From the Word of Faith to the World of the Faithless

From the Word of Faith to the World of the Faithless

In my first semester of Seminary studying theology at Oral Roberts University, I sat in the chapel service led by President Richard Roberts. After the music stopped, he stood up and boldly proclaimed, “Your mind is the enemy of the Holy Spirit. If you want to experience God, you need to stop thinking. don’t be like one of those dead-in-faith seminary professors in the back whose theology destroys genuine faith.” That was the gist of his message and I sat there appalled. I remember thinking, “did he seriously just criticize everyone sitting here in the back of the room? Did he just call some of the most wonderful godly men I knew “dead in faith” because they used their mind? What I came to understand was that the Pentecostal/Charismatic brand of “Word of Faith” demands the rejection of the mind, abandonment of reason, and an embrace of the purely emotional as the source of truth.

Now before you tune out, give me a chance to demonstrate the truth of my observation from a recent story of a Pentecostal pastor who transitioned from what I am calling the Word of Faith to the world of the faithless. The NY Times published a story, From Bible-Belt Pastor to Atheist Leader, featuring the story of Jerry DeWitt. His background of how he came to faith is described as below:

DeWitt grew up in the church, but it was only at 17, after being “saved” during a weekend visit to Jimmy Swaggart’s church in Baton Rouge, that he became a passionate Christian. Weeks later he spoke in tongues for the first time. Soon after that, sitting in church, he heard his pastor call on him to deliver a homily. Terrified, he asked if he could have a few minutes to pray for guidance. He stepped to the pulpit with his finger on a passage from the Gospel of Mark, and spoke for 15 minutes on the “seed of David.” The crowd loved it. “It was the biggest high I’d ever had,” he told me. “I knew right then that preaching was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.” He married a local girl at age 20, and two weeks after the wedding, he received an invitation to speak at a camp meeting in Lucedale, Miss. There he preached to overflow crowds of whooping Pentecostals who were speaking in tongues.

This is not an unusual story in the Word of Faith movement. A man or woman has a personal encounter with God and they become anointed as ministers—no training, no education and no study of the Bible is necessary (and it is actually shunned). For DeWitt, his simple passion and feelings were the evidence that he is chosen by God to preach. He was no charlatan. He really believed what he experienced was real. He was just genuinely deceived by his own desire to be in power:

For the first time, he was treated with respect, even awe. “I had this whole prophet persona going on. I wouldn’t really mix with people before the sermon,” he told me. “All kinds of people were seeing miracles, and I believed it 100 percent.”

Now we see what happens when faith is built on the rejection of the mind to think and reason as DeWitt began to reject any form of orthodox theology:

DeWitt preached across the South, doing itinerant jobs to pay the bills. In 2004 he became a full-time preacher at a church near DeRidder. By that time, though, he had drifted away from the literal claims of Pentecostal doctrine and espoused a more liberal Christianity. He had begun reading more widely (he never got a college degree), starting with Carl Sagan’s books on science and moving on to Joseph Campbell and others. But equally, he told me, he found it unbearable to promote beliefs that only seemed to sow confusion and self-blame. He recalled how one middle-aged woman in his church who was suffering from heart disease asked him anxiously: “How am I going to believe for salvation when I can’t believe enough to heal?”

This last sentence is important to understand. As DeWitt began to discover the lies of the Health & Wealth / Word of Faith theology, he had no biblical foundation for reinterpreting his experience. All he had was a personal experience running in conflict of another persons’ personal experience and no way to reasonably discern between them. In an another article titled, Why a Pentecostal preacher gave up on Jesus and became an atheist activist, we can see the struggle DeWitt faced to justify his ego in light of his new experiences:

You’ve struggled to make a reputation for yourself as a man of God, a conduit of the Holy Spirit, who can bring spiritual hope and healing to the people around you. You’ve struggled to balance the rigorous demands of your religious calling with the pressing practical needs of your family. You’ve struggled to make sense of the contradictory teachings of the Bible; of the widely divergent and often contentious sects competing for your loyalty; of the deep conflicts between your deeply held Christian doctrine and what you know, as an ethical human being, to be right.

