Christianity is Un intellectual And other Myths about the Christian Faith. Dr. Luke Conway October 2011. Christianity is Un intellectual And other Myths about the Christian Faith. Dr. Luke Conway October 2011. Three Myths about the Christian Faith. - PowerPoint PPT Presentation
When Social Psychological Axioms Fail:
Dr. Luke ConwayOctober 2011
Christianity is Unintellectual And other Myths about the Christian Faith
Dr. Luke ConwayOctober 2011
Christianity is Unintellectual And other Myths about the Christian Faith
Christianity is Unintellectual (or: Im going to have to check my brain at the door to be a Christian)Christianity is Unquestioned Assent to Authority (or: Im going to have to believe God is a giant frog if they tell me to)Christianity is for the Simple-Minded (or: People will confuse me with George W. Bush if I become a Christian)
Three Myths about the Christian FaithIntellectualism = Development and exercise of the intellect.Christianity does oppose two things related to intellectualism:It opposes intellectual elitism: The belief that being smart makes you better than those less smart.It opposes intellectual singularity: The belief that intellectual development is more important than relationships, love, and mercy.But: All decent people oppose THAT sort of intellectual snobbery. (Only evil people and lunatics believe those two things.)Here we are just talking about the pursuit of truth through intellectual means does Christianity oppose that? Are you going to have to check your brain at the door?Myth #1 Christianity is UnintellectualThe idea that Christianity is unintellectual is simply a stereotype that is mostly opposed to history.Exhibit ALook around you: This university system that we use was created almost entirely by Christians.From Wikipedia:The earliest universities were developed under the aegis of the western church, usually from cathedral schools or by papal bull as studia generalia.Myth #1 Christianity is UnintellectualExhibit BChristianity has produced some of the smartest intellectuals that have ever lived across a shockingly large percentage of intellectual disciplines.Im going to show you some lists of people in the Christian philosophy club.Criteria for inclusion on the list.Sources:Will Durants book The Greatest Minds and Ideas of All TimeMichael H. Hart's book The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History. http://4mind4life.com/blog/2008/03/30/list-of-geniuses-top-50-influential-minds/
Myth #1 Christianity is UnintellectualScientists/Mathematicians who were Christians: Gregor Mendel: Founder of modern genetics; top 100 most influential; on a postage stampMichael Faraday: Electromagnetic theory; Faraday effect; on a UK postage stamp; top 100 most influential; top 50 thinkers William Thomas Kelvin: Invented the Kelvin system of temperature measurementGeorge Stokes: Stokes LawMax Planck: Founder of quantum theory; Nobel prize 1918; top 100 most influential; on a postage stampJames Clerk Maxwell: Poll showed him to be 3rd most influential physicist of all time, behind Einstein and Newton; Top 100 most influential; on a postage stamp; Einstein said of his work that it was the most profound and the most fruitful that physics has experienced since the time of Newton. He had pictures of Maxwell and Faraday on his desk, along with Newton.Robert Boyle: Founder of modern Chemistry; Boyles law; on a UK postage stamp; top 50 thinkersBlaise Pascal: Contributor to much modern mathematics; on a postage stamp; top 50 thinkers
Myth #1 Christianity is UnintellectualScientists/Mathematicians who were Christians: Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz: Guy who invented calculus; on a postage stamp; top 50 thinkersFrancis Bacon: Founder of scientific method; on a postage stamp; top 100 most influentialJohn Polkinghorne: Cambridge professor of mathematical physicsFrancis Collins: Head of Genome Project; won Presidential Medal of Freedom for his scientific work highest civilian honor; current NIH director for Obama administration; Obama says one of the top scientists in the world; named one of GQ magazines Rock Stars of ScienceDaniel Tammett: Holds world record for memorizing Pi digits; top 50 thinkersWerner Heisenberg: 1932 Nobel Prize for physics; founder of quantum mechanics; Heisenberg uncertainty principle; top 100 most influential; on a postage stamp; said, the first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you."James Prescott Joule: Joules Law of energy, thermodynamics
Myth #1 Christianity is UnintellectualScientists/Mathematicians who were Christians: Louis Pasteur: One of the founders of Microbiology; top 100 most influential people; on a postage stamp; guy had a ship named after him in Star Trek, for crying out loud!Johannes Kepler: One of the most famous astronomers ever; Keplers laws of planetary motion; on a postage stampThe Wright Brothers: Inventor of airplane; on a postage stamp; top 100 most influential.Antoine Laurent Lavoisier: Father of modern chemistry; on a French postage stamp; top 100 most influential.John Dalton: Contributed to atomic theory and colorblindness research; has a unit of atomic measurement named after him AND the French word for color-blindness; top 100 most influentialAntony van Leeuwenhoek: On a Dutch postage stamp; top 100 most influentialGuglielmo Marconi: Inventor of radio; on a UK postage stamp; top 100 most influentialAlexander Fleming: Discovered penicillin; on a postage stamp; top 100 most influential
