Category: Solas Papers

Solas Papers | Science and Scientism | Dr Alistair Noble

Has science education become indoctrination? This is the question posed by Dr Alistair Noble in The Solas Papers #6. Dr Noble is a former HM Inspector of Schools for Scotland and now Director of Centre for Intelligent Design.

In this Paper, Dr Noble explores the differences between science (as a science) and scientism as a wholly naturalistic and secular worldview which excludes any possibility of the supernatural. Unfortunately, it now seems that in British education today, the teaching of science has been subject to similar exclusions. The open discussion of differing, theistic theories of origins has been severely restricted. Has this turned science education into a kind of Trojan horse for humanist and atheist belief systems?

Our concern … is whether a secular indoctrination process is at work in British and European society, programming people against religious belief and, if so, whether education is an accomplice in this.

-Terrence Copley

At the beginning of 2016, John Cleese, surprisingly, tweeted that he would “like 2016 to be the year when people remembered that science is a method of investigation, and not a belief system” The difference between these two positions is fundamental to understanding the nature of the scientific method and the extent to which science can inform and direct our world. “A method of investigation” is an accurate description of science; “a belief system” is what can be described broadly as “scientism.”

Now all of this might not matter overmuch if it remained purely a matter of intellectual debate about the nature and limits of science. But scientism has become a popular belief… much more sinister is recent guidance from the Department for Education for England and Wales and, to a lesser extent, the Scottish Government, limiting the scope of the discussion of origins in science lessons. This has come about largely in response to representations from bodies such as the British Humanist Society and the Scottish Secular Society.

Download the full paper here to read the full story.

The Bible and Scots Law

Solas is delighted to release the 5th edition of The Solas Papers. This contribution is made by Solas board member Catriona Walker, who is a solicitor living in Aberdeenshire and working in the charity law sector.

[quote]At one time Scotland was known as the land of the Book. It was said to have the highest literacy rate in Europe with evident results in philosophy, theology, law, science, engineering and medicine. Voltaire wrote, “lt is to Scotland that we
must look for all our ideas of civilisation.”[/quote]Why should this have been so? Is there a connection between a national respect for the Bible, a high literacy rate and an advanced civilisation? Did one flow from the other or did these features of the Scottish identity develop independently?

By Kim Traynor - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22544850
Entrance to Law Courts, Edinburgh. By Kim Traynor – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

The effect of the Bible on education is well documented and recognised by all who take an unbiased view of history. Our Solas Director has written of how Scotland was once known as “the land of the people of the book, and exported engineers, military leaders, politicians, doctors, teachers and missionaries all over the world. And it was not just Scotland – everywhere Christianity… brought education. The Reformation resulted in the establishment of universities and schools wherever it was successful” (Solas Magazine Winter 2015/16, p.19).

What is possibly not so frequently recognised in the influence of the Bible on the law of Scotland, and the purpose of this Solas Paper is to examine the roots of the Scottish legal system, and to consider the laws which are still part of Scottish criminal law which owe their origin to the Bible.

Download the full paper here.

Thinking Families – Apologetics and Our Children

Solas has just published the next of The Solas Papers.

Entitled “Thinking Families”, it has been written by Megan Patterson, an Educational Consultant for SIM International, who is particularly concerned to help Christian teachers and parents understand Christ’s lordship over all aspects of life.

Download The Solas Paper 4 – PDF format

She refers to the battle that rages for the minds of today’s children, a battle no less fierce than that which faced Daniel and his friends long ago.  She encourages Christian parents to think about what shapes the thinking of our children and identifies a disease which threatens the church – the disease of dualism, a “split-vision worldview” that separates sacred and secular.  She challenges Christian parents about the danger of limiting Christianity to a specialized private area of religious belief and devotion which might lead them to read Bible stories to their children, take them to church and Sunday school and yet banish God from the rest of their activities.

For some parents, home-schooling or enrolment in a Christian school may be possible, but if children are sent to schools where the teachers do not share a Christian worldview, it is important that they should be equipped to critique inn their minds what their teachers tell them.

She then refers to Christian education in Sunday school and in the family.   Sunday schools need to be more rigorous in teaching a biblical worldview as they might be, and within the family, parents should welcome the questions children ask.  She gives some examples, with pointers to possible answers – questions such as, “Is Tom’s rabbit in heaven now, Mummy?”, “Why did God let Aunty Sarah die?”, “My teacher says that one religion is as good as another;  is it, Dad?” and “Miss D, the dinner lady, is really kind. She says there’s no God.  Why?”

Such questions may be asked when you are already juggling six tasks, but questions are to be welcomed.   This assures the children of a listening ear, even if in the end we sometimes have to use what Megan calls “three beautiful words”, namely “I don’t know.”