He began to see the conflicts people had over the Scripture and the conflict with his own experience, but lacking any foundation, or a decent education, he continued to rely on his experience and study of atheist literature as his guide. But experience kept showing just how abusive and wrong the Word of Faith doctrine he preached really was:

Many times the comfort religion offers comes at a very high price. This form of comfort is at the same time both temporally present and linked to an uncertain moment in the future. I’ll use the doctrine of Healing as an example. If you are ill, you may be comforted by the idea that God can heal you and may very well do so…one of these days. For some, this is more comforting then “knowing” you don’t know what the future truly holds.

The exorbitant price that is paid at the very same time that a measure of comfort is received is the emotional abuse one silently suffers while trying to receive/earn the promised Healing. Knowing that God could heal you immediately, but doesn’t, naturally causes the believer to ask, “Why not?” “What do I need to do to better please God?” “Is it God’s will for me to suffer?” “What’s God’s purpose in allowing this illness in my life?” The list goes on and on.

Now you see the truly destructive power of the Word of Faith / Faith-Healing doctrine—It is fundamentally a doctrine of works. In the WOF world, you have to work to earn God’s love. You have to work to curry God’s favor. Sometimes you have to prove your faith by giving money to the preacher. Sometimes, you have to stop taking medication to prove to God you really believe. But always… always… the person must earn God’s favor. And if you are not healed? Well, it’s your own fault for having a defective faith. This is the doctrine of oppression that DeWitt preached and the doctrine he rightly rejected. but unfortunately because he also rejected any meaningful biblical education, he thought the only alternative was to reject “God” and “Christianity” (at least his version of it that had deluded him for so many years.) He says:

Yes, by that point, reason, science and medication were all that was left for my illness. Had there been another line of religious thought for me to exhaust, I may have tried to do so.

Unfortunately, some dear souls still find a benefit in holding on to something that’s not working. Fortunately for me, I wasn’t allowed to do that. My love for truth and humanity, combined with my insistence on something that worked, forced me to look beyond faith.

The “truth” as DeWitt observes, is sadly much of the same. He just moved from one form of experience-based faith to another: atheism. Like many stuck in his position, DeWitt assumed faith, reason and science were in conflict because he did not know of any other options. Again, he describes how shallow his faith was because it lacked any grounding in the mind and then assumed his ignorance must reflect the faith of every Christian:

I think this is so common that it is the origin of most subsets of religion. Today’s “belief-ism” seems to be almost solely based on personal experience and/or feelings. (What feels right to me—not what’s right for the group.) It’s not uncommon to hear a believer say, “That’s not the Jesus I know!” This type of spiritual independence breeds religious independence. If my pastor begins to preach something that I’m not in line with, I can very easily use the bible to justify my ideas, changing churches or even starting my own.

Apparently my love for god, truth and humans kept me at least one step out of sync with whatever religious affiliation I was in at the time. So I did look to the bible for support for my ever-changing theological position. Due to the convoluted nature of the Christian bible, this wasn’t very hard to do, until I lost all confidence in the infallibility of the bible and its relevance to modernity.

DeWitt saw his feckless faith as the standard, and imposed it on every Christian. He failed to realize the flaw in his completely human-centered faith. DeWitt had fallen into the false idea that to reject the preacher is a rejection of God and when he rejected his own message, he wrongly assumed this meant a rejection of God. In the end, DeWitt’s faith was just another form of religious-narcissism replaced by another form of atheistic-narcissism:

If I was still supporting the minister that was being rejected by members leaving his church, it seemed obvious that they were being lead astray by the devil. Why else would they abandon the “Man of God”?

If, on the other hand, I (or someone I had confidence in) was the one doing the leaving, then it was God himself delivering me from a false prophet who had strayed from the straight and narrow. Again, it can not be overemphasized how personal and self-justifying the religious experience can be.

In this Huffington Post article titled, From Minister to Atheist in 5 Simple Steps, DeWitt discusses his book,Hope after Faith: An Ex-Pastor’s Journey from Belief to Atheism, that outlines his journey from Word of Faith to the world of the faithless. This is so important to understand because so many people I know are stuck in this same dead-end theology.