Myth #1 Christianity is UnintellectualScientists/Mathematicians who were Christians: Joseph Lister: Founder of antiseptic surgery; on a postage stamp in UK; top 100 most influentialEdward Jenner: Discovered smallpox vaccine; on a postage stamp in UK; top 100 most influentialLeonhard Euler: Mathematics; introduced a lot of mathematical terminology; Eulers number; on a Swiss postage stampThomas Malthus: Sociologist and economist who influenced Darwin; founder of demography; top 100 most influentialGeorge Washington Carver: On a U.S. stamp; promoter of alternative crop practices and inventor of peanut butterDavid Livingstone: Geographer of Africa; fellow of prestigious Royal Geographical Society of London; on a UK postage stampSamuel Morse: Inventor of telegraph; on a U.S. stampAutumn Conway: Future famous astronomer
Myth #1 Christianity is UnintellectualLiterary/Artistic figures who were Christians:J.R.R. Tolkien: Won two best British books ever polls in heathen Great Britain!Jane Austen: On a postage stamp; was second (to Tolkien) for best British book ever in BBC pollC. S. Lewis: Several best-selling novels, including #8 on best British books ever BBC pollThomas More: Wrote UtopiaDante: One of top 10 poets of all time (from Will Durants The Greatest Minds and Ideas of All time); on a postage stampG. K. Chesterton: George Benard Shaw: The world is not thankful enough for Chesterton; T.S. Eliot: Chesterton deserves a permanent place in our loyalty.Beethoven: On a postage stamp; top 100 most influential; top 50 geniusesBach: On a postage stamp; top 100 most influential; top 50 geniusesMozart: On a postage stampMyth #1 Christianity is UnintellectualLiterary/Artistic figures who were Christians:John Donne: For whom the bell tolls no man is an islandAnne Bradstreet: First woman poet published in England or U.S.George Herbert: Famous English poetJohn Milton: On a Russian postage stampElizabeth Barrett Browning: English poet; Sonnets of the PortugueseSamuel Johnson: Dictionary influenced English language; arguably the most distinguished man of letters in English history Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; on a UK postage stamp; top 50 most influentialMyth #1 Christianity is UnintellectualPhilosophers who were Christians:William of Ockham: Ockhams razor, separation of Church and StateSoren Kierkegaard: On a postage stamp; founded existential philosophyGeorge Berkeley: On a postage stamp; top 50 thinkersSt. Thomas Aquinas: On a postage stamp; top 10 thinkers of all timeRene Descartes: Founded Analytic Geometry; On a postage stamp; top 100 most influential; top 50 thinkersAlvin Plantinga: Emeritus Notre Dame ProfessorMartin Luther: On a postage stamp; top 50 thinkers
Myth #1 Christianity is UnintellectualA vote-counting summary:Christian intellectuals on a Top thinkers/most influential list: 22Christian intellectuals with Laws, Measurements, or Principles named after them: 11Christian intellectuals who founded a field of science or philosophy: 12Christian intellectuals who invented something that directly impacts your life: 8Christian intellectuals who are on a postage stamp: 30Christian intellectuals who are in the top 2 of best British books ever: 2Christian intellectuals Einstein had pictures of on his desk: 2Christian intellectuals who hold the world record for memorizing Pi: 1Christian intellectuals who Berkeley, California was named after: 1Christian intellectuals with Star Trek ships named after them: 1
Myth #1 Christianity is UnintellectualOf course, lots of atheists win Nobel prizes too, and the majority of scientists today are not religious.My larger point: History teaches Christianity is compatible with intellectualism. If you are a thinking person who thinks Christianity is unintellectual, then you should ponder these honest questions: Why have Christians founded so many intellectual disciplines? Why have Christians produced so much intellectual work that is recognized by almost everybody to be of incredibly high quality?Why did intellectual enterprises such as modern science largely grow in societies dominated by Christians?Myth #1 Christianity is UnintellectualThings are not always what they seem. Myth #2: Christianity Means Unquestioned Assent to AuthorityIt may seem like Christianity is unintellectual to you, but actually Christianity has produced the university system and a HUGE number of intellectuals that virtually everyone would say are rockin geniuses. Why, then, does this myth persist?Partially because of modern American Christians (I can see you from here, Pat Robertson!).But partially because people have a stereotype about faith that isnt very well thought-out. Enter: Myth #2.Consider two quotes:Richard Dawkins: People like to say that faith and science can live together side by side, but I dont think they can. Theyre deeply opposed. Science is a discipline of investigation and constructive doubt, questioning with logic, evidence and reason to draw conclusions. Faith, by stark contrast, demands a positive suspension of critical faculties.Bill Maher: "Faith means making a virtue out of not thinking. It's nothing to brag about."
