Science & Philosophy Cannot Obsoletize Religion (Herman Bavinck)

An excerpt from Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 1, chapter 8:

[T]hough religion and philosophy are related, there is also a world of difference between them. Although they frequently have the same content and object, these objects are viewed in each domain from a very different perspective. The aim of science is knowledge; in religion it is comfort, peace, salvation. … Even the most profound philosopher, therefore, for all his knowledge does not rise above religion; he can never meet his religious needs by science. Though science may tell him that God is and what God is, it is only by religion that he knows that that God is also his God and his Father. Science may teach him that sin and grace exist, but it is only by religion that he takes part in the blessedness of religion and the sonship of God. Even if science could know all things and solve all metaphysical problems, it would still only yield theoretical knowledge and not personal participation in the benefits of salvation. For salvation is bound up with believing, not with knowing. But it is far from true that science and philosophy can attain this benefit. There are still many people, to be sure, who continue to expect all salvation from science and to consider religion superfluous. … Nonetheless, a turnabout is in progress. Prominent men of science are beginning to see that science fails to answer the most important questions of life. … In the natural sciences the mysteries are not diminishing but increasing, and the philosophy of nature is again raising its voice. … And, further, the numerous manifestations of superstition evident today demonstrate that humankind cannot live by the bread of science alone but need every word that comes from the mouth of God. Indeed, science does not tell us what God is or what humanity is; it leaves us ignorant of the origin, essence, and goal of things. It can therefore never replace religion, nor ever compensate for its loss.

The Canonicity of Scripture (On Scripture with Mark Ward, Ep. 1)

Mard Ward joins Kirk to discuss the topic of canon, “the divinely authorized collection of books that God has given to govern his people” (John Frame). How do we know we have God’s Word? Why these books?

Access the episode here (available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and more).

See all other episodes in this series.


This episode is brought to you by Logos Bible Software, with special discounts available to listeners of this podcast.

The Opiate of Our Masses

Karl Marx said that religion is the opiate of the masses.

To the contrary, our opiate is ignoring questions of ultimate meaning. We pursue our careers, work our jobs, give ourselves to our relationships and families, dedicate ourselves to hobbies, pacify ourselves with substance and entertainment, while seemingly ever-avoiding the question, “What does it matter? What’s the point?” We are all going to die someday. So, what of all this will possibly escape death’s menacing judgment of “pointless!” “meaningless!” “trivial!”?

This is the elephant that looms large in the room. And we are content (dare I say, determined) to ignore and avoid it at all costs.

So great is our determination here that we have an unwritten (verbalized) rule for it. We want to privatize religion and its disruptive sort questions along these lines. They’re uncomfortable. “Don’t talk religion and politics,” we say, “(but especially religion)” we mean — that is, if you take religion as something more than sentimental tradition; that is, if you actually believe it to be making exclusive sort of truth-claims.

Some of us are dead set to avoid conflict. “Niceness” (at seemingly all costs) is our culture’s highest virtue. Others of us are far too uncontemplative, or maybe intoxicated with the triviality — “This stuff is all too serious. Take it easy, man.”

So, we keep ignoring that foreboding elephant. We’re like a child who has been given a certain chore to do. We fool ourselves into thinking that by postponing or neglecting it long enough it will just go away or be forgotten.

These questions may be controversial, taxing, and disruptive — they certainly are. And I’m very much aware that it’s quite easier and more soothing to just ignore them. But they are far too important for that.

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“‘Vanity of vanities!’ says the Preacher. ‘All is vanity!'” – Ecclesiastes

Lunatic, Lord, or Liar (C.S. Lewis)

The following two quotations, from Lewis’ Mere Christianity, constitute Lewis’ well known lunatic, lord, or liar argument, sometimes called Lewis’ “trilemma” or “mad, bad, or God.”

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic-on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg-or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

We are faced, then, with a frightening alternative. This man we are talking about either was (and is) just what He said or else a lunatic, or something worse.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, book 2, chapter 3, paragraph 13; chapter 4, paragraph 1.

In short, Lewis argues the only two alternatives besides accepting that Jesus is God is to view him as either an immoral liar or an insane person who did not realize he was lying. Most non-Christians don’t exactly like those two alternatives to this Jesus figure who often seems to them seems like a pretty solid dude–just not God. But Lewis will have none of this riding the fence garbage. A good moral teacher would not claim to be God without actually being so. To falsely claim such, he must needs be either a lunatic or a liar. Thus, as Lewis argues, this common tact of taking Jesus as non-God, non-lord, great-moral-teacher is off the table.