I won’t take too much more space outlining all the pitfalls to avoid, but I do want to point out more key to avoiding DeWitt’s brand of Faith-killing, experience-based belief. If I could give just one piece of advice to anyone seeking real hope in Jesus, it would be this: avoid grounding your faith in false teachers. Note for DeWitt that his early and most influential guide was the Pentecostal faith-healer William Morrison Branham:

A cassette tape containing one of the late Brother Branham’s messages was the very first time I heard a minister challenge the idea of Hell, and it wouldn’t be the last. Though Branham didn’t teach that God ultimately saves all souls, he did do away with the notion of eternal punishment, and did so while remaining the foremost Pentecostal of his day. For me this was a wining combination. Of course there were numerous versions of the concept of eternal punishment, but almost all of them were proposed by non-Pentecostals. This voided their relevance to me in the earliest days of my ministry. Later, I would grow out of my prejudices and would allow myself to be exposed to the works of Universalist from every ilk.

I myself first learned of Branham as a student at ORU. I had a class called “Signs and Wonders” where this man was held up as one of the great “heroes of the faith.” I attended a church for a short time called Higher Dimensions pastored by Carlton Pearson who also went on to reject Jesus as the only way of Salvation. DeWitt’s belief in a “god” who offers many paths to salvation reflects an inclusive gospel, shared by men like Branham and  Pearson and popular TV stars like Oprah Winfrey—a that lies in direct contradiction to Jesus own words (John 14:1-6).

I know from my own experience that many reading this post are stuck in the same place as DeWitt and don’t know the way out. I have been working as the general editor for a new book titled Defining Deception by Costi Hinn and Anthony Wood published by SCSPress. This book speaks to the dangers of the Word of Faith teachers like Branham and DeWitt (before he became an atheist) who seek prosperity and healing through the rejection of the mind and the distortion of biblical truth.

Finally, let me say this. For those looking for more insight into the dangers of the Word of Faith / Prosperity doctrines, the book, Defining Deception, will be released in early February, so stay tuned. I pray anyone consumed by these messengers of a false Gospel will find freedom in the authentic Gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

When Love Conquers Compassion

When Love Conquers Compassion

“Unless you suffer the pain
of spiritual discipline
you will suffer the pain
of spiritual defeat.”

– Ian Gardner

She walks her son down the long hospital hallway. People scurry about and take no notice of the suffering mother and child. Mattie holds firmly to his mom; in part to keep his balance, but mostly he wants to feel her warm hands in his own. “I’m tired mom. Please, I want to sit down;” but she does not let her son stop. He has to keep walking. He must exercise his limbs or his body will not heal. Only two days earlier Mattie was burned when a pot of boiling water was knocked from the stove; severely injuring his arm and leg. Pain now fills Mattie’s three-year-old body, but his mother’s love must force her son to walk. It takes every ounce of strength to resist the urge to pick up her son, to hold him, to comfort him, and to let him sit in his little red wagon. If Mattie is to recover from his burns, love must conquer compassion. Holding back her tears, a mother’s love must force her son to experience suffering. For Mattie, healing is on the other side of pain.

Where are you along life’s path? Do you hurt? Does no one stop to notice your pain? In the darkest moments, you cry out to your god, “Where are you now! If you are real… if you are really loving… Where are you now when I need you the most!” Anger is a constant companion. Sorrow seems like the only escape from depression.

Only when your “god” becomes Father will you understand. Only when you experience a love that forces you to walk will you know rest. You must pass through the agony before the ultimate healing comes. Step after painful step; hold firm to the warm hand of the Father and know true love that conquers compassion.

This post is featured in my book, “More Than Cake” as one of the 52 team devotionals that take on issues of church, culture, and theology in a way that will engage your team in a full-orbed discussion of missional community. Get copies today for every member of your team!

Should anyone accused of sexual harassment be allowed to hold public office?

Should anyone accused of sexual harassment be allowed to hold public office?

