Philosophy Knols of Spiros Kakos

Seal of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
[Gr. Οικουμενικό Πατριαρχείο Κωνσταντινούπολης]
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Introduction

The reason for me writting this article is the fact that some people today believe that Christians are not so educated and not so intelligent as people who believe only in science. Some people think that “exact science” is the only way to reach the truth and that Christians have chosen to follow the “wrong” path of just believing things that do not exist.
I have dealt with the philosophical problems of existence and purpose in some of the Knols I have written. One can visit Religional Science and The limits of science to see an analysis of these issues.
However this article is not focused on these big philosophical that trouble humankind, but it deals with the person we call “Christian” today. The goal is to describe that person in depth and give an insight to those who see Christianity as the “dark place where science is denied” so as to understand that a Christian can also be a scientist at the same time.

Religion has been used wrongly many times in the past. If there is one thing to which most people agree is that “dogmatism – in any form – is simply wrong”.

However I made the choice to write “What a Christian is NOT” and not “What a scientist is NOT” for some specific reasons: Today our society is intensly “materialistic”. That means that most of us take it for granted that only matter exists in the cosmos and nothing spiritual (and as I say in many of my other Knols, that is a pure dogma and not a proven case – see Limits of Science and Religion and Science Unification). That is why religion seems to be – wrongly – cornered nowadays and that is why I chose to write that knol.

“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity”
C.S. Lewis

Definition of a Christian

It is more difficult than one might think to give a definition for the word “Christian” [Gr. Χριστιανός]. I will however make an attempt to do so. Knowing the correct definition of the words we use is the most important thing to know if we want to discuss and analyze religious issues.

Christian: A person who believes in God and the teachings of Jesus Christ. A person who believes in the Christian teachings for love, forgiveness and behaving good to each other.

Someone might say that this definition is vague. Others might argue that the abovementioned definition is simply not correct because it leaves out a great number of religious Christian dogmas. My opinion is that it may be true that Christian dogma entails many more than just the teachings of Christ, but the latter ones are the essence of what we call today “Christianity”.

Not every religion has to have St. Augustine’s attitude to sex.
Why even in our culture marriages are celebrated in a church,
everyone present knows what is going to happen that night,
but that doesn’t prevent it being a religious ceremony.

Ludwig Wittgenstein

The beginning of Christianity

Christianity begun with Jesus Christ and was spread throughout the world via the Greeks who first adopted it (Jews remained faithful to their Judaism and quickly separated their position from the teaching of Christianity). In every discussion about Christianity we should all remember that Christianic philosophy and teaching were freely accepted by logically thinking Greeks. Christianity was not imposed through brain-wash to any idiots but was accepted by free-thinking individuals based on their logic and not through violence.Words of Christ

Christian dogma theory vs. Reality

Many people wishing to maintain a imaginary “war” that is supposedly going on for years between science and religion tend to use more general definitions that contain also all the dogmas of church that have to do with the explanation of the physical world (e.g. the dogma that Earth was created in a certain number of days from God). This is not an innocent attempt to define Christianity but quite the opposite: these people try to attach ideas that are “secondary” when compared to the basis of Christianity, as “primary” beliefs that all Christians uphold, so as to base their criticism on them.

However that is not true. Although the Christian dogma has many sectors, when you ask a Christian to define the basis of his/her belief he will answer “God and Jesus Christ” and not “the creation of the Earth 4,352 years ago”, even though the second may be a dogma of a specific Christian religion.

And it is the true essence of a word that we seek when attempting to draw a definition. If we include everything that each church is claiming to be true in our definition of a “Christian” then we will end with having no “true” Christian at all! There is absolutely no way to find even one person that upholds every single aspect of Christianity up to the very last detail. Does that mean that no one is actually a “Christian”? No. It just means that we have to keep in mind reality when trying to approach the very difficult, complex and sensitive matter of religion and Christianity.

Christians today are modern people who most of them accept science as the tool to search and analyze physical phenomena. It is really hard to find a christian today who goes to church to ask what is the explanation for the planets’ movement or why electrons are attracted to protons…

Quod licet bovis non licet Jovis!

