Donald Sensing discusses an article by Nicholas Kristoff, and as a part of that discussion he posts an excerpt from his Master of Divinity thesis.

I see two world views among parishioners. There is the religious world view, reserved mostly for use during Sunday school and worship. This world view includes miraculous happenings, angels and demons, God and Satan. Sin results in penalty, virtue in reward, and God dispenses both. God's power is understood as absolute and unfettered. The theoretical foundation of this religious world view is classical theism.

The other world view, scientific materialism, is equally present among parishioners. It is used outside church. This world view is bereft of supernatural beings or events. God is not so much absent as unnecessary. Cause and effect are mechanistic: physical event "A" results in physical event "B." Penalties and rewards occur in a different scheme. Lung cancer results from smoking, not sin. Wealth comes not from righteousness, but from prudent manipulation of resources in a comprehensible economic system.

These world views are not readily compatible. The dissonance between them is reflected in the most important aspects of church life. How a congregation grapples with them affects its growth or decline, its ministries of compassion and justice, and its retention of youth, to name just three examples. The problem is made more acute by the fact that scientific materialism is useful every day of the week, while theism "works" almost exclusively on Sunday mornings.

He says he's going to write more on the topic later, and I look forward to reading it. However, I don't agree that classical theism and scientific materialism are incompatible, and I'll try to explain why.

The real key to blending classical theism with scientific materialism is recognizing that when God acts, it's rather subtle, and most of the time he works through natural occurances. If you smoke, God doesn't give you cancer; if you happen to get cancer, it's not due to a direct act of God. Rather, God designed the universe in such a way that people who smoke tend to get cancer. People who eat lots of protein tend to get strong, but that's not because eating protein pleases God, who then disrupts the normal flow of the universe to hand out big muscles.

In fact, as you study the Bible and God's teachings, it becomes abundantly clear that most of his instructions stem directly from a scientific, rational, economical perspective. God's wisdom is built around living successfully within the world as he created it, as well as living in a way that pleases him. Reading through Proverbs will give you a lot of practical wisdom, such as:

Proverbs 6:6-11
Proverbs 6
6 Go to the ant, you sluggard;
consider its ways and be wise!
7 It has no commander,
no overseer or ruler,
8 yet it stores its provisions in summer
and gathers its food at harvest.

9 How long will you lie there, you sluggard?
When will you get up from your sleep?
10 A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest-
11 and poverty will come on you like a bandit
and scarcity like an armed man.

Jesus gives us a lot of valuable, worldly advice as well.
Matthew 5:25-26
"Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
God doesn't intend us to be so spiritually-minded that we're no earthly good. Through out the Bible we are taught how to live in the world, while at the same time always keeping in mind that God created us and designed us in a specific way and for a specific purpose. We live in the world, but we are not of the world. Consider:
Matthew 22:15-22
Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. "Teacher," they said, "we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"

But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, "You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax." They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?"

"Caesar's," they replied.

Then he said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."

When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

Whose portrait can be seen on you? Pleasing God doesn't require us to ignore logic, reason, and the world around us; on the contrary, we cannot be effective servents if we aren't firmly grounded in reality.



Email blogmasterofnoneATgmailDOTcom for text link and key word rates.

Site Info