Is reality secular? Is adequate knowledge secular? And is that something that has been established as a fact by thorough and unbiased inquiry? Is this something that today’s secular universities thoroughly and freely discuss in a disciplined way? (11)
Mary Poplin wastes no time in establishing the centrality of Dallas Willard’s questions to Is Reality Secular? What is the nature of reality? (InterVarsity Press, 2014). Early in Chapter 1: Truth and Consequences, she relates the story of a seminar in which she asks, “Is reality secular? Is it true?”
Inspired by her first chapter: How would you respond as a student (or possibly as a peer when asked in another context)? Would you set “aside the idea of truth . . .”? Do you lean toward truth as “an idea rather than a description of reality”? Are these questions you feel comfortable raising with peers, as an instructor, in a presentation, among members of your community of faith? What do you consider the relationship of “seeking truth” and “the reason of the university”? (13 – 14)
With regard to secularism, do you agree with historian Charles Taylor “that secularism has been the hegemonic master narrative for the last several hundred years in the West”? (14) How does David Bentley Hart’s articulation of “the original hope of our secular faith” serve as a lens of understanding the secular?
Part of the enthralling promise of an age of reason was, at least at first, the prospect of a genuinely rational ethics, not bound to the local or tribal customs of this people or that, not limited to the moral precepts of any particular creed, but available to all reasoning minds regardless of culture and — when recognized — immediately compelling to the rational will (15)
As you’ll note from this and an earlier post, I’m finding Is Reality Secular? a lively resource bank for personal reflection and conversation. As time and resources permit, I encourage you to join me in reading the text over break and/or in early 2014.
Click here for Is Reality Secular? Part 2.
- A Secular Age. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007. ↩
- David Bentley Hart. Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009), p.106. ↩
- Secular humanism is “liberalism, with regard in particular to the belief that religion should not be taught or practised within a publicly funded education system [or in any public domain].” Oxford Dictionaries, http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/secular-humanism?q=secular+humanism (270). ↩
- “Worldviews are like operating systems on a computer except that they are in our minds, which are far more powerful and efficient than modern computers. Operating systems determine the particular functions on a computer that can be accomplished and the ones that cannot. Worldviews function in much the same way, determining the range of thoughts we will entertain. Computer operating systems are constantly being improved and their glitches fixed by downloading new updates. It is the same with worldviews; we are constantly acquiring new information and experiences that inform our beliefs and can cause us to adjust or change our worldviews (operating systems) altogether” . . . Jean Piaget described the realization of being in a state of disequilibrium prior to new learning. Once in this state, we apply the cognitive tools of reflection, assimilation, accommodation and equilibration in order to construct new meanings (learn)” (26, 271). ↩
- “Material naturalism is a worldview that posits that everything that exists is ultimately reducible to its material form and processes that govern the material — such as atoms, electrons, biochemicals, and their natural processes such as electromagnetism. This includes consciousness, mind and religious beliefs, all of which are proposed simply to be the result of natural physical material. There can be no metaphysical explanations and no supernatural phenomena. This view is general called materialism in philosophy and naturalism in science” (269). ↩
- “Pantheists’ fundamental faith is that there is a spiritual reality that is one with observed natural and human reality. In pantheism, this immanent spirit is in all human and physical nature (pantheism), or we are one and the same with this eternal immanent spirit or force, making us also the expression of the divine itself (panentheism). This singular reality posits that there is only one substance — spirit — from which all else emerges and exists. The important point in defining the difference between these views and monotheism is that the divine spirit is not a personal but an impersonal animating force coexisting with all things whether it is one and the same with the universe or in but also outside the universe. Like all worldviews, these metaphysical presuppositions are also not subject to scientific verification; they constitute the faith of pantheism” (166). ↩
- Monotheism is “the doctrine or belief that there is only one God. Oxford Dictionaries, http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/monotheism?q=monotheism. Mary Poplin’s focus is upon Judeo-Christianity. ↩
About the author:
Tom enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa and their four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (where he teaches adult electives and co-leads a small group), among healthcare professionals as the Northeast Regional Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA), and in higher ed as a volunteer with the Emerging Scholars Network (ESN). For a number of years, the Christian Medical Society / CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine was the hub of his ministry with CMDA. Note: Tom served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship / USA for 20+ years, including 6+ years as the Associate Director of ESN. He has written for the ESN blog from its launch in August 2008. He has studied Biology (B.S.), Higher Education (M.A.), Spiritual Direction (Certificate), Spiritual Formation (M.A.R.), Ministry to Emerging Generations (D.Min.). To God be the glory!