Should a Christian Ever Act as if God Does Not Exist? (With a View toward Faith-Learning Integration)

Should a Christian Ever Act as if God Does Not Exist? (With a View toward Faith-Learning Integration) October 17, 2015

“Should A Christian Ever Act As If God Does Not Exist? (With A View toward Faith-Learning Integration)”

Samford University Holley-Hull Lecture October 8, 2015

Roger E. Olson

About two years ago I became acquainted with sociologist of religion Peter Berger who is a distinguished visiting professor at Baylor University. Of course I have known of Berger for many years and was actually a bit surprised when he called me and invited me to lunch. He was on campus teaching a two week doctoral seminar in the Sociology Department and wanted to chat with me about Calvinism. Berger is, by his own confession, “incurably Lutheran.” He was born in Vienna, Austria and grew up and received his early education in Germany. He taught sociology of religion at Boston University for many years and now, in retirement, still leads a think tank there and teaches occasionally at Baylor.

Berger is best known for several concepts closely associated with modern sociology of religion including especially “plausibility structure,” “secularity thesis,” and “the sociology of knowledge” including the much debated concept of the “social construction of reality.” Among his best known books are The Sacred Canopy, Rumors of Angels, and The Heretical Imperative. He is an astute observer and interpreter of the American religious landscape and conducts research into religion all over the world. One of his current interests is Global South Pentecostalism which he interprets as a major factor in the rise of the middle classes in Latin American, African and Asian economies.

As I mentioned, Berger wanted to chat with me about the rise of Calvinism among Baptists in contemporary America. We talked about the so-called “Young, Restless, Reformed Movement” and our conversation resulted in his blog post entitled “Southern Baptist Swimming in Lake Geneva”—about the rise of Calvinism among Southern Baptists especially. I had assured him that Calvinism is not new to Southern Baptists, but the current wave of Calvinism, especially among millennials, is interesting if not particularly surprising—especially to a New England Lutheran.

In October of last year, almost exactly one year ago, I had the distinct privilege of responding to Berger’s latest book and to his own personal expression of its thesis. The event was held in the newly opened McLane Stadium on Baylor’s campus. Unfortunately Berger was unable to be there in person due to health reasons so he was “Skyped in.” The other respondent, besides myself, was James Davison Hunter, also a distinguished visiting professor at Baylor. The event was a celebration and discussion of Berger’s newest book entitled The Many Altars of Modernity: Toward a Paradigm for Religion in a Pluralist Age (DeGruyter, 2014). The book is like Augustine’s Retractions—Berger takes back one of the ideas for which he is most notable—namely the secularization thesis about modernity. According to the secularization thesis, which Berger championed in the 1960s and 1970s, modernity leads inevitably to secularization. This thesis, he now argues, has failed. It has been falsified by the unexpected and surprising upsurge of religious fervor throughout the world including America but especially in the Gobal South where modernity is just now really taking hold.

In place of the secularization thesis Berger posits in The Many Altars of Modernity a pluralism thesis: modernity does lead inevitably to secularity but to pluralism. Wherever modernity has gone and taken root, he argues, religious and cultural pluralism has followed. The problem this poses for culture, Berger argues, is the potential conflicts that arise from the uncomfortable co-existence of passionately held worldviews and religious belief systems within single societies. An example is Nigeria where religious conflict is flaring up as Muslims and Christians attempt to share a country. Berger’s proposed solution to this situation is that all religious people should act and talk in public spaces as if God does not exist. In fact, he argues, they should internalize pluralism including a privileged secular discourse for interactions with people of other worldviews and religious beliefs. He reaches back to the seventeenth century father of modern international law Hugo Grotius who then, on the cusp of the wars of religion that ravaged Europe, argued for the principle of etsi deus non daretur—“even if God did not exist.” In other words, Grotius argued then, international law should be developed and enforced as if God does not exist. It should transcend religious and worldview differences and be based solely on reason. Berger extends this principle to become the “grease,” so to speak, that alone will make a pluralistic culture function. That grease is secularity, not of belief but of interaction and discourse in public situations. Put most blatantly, Berger is suggesting that all religious people, including Christians, must become adept at switching back and forth between their own religious consciousness and secular consciousness in order to avoid conflict in pluralism.

