C.S. Lewis’ Critique of “Scientism”

C.S. Lewis held to many of the scientific conclusions of his day. Nonetheless, he was often critical of what others have sometimes called “scientism”—a worldview that treats science as a stand-alone teller of truth without a deeper epistemological basis and thus room for a metaphysics; a form of science that makes absolutist exclusive claims that lead it to assume more jurisdiction than its methodological parameters actually allow.

See the following quote from his lecture, “Is Theology Poetry?” or as we might rephrase it, Is Christianity nothing more than aesthetically pleasing mythology?


“The picture so often painted of Christians huddling together on an ever narrower strip of beach while the incoming tide of ‘Science’ mounts higher and higher corresponds to nothing in my own experience. That grand myth … is not for me a hostile novelty breaking in on my traditional beliefs. On the contrary, that cosmology is what I started from. Deepening distrust and final abandonment of it long preceded my conversion to Christianity. Long before I believed Theology to be true I had already decided that the popular scientific picture at any rate was false. One absolutely central inconsistency ruins it….

The whole picture professes to depend on inferences from observed facts. Unless inference is valid, the whole picture disappears. Unless we can be sure that reality in the remotest nebula or the remotest part obeys the thought laws of the human scientist here and now in his laboratory — in other words, unless Reason is an absolute — all is in ruins. Yet those who ask me to believe this world picture also ask me to believe that Reason is simply the unforeseen and unintended by-product of mindless matter at one stage of its endless and aimless becoming.

Here is flat contradiction. They ask me at the same moment to accept a conclusion and to discredit the only testimony on which that conclusion can be based. The difficulty is to me a fatal one; and the fact that when you put it to many scientists, far from having an answer, they seem not even to understand what the difficulty is, assures me that I have not found a mare’s nest but detected a radical disease in their whole mode of thought from the very beginning. The man who has once understood the situation is compelled henceforth to regard the scientific cosmology as being, in principle, a myth; though no doubt a great many true particulars have been worked into it.

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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.


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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