misguided philosophical anthropology. . . . Being a disciple of Jesus is not primarily a matter of getting the right ideas and doctrines and beliefs into your head in order to guarantee proper behavior; rather, it’s a matter of being the kind of person who loves rightly. . . .”
Jamie’s approach leads to a humble, inquisitive, flexible, authentic faith that is hopeful and open to what God is doing in the world. Your approach (or at least Moreland’s), respectfully, leads to a faith that is brittle, defensive, confrontational, ingrown, afraid and fragile — or at least that has been my experience over the past 25 years after graduating from a Christian liberal arts college.



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RJS

posted December 17, 2009 at 10:57 pm


dopderbeck, (and Steven Loomis)
I don’t think that the overall approach of Spears and Loomis’s book is all that bad – and a Christian approach to education is deeply needed. When I said – as I did in the initial post that “there is much in the book that is very good – good insights worth discussion” I meant it.
Actually Ch. 1 irked me and lost my trust – so everything else I read was with a more critical eye. I stand by all the criticism of Ch. 1 – and the first chapter in any book is always crucial in setting the stage and tone. Ch. 2 is a little better, but I don’t think does justice to all the historical influences. (There is a thread that blames science – even Galileo and Newton are faulted in the development.)
The bulk of the book (Ch. 3-6) has a few “lapses” (my term, they’d likely disagree) but there is much in here that we should wrestle with and that does deal with integration in a positive way. I am not going to nitpick on the “lapses” (I’ve already been harsh enough) and they don’t overwhelm any of the good thinking.
In comment #19 Steven makes a good point – they do develop integration in a useful fashion in 4-6. Even the discussion of reasons for taking a dualist view on p. 201-202 is more nuanced and acknowledges in passing other views. (Steven – although asking for “one instance where we were wrong or in error” is over the top – do you really think you wrote three chapters without one error?)



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Randy G.

posted December 17, 2009 at 11:07 pm


Having read the posts here and the “Introduction” “Table of Contents” and “Precis of book and chapters” on the IVP siteI strongly affirm doperdeck’s reference of Jamie Smith above. I believe that “Desiring the Kingdom” gracefully (although with a few well-aimed friendly barbs at Calvin College where Jamie teaches)opens up a realm of possibilities for Christian education, and consequently Christian philosophy of education, that books like the one under consideration have not yet even considered.
One personal concern I have with “Human Flourishing” as IVP engages it here and InterVarsity’s Graduate and Faculty Ministries addressed it in conference last January, is that they present “human flourishing” in isolation from the rest of Creation. I believe that in the case of the book here, that entire orientation cannot help but lead to books that appear narrower and more brittle than they otherwise might in today’s post-Christian culture. I hope that future volumes in the series might correct some of this.
Peace,
Randy Gabrielse



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RJS

posted December 17, 2009 at 11:14 pm


Nicholas (#29)
I didn’t consider this a review – or I would have dealt with the bulk of the book. Rather I wanted to raise one major point that had to do with tactic to enable the development of evangelical scholarship and a Christian integration.
Later in the book Spears and Loomis use the example of C.S. Lewis’s experiences in WWII and his writing of Screwtape Letters. “Uncle Screwtape suggests that language is not about truth claims but about “jargon.” Rhetoric, not truth, must rule if evil is to be successful.” (p. 118)
In too much evangelical scholarship it seems to me that we write to ridicule not to persuade on ideas because ridicule is oh so much more effective. I think that we need to write to persuade of truth, most fundamentally because as people move to higher levels of education and understanding they tend to see-through the rhetoric and ridicule and this can be faith-damaging. It is part of the cause of compartmentalization and failure to integrate.



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RJS

posted December 17, 2009 at 11:22 pm


Steven Loomis,
I hope you read the comments above. If you want to know who I am e-mail me at the address I’ve given in the post.
These are my real initials, but obviously they are somewhat anonymous. On the other hand – I provide an e-mail address for a reason and am willing to be known and held accountable.



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dopderbeck

posted December 18, 2009 at 9:46 am


RJS (#32) — fair enough. I realize that some of my comments were strong; I’m doing my best, not always very successfully, not to be counter-reactionary. At least we all are passionate about the same thing, which is the goal of human flourishing within a robust vision of the Kingdom of God.
I’d like to suggest that the very notion of “integration” needs to be rethought. This is also something Jamie Smith deals with in “Desiring the Kingdom,” and I think he is largely right.
One problem with “integration” is that it assumes there is an external rationalistic framework by which both “faith” and “learning” can be judged and into which they can together be “integrated.” There is a very important yet subtle issue of theological prolegomena that gets completely glossed over in this approach: the relationship of philosophy to theology.
“Strong integrationists” give primacy to analytic philosophy in their theological prolegomena. I would suggest that in this regard they are direct heirs of the scholastic theologians; indeed, the “Biola School” of evangelicalism is the intellectual step-child of Duns Scotus.
In my view, and in the view of many Christian theologians, scholasticism ultimately undermines the primacy of faith to understanding, and further improperly prioritizes understanding as a goal over love. In this regard, one irksome thing about evangelical scholasticism is that it claims an Augustinian heritage, but in fact it significantly departs from that heritage (IMHO). Evangelical scholastics always seem to just blow past the roots of Christian thought in the ante-Nicene fathers, cherry pick from Augustine himself, and likewise to blow past contemporary developments of the Augustinian tradition — particularly in Barth, Balthasar, the post Vatican II giants John Paul II and Benedict, and the Radical Orthodoxy School spearheaded by Milbank.
For anyone who’s read in any of the sources I’ve mentioned above, and indeed for anyone who’s read Augustine’s Confessions and City of God, listening to the evangelical scholastics often sounds like nails on a chalkboard. This is particularly true if, prior to reading the original sources, you’ve grown up in the evangelical scholastic tradition where it is pounded into one’s head through “worldview conferences” and the like that “we” are on the high ground.
Once you come to the original sources and see how they are handled by a genius like Milbank, the experience of returning to evangelical scholastic materials is sort of like the first winter break after being away at college. The old home town feels familiar in some ways, but you realize your relationship to it will never be the same — it just isn’t the center of the universe anymore, and its power brokers and big shots seem rather misguided, small and frail.



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Steven Loomis

posted December 18, 2009 at 4:54 pm


Dear RJS,
am a newcomer to blogging; this may be the second occasion (or site) I’ve written. I would not know how to reach your email within this site for a more pleasant and less public initial dialogue.
My email is steven.loomis@wheaton.edu. I’m keenly interested in what you’ve had to say. My question – Can you please offer one instance within the chapters dealing with the application of integration (4-6) where we were wrong or in error? – was not affirming an error-less text or argument. Rather, I was searching for a more practical entry point for a dialogue, looking for common ground or concerns prior to discussing some of the more intriguing metaphysical or theological issues.
Be well.



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