Should anyone accused of sexual harassment be allowed to hold public office? This is a question Americans are addressing in, what I hope, will be a meaningful way. The downfall of the powerful Hollywood figure, Harvey Weinstein, has unleashed an avalanche of accusations from women who claim abuse by men in power (not to forget the men who have come forward claiming abuse by both women and gay men). Our once hidden views of sexual harassment are being exposed as we see how different Americans respond to accusations against their favorite politicians. Sadly, many people are willing to attack, or support, the accused based upon their perceived political advantage more than they are willing to support the women out of genuine compassion or concern for justice.

Most Americans are familiar with the recent charges against Republican politicians like Roy Moore alongside charges against Democratic leaders like John Conyers and Al Franken. Looking back to the 2016 election, Americans were given the terrible choice between Donald Trump, who had groped women, and Hilary Clinton who vilified the women who had accused her husband President Bill Clinton of rape.. Another case that did not receive much national attention was when the Democratic Mayor of San Diego, Bob Filner stepped down in 2013 amidst admitted charges of sexual assault. Most disturbing to me was that several local political groups defended Filner saying, “even if he assaulted these women, I’ll support him because he has always been a supporter of our cause.” This is my paraphrase of what I heard here locally at the time, but it illustrates a much bigger problem. According to reports, Democrats knew of Filner’s abusive behaviors for decades, but kept silent because they shared his political ideology. This brings up the serious question for both Democrats and Republicans, “Do we really care about the women who are sexually harassed and assaulted, or do we only care about how we can use their pain to gain more power?”

How then should we answers these questions of ethics? Looking back to my recent post, “Is,” “Ought,” and “Will be”… in search of meaning, I want to frame the original question using the following image:

The primary question being asked in our newspapers and around the office cooler is:

#1. Should anyone accused of sexual harassment be allowed to hold public office?

This is a question of applied ethics. However, we cannot answer this question without first asking a question pertaining to our normative ethics:

#2. Is it right to impose my own ethical standard on others through politics?

Both questions #1 & #2 lie within the “ought” (a description of what we would like to world to look like). We, as a nation, are trying to decide what is acceptable behavior and what behaviors disqualify someone from holding political office. To properly address these “ought” questions, we first need to move into the realm of “is.” Is there a truth that is universal that can guide our decisions? Is there any way we can know this truth? Question #1 is really a question of ethical meaning and that leads us into the realm of epistemological meaning through metaethics (epistemological ethics) where we must ask ourselves the following:

#3. How is sexual harassment defined? 
Does the Bible give moral knowledge that applies?

The challenge as I see it is that the general discourse has yet to leave the arena of politics (applied ethics) and move into the arena of metaethics where we take the time to define our terms. How can we ever hope to have a meaningful dialogue when we are unwilling to even define our terms? But the challenge gets bigger. We cannot answer question #3 until we address the question of metaphysics which undergirds our epistemology. This brings us to the most fundamental question:

#4. Are men and women ontologically equal? On what basis is value ascribed?

Here is the key question of origin that everyone must answer before they can consistently answer the questions of meaning. If I were to craft my own answer to this set of questions, it would go something like this:

Sexual assault is morally wrong. Women are not helped by politicians or pundits or entertainers who use victims as tools to gain political power. Women are not toys. Any politician guilty of sexual harassment or assault while in office should not be allowed to keep their position of power. Any politician who defends the guilty party is devaluing the victim to keep their power and should not be trusted to hold political office. I make this conclusion because I believe that women are humans of supreme value, equal to men, made in the image of God, and therefore should always be treated with respect.

The use of the image above makes it clear that no one can have a consistent answer to questions #1 and #2 unless they have solid answers to questions #3 and #4. My answer is rooted in a Christian worldview, but how will other Christians answer the question? How will atheists answer the question in a way that makes their answer consistent and universal?

The questions presented in the image above are a work in progress so feel free to share your own answers or revised version of the questions. I would love to hear from you as we, as a nation, seek to address the problems of sexual harassment and sexual abuse and answer the question, Should anyone accused of sexual harassment be allowed to hold public office?

“Is,” “Ought,” and “Will be”… in search of meaning

“Is,” “Ought,” and “Will be”… in search of meaning

As our culture continues to fracture, we find fewer and fewer significant answers to the questions that matter most. One of the formative thinkers in my life is Ravi Zacharias who says there are four main questions of life.

Origin—Where did I come from?

Meaning—Why am I here?

