Russell and Duenes

the impossibility of moral and spiritual knowledge

with one comment

For some time now in our universities and more broadly in our culture, we have been taught that having true moral and spiritual knowledge is impossible. As far as the public schools are concerned, from the elementary grades up through graduate school, morals and spirituality can have nothing to do with the realm of facts, and hence, can be no part of established curriculum. Sure, if Christians want to have their little clubs and march for their causes, we’ll tolerate that (up to a certain point), but their moral beliefs will certainly never be a part of anything that is taught in the classroom. If religion wants to talk about love for neighbor and being non-judgmental, we’re all in favor of that, but we don’t need religion for that. Let’s definitely not have any discussion about whether the resurrection of Christ might be a historical fact. The scholars have settled that one already, haven’t they? What pass for “facts” are things that can be empirically verified and tested. What pass for “values” are things like religion and morality. So, 2 x 2 = 4 is a fact, but Jesus being the Son of God is a value. That a normal human cell contains 46 chromosomes is a fact. That fornicating is morally wrong is a value. We can “prove” that bacterial mutations occur, but no one can “prove” the existence of a deity.

Now of course there are exceptions to this criteria. Neo-Darwinian macro-evolution is regarded in the academy as a fact, though it has never been observed and cannot be empirically verified. We are also now routinely told that “being gay” is a scientifically explained phenomenon and not a moral “value.” Much effort has gone into doing “scientific” studies which purport to show that those acting on their homosexual desires “have no choice,” and thus, are not making a moral decision, but are merely doing “what comes naturally” to them. When it comes to evolution and homosexual behavior, it is important that they be thought of in the realm of facts, rather than values. And it’s easy to see why. Values, by definition, cannot ultimately be right or wrong, cannot be binding on everyone everywhere, and thus, must be highly privatized and marginalized in the public square. But evolutionists and gay rights advocates don’t want their movements to be seen as subjective, private, and non-binding. They want conformity, and in our culture, it helps greatly if you have facts on your side. The guys in the lab coats and the endowed university chairs are the new priests and prophets.

So, Christians don’t have to worry about their fundamental beliefs being overturned by argument anymore. How can you overturn a value? Better to just keep it contained and viewed on a par with, say, knitting. Whatever floats your boat.

There’s a danger in writing about this, namely, that I will be seen as blaming our “wicked and godless” culture. Unfortunately, the blame for the total takeover of this radical fact/ value dichotomy has to be laid at the feet of Jesus’ own followers. We Christians are the ones who have given up talking in any robust way about whether Jesus and the Scriptures are true or not. We are the ones who have taken our place in the culture as another “worldview” choice, another “value” that works for some and not for others. And we are the ones who have enabled our culture to confidently assert that if our trust in Christ “works for us,” that’s probably fine, as long as we don’t start talking about it and living it as though it’s true for everyone. WE are to blame. We are the ones who decided that schools without Christ as the foundation for knowledge could be “neutral” and kept sending our kids there, our churches giving virtually nothing to fund the kind of education that truly honors Christ. We are the ones who have ceased to believe that “in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” We have retreated into our “private” churches and said that “from God and through God and to God are all things,” well, all things except the life of the mind, the realm of knowledge, and the educational curriculum. We have decided that asking God for wisdom, God “who gives to all liberally and without finding fault,” is nice if you want to feel uplifted inside, but not if you want real knowledge and information about how life should work. So, should we be surprised that our entire spirituality and morality has been relegated to the sidelines of life as a merely subjective, private, unfalsifiable “value?”

Our “Christian” families and schools are not Christian enough, in that we have allowed the edifice of the “fact/ value” distinction to stand. So our Christian families are shaped by the current cultural understandings of “knowledge” and our Christian schools look so much like public schools, but with Bible classes and chapels and culturally Christian atmosphere. And then we wonder why our children and students aren’t buying it.


Written by Michael Duenes

June 2, 2009 at 1:10 am

Posted in Duenes, Education

One Response

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  1. This post was great! you hit the nail on the head on why the culture looks the way it does; we have stopped believing in the truth of God. Thanks so much for this, it is really, really good.


    June 5, 2009 at 5:31 am

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