WHAT IS ‘SCIENTISM’ ? by J. P. Moreland

Are Science and Theology Mutually Exclusive?

I was in the middle of a nine-day stay in the hospital following the removal of a cancerous tumor in my colon on April 27, 2016. During that time, several different shifts of nurses had come and gone. On this particular day, a new nurse came to care for me and take my vital readings. As we chatted, she asked me what I did for a living. I told her I was a philosophy professor. “Where did you go to school?” she asked. Working backwards, I explained that my PhD in philosophy is from the University of Southern California, my MA in philosophy is from the University of California at Riverside, my ThM in theology is from Dallas Seminary, and my BS in physical chemistry is from the University of Missouri.

A puzzled look came on her face. She mused out loud that I had taken two very unrelated, divergent paths.

Before she could explain, I asked if this was what she meant: I started off in science, which deals with reality—hard facts—and conclusions that could be proved to be true. But theology and philosophy were, well, fields in which there were only private opinions or personal feelings, where no one was right or wrong, or if they were, no one could know who was right. Science was cognitive, and theology and philosophy were personal and emotional.

Scientism is so pervasive today—it is the intellectual and cultural air that we breathe.

Looking surprised, as though I had read her mind, she acknowledged that my understanding was exactly what she had in mind.

My nurse was expressing the view called scientism. Since scientism is so pervasive today—it is the intellectual and cultural air that we breathe—she could not have even named the worldview she was presupposing and articulating.

What Is Scientism?

Roughly, scientism is the view that the hard sciences—like chemistry, biology, physics, astronomy—provide the only genuine knowledge of reality. At the very least, this scientific knowledge is vastly superior to what we can know from any other discipline. Ethics and religion may be acceptable, but only if they are understood to be inherently subjective and regarded as private matters of opinion. According to scientism, the claim that ethical and religious conclusions can be just as factual as science, and therefore ought to be affirmed like scientific truths, may be a sign of bigotry and intolerance. Before looking in more depth at scientism—the view that the hard sciences alone have the intellectual authority to give us knowledge of reality—let me show some concrete examples of it and how it is part of everyday common sense.

Scientism Illustrated

Example: Michael Kinsley

On June 25, 2001, Time magazine featured an article by journalist Michael Kinsley defending stem-cell research on human embryos. He wrote, “These [embryos] are microscopic groupings of a few differentiated cells. There is nothing human about them, except potential—and, if you choose to believe it, a soul.”1 Now the first thing to note about his conclusion is that it is bad science, claiming that there is nothing really “human” about human embryos, which is itself a scientifically absurd statement, contradicted by all of the standard textbooks of embryology!

But that’s not my point here. Rather, I want to draw your attention to a part of Kinsley’s sentence that you may not have noticed. Reread it carefully and note what he presupposes: we know scientific facts about human embryos, but we only believe things about human souls. For Kinsley, belief in a soul is not an item of knowledge. In his view, there is no evidence for it. He would probably put it in the same category as a unicorn. You can believe it if you want, perhaps because someone told you that it exists or because you wish that such a creature is out there, but you’ve never seen or heard or touched a unicorn and therefore it does not really count as knowledge. Kinsley undoubtedly thinks this kind of belief belongs in the pages of fantasy literature, not in the items of what we can truly know and be justified in believing. But Michael Kinsley is not advocating science. He’s expressing scientism.

This book exposes the inadequacy of scientism by demonstrating its self-defeating nature and 7 important facts it can never explain, arguing that together science and theology have true things to tell us about the world.

Example: Marilyn vos Savant

For a long time, Marilyn vos Savant (listed in five editions of the Guinness Book of World Records as the human with the highest recorded IQ) has written a column in Parade magazine titled “Ask Marilyn,” where people submit questions and Savant provides answers. In one post, a man explains that his parents raised him in a certain religion. Now an adult, he still likes the religion, but his friends are trying to get him to rationally consider others. He wonders if Savant thinks he should consider his friends’ arguments or just go on accepting his parents’ religion.

Here is Savant’s response: “You’re smarter than those friends. Religions cannot be proved true intellectually. They come from the heart—and your parents—not the mind. In my opinion, you have behaved wisely [by not listening to your friends’ “arguments”].”2

Marilyn vos Savant has no problem with this man holding to his parents’ religious beliefs—“No harm, no foul,” she might say—but she’s critical of his friends for trying to reason with him or to persuade him that other religious beliefs are more compelling or truthful or best accord with the evidence.

From reading her columns over the years, I assure you she would not say that science comes from the heart and not the mind, or that it comes from what your parents told you. Scientific claims can be proved true. But in her worldview, religious claims cannot. This is not science but scientism.

Example: Scientism in School

Scientism is found not only among those writing columns in popular magazines. It is also the required dogma in our schools, where it directly challenges Christianity’s claim to be a knowledge tradition. For example, consider the “Science Framework” issued by the state of California in 1989, designed to guide its public schools’ science curricula. The document offered teachers advice about how to address students who expressed reservations about the theory of biological macroevolution:

At times some students may insist that certain conclusions of science cannot be true because of certain religious or philosophical beliefs they hold. . . . It is appropriate for the teacher to express in this regard, “I understand that you may have personal reservations about accepting this scientific evidence, but it is scientific knowledge about which there is no reasonable doubt among scientists in their field, and it is my responsibility to teach it because it is part of our common intellectual heritage.”3

This statement’s significance comes not so much from its promoting evolution over creation as from the picture of knowledge it presupposes: knowledge about reality comes solely from science, and empirical knowledge claims derived from the hard sciences are the only claims that deserve the backing of public institutions. This kind of reasoning seems to imply that religious and philosophical claims are simply matters of private feeling, which, by extension, means ignoring claims at the core of ethics, political theory, and religion. Words such as conclusions, evidence, knowledge, no reasonable doubt, and intellectual heritage become associated with science, giving science the “right” to define reality, while words like beliefs and personal reservations are associated with nonempirical claims, framing religious beliefs as mere ungrounded opinions. Put simply, the state of California is requiring that all students abide by the dictates not merely of science, but of scientism.