Now, theologians and sociologists are like the proverbial ships passing in the night that hardly notice each other. One reason, perhaps the main reason, is that sociologists, even sociologists of religion, deal almost exclusively in the descriptive realm while theologians also engage in the prescriptive. Insofar as Berger’s book sticks to the descriptive, I find no fault in it. Where I may disagree with some minor points I have to bow to his much greater authority as a sociologist. My qualm arises only where I perceive Berger going beyond the descriptive into the prescriptive. If I’m not mistaken, he applauds the internalization of the co-existence of multiple relevance structures, the “pluralism in the mind,” and believes the “privileged position of secular discourse” in people’s minds is beneficial to a well-ordered and functioning consciousness and society. That is, believers in God ought to internalize the pluralism, including secularity, of modern society, making room within themselves for thought and decision-making “as if God does not exist.”

I am not convinced that a Christian should or must ever think, decide or act as if God does not exist. The attempt to do this leads inevitably to a dualism of life that conflicts with the Christian principles that “all truth is God’s truth” and that “all life lies under the lordship of Jesus Christ.” In order to explain my concerns, I have to back up and talk briefly about modern Christian theology.

Much modern Christian theology has aimed at discovering an “essence of Christianity” that cannot conflict with modern sciences, making room within Christians for multiple relevance structures. Nineteenth century liberal Protestant theology and twentieth century existentialist theologies both moved Christian doctrine, the Christian life and world view, into subjective spaces. But the result has been, at least according to theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg, with whom I studied, a dualism in which Christianity is privatized or relegated to a realm of values or existential meaning separated, even within the individual Christian, from the realm of universal truth. According to Pannenberg, Christianity makes public, universal truth claims. He decried the “ghettoization” of Christianity that resulted from the subjectivizing trends in much modern theology.

Over my years of teaching theology to students and editing a Christian scholarly journal, I’ve observed a popular kind of dualism at work among many Christian scholars and students; it’s one way, perhaps the most common way, of dealing with modern pluralism. It echoes Siger of Brabant’s thirteenth century “two truths theory” which was his way of coping with the Averroist philosophy of his day. He posited, or so it is said, that something can be true in philosophy and false in theology and vice versa. Over my years in Christian academia I have heard many expressions of this dualism. I taught theology at a Baptist liberal arts college in Minnesota where many of my undergraduates confessed that, as evangelical Christians, they believed that Christianity is true but other religions are not wrong. And they did not mean that Christianity is partly true and alternative religions (and worldviews) are also partly true. They meant that Christianity is “true for them” but not necessarily true for adherents of other religions and worldviews. And that other religions and worldviews are true for their adherents but not necessarily true for them. This could be viewed as the relativism that Berger deplores, but I came to the conclusion that these students were not relativists. They were dualists or multipleists. I have heard Christian colleagues confess that something that is true in the laboratory is not true in the sanctuary and vice versa. I think this is a very common contemporary Christian way of handling the tensions created by pluralism in society and within themselves.

Both of the approaches I’ve described embrace the idea that even a devout Christian can and perhaps ought to internalize secularity and pluralism—alongside his or her Christianity. That is, the individual Christian, and perhaps the Christian organization, can and ought to function as if God does not exist, and, possibly, as if other gods than God are real, while at the same time living and believing as a Christian. But it is, in my opinion, a very unreflective and ultimately unworkable approach—insofar as one cares about the truth question and thinks that Christianity, or any form of life, reaches for and partially grasps ultimate, universal truth. And it is unworkable for anyone who cares about a holistic, coherent approach to all truth and finds living comfortably with permanent cognitive dissonance impossible. At the very least, I would argue, a Christian who internalizes the co-existence of multiple relevance structures ought to feel that as a crisis and not embrace it except as a task for further thought—aimed toward integration and wholeness.

