The Foolishness of Sciencism

There seems to be a new term out there, which is being used in all sorts of settings, which apparently is believed by some to be the worst thing that one person can call another.  The term that I am thinking of is ‘science denier’.  It is used in politics, culture and, of course, science – as weapon of peculiar power.

If you want to get a feel for the scope of its use do a quick internet search for the term science denier.  You will see Trump, Pence and William Happer all called science deniers.  You will see at least two articles from Scientific American on how to argue against science deniers.  Dig a little deeper and you can even find articles where scientists within a particular discipline are using the term against one another.  I glanced through one in regard to grizzly bear populations.

Examining the way the term is used is interesting.  It is not being utilized scientifically at all.  In fact, it is used a bit more like a religious doctrine.  And if this is the case, the religious viewpoint that it is a doctrine of would have to be atheism.  Or perhaps some offshoot or denomination of atheism, sciencism.  After checking that term out, I discover I am not the first to use it.  The urban dictionary defines sciencism as the worldview that accepts conventional science as dogma.

I am writing this article to stave off an irritation I feel with the term ‘science denier’, but also to warn the reader off of sciencism.  Now before you fall into the most probable misunderstanding of this article, let me say that I am not asking you to disbelieve and disregard science.  The true scientist will know and appreciate peer review, opposing opinions, and open discussion.  The true scientist knows that science is always a collection of theories, and the vast majority of these are proven false, or at least replaced with more robust theories.  Think about this – Newtonian physics explained everything until Einstein came along.  And now quantum physics is overshadowing Einsteinian physics.

If sciencism is understood as a false religion it already has the hallmarks of religious thought.  It has its preachers, evangelists and institutions.  Like false religion all over the world, sciencism also has its minions. People who will wait for the next sermon or ritual for them to enthusiastically embrace.  These folks are waiting breathlessly for the next thing to come along that is scientifically proven.

Earlier I suggested that you do a quick internet search for the term ‘science denier’, let me also suggest you do a similar search for ‘science proves.’ Part of what set off this tirade was seeing a surprising number of articles in my feed beginning with the words ‘science proves.’ Here are some of the articles:

  • Science proves that gratitude is the key to well-being. (I like this one.)
  • Science proves kids are bad for Earth. Morality suggests we stop having them. (NBC news!)
  • Science proves greed is good. (This was Time.com.)
  • Science proves unicorns are real. (That is Good Housekeeping?)
  • Science proves pop music has gotten worse.

I’ll stop there, just to prove sometimes science does get it right.

Let be begin to wrap up with a few thoughts.  Humanity should avoid beating each other up, and part of that is not using terms which are meaningless in the big picture and only serve to silence opponents in the small picture.  We should also recognize when we are following something religiously, especially when it is unintentional, silly and not reflecting who we wish to be.

Finally we should recognize that the search for truth is important.  It’s important to all of us.  I personally believe the highest truth is beyond this physical world.  There are spiritual realities which are deeper, eternal and can never be discovered by science.  These things will be revealed to us by God Himself, and have been already both in His Word and in His Son.

Consider 1 Corinthians 1:27 (NASB)

“but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong”

Semantic Shaming

Those of us who lead churches are generally on the lookout for ways to reach more people.  This might mean a change of strategy as culture shifts around us.  The gospel itself is unchanging, but the ways we present it, may become ineffective and need to be adjusted to fit the times.

For example, 30 years ago every evangelism method started with some variation of ‘all have sinned’.  But today they often start with ‘God made the world’.  This change is not a change to the gospel, but it includes a detail that thirty years ago everyone assumed and therefore didn’t need to be mentioned.

Along the route of perfecting our methods, there are going to be some missteps.  One particular pattern has begun to bother me.

A few years ago, I started hearing people use the term missional.  I don’t actually mind the new word, but I am more prone to use the term mission-minded.  As of yet I have not been convinced the two are not synonymous.  However, I have been accosted by enforcers who believe that by using the older term I am proving that I am antiquated, and ineffective in kingdom work. My church gives generously to missions, prays for missionaries, sends missionaries supplies and encouraging notes, and has often gone on mission trips. Don’t tell me these things will become more empowered by describing them with a new word, or that they become ineffective simply by the use of an older term.

Not long back there was a trend to stop referring to ourselves as Christians, but rather we should describe ourselves as Christ-followers.  I have no problem with this term either. But when I introduce a person who has made a recent decision as a new Christian, please don’t act as if I am somehow perpetuating the corruption of true Christianity.

The only argument in favor of the new term that makes sense to me is that it better defines the responsibility of the Christian life.  Many people use the term Christian without any intention of obeying Christ.

Still I don’t mind the older term because I know full well that the title Christian, meaning little Christs also started off as a term noting our allegiance to the Lord.  Being totally honest, it won’t be long till people call themselves Christ-followers without any intention of obeying Christ.