Scientism Defined

We have looked briefly at some popular-level expressions, or presuppositions, of scientism, but now let’s hear from actual scholars who propose a definition. According to philosopher of science Tom Sorell, “Scientism is the belief that science, especially natural science, is . . . the most valuable part of human learning . . . because it is much the most [sic] authoritative, or serious, or beneficial. Other beliefs related to this one may also be regarded as scientistic, e.g., the belief that science is the only valuable part of human learning. . . .”4 Sorell notes that “What is crucial to scientism is not the identification of something as scientific or unscientific but the thought that the scientific is much more valuable than the non-scientific, or the thought that the non-scientific is of negligible value.”5 In other words, when you have competing knowledge claims from different sources, the scientific will always trump the nonscientific.

In scientism, therefore, science is the very paradigm of truth and rationality. If you look carefully at both of Sorell’s quotations, you may discern two forms of scientism: strong and weak. Strong scientism implies that something is true, rationally justified, or known if and only if it is a scientific claim that has been successfully tested and that is being used according to appropriate scientific methodology. There are no truths that can be known apart from appropriately certified scientific claims, especially those in the hard or natural sciences. Lawrence Principe correctly notes that, when it comes to strong scientism, the central idea is that “science and its methods provide the only fully valid route to gaining knowledge and for answering questions, to the exclusion of other methods and disciplines.”6

Weak scientism is still scientism, but it allows for more “wiggle room.” Weak scientism acknowledges truths apart from science, granting them some minimal rational status even if they don’t have scientific support. Nevertheless, weak scientism still implies that science is by far the most authoritative sector of human knowing.

For practical purposes, weak scientism amounts to pretty much the same thing as strong scientism, though, technically speaking, they do differ. As noted above, weak scientism does not say that the sciences—especially the hard sciences—are the only way available to us to achieve knowledge of truth about reality; rather, advocates of weak scientism are willing to grant minimal rational status to at least some disciplines that most would not classify as scientific fields. If some field lacks scientific status or backing, then it is of negligible intellectual value and, if at all possible, the hard sciences (e.g., neuroscience) must take over nonscientific areas (e.g., spiritual teachings—note the number of books claiming that new insights from neuroscience have put spiritual growth on a new plane of authority) or must exert its influence in the more human sciences (psychology, education, etc.) in order to increase the credibility of those fields and to provide us with solid knowledge in them.

As the ideas that constitute scientism have become more pervasive in our culture, the Western world has turned increasingly secular and the power centers of culture (the universities; the media and entertainment industry; the Supreme Court) have come increasingly to regard religion as a private superstition.

Notes:

  1. Michael Kinsley, “If You Believe Embryos Are Humans . . . ,” Time (June 25, 2001), 80.
  2. Marilyn vos Savant, “Ask Marilyn,” Parade (October 7, 2001), 25.
  3. Cited in Mark Hartwig and P. A. Nelson, Invitation to Conflict: A Retrospective Look at the California Science Framework (Colorado Springs: Access Research Network, 1992), 20.
  4. Tom Sorell, Scientism: Philosophy and the Infatuation with Science (London: Routledge, 1991), 1, his emphasis.
  5. Ibid., 9.
  6. Lawrence Principe, “Scientism and the Religion of Science,” in Scientism: The New Orthodoxy, ed. Richard M. Williams and Daniel N. Robinson (London: Bloomsbury, 2015), 42, my emphasis.

This post is adapted from Scientism and Secularism: Learning to Respond to a Dangerous Ideology by J. P. Moreland.


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10 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT ‘SCIENTISM’

This article is part of the 10 Things You Should Know series.

1. Scientism is a philosophical thesis that comes in two forms.

Scientism is a position in philosophy, not science. The claims of scientism are assertions aboutscience, not of science.

Strong scientism is the view that the only knowledge we can have about reality are those that have been properly tested in the hard sciences (especially physics and chemistry). All other claims—e.g. theological, ethical, political, aesthetic—are mere expressions of emotion and private opinions.

Weak scientism allows that there may be modestly justified beliefs outside science, but the settled assertions of the hard sciences are vastly superior to claims outside science.

2. Strong scientism is self-refuting.

A statement/sentence is self-refuting if (1) it refers to a group of things; (2) the statement/sentence itself is included in that group; and (3) the statement/sentence does not satisfy its own requirements of acceptability.

For example, “All English sentences are shorter than three words” refers to the group of all English sentences. However, the sentence itself is a part of that group, and the sentence fails to satisfy its own requirements of acceptability (it contains eight words and, thus, is not shorter than three words).

“The only knowledge we can have about reality are those that have been properly tested in the hard sciences” is not itself a statement about reality that has been properly tested in the hard sciences, so it cannot be a knowledge claim about reality. It is actually a claim of philosophy to the effect that all claims outside the hard sciences, including those of philosophy, cannot be known to be true. Thus, it is an inherently self-refuting claim.

3. Weak scientism is a foe and not a friend of science.

Science rests on a number of assumptions, e.g., the laws of logic and math, the correspondence theory of truth, and the objectivity and rationality of the external world. Our faculties are suited for gaining knowledge of the external world, including its deep structure that lies underneath the everyday world of common sense and causes that world to be what it is. These assumptions cannot be formulated or tested within the limitations of science, especially the hard sciences. Yet every one of them has been challenged and rejected by many in the academic community.

One of the tasks of philosophy is to formulate and defend the assumptions of science so science’s claims can be taken as approximately true and rational. A theory, including a scientific theory, can only be as strong as the assumptions on which it rests. By disregarding the rationality of philosophy, weak scientism disallows the clarification and defense of science’s assumptions. Thus, weak scientism is a foe and not a friend of science.

Scientism is at the very foundation of our secular culture, and its nature and weaknesses should be the first priority in this area of church teaching. Scientism leads to secularism and marginalizes Christianity and ethics.

Scientism leads to the secularization of culture because it leads people to believe that no one can know anything about God, right and wrong, and so on. Thus, claims in religion and ethics can be ignored since no one can know whether those claims are reasonable or foolish.

5. Scientism is causing people to abandon Christianity.

According to a Barna research poll, five of the six reasons people leave the church and abandon Christianity involve the suspicion that there is no good reason to believe it in the first place. One of those six was the fact that the church does not keep up with (and help parishioners keep up with) the developments of modern science and know how to relate to them from a biblical worldview.