Morality—How should I live?

Destiny—Where am I headed?

Beyond these questions, I have often wondered, how do they connect? In my conversations with people over the decades, I have come to believe that you cannot answer one of these without trying to answer all of them. In my study of epistemology, my colleague Ward Crocker (founder of Family Apologia), has inspired me to think more deeply about this topic. In our numerous discussions, he brought to my attention some writings by my former colleague, Christopher Cone who has written extensively on the topic of epistemology and metaphysics..The graphic below is Cone’s effort (as a presuppositionalist) to connect these basic questions. Cone writes:

© 2011-2017 Christopher Cone

There are four major areas of philosophical inquiry that make up the basic components of worldview: epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, and socio-political philosophy. Epistemology (the study of knowledge) addresses the question of how can know what is true and what is not. Metaphysics (the study of reality) addresses the question of what exists. Ethics (the study of what should be done) addresses the question of what we should do in light of what reality is. Socio-political philosophy (the study of ethics on a societal scale) addresses the question of how communities and society should behave.

The Components of Worldview Chart illustrates a logical ordering of these topics of inquiry. The arrow on the far right indicates that we begin at the bottom and move toward the top. We can’t address socio-political issues until we deal with ethics, we can’t handle ethics until we answer questions of metaphysics, and we can’t answer the metaphysics questions until we address the epistemological ones.

I appreciate Cone’s approach, but am unconvinced that we must begin with epistemology. I think there is another approach to Hume’s IS/OUGHT problem (a.k.a., the naturalistic falacy). I think most people begin with Ravi Zacharias’ basic questions of Origin, Meaning, Morality and Destiny which don’t always begin with epistemology. Science itself begins this search with sense-experience. In teaching my graduate students, I developed the following graphic that integrates all of the concepts above with some of my own ideas.

This is a work in progress, and I am sharing it today looking for your insights and ideas. The key aspects to my illustration are that we approach the “Is“, “Ought“, and “Will be” in four main categories:

  1. Origin
  2. Meaning
  3. Morality
  4. Destiny

These categories bridge the gap between Metaphysics, Epistemology and Ethics and treat them more as a web of integrated thought rather than a liner progression. Within these four categories I see six basic questions of life which help us connect our thoughts with this broader philosophical concepts:

  1. How did I come into being?
  2. What is purpose in life?
  3. What is the right thing to do?
  4. How can I fulfill my purpose?
  5. How ill my legacy be judged?
  6. What happens when I die?

In teaching my graduate course in Ethics, I refocus the above illustration as follows:

Here the emphasis is on Metaethics, Normative and Applied ethics. With this shift in focus, the six basic questions get a bit of a rewrite as well.

 

  1. How do we/I come into being?
  2. How can we/I know what is right?
  3. What is the right thing for me/us to do?
  4. What must we/I do now?
  5. How will our/my legacy be judged?
  6. What happens when we/I die?

Notice here that the questions bring into the discussion answers that are targeted at both the individual and the larger society. How many of these questions can be answered purely on the individual level and how many can be answered universally?

So again, this post is just a rough sketch of the ideas I unpack over many hours of lecture, but enough content, I hope, to give an idea of where I am taking these concepts so that you can give some feedback.

  • What are the strengths of this illustration?
  • What are some weaknesses?
  • What ideas have I missed?

All ideas are welcome as I refine my thinking.

Max Planck on Ethics & the Need for Scientific Realism

Max Planck on Ethics & the Need for Scientific Realism

My introduction to the legendary physicist Max Planck was decades ago during my undergraduate studies in thermodynamics. Through his work across the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Planck deduced a universal constant ‘h’ for the distribution of  energy emitted from a blackbody. What came to be known as Planck’s constant forever changed scientific perceptions of the natural world. His work was a foundational precursor to modern quantum theory and marked the “end of the mechanical age in science, and the opening of a new era.”[1]