Like everyone else in church leadership I want the church to be more effective.  I want the kingdom to grow and God to be glorified.  I want us to continue to search for better ways to do these things. But real ministry is going to take more than a change of vocabulary.  And the energy expended in correcting people who have not adopted the change of vocabulary would be better used in witnessing, and instruction in Biblical lifestyle and Biblical growth.

Christian Flash Weekly Event #1

The very first Christian Flash Weekly begins today. The entry below is my host entry. The Prompt for this week is Job 42:5, which I chose to list below as a part of my post. If you are interested in writing or reading flash fiction/micro fiction then jump over to www.christianflashweekly.wordpress.com and check it out.  This challenge closes on Monday and all participants will get a special e-badge for being in the inaugural event.

 

The Taker

I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear;

But now my eye sees You;

Job 42:5 (NASB)

 

In my case, my father was the first family member taken. He had been working in the field. His ox and plow were waiting for him to return to the task. Only he never would.

Having loved ones taken was a part of life in our village. We all knew it would happen again. We all knew it would eventually happen to us.

It’s amazing that we ever accepted it as normal. We got used to the absence of those who had been taken. We got used to the idea we would be taken one day, too.

Every week we gathered in a meeting hall in the center of town and discussed it. We talked about being taken, and we talked about the taker. It only made sense. If people were being taken, someone was taking them. Sometimes we feared the taker, sometimes we revered the taker, but understanding the taker was beyond us.

I grew up and got married. About then my mom was taken. We had four kids. Next my brother was taken. The hardest day of my life was when my daughter was taken.

Then one day I was working on the house, I slipped on the ladder and plunged headlong towards the cobblestone walk.

I felt strong hands take hold of me. I found myself standing and facing the taker. He introduced me to my dad, mom, brother, and finally my sweet daughter. It was a wonderful day.

Over there, he isn’t thought of as a taker. He is called the Savior.

 

Christian Flash Weekly

050

 www.christianflashweekly.wordpress.com

Last year while preparing for Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference I wrote my first piece of flash fiction. It didn’t win. I did enjoy it and the short short story fit me. It fit the time I had to write, and it fit my personality.

In the fall I stumbled across a secular flash fiction challenge. That first one was Flash! Friday at www.flashfriday.wordpress.com. I won. After that came several other competitions. Pretty soon I was addicted to flash fiction, but was disappointed I couldn’t find a similar Christian weekly competition.

This will change as of Friday, February 7. I am starting a weekly flash fiction challenge which is specifically for Christian writers. Winners get bragging rights and an E-Badge for their blog, Facebook, twitter feed or wherever else they want to use it. Judges change week to week and they also get an E-Badge.

In fact, every participant in the inaugural event gets an E-Badge too. This inaugural challenge will be judged by Edie Melson.

It won’t make you famous. But it will be a chance to hone your writing skills, maybe take a little diversion from your other projects, and don’t forget it will be fun.

Come and see us on Friday, February 7 (about 9:00 am Arizona time) for the kickoff of the inaugural event. The prompt will be a Scripture verse. The challenge will remain open until Monday Evening.

 

Theology for Christian Writers

Today I want to point to the blog for the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference.  I have a guest post up today on their blog called Theology for Christian writers.  I hope you go, read it, enjoy it and share it with all your friends.  I have only been to a few Christian Writers Conferences but these individuals impressed me so much that I enjoy looking for other opportunities to work with them.

Jesus and Joseph

Joseph raised Jesus. He provided for Him, taught Him a trade, and he loved Him. All the time he knew Jesus was not his son. Joseph set aside his rights as patriarch of the family and placed his own concerns secondary to the calling of his wife and the saving purpose of the child Messiah.

Joseph probably died before Jesus started His public ministry. Joseph was likely watching from heaven as Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, healed the sick, walked on water, and died on the cross. And then breathlessly, he waited and cheered with the excitement of a proud father as Jesus’s victory was sealed by the resurrection.

Only he wasn’t His father. This he could never allow himself to forget. Jesus has an eternal Father. Joseph was merely a steward. A proud guardian. He was privileged just to be a part of it.

So in heaven after the ascension, when everyone was pressing to see Jesus return to the throne. Joseph went with all the others, but with a different perspective.  That was the boy he raised coming home to take his glorious place.

But it’s easy to imagine that Jesus had something He wanted to do first. Instead of walking down the corridor of heaven to His eternal and righteous place beside the Father, He pressed through the crowd, found the man who had done so much for Him, and threw His arms around him.

Jesus reuniting with Joseph. Embracing the man who walked him through childhood. Jesus thanking Joseph.

And Joseph thanking Jesus.