6. Contrary to scientism, there are things we know with greater certainty in theology or ethics than certain claims in science.

Consider these two claims:

  1. Electrons exist.
  2. It is wrong to torture babies for the fun of it.

Which do we know with greater certainty? The second claim is the correct answer. Why? The history of the electron has gone through various changes in what an electron is supposed to be. No one today believes that Thompsonian electrons (J. J. Thompson was the discoverer of electrons) exist because our views have changed so much. It is not unreasonable to believe that in fifty to one hundred years, scientific depictions of the electron will change so much that scientists will no longer believe in electrons as we depict them today.

Regarding the second claim, someone may not know how they know it is true, but nevertheless, we all, in fact, know it is true. If someone denies that, he needs therapy not an argument. Now it is not hard to believe that in fifty to one hundred years, most people will no longer believe the second claim. But it is hard to see what kind of rational considerations could be discovered that would render the second claim an irrational belief. Thus, we have more certainty in the second claim than in the first. And the same is true for certain theological assertions—like that God exists.

7. There are five things science cannot explain but theism can.

Here are at least 5 things science cannot explain but theism can:

  1. The origin of the universe.
  2. The origin of the fundamental laws of nature.
  3. The fine-tuning of the universe.
  4. The origin of consciousness.
  5. The existence of moral, rational, and aesthetic objective laws and intrinsically valuable properties.
Scientism and Secularism

Scientism and Secularism

J. P. Moreland

This book exposes the inadequacy of scientism by demonstrating its self-defeating nature and 7 important facts it can never explain, arguing that together science and theology have true things to tell us about the world.

8. Scientism gains strength from methodological naturalism.

Methodological naturalism is the view that while doing science, explanations of phenomena must be limited to natural objects and natural laws. No appeal to the act of an agent or to a personal explanation is allowed.

This means, for example, that Intelligent Design theories and different versions of creationism are not science, but theology. Theistic evolution is the only view allowed. But methodological naturalism is false as seen by the number of sciences that explain things by reference to the intentional act of a personal agent and not to a natural object or law: forensic science, archeology, neuroscience, SETI (the search for extraterrestrial intelligence), psychology, and others.

9. Knowledge—not faith or mere belief—gives people authority to speak and act in public.

It is on the basis of perceived knowledge that we give dentists, lawyers, history teachers, and so on the authority to speak about matters within their areas of expertise. If a dentist said he had a set of deeply held beliefs about molars and was emotionally committed to those beliefs even though he didn’t actually know that his beliefs were true, he would not be allowed to continue as a dentist. Knowledge also gives people courage and boldness to speak because they know why they believe what they do.

10. The claims of scientism and their refutation must be presented to believers, especially parents and pastors.

We often fail in the church to teach people why to believe what they believe. And we often do not prepare our children to engage ideas in the culture. Scientism is at the very foundation of our secular culture, and its nature and weaknesses should be the first priority in this area of church teaching.


WHAT’S SO GREAT ABOUT TOTAL DEPRAVITY ?

FROM Sep 21, 2018

“I’m not totally depraved, am I?”

The answer from the Bible, and the testimony of universal human experience, is, “Yes, you really are.” But even if we have to accept that this is, in fact, the Bible’s teaching, it’s not obvious why we should like it. This is why some find it odd that Calvinists seem to love total depravity (the doctrine, not the condition) so much. Their question is, “What’s so great about the doctrine of total depravity?

I would offer three answers to this important question. For the doctrine of total depravity is not just something we learn so as to score high marks on some theology exam. Instead, total depravity is a doctrine to live by.

The first answer is that through the lens of a biblical understanding of ourselves, we come to appreciate the gospel truly. The only way to see the greatness of the gospel is to see how bad is our plight. Or to put it differently, unless we know what we are being saved from, we really don’t grasp the glory of our salvation.

People say the doctrines of grace are boring and irrelevant, and that we need to preach something else to keep their attention in church. But this could be said only by someone who does not sense the depth of his problem before God. Indeed, it is when we best see our lost condition that we most treasure the gospel. This is what the doctrine of total depravity tells us–that the only way someone like this, someone like you and me, is going to be made right with God is by radical grace. And when we combine an accurate appraisal of man’s total depravity with a biblical vision of the absolute holiness of God, we see the gospel in all its glory.

It is when we set God’s high and right demands next to our low and base performance, and when we compare His glorious being with our utter corruption, that we see the true problem of life. This is the great gulf between us and God, indeed an infinite one, as high as the heavens are above the earth. It is a problem that could be solved, a chasm that could be spanned, only on a hill far away, on an old rugged cross, “where the dearest and best for a world of lost sinners was slain.

The second answer is that the doctrine of total depravity is vital to all true spirituality. At least this is what Isaiah 57:15 tells us: “For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.’” Do you want the high and holy God to dwell in your heart? Then humble yourself before Him with the truth about yourself, and look in total reliance to His grace for your salvation.

This is what marked the difference between the Pharisee and the tax collector of whom Jesus spoke in Luke 18. The two men went into the temple to pray. The one thanked God for how good he had become, though admittedly with some help from the Lord. The other refused even to look upward, but beat his breast and cried out, “God be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:13). Jesus commented, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14).

Likewise, it was when the prodigal son realized what a swine he had become that he finally turned his heart to his father. His return to spiritual life was marked with the words, “I am no longer worthy” (Luke 15:19, 21). This is true spirituality, for it leads us home to God.

The third answer is that total depravity exalts the cross in our eyes and fills our hearts with a holy delight. I think about a pastoral encounter I had some time ago. A young man came to speak with me about his lack of spiritual joy. He began by informing me that his doctrine was impeccable. He fully subscribed to all five points of Calvinism. He accepted covenant theology and despised all “inferior” products. But, he went on, “I just don’t feel anything.” Then he asked, “Is that a problem?”

