Posts by Richard Gunton

Today I want to share a fascinating story of Christian celebration of biodiversity.  In the highlands of Ethiopia, circular church buildings are surrounded by patches of the forest that once covered the landscape.  Varying from less than a hectare up to thousands, these forests host a wide diversity of both animals and plants, and include individual trees hundreds of years old.  But as farming has intensified, the church forests have been shrinking and their regeneration is threatened by cattle grazing.

We posted on the secularization of science last summer, in connection with Herman Dooyeweerd's essay of that title.  Like me, you may have been surprised to learn that for Dooyweerd, the 'secularization of science' reached its culmination around the Renaissance, just as theology began to be marginalised in Western culture.  This might seem to belittle the Christian faith and piety associated with subsequent scientific thinkers, from Copernicus and Galileo to Boyle and Faraday, for example.  Isn't secularization a more modern phenomenon - perhaps even driven by scientific progress itself?  I want to explore some links between the earlier and later phases of this secularization, and where we might be heading now. 

My post on Revelation and Science has raised quite a lot of interest. Even before I finished it I thought of some further important things to say, and further conversations with friends have revealed (if that's the word) other important points

Book of nature graphic

Where does scientific knowledge come from?  Today I want to share some thoughts on this and to reflect on the surprisingly widespread view among Christian thinkers that science is a form of divine revelation. 

The Territories of Science and Religion by Peter Harrison (2015) is one of the most illuminating books I've read recently.  I'd like to enthuse with you about a book that gave me much food for thought regarding Christianity as a 'religion' as well as the nature of 'science'.

I want to share some experiences from inviting Christian friends to contribute to a course on "the values of nature", and my own shifting position on one of the major ethical issues of our age.

Until recently I tried to steer clear of academic treatment of ethics and values.  I was trained as a natural scientist, where ethics were never discussed except as extrinsic issues to be avoided (or navigated with minimal fuss) when planning research projects.  Then the term "values" also seemed to have postmodern overtones of subjective preferences detached from any normative reality.  Finally, I felt, as a Christian, that ethics was so closely tied to my faith that it was daft to imagine it could be studied in a neutral secular way.  But was I being narrow-minded?

Cambridge Scholars Network logo

Of all the discipleship opportunities open to Christian PhD students in the UK, perhaps the Cambridge Scholars Network offers evangelical thinkers the most sustained and intense mentoring experience you could easily apply for.  This year's event runs from 12 to 18 July, and I'd like to encourage eligible readers of this blog to apply.

Recently I wrote about my impression of a predominance of religious worldviews and practices among the most celebrated mathematicians.  I concluded by indicating that I wouldn't be surprised if religious worldviews were more conducive to great advances in maths and other disciplines, because of the way that faith and imagination are involved in discovery.  Today I'd like to explore some slightly more specific ideas about how that might work.  This is very tentative, largely because I'm clearly not one of those mathematical geniuses myself!  But I want to share some ideas and see what others think.

dinner table awaiting guests

I've always felt sad at the passing of Christmas Day: at how quickly the world moves on to Boxing-Day sales, extinguished fairy lights, discarded fir trees and raucous New-Year revelries.  Perhaps it's partly nostalgia, but I yearn for those past times when the twelve days of Christmas were celebrated in full.  For me, Christmas is worth lingering on, because it's a sign of the world to come.

Portraits of Euler, Gauss, Cantor, Ramanujan, Noether, Hilbert, Godel

[Portraits of (L-R) Euler, Gauss, Cantor, Ramanujan, Noether, Hilbert and Gö​del from the public domain]

In teaching elementary probability and statistics to undergraduates, I've been reading about some of the great mathematicians who are commemorated in the names of functions and constants. This has led me to ponder the role of religious worldviews in mathematical genius, and it's on that topic that I'd like to share a few thoughts today.  I hope that some readers here may have further knowledge and ideas to share.