One can easily see the effects of these dualist approaches to pluralism and truth in the gradual transformations in both individual Christians, and Christian institutions and organizations. I don’t have sufficient time to describe these transformations, but they include all forms of functioning and operating “as if God does not exist.” In my own lifetime I have experienced churches and Christian organizations making major decisions based solely on advice from lawyers, marketers, and business consultants. I have seen a dramatic decline in evangelism.

It seems to me that Christians acting as if God does not exist creates serious problems for Christianity’s reputation and influence. I like to point out as evidence that no Christian theologian has graced the cover of Time since the 1966 “Is God Dead?” issue. Before that theologians often appeared on the magazine’s cover. Theology is by-and-large ignored even among Christians. Hardly any Christian bookstore has a “theology” section anymore; it has been replaced by “Christian living.”

In my opinion internalizing multiple relevance structures dualisticially, by which I mean thinking, deciding and acting, even some of the time, as if God does not exist, tends to reduce Christianity to a folk religion as opposed to a public life and world perspective, plausibility structure, with prophetic power. It tends toward the privatization of Christianity and leads away from the prophetic impulse that Christianity offers the world. And it is completely unnecessary so long as Christianity is held as what it truly is—not a totalizing metanarrative to be forced on people but as perhaps the only non-totalizing metanarrative that respects individuals’ freedom to embrace it or not. Christendom is not true Christianity; believing with Abraham Kuyper that there is no square inch of reality over which Jesus is not lord does not justify forcing people to bend the knee or bow the head.

I have to say, as someone inclined toward the Anabaptist view of Christ and culture, that it seems to me Berger’s Lutheranism is showing in his proposed paradigm of religion in pluralism. Luther’s “two kingdoms” theology tended toward a quietism of Christians toward the social order. The fruit of that dualism of Christ and culture was perhaps seen in the Protestant acquiescence to German National Socialism in the 1930s. As an Anabaptist, or at least one inclined toward that view of Christ and culture, I value Christianity’s public and prophetic voice without enforcement of its beliefs or practices on society as a whole. And I do not think a Christian ought to privatize his or her Christianity or internalize multiple relevance or plausibility structures. My one and only plausibility structure, I hope, is Christian theism, but because of it I am disinclined to come into conflict with people of contrary plausibility structures. Nothing is further from the spirit of Jesus Christ than triumphalist enforcement of his lordship on others.

So what are alternatives to dualism and multipleism among Christians? What other approaches might one consider to dealing with the pluralisms Berger describes in The Many Altars of Modernity? Let me say first that, with Berger, I reject both fundamentalism and relativism. As a Baptist I highly value separation of church and state and its underlying principle of soul liberty. My spiritual ancestors were in the forefront, with Unitarians, of fighting for pluralism and government neutrality toward religions. I wish to say second, however, that as a Christian theologian I do not find dualisms or multipleism attractive or ultimately workable. And I cannot function anywhere, at any time “as if God does not exist.” But that does not mean adopting pre-modern supernaturalism.

I recommend an alternative to internalizing multiple relevant plausibility structures—at least an alternative to dualistically or multiplistically treating them as equals in terms of determining a worldview or perspective on life and reality. I call this alternative “integrationism.” As theologian Hans Frei of Yale Divinity School argued, a Christian is a person for whom “the Bible absorbs the world.” And anyone who would accuse Frei of fundamentalism would know nothing about him. Everyone operates from some narrative-shaped life and world perspective; there is no “view from nowhere.” A Christian is a person whose life and world perspective is shaped by the biblical story. Frei urges us to take it seriously but not always literally. Wolfhart Pannenberg of the University of Munich, urges Christians to allow their life and world perspective to be affected by all truth. As the Alexandrian church father Clement said “All truth is God’s truth.”