How do you respond to such a question? I answered that, so far as his testimony was true, he did not have impeccable doctrine, nor did he even subscribe to the truths of the doctrines of grace. Not really, anyway. In short, if in his entire Christian life he had never “felt anything,” as he insisted was the case, then the reality was that his Christian life had never really existed. In ministering to this young man, I did not start by expounding the doctrine of election; in such a situation, it would be silly to inquire, “Do you think you are elect?” Neither did I expound on God’s marvelous love. The question, “Don’t you know that God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life?” can have no meaning to someone who has heard the gospel but felt nothing. Instead, I started where Paul started in Romans and where the doctrines of grace truly begin. I said, “Evidently, you do not realize what a wretched person you truly are, and what an offense your depravity is in the holy sight of God, if you can feel nothing in response to the atoning death of God’s Son.”

Without a quickened awareness of our depravity, we are Pharisees at best, though most of us are far worse. The best we can approach is a religious performance that brings glory to us and leaves us looking down on everybody else, just the way many Christians today look down on the rest of society, the Pharisee gazing down on the abortion doctor and the pervert.

Jesus knew Pharisees well, and He didn’t like them. Far better to Him was the sinful woman who burst in at the home of a Pharisee named Simon and threw herself at Jesus’ feet. Jesus said to him: “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair… . Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven–for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:4447).

Awe and gratitude drive the true Christian life and draw us joyfully to God’s grace in Christ. It is from the pit of our lost condition that we gaze up toward a God so high and perfect in His holiness. But from that vantage point we come to see fully at least one of those four dimensions of the cross that Paul would long to have us know: its height. The cross of Christ then rises up to span the full and vast distance that marks how far short we are of the glory of God, and that cross becomes exceedingly precious in our eyes.

“I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation. (Isa. 12:1–2)”

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This excerpt is adapted from What’s So Great about the Doctrines of Grace? by Richard D. Phillips.

THERE’S ANOTHER KIND OF LUST TO AVOID, AND ITS NOT SEXUAL

In Christian circles today, we talk frequently about the dangers of lust in a sexualized society. We have True Love Waits, purity rings, and accountability groups meant to keep us from pornography or other forms of explicit content.

But there’s another version of lust that can be just as deadening to the senses and just as damaging to the soul, and it’s one that we often overlook, something we often justify for being “realistic.” I’m talking about gratuitous depictions of violence. Bloodlust, a term that refers to someone whose rage leads to slaughter and killing, can be seen in a more mild form in the desire to watch bloodshed.

I was reminded of the power of bloodlust when listening to one of Mere Fidelity’s episodeson Augustine’s Confessions. Derek Rishmawy recalled Augustine’s friend Alypius, a character I hadn’t given much thought to until reading about him in Sarah Ruden’s new translation.

The Temptation of Augustine’s Friend, Alypius

As an adolescent, Alypius, a hometown friend of Augustine, got caught in “the vortex that was the Carthaginian scene, bubbling with time-wasting public entertainments” that “sucked him into the mania for the games put on in the circus.”

Augustine noticed his friend had a “self-destructive infatuation with the games.” Alypius would go to the stadium and watch others compete. What distressed Augustine was not the time-wasting aspect of this infatuation (who knows what he would say about the hours we spend playing games on our phones?) but the effect that witnessing violence had on his student’s soul. In class, Augustine derided people “held captive to a crazed obsession with this pastime,” and his words of derision woke up Alypius and engendered affection toward Augustine as a teacher.

Unfortunately, when Alypius arrived in Rome, “he was carried off by an incredible fascination with gladiatorial shows.” The violence in these shows was initially repulsive to Alypius, much as hardcore pornography first sickens a young man. Augustine recounts how his friend resisted those who would lure him to the stadium, yet eventually succumbed to “these sadistic and murderous sports.”

[Alypius] said, “Even if you haul my body to that place and sit me down there, you can’t aim my mind and my eyes at the show, can you? Though I’m there, I won’t be there, and that’s how I’ll be the victor over what’s going on, and over you, too.” When they heard this, they took him along just the same, now maybe with the added motivation of testing whether he could achieve what he’d said he would.

They arrived and took their places in the seats available, and everything was seething with the most barbaric kinds of entertainment. He closed the doors of his eyes and forbade his mind to go outside into such a terrible wickedness. If only he’d plugged his ears! One of the combatants fell, and a booming shout from the whole crowd struck him forcefully. Curiosity overcame him, and on the pretext that he was ready to condemn and overcome whatever he saw, he opened his eyes.

He was run through with a wound in his soul more lethal than the physical wounding he’d longed to look at, and he fell more pitifully than the one whose fall the shouting was about. The yells came in through his ears and unlocked his eyes, so there was access for assaulting and bringing down a mind that was daring but not yet strong, and was weaker in that it relied on itself when it should have relied on you. When he saw the blood, he guzzled the cruelty at the same time. He didn’t turn away but instead riveted his gaze there; he gulped down the demons of rage, though he didn’t know it. He was delighted at the criminal contest and got drunk on the gory diversion. He was no longer the person he’d been when he came, but now actually part of the mob he’d come to, and he was a true confederate of those who’d brought him along.

From that point on, Alypius was enthralled with the games, to the point he became an evangelist for this form of “entertainment.”

He watched, shouted, got fired up, took away with him an insanity that prodded him sharply to come back—not only in the company of those who’d dragged him there, but even in advance of them, and even dragging others with him.

We are familiar with Augustine’s admissions of sexual promiscuity and lustful thoughts. But the story of Alypius deserves more attention. It reminds us that other kinds of lust are dangerous, including the thrill of seeing violence. When blood seizes our attention and affections, we become observers captive to “gory diversion,” no longer the same person we were before watching the movie or playing the game. We become “part of the mob” that thrills at the sight of blood.

Why We Cover Our Eyes

Why do we cover the eyes of children when there’s violence on TV? Is it only because we think they are not “mature” enough to watch the show? Or is it that we recognize a mindful innocence that deserves to be protected? Does violence shock the 10-year-old girl more than her parent because the adult is older and wiser, or because the girl is more alive to the sensitivities of the world than we are? Perhaps the fact that we can watch gratuitous violence without being disturbed shows that we are the ones who have grown old and weary, comfortable with deadened senses, sadly accustomed to what would and should shock us.

The proverbs consistently warn us of being enticed by violence.