Today, in my study of science and religion, I am discovering that what made Planck such a great physicist was also his understanding of philosophy. In his 1932 book, Where is Science Going?, Planck laments the crisis of history that he observed overwhelming every branch of “spiritual and material civilization” and corrupting“the general attitude towards fundamental values in personal and social life.”[2] Some people saw this change as positive progress while others believed it marked the end of civilization. This skepticism, Planck notes, first took root in religious fields—eroding the moral systems of society—and evenly burrowed its way into the sciences such that, “There is scarcely a scientific axiom that is not nowadays denied by somebody. And at the same time almost any nonsensical theory that may be put forward in the name of science would be almost sure to find believers and disciples somewhere or other.”[3]

More than 70 years later, Planck’s lament rings familiar as many wonder, as he did then, if “there is any rock of truth left on which we can take our stand and feel sure that it is unassailable and that it will hold firm against the storm of skepticism raging around it”[4] Every generation has its share dystopian acolytes, yet Planck’s concern seems keenly prophetic in depicting the state of the modern mind.

Planck’s chief concern in science was the trend among respectable institutions to reject the principle of causality which was, prior to his time, universally accepted and a foundational assumption for research. Specifically, Planck opposed scientific positivism which denied the reality of the outside world. Planck shared common ground with positivists in seeing the individual’s sense-perception of the outside world as the starting point for all scientific knowledge .[5] Einstien in his intoruction to the book summarizes this idea well:

Thus the supreme task of the physicist is the discovery of the most general elementary laws from which the world-picture can be deduced logically. But there is no logical way to the discovery of these elemental laws. There is only the way of intuition, which is helped by a feeling for the order lying behind the appearance and this Einfuehlung is developed by experience.[6]

Recognizing this shared epistemolgical starting point, but the positivist was not willing to go any further. Planck rightly saw the danger in the positivist’s rejection of a reality outside one’s own personal experience. The following is the example he used to illustrate the dilemma:

Our daily habits of speech make it rather difficult for us to observe the strict positivist rule. In ordinary life when we speak of an outer object—a table, for instance—we mean something that is different from the table as actually observed by physical science. We can see the table and we can touch it and we can try its firmness by leaning on it and its hardness and if we give it a thump with our knuckles we shall feel a hurt. In the light of positivist science the table is nothing more than a complex of these sensory perceptions and we have merely got into the habit of associating them with the word table. Remove these sensory perceptions and absolutely nothing remains. In the positivist theory we must entirely ignore everything beyond what is registered by the senses and therefore we are impregnable in this clearly defined realm. For the positivist, to ask what a table in reality is has no meaning whatsoever; and this is so with our other physical concepts.[7]

The ultimate danger of positivism was its denial of scientific realism and of any objective reality outside experience. If this is true, Planck argues, then the entire scientific revolution is rendered meaningless because both Ptolemy’s earth-centered universe and Copernicus’ heliocentrism are equally valid. “They are merely two different ways of making a mental construction out of sensory reactions to some outer phenomena; but they have no more right to be looked upon as scientifically significant than the mental construction which the mystic or poet may make out of his sensory impressions when face to face with nature.”[8] Thus, the positivist is left with no way to meaningfully observe nature and must consequently reject any esthetic or ethical standard.[9]

The positivist philosophy is impotent to make sense of everyday experiences. For example, when a stick is placed into a glass half filled with water, what do we observe? The length submerged appears bent. But is any trained observer tricked by their eyes into thinking the stick is truly bent? No. They recognize the law of refraction is at work and the appearance of a bent stick is a deception of the eye. Experience then is falsifiable. Reality exists outside experience if we only have a way to determine that reality. However, the positivist is not so lucky. “The positivist will not allow us to conclude anything. We have a sensory impression of the part of the stick that is in water and a contiguous sensory impression of the part that is in air; but we have no right to say anything about the stick itself.”[10]

Planck’s illustration reminds me of the old scientific riddle, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” As a trained acoustician, my first response is to answer “the tree does make a noise, but does not make a sound.” But this is a purely materialistic interpretation of this question. A noise is the production of energy waves when the tree strikes the ground, but only becomes sound if there is someone to hear it. But there is a deeper metaphysical truth exposed by this question I had not considered prior to reading Planck. The question really asks, “does anything exist outside of observational experience?” “Can the sound exist for me, but not for you?” How a person answers this question exposes them as either a scientific positivist or scientific realist. In denying any external reality, the positivist has no way to discern any truth outside of personal sense experience. Even more destructive, the positivist is left in isolation with no way to share in the experience of others.