The combination of Frei’s postliberal, narrative approach and Pannenberg’s Hegelian-influenced, rational approach yields a Christian critical realism, based on what Catholic theologian Hans Küng calls “critical rationality,” that results in critical orthodoxy. The result is a Christian search for truth that is not relativist, fundamentalist, or dualist. It is committed to and shaped by the revelation of God in Jesus Christ and Scripture, but also flexible enough to be affected by anything that is true—whatever its source may be.

Let me offer a case study in Christian integrationism. I hold an endowed professorship in Christian ethics. One might expect, wrongly, that I draw all my ethical principles directly from the Bible. I don’t. My most basic values such as human dignity and worth come from the Bible, or from Jesus Christ, who is the subject of the Bible from my Christian perspective. That humans are created in the image and likeness of God and therefore of infinite value, dignity and worth above all other creatures is a basic Christian ethical principle that is non-negotiable. I am also a Christian ethicist who acknowledges and embraces pluralism without believing or acting as if God does not exist—something I find impossible to do without seriously compromising my Christian faith. However, given society’s pluralism, something I enjoy as protection of my Christian and Baptist commitments, I cannot impose my principles on others. So, when recommending public policy I look around for secular ethical arguments that I can integrate with my Christian principles and put them on like gloves on my hands. When I integrate my Christian ethics with, say John Rawls’s “justice as fairness” approach to social ethics, I am not believing or acting “as if God does not exist” although it may look that way to a sociologist studying my behavior.  I am recognizing God’s truth in a non-Christian source and, as the old saying goes, “despoiling the Egyptians.” One does not have to believe or live “as if God does not exist” to make use of, even be enriched by, “pagan truth,” “pagan virtues.” There is a long Christian history of such integration.

Integrationism embraces pluralism without internalizing it dualistically or as multipleism. For a Christian, anyway, it means acknowledging all truth as God’s truth and seeking it, accepting it, and integrating it with one’s Christian life and world perspective whatever its source may be. It means that some truth claims simply cannot be accepted; they must be rejected as false. Neither can they be treated “as if” they are true. For example, as a Christian, I cannot internalize and treat “as if true” the claim that God is not real. However, as a Christian, were I a scientist, I could and would engage in laboratory research without praying over the experiments—except that they do no harm. That’s because God, in my life and world perspective, is the creator of natural laws and works through them in his general providence. And if such an experiment should demonstrably result in a truth that conflicts with a preconceived theological “truth” I would have to adjust my life and world perspective to include it. At the same time, because of my Christian life and world perspective, there are some experiments I could not engage in—such as cloning human beings. But I would and could find secular reasons for that.

In sum, then, while I find Peter’s analysis of pluralism insightful and challenging, I cannot accept the internal pluralism insofar as it implies that a Christian should ever think, decide or act as if God does not exist. Rather, a Christian should look for truth wherever it may be found and integrate it with his or her Christian life and world perspective, acknowledging God as its source.

Now follow me as I segue into reflections on Christian integration of faith and learning—a particular example of the “Christian integrationism” I’ve been describing as an alternative to Berger’s internalization of pluralism.

Almost anyone who has been involved in Christian, especially evangelical, higher education in the past fifty years cannot have avoided at least hearing about the project called “integration of faith and learning.” Many Christian liberal arts colleges and universities of arts and sciences have touted it as an ideal, some even going so far as to require an account of it from every tenure track faculty member. I first seriously encountered it at my first teaching position which was at Oral Roberts University during the years 1982-1984. There I served on a multidisciplinary faculty panel that discussed faith-learning integration at a faculty meeting. At the time I was barely aware of its meaning and immediately noticed resistance to the idea on the parts of some of my colleagues. The university’s founder and president, evangelist Oral Roberts, was, at the time, developing his own concept of uniting prayer and medicine at the university’s medical school and at the massive hospital called The City of Faith he was building. Rumor had it, among the faculty, that he was personally entering research laboratories and “laying hands on” the experiments and praying over them. Naturally, this made many faculty members nervous about even the concept of faith-learning integration. It was difficult to overcome that image and move forward with a more normal meaning of the concept. But it was clear to most of us that that was not what it meant.