  • A violent person lures his neighbor, leading him on a path that is not good. (16:29)
  • Don’t envy a violent man or choose any of his ways . . .  (3:31)
  • They eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence. (4:17)

We could explain away these commands by saying, “I won’t become violent just because I regularly watch these movies or play these games,” and perhaps that’s true. But I wonder what we would say to someone who justified their viewing habits of onscreen nudity this way, claiming that this kind of entertainment will not lead to sexual misbehavior, or that a mature Christian can regularly view sex scenes without falling into lust. As Christians, we oppose pornography and decry the increase of overt sexuality in entertainment, because we recognize the effect of these viewing habits. They deaden our senses in a way that makes us less, not more human. Couldn’t something similar be said of explicit violence?

I offer these thoughts not because the church should require a hard and fast rule about violence in entertainment, but because we need to hear from our forefathers and mothers in the faith, to see where we may be more compromised by modern assumptions than we realize. When reading the story of Alypius, we should ponder our society’s lust for blood and how a regular diet of media violence affects our lives and infects our hearts. Surely we want to stand out rather than join with the crowd of unfazed violence-watchers.

 

DOROTHY SAYERS IS THE ANSWER TO JOHN DEWEY

As we look back at the last century, it can seem that the Liberal Arts model deteriorated through factors like neglect, laziness, or mission creep. But the reality was strikingly different. This older model of education was not misplaced; it suffered a planned and deliberate attack. The leading educators of the last century turned on the Liberal Arts program and tried to gut it. The central voice in this attack was John Dewey, but other educators, like the Developmentalists, joined him in that work. Their primary criticism was that the older Liberal Arts model could not accommodate new research done in child development. Into the middle of this pedagogical revolution, Dorothy Sayers stepped up in 1947 and defended the Liberal Arts program in her work The Lost Tools of Learning. In her defense of the liberal arts, Sayers both acknowledged the factor of childhood development and offered a way for Classical education to deal with these criticisms. In this way, Sayers did not merely defend the Liberal Arts program but also, and more importantly, offered a way for Classical education to disarm Dewey’s project.

In the early twentieth century, many students found the conditions at school to be slave-like. In 1913, Helen M. Todd, a factory inspector in Chicago, asked five hundred children about their experience in school and in the factory. She proposed a scenario in which their families were well off and did not need the kids to work: Given that scenario, would the children want to work in a factory or go to school? Four hundred of the kids said that “they preferred factory labor to the monotony, humiliation, and even sheer cruelty that they experienced in school.”[i] These children feared the situation in the schools more than the factories. One American humorist satirized the educational philosophy of the day like this: “It makes no difference what you teach a boy so long as he doesn’t like it.”[ii] While this comment is a parody, schools of that day did emphasize rigorous schoolwork, subscribing to an educational philosophy popular at the time called the Mental Disciplinarian theory.

The Mental Disciplinarian theory rested on the claim that the mind is a muscle that gains strength and endurance through exercise in various subjects. This position argued that subjects, like the classical languages in the Liberal Arts program, build a student’s mental strength so that he is a better thinker in other subjects and tasks. This theory suggested that if a student was given enough work and practice, he could grow to match the demands of the school work. This theory urged the student to be conformed to the program rather than the program to be conformed to the student. Given this model, if a student could not learn a lesson, then it was generally considered a weakness in the student rather than in the curriculum.

In 1890, William James conducted tests that focused on the area of memory and the question of whether more memory work helped to improve one’s memory. In his report, James found that the faculty of memory was not improved by more memorizing.[iii] In 1901, Edward L. Thorndike conducted an experiment in which students were taught a variety of mental operations, like estimating the area of a rectangle, until the student had a high degree of proficiency in that single task. Then he gave the student a similar task like finding the area of a smaller rectangle. Thorndike then examined how much skill could be transferred from the first task to the second one. He concluded: “Improvement in any single mental function need not improve the ability in functions commonly called by the same name.”[iv] This research cast major doubt on the Mental Disciplinarian theory, primarily questioning the value of studying the classical languages, since the skills and abilities learned in those classes could not be transferred to other work or tasks.

A key group of educators, called the Developmentalists, also carried out research in the area of child development. One of these was G. Stanley Hall who wrote a work in 1883 called The Contents of the Child’s Mind,in which he argued against the idea that all students should be taught the same material and with the same method. In his investigation of the children of Boston, he concluded that “[the child] does not want a standardized, overpeptonized mental diet. It palls on his appetite.”[v] Hall argued that the child’s appetites and interests must be accommodated in the formation of the curriculum. Later in 1904, Hall wrote about his appreciation for a popular theory of child development called the Culture-Epoch theory, which “posited the notion that the child recapitulates in his or her individual development the stages that the whole human race traversed throughout the course of history.”[vi] This theory suggested that a child grew up through various stages that roughly followed the course of human history. During the “savage” stage of development, the child was interested in topics and material that pertained to that historical epoch, such as ancient mythology and fables. This theory, although considered absurd now, illustrates how important the study of child development was in educational models at that time.

While John Dewey was not part of this Developmentalist group, he shared many of the same concerns in his educational theories. In his work, Democracy and Education from 1916, Dewey argues that a student’s interest in the material is paramount. A student will learn most when he is most interested. Dewey writes, “The remedy is not in finding fault with the doctrine of interest, any more than it is to search for some pleasant bait that may be hitched to the alien material. It is to discover objects and modes of action, which are connected with present powers.”[vii] The key then is for the teacher to secure the interest that is present in the child and use that natural desire to build the lesson. In this way, the curriculum is not forcing the child against his will to learn; rather the program is drawing the child into something which the child naturally wants.

Dewey also felt the order of the curriculum was of key importance. For a curriculum to harness the natural interests and abilities of the student, it must be designed to progress in such a way that it adapts to the changing interests of the child as he grows up. In Dewey’s last book, Experience and Education (1938) he writes: “It is a ground for legitimate criticism, when the ongoing movement of progressive education fails to recognize that the problem of selection and organization of subject-matter for study and learning is fundamental.”[viii] A key focus of reform for Dewey is to understand how a child changes over the years so that subjects of study can be organized to match the child’s developing interests.