The Paper emphasises the great importance of preparing our children for adulthood, learning to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and Megan concludes by referring to some written and/or on-line resources that may be helpful in preparing children to “give a reason” (1 Peter 3:15).

The Solas Papers address important topics in current apologetics dialogue, written by Christians with expertise in their own professional field.  The Solas Papers are a free resource provided by Solas Centre for Public Christianity.

Redefining Marriage? – A Test for the Church

Dr Gordon Macdonald, a Solas Trustee, has recently written The Solas Paper 3.  Entitled “Redefining Marriage? A Test for the Church”, Dr Macdonald explores the implications of the ongoing marriage debate and its implications for the church at large.

Download The Solas Paper 3 here

Introduction:

The attempt to redefine marriage, through the introduction of so-called “same-sex marriage”, is an assault upon the Christian worldview. It has widespread implications for the understanding of marriage throughout society and poses a particular challenge for Christian churches which are likely to come under internal and external pressure to change their teaching on marriage in order to accommodate the prevailing secular-liberal worldview. Already there are those within the churches who are prepared either to solemnise same-sex “marriages” or to enter into such unions themselves. Such actions will inevitably lead to a crisis in some churches as disputes arise over whether and how to discipline those clergy whose actions run contrary to the official view of marriage within the relevant denomination. Faced with this challenge, the church needs to reaffirm the Christian understanding of marriage. Christians need to be reminded of biblical teaching about marriage, explore its significance with regard to the nature of God and His purpose in creation and examine the link made in Scripture between idolatry and same-sex sexual relationships. It is helpful also to be aware of the political ideology which lies behind attempts to redefine marriage and consider the spiritual basis of revisionist theology. This will equip faithful Christians to resist the temptation to compromise on the clear biblical teaching in this area.

The Solas Papers 2 – Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide

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Available now – the second of The Solas Papers, dealing with the currently topical issue of Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide.   Its author is Dr Peter Saunders, a former surgeon who is now Chief Executive of the Christian Medical Fellowship.

Dr Saunders quotes the famous Hippocratic Oath from 600 BC – “I will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked nor suggest such counsel”, and he refers to the reaffirmation by the World Medical Association as recently as 2013 of the principle that assisted suicide, like euthanasia, is unethical and must be condemned by the medical profession.  Although there have been several high profile cases in the media in recent years, in which people have argued for the legalisation of euthanasia, the key argument has held sway  – that a change in the law would be undesirable as it would open up many vulnerable people to exploitation and abuse.

Dr Saunders refers to the teaching of the Bible that death is an intruder in the world but it is not the end of existence.  Christ’s death and resurrection form the basis of Christian teaching about the life to come.   He emphasises the Bible’s teaching that life and death are in God’s hands and that intentional killing of the innocent is wrong.  He says, “There is no provision in the Bible for killing on grounds of diminished responsibility (on the basis of age or illness) and there is no provision for compassionate killing, even at the person’s request.   … Only God has the authority to take human life.  He points us to a better way, offering hope, love and compassionate care.”

Answers are given to the view that God’s law has been superseded, to the view that love over-rides law and to the assertion that we must not be legalistic.

He then returns to the powerful argument that a change in the law would put pressure on vulnerable people to have their lives ended.  He quotes the chairman of a House of Lords’ Select Committee, Lord Walton of Detchant, who said in Parliament, “We concluded that it was virtually impossible to ensure that … any liberalisation of the law in the United Kingdom could not be abused.  We were also concerned that vulnerable people – the elderly, lonely, sick or distressed – would feel pressure, whether real or imagined, to request early death.”  If assisted suicide or euthanasia were legalised – even with “safeguards” – there would be people who would keep pushing the boundaries and such a decision would be the start of a slippery slope.

It is also argued that persistent requests for euthanasia are rare if people are properly cared for and Dr Saunders highlights the importance of developments in the hospice movement and in palliative care.  There may come a point where “enough is enough” and useless or harmful interventions are inappropriate, but “the end of relieving suffering never justifies the means of killing.”   Dr Saunders, speaking as a Christian, says, “We will not deny the reality of death or that suffering is part of the human condition but rather be honest and truthful about the diagnoses, prognoses and the effectiveness or limitations of treatment, knowing that people’s greatest need is to face death having made peace with God.  And we will not despair in the face of death because we have a hope of something far better beyond the grave.”

Download the full Paper here

Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide

Dr Peter Saunders is the author of The Solas Paper 2.  He is a former general surgeon and presently Chief Executive of the Christian Medical Fellowship.  Dr Saunders writes an overview of “Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide”, examining the relevant scripture, a history of the topic and a review of common objections. You can follow Dr Saunders blog here.