Christian Paradosis

Many things in the Christian dogma are part of the Christian 2000-years tradition (paradosis – Gr. παράδοση). That means that a modern Christian may believe in these things in a way not impying “blind faith” but “respect to the tradition”. One scientist may be Christian and say “I believe in the Christian dogma” but not in the way “I believe what Christian dogma says about the geological age of Earth” but in a way “I believe in the Christian tradition as an integral part of the Christian history”. There is a great difference between someone who blindly believes everything and someone who is a Christian upholding some past traditions. The Christian church has not changed its texts for too many years and indeed some things in its dogma may seem a bit out of place. But that does not mean that the Church is not also evolving. For example all priests know that people have sexual relationships before marriage and they nevertheless bless weddings between such couples, even though the old (traditional) dogma forbids these relationships. The cosmos changes and so does the church. The fact that some texts have not changed does not mean that you must believe what they say is true up to the last word in order to be considered a “Christian”. Most modern Christians believe in the teaching of Christ for being good to one another (see forgiveness, agape etc) but not in all the details of the hundrends of religious texts existing (which actually they may not even be aware of their existence). Most Christians love as Jesus taught them and “believe” in the ancient texts as respecting what they really are: part of a long tradition and not modern scientific papers. Respecting tradition is different than denying logic.

What does “believe” mean

Many people criticize modern Christians about “believing” some old-fashioned or even plain (scientifically) wrong things their religion supports. However the phenomenon of belief is not a simple phenomenon to analyze in such a way. Most Christians believe various things for various reasons. In that way Christians may believe a thesis of Christian dogma because they agree with it as a philosophical system, because they have analyzed it logically and found it correct, because they see it as part of church tradition and respect it. One should analyze the underlying reason behing each belief and critisize accordingly. In all cases we have “belief”. But the justification is different. We shouldn’t critisize lightly without proper scientific analysis.

What a Christian is Not

A Christian is many things, but he/she is NOT uneducated or irrational. A Christians does NOT deny science or logic. These issues will be addressed in more detail in the lines that follow.

1. A Christian is not uneducated. Many prominent scientists today are publicly verifying their belief in Christ and God. Surveys that were conducted among scientists indicate that the percentage of scientists believing in God is about 40% and certainly cannot justify the characterization of Christians as uneducated. WWhen Edward J. Larson of the University of Georgia in USA attempted in 1997 to repeat an older study conducted in 1916 concerning the percentage of scientists believing in God, he was surprised to find out that the percentage remained the same despite the great advances of science! A very stable 40% of the scientists surveyed answered that they believed in the existence of a God, despite all the astounding scientific breakthroughs in the years that have elapsed [1]. What is more, a 2005 survey of scientists at top research universities found that more than 48% had a religious affiliation [2]. Certainly these surveys point to “a belief in a God” in general (i.e. theism) and not to “being a Christian” specifically, but the point here is that believing in supernatural entities is not as illogical as some want it to be: religious people (like Christians) are not the un-scientific beings some think they are.

Alfred Russel Wallace and Francis S. Collins are just two famous examples of first-class scientists (biologists to be exact) who believe in God, with the former being a renowned Christian.

Dr. Francis Collins discusses his faith

Wallace was the person who first published the theory of evolution (one year before Darwin) and was elected head of the anthropology section of the British Association in 1866, president of the Entomological Society of London in 1870 and head of the biology section of the British Association in 1876. On the other hand Francis S. Collins is a genetist that was the head of the Human Genome Project. Another famous example is the philosophy colossus Ludwig Wittgenstein who embrassed Christianity that he had previously opposed [3]. And certainly one cannot blaim Wittgenstein for not thinking or for being uneducated…

2. A Christian does not deny science and he/she does not use God as the explanation of physical phenomena. It is a common misconception among opponents of Christianism that God is the explanation religion proposes for physical phenomena that science cannot yet explain and that when science finds the explanation, religion “retreats” to the remaining area of unexplained phenomena. That view of religion is old-dated and the “God of the Gaps” (as this view is called) is not at all the way modern Christians see the world. Opponents of Christianity must understand that religion deals with the questions of purpose and meaning in life. It does not deal with physical phenomena. As the Interacademy Panel (IAP – Global network of Science Academies) stated on an announcement it made for the theory of evolution on 21 June 2006 (see the whole statement here): “Human understanding of value and purpose are outside of natural science’s scope”. Not many Christians today believe that God is the explanation for the Higgs bozon or for why apples fall on Earth… God is the explanation of why our existence has meaning, not another physical law to research.

3. A Christian does not deny Logic. Another common misunderstaning of Christian thought is that believing in God automatically means that you don’t believe in Logic. In order to clear that misunderstand we must first define logic: There are two kinds of logic. First, the strict mathematical logic. That logic uses mathematics formulation and respects specific rules first posed by Aristotle and then refined by mathematicians. The second kind of logic is the everyday logic all humans apply to reach to conclusions about everything, a kind of “soft” logic not using mathematical furmulation but as valid as our mathematical knowledge. When you say “A is true, B results from A => B is true”, that is the strict mathematical logic. When you say “Yesterday it was cold and it snowed, today it is more cold => It will probably snow today as well”, that is the everyday “soft” logic. It is important to note that Christians use BOTH kinds of logic! First of all Godel has proved by using modern modal logic the existence of a perfect being that Christianity calls “God”. Secondly, when we say that “All parameters of the Universe are set in the exact values required to create life => Someone / something must have set them + That probably is not the result of chance”, that is “soft” logic. Both kinds of logics are valid. However many people have different kind of “soft” logic than others. It is natural. That is why people argue. But that does not mean that Christians do not use logic! Don’t forget that the word “theory” is derived from the word “theos”, which in Greek means “God” (greek: Θεός).