Dewey also focused on creating a program that did not treat education as merely preparation for adult life, but actually had lessons that applied to the student’s life directly. In his mind, if education is only preparing children for a life to come that means children “are looked upon as candidates; they are placed on the waiting list.”[ix] This, in turn, removes any incentive for the child to study because the lesson doesn’t really apply to the child right now. Dewey explains that this leads to discipline issues because the child’s natural interest in the lesson is destroyed: “The future having no stimulating and directing power when severed from the possibilities of the present, something must be hitched on to it to make it work. Promises of rewards and threats of pain are employed.”[x] Threats and rewards were often employed in educational models like the Mental Disciplinarian theory. Instead, Dewey emphasizes the importance of matching the curriculum to a student’s interest and abilities in order to ensure that the material is immediately applicable to the student’s life. If the child’s development is ignored, then the educational system is working against the abilities of the child and is making the educational process harder than it should be.

This leads to Dorothy Sayers and her work from 1947, The Lost Tools of Learning. While Sayers was not responding directly to Dewey and the Developmentalists, she did incorporate the educational elements they emphasized: student interest and development. In this short work, Sayers describes a program which follows three stages of development in the child and also harnesses the child’s natural interest and abilities at each level. The three stages of development are the Poll-Parrot, the Pert, and the Poetic. She explains that students in the youngest stage, about ages nine to eleven, have the natural desire to learn things by memory. She describes memory work as a pleasure to them. On the other hand, she says that “reasoning is difficult and, on the whole, little relished.” The next stage is the Pert stage which covers ages twelve to fourteen. She says this stage is one in which the student likes to contradict and “catch people out” especially one’s elders. This stage also likes “the propounding of conundrums (especially the kind with a nasty verbal catch in them).” She suggests that students in this stage are interested in reasoning and logic. The last stage is the Poetic stage, which covers ages fifteen to sixteen (and later years). She says this stage “yearns to express itself” and “it is restless and tries to achieve independence.”[xi] This stage is interested in self-image and in presenting one’s self in a persuasive and thoughtful way. Based on the natural desires of the student at each of these three stages, Sayers builds a curriculum that incorporates student development.

It is striking to see that Sayers then looks back at the Medieval world for her program of study: the Trivium. The three subjects of this model are Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric. Sayers maps these three subjects on top of the three stages: Grammar goes with Poll Parrot, Logic goes with Pert, and Rhetoric goes with Poetic. Sayers suggests that Medieval educators were concerned with the very same things that she is. She argues: “What matters is the light it throws upon what the men of the Middle Ages supposed to be the object and the right order of the educative process.”[xii] In this way, Sayers is employing this older system in order to address the concerns that educational reformers had about child development.

Sayers, like Dewey, is also interested in creating practical lessons that the student can use immediately. The tools of learning in her program line up with the stages of the student’s growth and development: memory and observation for the Poll Parrot stage, discursive reasoning and critical analysis for the Pert stage, and finally, eloquent and persuasive communication in the Poetic stage. It is important to point out that these tools are practical and match the natural interests of the child at that level, so he can see the immediate application of the tools. In this way, the student is growing up with the program and the program is mapped to match the way he grows.

It is important to point out that the student doesn’t leave the tool behind when he advances to the next stage, but instead he takes it with him into successive stages. This is true of child development in general: a child doesn’t forget how to walk when he learns to run. Walking is a skill that enables the child to run. In a similar way, Sayers builds a program that is applicable to the student at that stage and then also grows with the student as he develops. In this way, the curriculum is both immediately applicable to the student and also useful later when the child has graduated out of the program. Sayers concludes: “For the tools of learning are the same, in any and every subject; and the person who knows how to use them will, at any age, get the mastery of a new subject in half of the time and with a quarter of the effort expended by the person who has not the tools at his command.”[xiii] In this three-step model, Sayers has built a program that both meets the student where he is and then also accompanies him in the years after school.

John Dewey is such a big name in the educational world that it can seem like there is no way to push back against his work, but Dorothy Sayers offers a way for the Liberal Arts not only to push back on Dewey but also to steal his thunder. Sayers takes much of Dewey’s power away because she offers a program that deals honestly with the reality of child development. In this way, we see that Sayers does not merely offer an education program based on the Trivium; rather she offers a way for Classical educators to answer many of the trends in the educational world today. This, in turn, suggests why Classical education has experienced such a revival in recent years. The true power of Sayers is that she harnessed the truths of child development and then built them into the older curriculum of the Liberal Arts. This integration of method and material is a powerful recipe that has yet to be surpassed by other educational theories.

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The Imaginative Conservative applies the principle of appreciation to the discussion of culture and politics—we approach dialogue with magnanimity rather than with mere civility. Will you help us remain a refreshing oasis in the increasingly contentious arena of modern discourse?

Notes:

[i] Kliebard, Herbert M., The Struggle for the American Curriculum, 1995, 6.

[ii] Quoted in Dewey, Democracy and Education, 134.

[iii] Kliebard, The Struggle for the American Curriculum, 91.

[iv] Quoted in Kliebard, The Struggle for the American Curriculum, 92.

[v] Quoted in Kliebard, The Struggle for the American Curriculum, 12.

[vi] Kliebard, The Struggle for the American Curriculum, 38.

[vii] Dewey, Democracy and Education, 127.

[viii] Quoted in Kliebard, 203.

[ix] Dewey, Democracy and Education, 54.

[x] Dewey, Democracy and Education, 55.

[xi] Sayers, Dorothy, “The Lost Tools of Learning,” Appendix A in Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning, Douglas Wilson, 154.

[xii] Sayers, “The Lost Tools of Learning,” Appendix A in Wilson Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning, 149.

[xiii] Sayers, “The Lost Tools of Learning,” Appendix A in Wilson, Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning, 162.

DEPRESSION: GOD IS NOT SILENT WHEN WE SUFFER by Ed Welch

If we know anything about God, we know that He comes close to those who suffer, so keep your eyes open for Him.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Never has so much been crammed into one word. Depression feels terrifying. Your world is dark, heavy, and painful. Physical pain, you think, would be much better—at least the pain would be localized. Instead, depression seems to go to your very soul, affecting everything in its path.

Dead, but walking, is one way to describe it. You feel numb. Perhaps the worst part is that you remember when you actually felt something and the contrast between then and now makes the pain worse.