 

The Christmas Trade

He traded heaven for earth
 
He traded the right hand of God for a stable 
He traded the throne for a manger
He traded the praise of angels for the lowing of cattle

 
 He traded distance for closeness

 He traded being served by angels for Mary’s embrace
He traded eternal comfort for the human experience
He traded legions of angles for twelve apostles

 
He traded His life for ours
 
He traded justice for mercy 
He traded comfort for self-sacrifice 
He traded continuous praise for the scorn of executioners


Merry Christmas

Reflections of Christmas

(This Flash Fiction piece was originally composed for the contest, Race the Date. It didn’t even get a mention from the judges, but I liked it a lot so I am putting it on my blog today.)

 

In the corner of the small apartment stood an old aluminum Christmas tree. The kind that comes with a color wheel and reflects all the colors of light into the room.

It was Caleb’s fifth Christmas; his second without his father. The life insurance money was almost gone. Caleb’s mom had turned to family for help but each in turn explained why they were not able.

So she downsized to balance their frail budget. And when it came to Christmas, there was meager allowance for celebration. The aluminum tree, was practically an antique, but the Goodwill purchase fit the budget.

Caleb loved it. He believed they had the most magical Christmas tree in the world.  He loved the way it glowed with color. He loved how it caught every light in the room. He would sit and watch it for hours.

Aunt Patti was bound and determined to be one of the brightest stars of Christmas. She came in with a few brightly wrapped presents, and commented on the outdated tree. She laid out some Christmas pastries and berated the tiny kitchenette. Then she made them all sing Christmas songs. Jingle Bells and We Wish You a Merry Christmas. Finally she abruptly announced she couldn’t spare any more time.

When she left Caleb was staring at the tree. The light was still on and the setting sun shined through the window, but the tree seemed darker than he had ever seen it.

Caleb’s mom pulled him away from it. They sat on the couch and opened her Bible to the Christmas story. As she finished reading Caleb gasped and pointed at the tree. It was dark outside now, but the tree shined brighter than he had ever seen it.

Caleb loved how it reflected every light in the room.

The Christian Writer’s Identity Crisis

Today the Blog for the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference is using a post I wrote for them. So instead of my normal Birding Tuesday post, go over to their site and take a look.

 

http://altongansky.typepad.com/writersconferences/2013/12/the-christian-writers-identity-crisis.html

Mercy Killing

 

In desperation I sought out this great physician. My condition was fatal, but he had a plan. It was radical and it would either succeed or fail. He was more honest than my other doctors, they said the same thing in pages of legalese on consent forms they hardly expected me to read.

He hauled me down to his river. He asked me to trust him. He lifted me up and carried me out into swift, deep water. I clung to him in fear, until he reminded me I promised to trust him. I reluctantly released my grip on his hair.

He plunged me down into the river. At first I just looked up at him through the surface of the water. But when I needed to draw a breath I struggled. Then, I fought with all my might, but to no avail. I blacked out and yet he still held me. I died in that river.

I watched my killer from the shore as he drew me out of the water and back into his arms. He behaved with a remarkable tenderness, now when compassion was too late. Back in his office he laid my body out on a table. The rest of me followed and watched and wondered what was I supposed to do in a situation like this?

The entire second day my body lay there on the table while I paced nervously around the room. I tried touching it, but found I could not touch anything save the ground beneath my feet. He occasionally checked on me. And when he spoke to me, I realized he knew both parts of me were present.

The third day he prepared a funeral for me. My body was placed in a casket, and I was delivered to a chapel. The doctor stood up to address the empty chairs, there was no congregation. There were none to mourn my broken remains.

He began his eulogy by detailing my condition and its deadly outcomes. He described aloud my faults, my frailty, my failings—these things were why I had to die. No kind words about my good deeds, or the quality of my character; he just pronounced judgment.

Murderer, I thought. I had to die, but not yet. It was your choice to kill me before my time. You decided to take my trust and execute me because of your intolerance of my descent into death.

Then he did what I thought was impossible. He grabbed me by the arm, not the arm of my body, but my arm. He wrestled me into the coffin, he forced me back into the corpse.

A moment later I was gasping for breath. For the first time in three days, I drew air. I saw through eyes. I could smell the dust of the room.

“You killed me!” I said.

“No, I killed the diseased body, but you have been raised to newness of life.” His voice was not angry, despite my accusations. The opposite of anger, he was full of joy. As these thoughts came to me, another I scarcely understood crept into my heart.

“What do you mean?” I asked, failing to believe yet this glimmer of hope was possible.

“I mean you are no longer sick.”

There was a long silence, while hope began to become acceptance. I felt better, I felt new.

“How did you do this?”

“I killed the diseased body and then raised you up in a new body.”

“So the frailty will never come back?”

“Actually it will come back. Every day you will experience it again in one way or another. But I will train you how to deal with it.

“What will I do?” I asked with familiar fear creeping up my spine.

“I will teach you to kill every new attack. I will teach you to daily take up death, and thereby to also take up life.”

“You can teach me to do that.”

“Yes,” he said, “I will give you the tools to crucify yourself daily.”

“What kind of a tool do I need for that?” I asked.

“Your cross, of course.”