Myth #2: Christianity Means Unquestioned Assent to AuthorityFill in the blank on the Bibles definition of faith:Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things ________. (Hebrews 11:1)Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)Faith is blindbut it is not unthinking.
Myth #2: Christianity Means Unquestioned Assent to AuthorityFaith is blindbut it is not unthinking.In fact, common sense reasoning dictates that we should think harder and more in depth about things we cannot see directly.If you see a girl/guy you think is physically attractive, do you need to hold an internal debate about it? Do you call a philosopher and ask is that girl truly good-looking to me? What would Socrates say about that?No need to think hard you can see and feel it directly.Similarly, you dont need to think hard about whether the ant bite stings, whether the dog crap in my shoe really stinks, whether Michael Bolton is truly ugly, and so on. We can SEE those things directly.
Myth #2: Christianity Means Unquestioned Assent to Authority
Faith is blindbut it is not unthinking.Now consider: Is that girl/guy going to make a good companion for the next 60 years?Think hard! Why? You cant see the future directly. Believing he or she is Mr. or Mrs. Right for LIFE will require some faith. But you should THINK HARD about it, if you really want the answer, precisely BECAUSE you cannot see it.Of course, we collect evidences from the things we DO see to make such judgments but we are ultimately having to use our brain to put those evidences together into a larger picture to judge something that we cannot see.Thinking means using what you can see to make inferences about what you cant see.So it is with most of the things we care about: You cant directly see things like equality, liberty, love, the right to pursue happiness, justice, honor, goodness, Billy Ray Cyrus career.
Myth #2: Christianity Means Unquestioned Assent to AuthorityIn summary: Faith means using both your eyes and your brain to come to a conviction about something you cant see directly, and believing in that because of your thinking.Jesus doesnt say: Believe, you idiot! What He says is:Seek, and you shall find. (Matthew 7:7) Believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. (John 14:11)So, back to Dawkins and Maher: There is no necessary reason why faith is unthinking (and in fact there is good reason to think harder about things requiring faith).Faith = Unthinking is just a stereotype; and the stereotype turns out to be wrong. So why not have faith in NOTHING?Because its not an option.
Myth #2: Christianity Means Unquestioned Assent to AuthorityWhat do you believe in?Lets start at the most basic seeing is believing level: I believe I am giving a talk, you are listening, I have an arm, the ceiling is real.OK, but those things require belief in a background assumption that I cannot see or prove directly: Namely that my senses provide an accurate picture of reality.Actually, that belief has been challenged for centuries by philosophers and psychologists alike. Maybe you believe that debate is mostly silly; so do I. Stated succinctly: I believe in my arm and Im personally ok with that, thank you very much.Myth #2: Christianity Means Unquestioned Assent to AuthorityMy point: The assumption may be correct, but it is still an assumption that is not itself directly seen or provable.Its also not what I mean by the question, exactly:What do you believe in?What motivates you? What do you base your life on? What would you put on a T-Shirt?You may say you believe in only what you see, but when you try to explain what REALLY matters to you, youll find it is not as simple as that.Ive never seen I have an arm on a t-shirt.Myth #2: Christianity Means Unquestioned Assent to Authority
That Ceiling Sure is Real!Real men believe in ceilingsFor example, I live by one principle and one principle only:DO NOT PUT THE PREPARATION H IN THE TOOTHPASTE DRAWER.Maybe you believe in personal pleasure.So I ask why? And you say because thats the best way to live.Why? Do you really believe personal pleasure is better than un-pleasurable sacrifice for others?At some point, you are going to have to stop the why chain and acknowledge and then defend your unseen assumption something you cant see directly and cant prove directly, but which underlies your belief system.
Myth #2: Christianity Means Unquestioned Assent to AuthorityLets take a less controversial example: Murdering people for fun is wrong.Everyone, except for the odd mass murderer (and maybe a few CEOs and politicians) would agree with that.Atheist Richard Dawkins: Trust the masses. Over the centuries, we've moved on from Scripture to accumulate precepts of ethical, legal and moral philosophy. We've evolved a liberal consensus of what we regard as underpinnings of decent society, such as the idea that we don't approve of slavery or discrimination on the grounds of race or sex, that we respect free speech and the rights of the individual.