Let’s not forget that it was Aristotle who first postulated the “First Cause” argument. [4] And noone can blaim Aristotle for being blinded by Christianic dogmatism…

4. A Christian does not deny the need for physical evidence. It is completely wrong to say that being a Christian is “believing without seeing”. In fact, the truth is exactly the opposite. When Jesus raised from the dead, he appeared in front of those not believing so as they were convinced. So He used and provided physical evidence, He did not just required for them to believe without seeing! It is very important to remember that those believing in Christ believe in Him because there were many eye-witnesses of His miracles, while the ones who deny the existence or the God-attribute of Christ simply deny it without any evidence at all! They just deny the historical data, without having other sources indicating that Christ did not do what the sources Christians use indicate! All people “know” that a past historical fact took place from the few eye-witnesses that lived then to see it happen. We “believe” in things that happen in the past simply because some other people told us. Not believing in the things written for Christ with no reason is not scientific at all! Christianity uses physical evidence, while atheists don’t – not the other way around!

5. A Christian is not dogmatic in a negative way. Many people cannot see the difference between dogmatism that has a negative sense and dogmatism that leads to having values. If you have a value, does that mean that you are “dogmatic”? If you teach your child not to steal or not to lie or not not kill other people, are you becoming “dogmatic”? No. Would you ever tell your child that “it is not good to kill, but this is just my opinion – I am not dogmatic about it. Maybe killing is good after all…”?!? Christianism has a wide range of values and defends and tries to spread those values. Doesn’t a parent do the same with his children? So yes, Christianism holds the value of “do not steal” and “do not kill” and does not change its teachings depending on the circumstances or the callings of the modern times. And that is not bad. If someone does not steal and does not kill, why would he have a problem with a religion which tries to spread these values?

You can find more extensive analysis for the abovementioned arguments in the knols Religion and Science unification – Towards Religional Science and The limits of science.

Christianity bad vs. Christianity good

The bad perception many people have about Christianity is based on the errors it has made. No religious person with good-working mind can deny the fact that the Holy Inquisition was wrong and bad, or that the killings of non-Christians in the name of God was also (at least) criminal. However it is usual for opponents of religion to see only these negative things and stay there. One must understand that Christianity is a vast sum of people and that the actions of a bad Christian do not reflect the nature of good Christians. If someone wants to be objective, then he must treat Christianity as a set of behaviours and see and analyze all of them, not only the ones he prefers. The official Christianity has many times been the source of good and if the mistakes are an argument against Christianism then this good should an argument in favour of the Christian church. As Christianity was lined to the “dark ages” of the West, it was also linked to the enlightened Greek Byzantine Empire of the East – the Empire which lasted for more than 1,000 years and which was the major beacon of the writting of Aristotle and Plato for the years to follow. As Christianity was oppresive in the Western Europe, it was liberating in the Eastern while playing a major role in the liberation of the Greek nation from the oppression of the Ottoman Empire in 1821 [5]. Christianity also played a major role in the liberation of Korea from Japanese oppresion [6]. In Korea, Christianity was seen as a “liberator” and not as an “oppressor” like in the French revolution. Different cases, different perspectives. These examples demonstrate what opponents of religion fail to see: that Christianity is not as simple a set of behaviours as they would like it to be. Good coexists sometimes with bad – but the important thing to note (at least for me) is that in that case the good prevails and that is what characterizes the modern church.

Conclusion

That being said, it should be clear that the image some people have drawn for Christians today is just wrong and prejudiced. Modern Cristians are people who hold certain values and they are not dogmatic in the negative way some atheists want to present. Modern Christians are people who firmly believe in the philosophical system of Christianity as their logic dictates them and not because they are fooled by a priest to believe something they don’t want. Promoting that message is something that all Christians should do when given the chance. Science if fully compatible with the philosophy of Christianism and that is the reason why most religious people have a phD in an exact science and why many scientists feel comfortable in admitting that they believe in God. There is no “war” between Christianity and science, except in the minds of people like Dawkins who try to earn money by selling books on the alleged “issue”…

Resources

1. Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople

2. Church of Greece

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