Continuing discussion.

EPS Blog

This is the blog area for the Evangelical Philosophical Society and its journal, Philosophia Christi.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Christian Worldview Integration: Interview with J.P. Moreland (part one)

InterVarsity Press recently launched a Christian Worldview Integration (CWI) series of books edited by J.P. Moreland and Frank Beckwith. Education for Human Flourishing (Spears and Loomis) and Psychology and the Spirit (Coe and Hall) have already been released, and Politics for Christians: Statecraft as Soulcraft (Beckwith) will soon be released. Below is part one of two of our interview with Moreland about the series and how to think about conceptual Christian worldview integration.

Currently, what topics are covered and which authors cover the topics in the CWI series?

Paul Nelson, Scot Minnich, Christianity and Biology.
Paul Spears, Steve Loomis, Christianity and Education.
John Woodbridge, Christianity and History.
David Jeffrey, Christianity and Literature.
Francis Beckwith, Christianity and Political Thought.
Garry DeWeese, Christianity and Philosophy.
John Coe, Todd Hall, Christianity and Psychology.
Scott Rae, Kenman Wong, Christianity, Business and Economics

Timothy Muehlhoff, Todd Lewis, Christianity and Communications.

The authors for this series were hand-picked by Frank Beckwith and me precisely because they were in a position (with respect to academic training and biblical fidelity) to do a first-rate job of presenting a fresh perspective on integration and their respective disciplines.  Each author is well-regarded and well-trained in his field and is deeply committed to Christianity in general, and the Bible in particular, as a source of knowledge of reality.

How did the CWI series come about?

I have been burdened for a long time about the lack of books on the integration of Christianity and various fields that take the Bible as a source of knowledge relevant to each field.  Too often, books on integration add a Christian veneer to the information in a discipline with the result that the scriptures do no serious cognitive work in that field.   This series will not be like that.  Each book takes scripture seriously as a source of knowledge relevant to its discipline.

The “integration of faith and learning” has become a slogan, if not a fad of sorts, for many Christian intellectuals and educators. But I get the sense that “integration” as a vision and an endeavor is far more than a slogan or fad for you and this series.

The series focuses on “conceptual integration”, the attempt to blend into an intellectually satisfying worldview the knowledge claims of historic Christianity and the Bible on the one hand, and the knowledge claims of one’s field on the other hand.  I prefer the label “the integration of biblical and disciplinary knowledge-claims, not “the integration of faith and learning,” because the latter implies that the Bible is accepted by a blind act of faith and the information from one’s discipline is actual learning, i.e., real knowledge.  The series seeks to show that the Bible does not contradict what can be shown about the nature of things from extra-biblical sources, and that the Bible provided the Christian with a rich source of knowledge that can do intellectual work in one’s field.

In its best and most sincere effort, how do Christian worldview integration endeavors with academic disciplines tend to go? How does the approach of the series differ from what is typically published in this area?  

Many such efforts take an academic discipline and leave it just as it would be understood by a secular perspective and add a Christian viewpoint that is complementary to it.  While our series agrees that this is one way to do integration, our books are more willing—no, eager!—to allow for direct interaction between the Bible and a field of study, an interaction that can be mutually reinforcing or place the Bible and a claim in a field in tension.  In such cases, we urge the Christian community, following Alvin Plantinga’s advice, to show more self-confidence that is has truth and knowledge in the Bible and does not need to protect scripture from an academic field by making its claim merely complementary to that field.

Is “integration,” ultimately, a philosophical issue with bearing upon other disciplines? How should theology contribute to the conceptual work of philosophy in the area of “Christian integration”?

Part of the very nature of philosophy is to be a second-order discipline that studies the epistemology, metaphysics, concepts, and so forth of other disciplines.  Since integration is such a second-order enterprise, then philosophy is the discipline that will ultimately be involved.  This can be seen in the fact that there are numerous books on the philosophy of x (law, psychology, biology, history) which are in the field of philosophy and written by philosophers.  It is important to see that my claims here have nothing to do with turf issues; they are simply observations about the nature of philosophy vis a vis other fields of study.  The field of theology is best employed by asking theologians to provide holistic, coherent expressions of the biblical and theological data to be factored into integration.

Christian work at the intersection of the sciences is an important area of integration, especially given the authority that scientific knowledge has within Western cultures. Are the positions of "theistic evolution" and "Christian physicalism" the result of proper integration or a failure to understand genuine integration between Christian truth and other disciplines? 

In my opinion and to over simplify a bit, theistic evolution and Christian physicalism adopt the wrong approach to integration, namely, the "complementarian approach" according to which science tells us what is real, how things happened, and so forth, and theology tells us why thing happened and why it matters.  This usually amounts to giving science cognitive authority over theology such that the scientist makes his/her pronouncements and theology must adjust accordingly.  A better approach is called the "direct-interaction view" that allows both fields an equal,  interacting place at the table.  On this view, theology may, in principle, set limits on the metaphysics, etiology, and epistemology of science, requiring Christian scientists to show that the real scientific data do not require a revision of the church’s teaching for centuries.  On this view, it is usually philosophical or methodological naturalism, not the data, that require such (an uneeded) revision.

How should Christians approach, use and present the teaching of scripture when engaging in genuine integration between what the Bible claims and what is claimed by extra-biblical sources of knowledge?

They should look for areas where biblical teaching sheds light on and/or has explanatory power with respect to an extrabiblical proposition that seems reasonable to believe.  They should also seek to remove tensions between the Bible and reasonable beliefs from extra-biblical sources, and look for areas where the latter confirm the former.  In all of this, they should have Christian self-confidence that, properly interpreted, the Bible’s teachings are not just true, but can be known to be true.  Thus, they provide a source of knowledge for doing intellectual work in one’s discipline.

Does the holistic character of discipleship and spiritual formation demand integration? If so, how and why?

We live out what we actually believe in proportion to the strength of belief, and our actions shape our beliefs.  So it is important for Christian character and action that we actually believe the things we claim to believe.  Since it is likely the case that one can change or develop one’s beliefs only indirectly, it becomes important to integrate one’s Christian beliefs/knowledge-claims with reasonable beliefs outside scripture.  This leads to personal unity and integrity where one does not split off his/her Christianity from the rest of his/her beliefs, and one is the same in public as in private.

You can learn more about the IVP Christian Worldview Integration series by going hereJ.P. Moreland is the Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Biola University and Frank Beckwith is the Professor of Philosophy and Church-State Studies at Baylor University.

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