During the years 1984 to 1999 I taught at an evangelical-Baptist liberal arts college in Minnesota where, at least during those years, the president was heavily promoting faith-learning integration. Faculty were required to attend workshops where it was explained and discussed. We were required to read books about it—most of them by Wheaton College philosophy professor Arthur Holmes or his acolytes. All faculty members were required to write out essays annually describing their own personal integration of faith and learning in relation to their own disciplines. There I felt heavy resistance to the concept and practice of faith-learning integration. I formed the opinion that some of that resistance arose from the fact that faith-learning integration was being poorly understood, but some of it came from a dualistic mindset that seemed to me close to Siger of Brabant’s two truths theory. Some of my colleagues felt that faith-learning integration was a drag on their practice of their disciplines, hindering academic freedom and the free pursuit of truth wherever it may be found. A few, at least, described it as an ideological imposition and limitation on research. Eventually, whenever the subject came up, a collective groan could be heard from the faculty—some groaning because they actively resisted the idea and practice and some because they were simply tired of the controversy it aroused.

During my time there I served on the editorial board of a journal dedicated to the practice of faith-learning integration: Christian Scholar’s Review. Eventually I became the journal’s chief editor and served in that capacity during my final five years at that college. In those capacities I learned a lot about faith-learning integration and developed the opinion that it is widely poorly understood.

In 1999 I moved to my current teaching position at Baylor University. During my orientation I was once again confronted both with the idea of faith-learning integration and controversy surrounding it. The then president and the provost of the university were devoted to the idea, but many faculty members strongly resisted it. Again, I felt that the idea, at least as I understood it and as I think it was meant to be understood, was being poorly explained and widely misunderstood.

At all three institutions, eventually, “faith-learning integration” became a cliché that, whenever mentioned, immediately caused a ripple of consternation and even resistance. In my opinion that has two causes. First, it is rarely explained correctly and is easily misunderstood. Second, some faculty members of Christian, even evangelical, institutions of higher learning are devoted to a dualistic approach to faith and learning. As one of my colleagues explained to me, his Christian faith has absolutely nothing to do with his discipline and vice versa. They are kept in water tight, separate compartments, he said.

I have already explained why that dualistic approach to Christianity and learning is problematic. A Christian ought never to compartmentalize his or her Christianity and does not need to. Christianity, rightly understood, which means not as a fundamentalist ideology or totalizing metanarrative, is no threat to inquiry and research. It is a threat to certain competing worldviews such as naturalism which are indeed inimical both to faith and to humanity. (For a fuller explanation of why that is the case see Alvin Plantinga’s Gifford Lectures published as Where the Conflict Really Lies [Oxford University Press].) That is not to say Christianity is a threat to methodological naturalism in laboratory research, indeed I would argue it supports it in the sense that Christianity, as Stanley Jaki and John Polkinghorne and others have demonstrated, demythologized nature thus allowing modern science to begin. Nature is ruled by natural laws that are mathematically describable which is not to say it is a closed causal network that excludes God. Nature is seen in Christianity as one mode of God’s general providence but not as an autonomous system existing and operating independently of God.

So now bear with me as I attempt to explain how I understand the real meaning of “faith-learning integration.”

The movers and shakers of the faith-learning integration project wanted to avoid two opposite dangers in evangelical Christian higher education: fundamentalist, anti-culture, anti-intellectual, head-in-the-sand “know nothing” indoctrination, and relativistic, secular, naturalistic openness to anything and everything that comes down the pike in state universities and secular professional societies.

