Shuck and Jive

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Christian Humanism, Evolutionary Religion, and Common Sense

I am sure happy to have found The Rev's Rumbles. He has three links to organizations I hadn't previously discovered. Take a look:

  1. The Christian Humanist
  2. Evolutionary Religious Studies
  3. Common Sense Christianity
Common Sense Christianity should raise hackles for some, remove blinders for others, and be a breath of fresh air for yet more.


  1. Christian humanism is not atheistic. That's secular humanism (although, even then, they stole the term "humanism" off us). Humanism is a confessing Christianity in which human reasoning, free will and science are hallowed and are allowed to inform belief. However, it's a brilliant website.

  2. The trouble with common sense Christianity is that common sense is worse than useless in many cases.

    Common sense tells us an electron can't be both a particle and a wave, but physics insists that it is true.

    If physicists insisted on common sense physics, you wouldn't have transistor radios. (Or atomic bombs either, so maybe it wouldn't have been so bad.)

    Why bind your theology in shackles that scientists refuse to wear?

  3. Common sense tells us an electron can't be both a particle and a wave, but physics insists that it is true.

    Huh? You're starting to sound like Jim Jordon, Harry. You put together words that sound like they form a meaningful sentence, then try to pass it off as a commonly held understanding, all the while deconstructing it to fit your desired outcome.

    Common sense would tell me what you're doing is wasting time on meaningless details that have little import - or as an old boss of mine used to say: "circumcising mosquitoes".

    It also sounds like a sideways take on a right wing bullet point:
    "common sense would tell us that Jesus wants us to love one another. Dang! We don't want that to happen! Better slap the shit out of common sense, quick!"

  4. Though I should point out that Our Jim believes in Common Sense Theology and that God gives us senses that don't lie to us about immutable Laws of Nature. This was very popular in the 18th century and we still haven't gotten over it ("if God had meant for a man and a woman to have sex, He'd have given them both penises").

    As far as the taking something vaguely scientific and warping it to make a strange point, yes, it's Jimmish.

    I think it's dangerous to go down the "common sense" road when talking about theology, even though the CSC folks don't seem to be advocating Scottish Common Sense philosophy. The road unfortunately inevitably leads to pipe-fitting analogies.

    I also think that the great contribution that Presbyterians would bring to the table of a Christian Humanist movement would be the self-awareness that We Could Be Wrong About All This, since humanity is by its nature imperfect.

  5. I read what that web site has to say, and I think, "Wow, I'm not alone. There are others who think like I do." And yet, where are the progressive mainline Christian churches where these things get openly said? Where are the progressive mainline Christian churches that openly question, for example, the doctrine of the Trinity?

  6. Common sense would tell me what you're doing is wasting time on meaningless details that have little import - or as an old boss of mine used to say: "circumcising mosquitoes".

    Yet another example of common sense leading someone astray!

    If you want to learn something, try this Wave Particle Duality

  7. Harry,

    Snad made a very good point. You're "circumcising mosquitoes" with your Wave-Particle duality example.

    I don't have to think of Wave-Particle duality when I put on my shoes every morning, or when I eat my lunch, or drive my car, or do %99.999 of the things I do on a daily basis. It's just not macroscopically common, and has very little bearing on what I do in my practical life. Yeah, I know; transistor radios, computers, blah, blah, blah, but I don’t have to think about particle-wave stuff when turn them on. I do, however, have to think about it sometimes in the performance of my job (I'm a Physicist). When the common man in the performance of his common tasks needs to account for Wave-Particle duality, then it will become common sense.

    On the other hand, I think you do make a good point that common sense can sometimes lead us astray. You just need to find a better example.

  8. Arthur:

    No, I think the example is extremely apt

    You don't have to consider the fact that Christ was fully God and fully Man either, to put on your shoes or start your car.

    Why should contemplating the deepest mysteries of God be subject to the rule of common sense when the deepest mysteries of creation do not follow that rule?

  9. Well, for starters, we're dealing with the physical and metaphysical universes. The wave-particle theory of light is arguably testable (it is conceivable of a test to prove or disprove it). The existence of God is not.

  10. Flycandler:

    And how does the metaphysical nature of theology demand that we employ common sense rather than an appreciation of mystery and paradox?

    If physics is mysterious why should metaphysics be commonsensical?

    Maybe you ought to try leaving your brain at the door of your Church and just let yourself be carried away by the Mystery.

  11. Hey Madpriest, thanks for stopping! Good definition of Christian humanism.

    Seeker--We have had this discussion before. Challenging dogma is dangerous business. Many who would challenge it privately, don't think it is worth the trouble to go public. And, I think progressives are largely happy with being progressive politically and socially, not theologically. But every now and again, you find someone who is on the edge!

    Thanks all, for the comments.

  12. Look, Harry, I object to the use of the term "Common Sense Christianity" because there already is a Common Sense Philosophy that means something entirely different and that is detrimental to what the site's author is presumably advocating.

    Just as one cannot understand religion in scientific terms, one cannot understand science in theological terms.

    That having been said, we as Presbyterians do not "leave our brains at the door of the church". We have a proud tradition of loving the Lord our God with all our mind as well as our heart, soul and strength. We do have to think rationally and spiritually about how we deal with the problems of our faith.

  13. I read some more of the Christian Humanist site. I resonate a great deal with what is written there. I think I will explore more of those ideas on future posts.

  14. If someone is going to talk about particle physics and use it as an analogy, it would help if they knew what they were talking about, IMHO. :)

    Atomic and subatomic particles are neither waves nor particles. We simply use those concepts to describe them for convenience sake.

    In fact, the nature of these particles is best described by mathematical constructs such as the Schrodinger equation. However, we chemists and physicists use "common sense" physical notions such as "wave" or "particle" in order to conceptualize them better. We also talk about a particle's spin, for example, even though that doesn't have a direct physical representation.

    On the other hand, physics talks about the fact that masses are attracted to each other. What goes up, must come down seems like pretty good common sense to me.

    So, trying to say that common sense doesn't work elsewhere, so why should it work with religion is a false dichotomy. Sure you can pick one example where it seems not to work (though your example is wrong) but I can come up with all sorts of examples in which common sense does work in both science and religion.