By Joe Isenhower Jr. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
An increasingly prevalent view that ignores God’s hand in the natural world and how confessional Lutherans might approach such a view is addressed in a new report from the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR).
The report looks at “scientism,” the belief that the scientific method is the only way to gain knowledge and genuine truth.
Titled “In Christ All Things Hold Together — The Intersection of Science & Christian Theology,” the report adopted by the CTCR in February has been mailed to all Synod congregations and rostered church workers. It also is available for cost-free download at the commission’s Web page.
“The title of the report,” said CTCR Executive Director Rev. Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, “reflects the foundational truth expressed by St. Paul in Colossians 1:16-17: ‘For by him [Christ] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible … all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.’”
In its introduction, the new report explains scientism as “a particular approach to science — the materialistic science which has become dominant since the Enlightenment, [as] the only way to gain knowledge. While a modest empirical approach sees science as a useful, but limited instrument to be complemented by the findings of other disciplines (such as literature, philosophy and theology), scientism claims that a materialistic paradigm of investigation has a monopoly on human knowledge. The consequence is that metaphysics, religion, and even traditional ethics, lose their cognitive status and appear vulnerable to replacement by more enlightened thinking.”
“Scientism is basically the view that the prevailing materialistic scientific methodology is the key to and basis for all knowledge,” Lehenbauer told Reporter.
“It’s saying that science has the ultimate truth and that puts science in the place of God and His Word,” added the Rev. Larry Vogel, the CTCR’s associate executive director.
“Scientists and non-scientists receive very different educations,” the report’s introduction also notes, “with very little by way of overlap that would facilitate dialogue between the sciences and other disciplines. … At the same time, many students in the humanities are scientifically illiterate and easily confuse ideological claims made on behalf of science with what the science itself is saying.”
“The report has a critical goal — to critique a wrong view of science,” Lehenbauer said. “And it also has a positive goal — to recover the sense of science as a vocation which glorifies God and provides beneficial services to the neighbor. We hope it’s helpful to students, teachers and investigators, pastors and others in the church.”
“The report looks at ‘God’s two books’ — the natural world (created by and through Christ) and the Bible (centered in the saving work of Christ) — and how they relate to each other,” Lehenbauer explained.
“In one way or another, the whole document keeps coming at that issue of how the two relate, from various perspectives,” Vogel added. “It’s knowing what we know as Christians and knowing what we know as those who work in the sciences and as informed [individuals].”
According to its “overview,” the report “aims to serve as a constructive resource for thoughtful Christian reflection on the complex questions arising from the intersection of science, faith and Christian theology. Each of its five chapters provides conceptual tools and examples that should aid Christians in forming a faithful response to these questions, and which it is hoped will encourage more young people to pursue scientific careers in full knowledge of the nature and significance of the scientific vocation.”
The topics of the report’s five chapters and the points they cover are:
- Chapter 1: Theological Foundations. Those foundations include the authority of Scripture and the proper role of reason, the proper relationship between God’s two books, the doctrine of vocation, Christianity and culture, a Christocentric approach to creation, image of God theology and Christian anthropology, and the theological underpinnings of modern science.
- Chapter 2: Historical Context — including the attack on final causes and the decline of natural theology, the rise of autonomous reason and Naturalism, the view of science as a profession rather than a vocation, and the roots of moralistic therapeutic deisim.
- Chapter 3: Philosophical Issues — the philosophical basis of scientism, philosophical problems for the scientific vocation and philosophical contributions of Christianity to science.
- Chapter 4: Biblical Knowledge and Scientific Knowledge — knowing as a Christian, reading God’s Word — basic principles of interpretation, and biblical exegesis and modern science.
- Chapter 5: Practical Applications — for students, teachers and investigators.
“Let us pray that the ensuing conversations aid all of us in seeing that it is in Christ that all things hold together,” the report’s introduction concludes.
Posted May 21, 2015