So many things about your life are difficult right now. Things you used to take for granted—a good night’s sleep, having goals, looking forward to the future—now seem beyond your reach. Your relationships are also affected. The people who love you are looking for some emotional response from you, but you do not have one to give.

Does it help to know that you are not alone? These days depression affects as much as 25 percent of the population. Although it has always been a human problem, no one really knows why. But what Christians do know is that God is not silent when we suffer. On every page of Scripture, God’s depressed children have been able to find hope and a reason to endure. For example, take 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV):

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Come to God with your suffering

You can start to experience the inward renewal that the apostle Paul experienced when you come to God with your suffering. God seems far away when we suffer. You believe that He exists, but it seems as if He is too busy with everything else, or He just doesn’t care. After all, God is powerful enough to end your suffering, but He hasn’t.

If you start there, you’ll reach a dead end pretty quickly. God hasn’t promised to explain everything about what He does and what He allows. Instead, He encourages us to start with Jesus. Jesus is God the Son, and He is certainly loved by his heavenly Father. Yet Jesus also went through more suffering than anyone who ever lived!

Here we see that love and suffering can co-exist. And when you start reading the Bible and encounter people like Job, Jeremiah, and the apostle Paul, you get a sense that suffering is actually the well-worn path for God’s favorites. This doesn’t answer the question, Why are you doing this to me? But it cushions the blow when you know that God understands. You aren’t alone. If we know anything about God, we know that He comes close to those who suffer, so keep your eyes open for Him.

God speaks to you in the Bible

Keep your heart open to the fact that the Bible has much to say to you when you are depressed. Here are a few suggestions of Bible passages you can read. Read one each day and let it fill your mind as you go about your life.

  • Read about Jesus’ suffering in Isaiah 53 and Mark 14. How does it help you to know that Jesus is a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief?
  • Use the Psalms to help you find words to talk to God about your heart. Make Psalm 88 and Psalm 86 your personal prayers to God.
  • Be alert to spiritual warfare. Depressed people are very vulnerable to Satan’s claim that God is not good. Jesus’ death on the cross proves God’s love for you. It’s the only weapon powerful enough to stand against Satan’s lies. (Romans 5:6-8, 1 John 4:9,10)
  • Don’t think your case is unique. Read Hebrews 11 and 12. Many have walked this path before you and they will tell you that God did not fail them.
  • Remember your purpose for living. (Matthew 22:37-39, 1 Corinthians 6:20,  2 Corinthians 5:15, Galatians 5:6)
  • Learn about persevering and enduring. (Romans 5:3, Hebrews 12:1, James 1:2-4)

WHAT YOU NEED TO DO

Try one step at a time

Granted, it seems impossible. How can someone live without feelings? Without them you have no drive, no motivation. Could you imagine walking without any feeling in your legs? It would be impossible.

Or would it? Perhaps you could walk if you practiced in front of a large mirror and watched your legs moving. One step, wobble, another step. It would all be very mechanical, but it could be done.

People have learned to walk in the midst of depression. It doesn’t seem natural, though other people won’t notice either the awkwardness or the heroism involved. The trek begins with one step, then another. Remember, you are not alone. Many people have taken this journey ahead of you.

As you walk, you will find that it is necessary to remember to use every resource you have ever learned about persevering through hardship. It will involve lots of moment by moment choices: 1) take one minute at a time, 2) read one short Bible passage, 3) try to care about someone else, 4) ask someone how they are doing, and so on.

You will need to do this with your relationships, too. When you have no feelings, how to love must be redefined. Love, for you, must become an active commitment to patience and kindness.

Consider what accompanies your depression

As you put one foot in front of the other, don’t forget that depression doesn’t exempt you from the other problems that plague human beings. Some depressed people have a hard time seeing the other things that creep in—things like anger, fear, and an unforgiving spirit. Look carefully to see if your depression is associated with things like these:

Do you have negative, critical, or complaining thoughts? These can point to anger. Are you holding something against another person?

Do you want to stay in bed all day? Are there parts of your life you want to avoid?

Do you find that things you once did easily now strike terror in your heart? What is at the root of your fear?

Do you feel like you have committed a sin that is beyond the scope of God’s forgiveness? Remember that the apostle Paul was a murderer. And remember: God is not like other people—He doesn’t give us the cold shoulder when we ask for forgiveness.

Do you struggle with shame? Shame is different from guilt. When you are guilty you feel dirty because of what you did; but with shame you feel dirty because of what somebody did to you. Forgiveness for your sins is not the answer here because you are not the one who was wrong. But the cross of Christ is still the answer. Jesus’ blood not only washes us clean from the guilt of our own sins, but also washes away the shame we experience when others sin against us.

Do you experience low self-worth? Low self-worth points in many directions. Instead of trying to raise your view of yourself, come at it from a completely different angle. Start with Christ and His love for you. Let that define you and then share that love with others.

Will it ever be over?

Will you always struggle with depression? That is like asking, “Will suffering ever be over?” Although we will have hardships in this world, depression rarely keeps a permanent grip on anyone. When we add to that the hope, purpose, power, and comfort we find in Christ, depressed people can usually anticipate a ray of hope or a lifting of their spirits.

FREQUENTLY-ASKED QUESTIONS

Is it okay to get medication?

The severe pain of depression makes you welcome anything that can bring relief. For some people, medication brings relief from some symptoms. Most family physicians are qualified to prescribe appropriate medications. If you prefer a specialist, get a recommendation for a psychiatrist, and ask these questions of your doctor and pharmacist:

  • How long will it take before it is effective?
  • What are some of the common side effects?
  • Will it be difficult to determine which medication is effective (if your physician is prescribing two medications)?

From a Christian perspective, the choice to take medication is a wisdom issue. It is rarely a matter of right or wrong. Instead, the question to ask is, What is best and wise?

Wise people seek counsel (your physicians should be part of the group that counsels you). Wise people approach decisions prayerfully. They don’t put their hope in people or medicine but in the Lord. They recognize that medication is a blessing, when it helps, but recognize its limits. It can change physical symptoms, but not spiritual ones. It might give sleep, offer physical energy, allow you to see in color, and alleviate the physical feeling of depression. But it won’t answer your spiritual doubts, fears, frustrations, or failures.

