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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Politics, Science, and Faith

First and foremost, I am a Christian. Everything else that I am or believe is derived from my faith, or at least it is supposed to be. The reason I am a “conservative” politically speaking is because of my Christian worldview. I spend a lot of time thinking, reading, and writing about politics—more than I should. However, as a Christian, I know well that politics alone is not going solve the world’s real problems.

Writing about the “great issues” of his day, my favorite Christian apologist, C.S. Lewis, wrote in 1940, “Lord! How I loathe great issues…Could one start a Stagnation Party— which at General Elections would boast that during its term of office no event of the least importance had taken place?” Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute, John G. West writes that “According to stepson David Gresham, Lewis was skeptical of politicians and not really interested in current events. His concern was not policy but principle; political problems of the day were interesting to him only insofar as they involved matters that endured.”

Nevertheless, West adds that Lewis did indeed have a “great deal” to say about politics, writing about such things as crime, obscenity, capital punishment, communism, fascism, socialism, war, the welfare state, and so on. West noted that, “It is precisely because Lewis was so uninterested in ordinary political affairs that he has so much to tell us about politics in the broad sense of the term. By avoiding the partisan strife of his own time, he was able to articulate enduring political standards for all time.”

Nowhere is this clearer, West states, than in Lewis’ writings on tyranny and morality. According to West, Lewis was particularly concerned with the tyranny that could result from the union of modern science and the modern state.

Lewis disputed the notion that we must rely on the counsel of scientists because only they have the answers to today's complicated problems. He did not dispute their knowledge, but concluded that most of it was irrelevant. In West’s words, “Political problems are preeminently moral problems, and scientists are not equipped to function as moralists.” Lewis added that, “I dread specialists in power because they are specialists speaking outside their special subjects. Let scientists tell us about sciences. But government involves questions about the good for man, and justice, and what things are worth having at what price; and on these a scientific training gives a man's opinion no added value.”

Therefore, agreeing with Lewis, I believe we can conclude that neither science nor politics offers us every solution to all that troubles the world. One would think that most people would see this conclusion as obvious, but I’m not so sure. This is namely because it runs contrary to much of the rhetoric we’ve been hearing of late. I say this in light of President Obama’s recent statements, and those like-minded, concerning stem cells and science in general.

As most now know, on March 9, Obama lifted the ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. He also noted that he was furthermore issuing “a Presidential Memorandum directing the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop a strategy for restoring scientific integrity to government decision-making to ensure that in this new administration, we base our public policies on the soundest science; that we appoint scientific advisors based on their credentials and experience, not their politics or ideology.” The implication, of course, as Charles Krauthhammer pointed out, is that “while Obama is guided solely by science, Bush was driven by dogma, ideology and politics.”

This dig was aimed not only at President Bush, I would add, but at all those who dare to allow their reasoning to be aided, or even led, by their faith (especially those of the Christian faith). Never mind that all reasoning is guided by certain governing presuppositions. In other words, either side of every issue that is debated ultimately has certain un-provable assumptions upon which they must eventually rely. As the late philosopher Dr. GregBahnsen put it, “At the most fundamental level of everyone's thinking and beliefs there are primary convictions about reality, man, the world, knowledge, truth, behavior, and such things. Convictions about which all other experience is organized, interpreted, and applied.”

Whether the discussion is about embryonic stem cells, evolution, Global Warming, taxes, et al, we must be careful not to let the devoted naturalist, atheist, liberal, or any who might deny or ignore God and the supernatural, to assume the mantle of the superior intellectual position. We all have the same information in these debates (assuming the information is reliable and accurate). What is different is the lens, what some call “worldview,” through which the information is interpreted.

A persons worldview is determined by his faith. In other words, as we live out our lives, we all place faith in someone or something. I submit that our faith is more important than politics or science when it comes to solving the world’s problems. The great question is, in what or in whom have you put your faith?

Copyright 2009, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World
tthomas@trevorgrantthomas.com

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