They wanted (and still want) Christian higher education to be distinctively Christian in a sense more than simply having a relationship with churches and holding chapel and encouraging faculty to open classes occasionally with devotions or prayer. They wanted (and still want) Christian higher education to value the life of the mind, to recognize that “all truth is God’s truth whatever its source may be,” and to be culturally engaged and academically excellent.

The gurus of faith-learning integration chose “the Christian worldview” for faith-learning integration because it is not denominationally or confessionally specific (and therefore useable in any denominational, non-denominational or trans-denominational setting) and it is a very broad vision of the nature of reality that is, at least in theory, integratable with every discipline. To be very specific, it would be absurd for a college or university administrator to approach a faculty scholar-teacher and ask whether her teaching of her discipline is compatible with the Trinity. But it is not absurd to approach a faculty scholar-teacher and ask whether his teaching of his discipline is compatible with belief that God is the personal creator of the cosmos who is involved and cares in the affairs of the world. Now, the latter question, like the former, will inevitably rule out some approaches to research and teaching in some disciplines. But that’s the whole point. A teacher-scholar in an authentically Christian institution of higher learning should never be teaching as true a theory that absolutely, necessarily conflicts with the basic elements of the Christian world and life view and he or she should at least strive to teach as true only ideas compatible with them.

Now, some scholar-teachers at some Christian institutions have raised a very good question: How to integrate the Christian worldview with, say, mathematics or physics? First, as theologian Emil Brunner helpfully pointed out in Man in Revolt (a book on Christian anthropology) there are layers and levels of intellectual life, scholarship and research, in terms of their points of contact with revelation. The anthropological sciences, for example, are much closer to the heart of the Christian worldview, in terms of possibilities for conflict and integration, than, say, mathematics. The question for a mathematician in a Christian institution should not be “Are you teaching ‘Christian mathematics’?” (which is absurd), but “Are you teaching theories about mathematics that conflict with the Christian worldview?” The answer to the first question can only be “no.” The answer to the second question, upon careful examination, might be “yes.” For example, a mathematician might (I’m not saying any do!) extrapolate from mathematics to a pagan worldview such as that of the ancient school of esoteric philosophy associated with Pythagoras. And she might make statements (which I have heard made) such as “Mathematics rules everything!” Without qualification, that statement falls into conflict with Christian metaphysics. One of my former computer science colleagues told me that God is a cosmic computer; that would, I think, conflict with basic Christian theism.

So what is authentic Christian “faith-learning integration?” Two answers must be given. First, it is the avoidance of theories (considered and taught as true) that absolutely, fundamentally conflict with the Christian worldview. Second, it is the project of bringing together in mutual conversation and mutual integration the Christian worldview and the material facts of the disciplines. It is not, in other words, a one-way street with the Christian worldview dictating to the disciplines. The disciplines (arts and sciences) can and should also affect how the Christian worldview is interpreted and expounded. As theologian Bernard Ramm said, Christians must reinterpret Scripture in light of the material facts of the universe. But the “material facts” do not include every theory proposed by scientists or philosophers.

Finally, I’ll give a few examples. If a Christian professor in a Christian institution of higher learning declares to her students as truth that “human beings are nothing more or other than digestive systems that know they will die” (E. O. Wilson) she is stepping away from anything recognizable as the Christian worldview and should be corrected—even if she is at home and in church a paragon of Christian belief and virtue. That’s a pretty obvious example. More subtle and difficult is a case in which a Christian professor tells students that in an education class “If your students have not learned, you have not taught.” Such a professor should be asked for some clarification of that in light of the Christian worldview principle that people are fallen, corrupted, and therefore capable of turning a deaf ear to truth.