Myth #2: Christianity Means Unquestioned Assent to AuthorityThe point: All systems require belief in what is unseen and cannot be directly provedthat is, faith. Everyone has faith in something.Richard Dawkins has faith in the liberal consensusthat is, in the masses.Bill Maher has faith in his own ability to reason:When we talk about values, I think of rationality in solving problems. Thats something I value.Actually, I have faith in both of those things, toowith some qualifications.
Myth #2: Christianity Means Unquestioned Assent to AuthorityAtheist/Agnostic Harold Urey (1934 Nobel Prize winner, in the Christian Science Monitor, 1962, p. 4, italics are mine):"All of us who study the origin of life find that the more we look into it, the more we feel that it is too complex to have evolved anywhere. We believe as an article of faith that life evolved from dead matter on this planet. It is just that its complexity is so great, it is hard for us to imagine that it did." (Urey, Harold C., quoted in Christian Science Monitor, January 4, 1962, p. 4)
Myth #2: Christianity Means Unquestioned Assent to AuthoritySo what is the real difference between a thinking and an unthinking person Wrong: Unthinking = faithThinking = no faith Right: Unthinking = unexamined faith Thinking = examined faith
Myth #2: Christianity Means Unquestioned Assent to AuthorityMyth #3: Christianity is for the Simple-MindedThings are not always what they seemFor example, it may seem like this guy is Billy Ray Cyrus
Find the Christian: Which quote is from Christian teachings?If anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know.These are truths about events that really happened. Their denials are falsehoods. No sane [person] has ever thought otherwise
Thought Experiment1 Corinthians 8:2
Atheist Philosopher Daniel DennettWill Christianity make you more narrow-minded?The pinnacle of American society: A parable.About some things, yesin the same way believing ANYTHING makes you more narrow-minded.It will attempt to make you more narrow-minded about opposing prejudice.It will attempt to make you more narrow-minded about Jesus literal death and resurrection.But: Thats just the definition of believing something.By definition, believing something means narrowing the range of possibilities.And thats true of ALL belief systems.
Myth #3: Christianity is for the Simple-MindedBut the question were interested in here is different: Are Christians simple-minded bumpkins at some kind of general level?Answer: No.My lab studies the complexity of thinking (our work on U.S. presidents and terrorists has been featured in USA Today, Washington Post, among others)Orthodox/Fundamentalist Christians simpler on some topics but not so on others (Liht, Conway, et al., in press; Pancer et al., 2001).
Myth #3: Christianity is for the Simple-MindedAre Christians simple-minded bumpkins?For ease of comparison, for this talk I compared the complexity of three famous Christians with the complexity of three famous Atheists. I used an automated complexity measurement our lab recently generated. Early 1900s generation: Atheist: Robert Blatchford (famous book God and my Neighbor)Christian: G. K. Chesterton (famous book Orthodoxy)Mid-1900s generation:Atheist: Bertrand Russell (famous book Why I am not a Christian)Christian: C. S. Lewis (famous chapter from book Miracles)2000s generation:Atheist: Richard Dawkins (2006 debate between Dawkins and Quinn)Christian: David Quinn (2006 debate between Dawkins and Quinn)For a comparison context, Im also going to show you the average scores for U.S. Presidents and the typical college undergraduate (as well as ants and mongeese).
Myth #3: Christianity is for the Simple-MindedThings are not always what they seem. Summary Thoughts
Sometimes, you have to WATCH THE MOVIE to see what a thing is really like. Are you sure youve really watched the Christian movie?Whats the point?People often have a funny view of the Christian God.Dawkins: You dont exist!God: I do, but I cant beat you in an argument!No! If Christianity is true, then what God wants from your intellect is the open-minded pursuit of truth in all avenues of your life.God cares about MORE than your intellect He cares about your heart, your soul, your history, your struggles.But just because God is MORE than intellectualism, dont pretend that he is LESS than intellectualism.What God wants from your intellect is the open, honest pursuit of truth.Things are not always what they seem to be.Are you sure youve really watched the Christian movie?
Whats the Point?Talk sponsors:MontanaCruLarge Group meeting time/place: Wednesday 7:00 PM in Ureywww.montanacru.comInterVarsity Christian FellowshipLarge Group meeting time/place: Thursday 6:30 PM in Old Journalism 304www.umtiv.orgChi Alpha Campus MinistriesLarge Group meeting time/place: Tuesday 7:30 PM in UM Skaggs 169www.umchialpha.comAdditional Resources:Apologeticprofessor.comE-mail Luke at email@example.com.For Faculty: Christian Faculty Group e-mail Kristen Juras @ Kristen.Juras@mso.umt.edu; or e-mail LukeTHANKS for coming!
Christian Resources for You on Campus