If you choose to take medication, please consider letting wise and trusted people from your church come alongside of you. They can remind you that God is good, that you can find power to know God’s love and love others, and that joy is possible even during depression.

What do I do with thoughts about suicide?

Before you were depressed, you could not imagine thinking of suicide. But when depression descends, you may notice a passing thought about death, then another, and another, until death acts like a stalker.

Know this about depression: It doesn’t tell the whole truth. It says that you are all alone, that no one loves you, that God doesn’t care, that you will never feel any different, and you cannot go on another day. Even your spouse and children don’t seem like a reason to stay alive when depression is at its worst. Your mind tells you, Everyone will be better off without me.But this is a lie—they will not be better off without you.

Because you aren’t working with all the facts, keep it simple. Death is not your call to make. God is the giver and taker of life. As long as He gives you life, He has purposes for you.

One purpose that is always right in front of you is to love another person. Begin with that purpose and then get help from a friend or a pastor.

Depression says that you are alone and that you should act that way. But that is not true. God is with you, and He calls you to reach out to someone who will listen, care, and pray for you.


© Copyright 2010 by the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. All rights reserved.

THE SCRIPTURE’S THE LIMIT

Worship is truly the greatest privilege of the creature and all of creation is morally obligated to worship the Creator. When the topic of worship is usually discussed today, however, so much of the discussion involves musical style and preferences. This was not, in fact, the focus of the Reformed Confessions. Regarding worship, the 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith states:

“… But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God, is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, nor the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures” (LBC 22.1).

Most interesting is the way in which the authors insist that the acceptable worship of God is…”limited by His own revealed will.” The common caricature of this statement is that it is inherently stifling to worship. However, the more I think about this particular phrase, the more I am convinced that it is a reminder that the essence of our public worship is only to be governed by the knowledge of God which comes through His Word.

I grew up in settings in which it was common for people to treat “worship” as a mysterious act to be explained by catchy clichés such as, “worship is a lifestyle.” I have subsequently come to realize that such sayings fail to answer how we should worship. Others cautioned me about false worship, but their definition of true worship was shrouded with mysticism and subjectivism (i.e. “in my experience, worship is ____”). Still others equated an acceptable worship experience with meditative music in the service. If we divorce our understanding of worship from the Scripture, then we will, by default, make up our own criteria for worship.

The more we grow in the knowledge of God by understanding His Word, the more we begin to understand the nature of biblical worship. The Apostle Paul gives us beautiful examples of how one should apply the knowledge of God to their worship. Paul often wrote about lofty biblical truths and then conclude his discussion with a doxology. This suggests that the Apostle was overwhelmed by the glory of God while discussing these truths and thus, he found that it was only fitting to write a doxology after reflecting on a given topic. There are three passages in which Paul models how worship grows from our knowledge of God and His own revealed will: Romans 11:33-36; Ephesians 3:14-21; and 1 Timothy 1:15-17.

God’s Eternal Purpose and Worship

In Romans 11:33-36 Paul concludes his survey of the accomplishment of salvation. After meditating on his conclusion he exclaims, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!” Paul was left in awe of the wisdom and knowledge of God. In reflecting on our justification by Christ’s righteousness, our election by the Father, the calling of the Gentiles, the partial rejection of the Jews, and the final restoration of the Jews, Paul breaks forth into exclamation. God’s ways are not our ways! When we mediate on our salvation, we see that it is truly a profound display of God’s knowledge and wisdom. We know that we will not fully comprehend this salvation, but what God has revealed of His work of salvation is the basis for the worship of God.

Consider how much of our corporate worship is focused on our union with Christ and the salvific benefits that flow from that union. As we grow in our understanding of the depth of God’s wisdom in salvation, we will understand the subtleties and nuances of Paul’s doxology. The saints throughout the ages have also mediated upon God’s wisdom. We now have the rich hymnody that we have as a consequence of their meditations. When we reflect on God’s dealings with us, it humbles us to the dust and initiates prayer and praise towards God. The more we come to understand this, the more it deepens our worship of God. This is the essence of the regulative principle of worship: as we meditate on God’s revelation in the Scripture, the content of our worship is shaped by it and it drives us to worship Him.

The Love of God and Worship

Ephesians 3:14-21 concludes Paul’s discussion of unsearchable riches of Christ for the Gentiles. As he begins to pray for the Ephesians for perseverance, he writes,

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

In this doxology, Paul prays that believers would comprehend that they are fully grounded in the love of Christ that “surpasses knowledge.” In reflecting on the greatness of God’s love, Paul again breaks off to a doxology, knowing that God will answer his prayer in superabundant ways. Paul is astonished by the truth of the sure foundation that he is resting on and realizes how able and willing God is to accomplish this. In other words, the eternal purpose and power of God is so abundant towards His church that we can be sure that He will accomplish more than we could even think. The thought that He has prepared a glorious future for His church causes Paul to worship God for His goodness and love. Here, Scripture indicates that our worship for God deepens as we understand God’s purpose for our redemption and as we become more assured of the glorious future of the Church because of God’s grace and mercy. 

Our Testimony and Worship

In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, Paul gives his personal testimony of his conversion and in acknowledging his own sinfulness, he writes

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life. To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” 1 Timothy 1:15-17.

The Apostle doesn’t describe the details of his conversion, but simply states that he is the direct product of mercy. The mercy he received was not only for himself, but it was to magnify God’s patience. Here, we see why our personal testimonies are a cause for worship. It can also be said that our entire life before our conversion have been designed to reveal God’s patience towards us. We can look back on our lives and observe how patience God has been towards us and here, we see a reason to praise God.

From these examples of Paul’s doxology, we discover that God’s revealed will is the sure foundation for our spiritual service of worship. As we grow deeper in our understanding of God’s Word, then our understanding of God inevitably deepens and thus, our desire to worship God according to His word deepens. Worship is directly correlated to our understanding of God’s word and inseparable from our theology. Therefore, we must conclude that true worship is “limited by His own revealed will.”

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Gabriel Williams (Ph.D., Colorado State University) is assistant professor of atmospheric physics at the College of Charleston and a member of Christ Church Presbyterian in Charleston, SC. He also writes at The Road of Grace. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own and do not necessarily reflect the official positions of the College of Charleston.