When we come from the animal world to the world of human beings we find the positivist scientists making a clear distinction between one’s own impressions and the impressions of others. One’s own impressions are the sole reality and they are realities only for oneself… But, in the strict positivist view, we have no reliable knowledge whatsoever of other people’s impressions. Because they are not a direct sensory perception, they do not furnish a basis for the certainty of our knowledge.[11]

Positivist logic has continued to creep its way into the foundation of Western culture and today we can observe the deleterious consequence in our isolationist—even narcissistic—ethics as predicted by Planck. The everyday positivist of our time concludes:

  • If I can feel only my pain, then only my pain exists.
  • If I self-identify as female, then no one can deny my feeling because there is no biological reality to constrain me.
  • If I feel like aborting my baby, then the feelings of others do not exist in my reality and any choice I make is justified.
  • If I am offended by your actions, your feelings or intentions do not matter because only my feelings can determine my truth.
  • If my heart tells me something is good, then there is no external reality to contradict my feelings or tell me my actions are bad.
  • If a man is not a woman, then he cannot speak to a “woman’s issue” because he cannot “know” her experience.

Positivism leaves us stranded on our own island of reality; impotent to exchange ideas or speak to the experience of others because there is no common reality outside of us to govern that exchange. Given this challenge, how then must we respond? Planck makes the choice for scientists clear:

So we are faced with the alternative of either renouncing the idea of a comprehensive science, which will hardly be agreed to even by the most extreme positivist, or to admit a compromise and allow the experiences of others to enter into the groundwork of scientific knowledge. But we should thereby, strictly speaking, give up our original standpoint, namely, that only primary data constituted a reliable basis of scientific truth.[12]

So then, if we accept all sense perception as absolute we cannot deny the validity of any scientific experiment. To every researcher, their own experience is truth and theoretical physics is excluded from knowledge. If science rests solely on the foundation of isolated experience, then the dependability of science is lost. But, if we choose to accept the reports of others as knowledge (scientific data) we break the chain of logic in scientific positivism.

Now, having poisoned the roots of scientific positivism, Planck moves into the realm of the metaphysical. If sense-perception is a starting point, but not the end of science, we must have a way to determine the validity of experience outside our own. That is, we must accept a scientific realism that exists outside of individual perceptions, feelings, and emotions. The two pillars of realism he outlines are: “(1) There is a real outer world which exists independently of our act of knowing) and, (2) The real outer world is not directly knowable.”

On the surface, these two statements appear in contradiction. But together they make the case that scientific knowledge is only partial and corrigible and it must interact with other disciplines, such as philosophy and theology, to make any sense of the real world. Every new scientific discovery only unveils a new realm to be discovered. The goal of science is unobtainable as it can never reach the metaphysical.

How will you determine the truth that exists outside you own experience?

That is the question Planck evokes in the mind of the reader. For me, the answer lies in the warranted true belief in the external reality of God who speaks to us through his word: the Christian Bible, the Holy Spirit, the living Christ and the manifest church. In humility, I accept scientific realism and through my faith seek to find a way to engage with others and learn from their experiences. To that end, I leave you with this poem by Planck.

“Was Du gefflueckt, was ich gefflueckt

Das wollen wir verbinden

Und weil sich eins zum andern schickt

Den schoensten Kranz draus winden.”[13]


FOOTNOTES

[1] Max Planck, Where is science going?, trans. James Vincent Murphy, First ed. (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1932), 17.

[2] Ibid., 64.

[3] Ibid., 65.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., 66.

[6] Ibid., 10.

[7] Ibid., 69.

[8] Ibid., 71.

[9] Ibid., 73.

[10] Ibid., 74.

[11] Ibid., 76.

[12] Ibid., 77.

[13] Ibid., 36.

 

 

Is it About Race & White Privilege or Marriage?

Is it About Race & White Privilege or Marriage?