Download The Solas Paper 2 here

Introduction:

Euthanasia (being killed by a doctor) and assisted suicide (being helped to kill oneself) are both presently illegal in Britain but there is ongoing pressure to change the law on the basis of high profile cases which are being taken through the courts or being highlighted in the media. Many Christians today are confused about these issues and fall prey to emotive hard cases and false dichotomies.

Euthanasia or assisted suicide, or both, have now been legalised in a few European countries and US states. However, opposition to legalisation from faith groups (not just Christian), the medical profession and disabled people’s advocates has been strong and the key argument that changing the law would open up vulnerable people to exploitation and abuse has so far held sway with politicians around the world.

From ancient times doctors have sought moral guidelines both to guide members of the profession and to safeguard patients and they have opposed euthanasia. The Hippocratic Oath, which dates to 600 BC, states, “I will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked nor suggest such counsel.”

The Declaration of Geneva was drafted after the Second World War in 1948 in response to the war crimes performed by German doctors. It says, “I will maintain the utmost respect for human life from the time of conception.”

The International Code of Medical Ethics, written one year later, says that “a doctor must always bear in mind the obligation of preserving human life from the time of conception until death.”

The World Medical Association adopted the Statement of Marbella in 1992. This stipulated that “assisted suicide, like euthanasia is unethical and must be condemned by the medical profession.” They reaffirmed it as recently as 2013.

Is Christianity Credible in a Suffering World?

Rev David J Randall is the Chairman of Solas Centre for Public Christianity.  In this, the inaugural Solas Paper, he explores the classic apologetic of pain through real-life experience.

Download The Solas Paper 1 here

Introduction:

It’s the question posed by Heather, a lady who was raped in her own home; she reflected, “I had to make sense of what happened. Was God unable to stop the rape? Or was he able to stop it and he didn’t?” These are the questions. The “problem” of suffering and evil is a problem for believers; if you don’t believe, then the practical issues related to coping are obviously still the same, but you don’t have the problem of reconciling such harsh experiences with your underlying worldview and beliefs.
Three factors constitute the problem: the almightiness of God, the love of God and the reality of suffering. If any one of these should be undermined, then the “problem” disappears. That’s what Heather grappled with.

  • Perhaps God is not, after all, almighty and therefore He is unable to do anything about the problems which affect so many.
  • Perhaps He is not a God of love; maybe He doesn’t care about what happens to people. In the past some religions have suggested that God or the gods are far removed from any experience of human pain. Such attitudes might be expressed as, “Don’t worry, the gods are too remote to have any interest in your life.” Christianity says the very opposite with its assertion that the God of creation does understand our lives and He does care about our trials and sufferings. He has Himself entered into the experiences of this world.
  • Or, unlikeliest of all, perhaps pain is unreal and illusory. Joni Eareckson Tada has suffered more than most since she broke her neck in a diving accident when she was a teenager. She has been quadriplegic ever since and she has had to deal with severe pain and also with cancer. Her testimony about the grace of God takes account of the very real pain she has suffered against the background of people’s efforts to avoid it. “We do everything we can think of to escape it; we medicate it, mask it, surgically remove it, entertain or drug it, institutionalise it, divorce it, or even euthanize it – anything but live with it. Suffering, however, isn’t about to go away.”

But if God is almighty and loving and if pain is real, how can these things fit together?

Announcing: The Solas Papers

SolasPapers1Solas Centre for Public Christianity is pleased to announce the launch of The Solas Papers.  These are an ongoing series of essays commissioned by Solas to address important topics at the intersection of apologetics, evangelism, society and public life.  We will be bringing you a selection of authors from a wide variety of backgrounds.

Each edition will differ in length and depth.  The Solas Papers will address current political, medical, economic or ethical issues with a Biblical analysis.  Other editions will tackle classic philosophic questions, such as this one which looks at the credibility of Christianity in the face of real suffering.  It is our hope that these Papers will contribute to the edification of believers and the conviction of non-believers that the Christian worldview has real, credible answers to the real issues of life.

Rev David J Randall, Vice Chairman of Solas and Locum Minister of Grace Church Dundee is the author of the inaugural Solas Paper.  He writes:

It has been claimed that, although suffering is one of the ultimate mysteries of life for everyone, Christians do not need to be embarrassed by the question because we have a better answer than anyone else! This is a bold claim, and the aim of this article is to examine that claim. It is written from the perspective of more than forty years of pastoral experience, in which I have sought to minister to people in all manner of life-situations. In other words, it is not about theories and ideas but about hard reality – the real trials that come upon real people in this real world.

Visit our Resources page to download Solas Papers