Love and Truth Have Met
One day in September 1991, in the universe of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, Harry Potter came to the realization that science alone was not enough to succeed—one had to hold oneself to values as to how such science would be used. The Manhattan Project would never have happened in the Wizarding World—which has such an effective code of ethics that not even Dark Wizards would stumble over something that destructive. On this desire to better wed ethics to knowledge, Harry and his colleague Draco Malfoy formed a scientific society founded on a few essential values from the very beginning—the Bayesian Conspiracy.
Meanwhile, in July 1937 in the real world, an international ecumenical “Conference on Church, Community and State” (note missing comma) met at Oxford, out of which, under the leadership of International Missionary Council Secretary J. H. Oldham, a group formed which met regularly for discussion centered “in one way or another, on the issue of cultural leadership in a modern society.” With the rise of Nazism and the world thrown into another war, these men realized the need more than ever for a proper worldview foundation for a just society. Even if we win with our weapons, how can we be sure to avoid falling into their evils one day ourselves? Despite the emphasis on proper truth foundations for just action, the Moot may be judged not to have gotten much farther than talk. After nine years of interesting intellectual discussion, it dissolved.
Meanwhile, in July 1886, Abraham Kuyper, minister in the Dutch Reformed Church and future Prime Minister of the Netherlands, who firmly held to Christ’s lordship in all of life from preaching in church to working in culture, despite various mistakes, was well underway on the path of living it.
“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”
Since college, I’ve found myself caught up in an intellectual Christian strain in the tradition of Pascal, Kuyper, and Chesterton—we use the label Christian humanist—to think seriously about how God’s glory displays in all creation. “The ethical question ‘What is permissible?’ faded in relation to the question ‘What is the main thing, the essential thing?’” At the same time, I’ve had the benefit of participating in a ministry with a philosophy that emphasizes being doers of the Word and every member a minister which leaves me never content to settle either for talk without action nor excusing ordinary people from being used by God. Breadth of perspectives is important to me, and I’ve been surprised to find my contemporary Christians both conservative and progressive citing some man named Abraham Kuyper with admiration.
Back in 2019 I described myself as an “extreme moderate,” but that doesn’t quite describe myself, as I often do pick a side. I think I’ve found a more accurate way of describing myself. I’m very much bothered when there is a point of view not being considered in a conversation. Most conversations should not have every view considered; but the question is whether opposing views have been considered or, when referenced, are referenced in their strongest steelman form. I dislike echo chambers, and usually try to be the one to bring in a point of view I don’t see represented.
Epistemologically, I find it incredibly unlikely that one side would have figured out all the truth; but even setting aside the concept of sides, I once recently met an intelligent woman who had come to a few conspiracy theories on the basis of evidence and logic. My evidence and logic had led me to disbelieve, but the reasonableness of her approach led me to dig into epistemology more deeply and come to appreciate how the way others have come to alternative views is not as foolish as I supposed. The chances that I know all the answers are infinitesimally low, and the best I can hope for is to have an upward trajectory of correcting error (the whole premise behind naming a website Less Wrong).
But I am not in the deepest sense motivated toward epistemology for its own sake; but truth is a foundation for goodness and beauty, and I’ve come to a similar mindset around morality. There are many who have different moral convictions than I do. What bothers me most is when people never evaluate their convictions; have I really considered what is the Best way to live out this or that area of life? But I and others who are on that journey must never consider ourselves to have arrived. There is no man or woman who has successfully overturned every rock of their lives to check where they might be wrong. This is a journey for truth and goodness that requires endurance. As a Christian, I am starting from the best possible place: a righteous slate in God’s record.
I want to gather around others who are ambitious for seeing God glorified in every sphere—those who have high aspirations for seeking the good even in the smallest things—and those who want to see their culture changed for good starting with themselves.
This is a blog about finding more rocks to turn over, in epistemology, worldview, praxis, and culture.