A Visually Powerful but Deceptive Video

Take a minute and watch the video above. It seems like a powerful demonstrate of white privilege, doesn’t it? It has been seen by almost 5 million people. It appears to validate deeply held beliefs that some people have it easier in life because of their race… but does it? In fact, this is a particularly misleading and manipulative video and it’s sad that so many have fallen prey to the lie it generates about blacks. The video’s director wants you to believe that the reason whites have an advantage is simply because they are white. Evidently, he believes that if you’re black, your life has been extremely difficult just because you’re black and that you want, no… you need, to have someone or something to blame for your circumstances.

In the video, the author gives a visual representation of what he believes is a problem (white privilege) and asks leading questions designed to satisfy the viewer’s preconceptions about black people. His premise is that whites have an advantage over blacks and therefore white privilege is a real thing. Now, maybe someone out there can make that case, but that is not what this video demonstrate.

In fact, upon closer inspection this video accidentally, not intentionally, demonstrates the real problem… broken families. Let me explain to you how this video proves a different truth than it’s director intends. The very first question the speaker asks is, “how many of you grew up with two parents in the home?” Go back and check the tape. Every question the speaker asks afterward builds on the answer to that first question. He goes on to ask:

  • “Who has worried about their next meal?”
  • “Who had to help pay bills?”
  • “Who had a tutor?”
  • “Who went to a private college not based on their athletic ability?”

Etc, etc, etc… All of these questions were based on the very first question about which of the teens grew up in a two parent home. But that’s not a racial issue, its a marriage issue.

Getting Married and Staying Married Gives Kids an Advantage

As I understand it, both blacks and whites have the ability to get married and stay married. And if we follow carefully the line of questions in the video, it really proves that getting married before you have children and staying married after you have children is an advantage for your children in nearly every way.

This echoes what the Scriptures say in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Two are better than one. Two incomes are better than one income. A husband and wife that stay together through life’s difficulty are far better than the single parent families in which black children are being raised today. The author of the video inadvertently demonstrates that it is better to raise a child in a two parent home rather than a single parent home. He demonstrates that having a mom and a dad is better for the child’s emotional stability, it gives them a head start in life, they are able to achieve more, and it gives them an advantage over their peers.That is not “white” privilege, that is “married parents” privilege.

Black People Aren’t The Only People Who Grow Up in Single Parent Families

Do you know what else this video demonstrates? If you look closely, there are white and non-whites in back line with all those black teens. This video proves that it is not just black people whose future opportunities are negatively affected by being raised in a single parent home. The fact that the narrator doesn’t mention the white people in the back is largely because that fact ruins the narrative he hopes to advance. He proves that the whites who grow up in single family homes suffer the same fate as the blacks who grow up in single family homes. If anything, this video demonstrates that race is not the controlling factor for being disadvantaged, belonging to a single parent family is. That is a hard fact for some to hear, but I don’t think you can sugar-coat it.

The video proves “white privilege” only if you believe that staying faithfully married and ensuring that both parents work hard to give their kids the best opportunity for success in life is only for white people. It is true that black children are disproportionately affected by not having a mom and dad in the home, but the power to create a better life is largely within the hands of black people. Don’t take my word alone for it, read what Larry Elder has to say about the problem of kids without dads:

When I was in college in 1970, Daniel Patrick Moynihan had just written a book called “The Negro Family: A Case for National Action.”  At the time, 25% of black kids were born outside of wedlock, a number that Moynihan thought was alarming, and as you know, Moynihan later on became a senator to New York, a Democratic senator.  Fast forward, the number now is 75%.  It is 35% in the white community; it is 50% in the Hispanic community.  Now, if in 1965, 25% out-of-wedlock birth for blacks was a national scandal, what do you call 75% and 50% in the Hispanic community and between 30% and 35% in the white community?  Would do you call that?  How can we ignore that?

To my friends and family members who have liked and loved this video… you have to rethink what you are agreeing to. You have to listen carefully to what is really being said. This video exposes some deep personal biases which may not be based in fact. This video takes advantage of you by appealing to your sensitivities and prejudices. This video doesn’t prove whites have more advantages than blacks because of skin color. It proves that the best thing you can do for your kids is stay married, keep your kids in school, make sure they don’t get pregnant before they are married with a good job. Parents, white and black, you have the power to give your kids a good start in life.

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