A particularly controversial target would be the claim that “Art is for art’s sake” (without qualification). According to the Christian worldview nothing, outside of God, exists for its own sake. The purpose of everything is to glorify and serve God and God’s creation. Now some art professors misinterpret that as meaning that they and their students may only create works of religious art. That’s not true. All kinds of art can glorify and serve God. Creativity itself can glorify and serve God. But some art does not. A painting of a crucifix submerged in urine, being urinated on, does not glorify or serve God. Its intent is clear. Even in art, if it is compatible with anything and everything it has little or no meaning or purpose. And most modern art is meant to make some kind of political statement (very broadly defined).

Moving to the second answer to the question of what is Christian integration of faith and learning: If a Christian professor in a Christian institution of higher learning discovers a material fact that requires the alteration of a principle of the Christian worldview, the Christian worldview needs to change. The Christian worldview must not be impervious to material facts of reality. However, as I stated it, the Christian worldview would not seem to be likely to be falsifiable. It is a “blik” (to borrow a phrase from philosopher R. M. Hare) and real bliks are not falsifiable. They are perspectives that themselves dictate what counts as evidence.

More realistically, a Christian professor in a Christian institution of higher education, while not being a philosopher or theologian, should be familiar enough with the Christian worldview to look for points of integration and bring them out to students in class studies. If there really are evidences of intelligent design (I am NOT using that phrase in association with any organization!) in nature, a Christian professor should use them to support (not prove) students’ belief in God as creator. A classic example of this is Reinhold Niebuhr’s Gifford Lectures The Nature and Destiny of Man. There he uses history and human existence to demonstrate that the Christian perspective is more reasonable overall than its main Western competitors—naturalism and idealism.

There are two main principles driving faith-learning integration (as it really is and not as some people distort it): 1) All truth is God’s truth, and 2) Something that is compatible with anything and everything is nothing. Fundamentalists (sometimes disguised as “conservative evangelicals”) tend to deny the first. For them, all truth is in the Bible—as interpreted by some founding evangelist or gathering of ministers or special Christian guru. “Truth” discovered outside of a biblical context is automatically not true. Of course, nobody really believes that consistently, but that is the guiding myth one discerns in some fundamentalist circles. This appears especially when the material facts of science are rejected as untrue because they conflict with some traditional interpretation of the Bible. A notable example is, of course, the age of the earth. For decades, if not centuries, it was widely believed that the Christian worldview included belief that the entire cosmos was created by God ex nihilo in six days of twenty-four hours each approximately six thousand years ago—in 4004 BC. Once it became clear that this was impossible in light of the material facts of science, intellectually honest Christians adjusted their understanding of the Christian worldview to make room for the old age of the cosmos. True faith-learning integrationists recognize all truth as God’s truth whatever its source may be and hold the Christian worldview as flexible enough to accommodate the settled facts of unbiased research. That does not mean, however, rushing to adjust the Christian worldview to every theory developed by researchers. All should be considered and examined, but the Christian life and worldview should be a litmus test when it comes to teaching the truth status of theories.

Something that is compatible with anything and everything is nothing which principle works against all kinds of relativism. True relativism (not relativity) is corrosive of everything—even itself. Christianity has shape; it has cognitive content. It is not just “warm fuzzy feelings” about Jesus (as good as those may be). It contains a worldview that is genuinely alternative to some metaphysical visions of reality such as monism and naturalism, etc., and to theories based on them.

Parents and pastors have a right to worry about their young people going off to college or university. Even in public high schools there is often a secularizing influence in the way things are taught. Parents and pastors have a right to believe and trust that when their young people go off to a Christian college or university they will not be secularized—pressure put on them to abandon the basic Christian worldview and adopt alternative visions of reality. Faith-learning integration is all about providing an intellectually rigorous environment where Christian students (and others who may come) are not indoctrinated into anti-Christian worldviews but shown how all truth is God’s truth. Our task, contrary to Berger, is to show students how it is that a Christian need never internalize secular discourse but can be intellectually honest, open to the world of facts, if not theories, and culturally engaged without the cognitive dissonance of dualism.

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