Alister McGrath September 19, 2018

Professor Alister McGrath, Andreos Idreos Professor of Science and Religion, Director of the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion, Oxford, Gresham Professor of Divinity

Probing the Viability of Natural Theology for the Twenty-first Century. 


Wednesday, September 19, 2018 @ 12:00 noon

Woodward (IRC) Room 3

Audio File 


Are there viable pathways from nature to God? Natural theology is making a strong comeback, stimulated as much by scientific advance as by theological and philosophical reflection. There is a growing realization that the sciences raise questions that transcend their capacity to answer them—above all, the question of the existence of God. Alister McGrath examines the apparent “fine-tuning” of the universe and its significance for natural theology. Exploring a wide range of physical and biological phenomena and drawing on the latest research in biochemistry and evolutionary biology, McGrath outlines our new understanding of the natural world and discusses its implications for traditional debates about the existence of God. He develops a rich Trinitarian approach to natural theology that allows deep engagement with current intellectual and moral complexities. He will pose some key questions for discussion.


Alister McGrath is the Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion at the University of Oxford, and is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading theologians. After an undergraduate degree in chemistry and a doctorate in molecular biophysics from Oxford, McGrath turned to the study of theology. He has a special interest in the relation of science and religion, and has published widely on this topic. As a former atheist, McGrath has an especial interest in the “New Atheism” of writers such as Richard Dawkins. McGrath’s bestselling books include the market leading Christian Theology: An Introduction (6th edition, 2017) and the award-winning C. S. Lewis—A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet (2013). Areas of reflection: Science and religion; natural theology as a legitimate field of theological reflection, and as a framework for furthering the dialogue between science, religion, and literature; critical realism in science and theology; the theological utility of scientific philosophies of explanation; theological models of engagement with the natural sciences, especially those of T. F. Torrance and Emil Brunner; the application of biological models of evolution to cultural contexts, especially the development of Christian doctrine; the “New Atheism”; “two cultures” issues, especially defending the value of humanities in a scientific culture.

Alister’s presentation was superb. I have thought a lot about natural theology and yet Alister had something new to say about its re-emergence in this decade with a refreshing nuance. He also said it with style and without a wasted word. The energy in the room was palpable and every question was well directed. Alister’s responses were so good that the energy never left the room. ~Olav Slaymaker, Professor Emeritus Geography UBC

See also for other McGrath lectures



Expert Panel on Addiction @ UBC

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  Audio Recording of Addiction Panel

Dr. Gabriel Loh

Gabriel is currently Clinical Coordinator of Pharmacy Practice at Richmond Hospital and is also a Clinical Assistant Professor with the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at UBC.  Gabriel obtained his undergraduate Pharmacy degree at UBC in 2001, subsequently completed a hospital pharmacy residency at Saint Paul’s Hospital in 2002 and then a post-graduate Doctor of Pharmacy degree at UBC in 2007.  He has worked as a front-line clinical pharmacist in the Intensive Care Units at both Vancouver General Hospital and Richmond Hospital for the past 10 years and has helped care for patients and families with various addiction issues in his daily work.

“Addiction is a complex medical disorder that not only affects the individual but which can also destroy the lives of entire families and loved ones.  While various interventions and treatments are now available to help an individual manage addiction, the Christian community must not neglect the patient’s family members and caregivers who desperately need support and healing as well. While there are all sorts of therapeutic interventions and harm reduction strategies being promoted right now, I believe that a holistic approach that incorporates the physical-emotional-spiritual aspects would be most successful in breaking the cycle of addiction.”

Dr. John Koehn

John completed his medical education at the University of British Columbia, receiving certification from the Canadian College of Family Physicians. He acquired additional training in addiction medicine through completion of the St. Paul’s Goldcorp Addiction Medicine Fellowship and is certified by the American Board of Addiction Medicine. Currently, he is a consulting physician in addiction medicine at the Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, British Columbia, where he also teaches as a member of the UBC Clinical Faculty.

” I tell my patients that addiction is a treatable disease and that people get better when they take steps to address it. I am very hopeful for my patients because I’ve seen the difference that recovery can make in their lives.”
Jadine Cairns, Registered Dietician, MSc. Nutrition

Jadine Cairns has worked as a registered dietitian for over 30 years and completed her masters in Human Nutrition at the University of British Columbia in 2003.  She has published and presented at national and international conferences in the area of eating disorders.  She was the President of the Eating Disorders Association of Canada and Chaired the National Eating Disorders Conference in 2014. Currently, Jadine works with the BC Children’s Hospital Eating Program for almost 30 years. She also has a private practice specializing in weight management, eating disorder and disordered eating issues.

Eating Disorders

“Causes of Eating Disorders, simply put, is multi-factorial.  It has been described as a combination of genetics, internal personal factors and external (environmental) factors.  Not much can be done with genetics, but the goal of treatment would be to address the internal space of being human and to be aware of the environment where we live.  Is an eating disorder the result from our “addiction to health”, “perfectionism”, performance, or our need to preserve our self-image in the only way we know how?  The latest thoughts and research around what is helpful and has good prognostic outcomes include psychoeducation, dialectical behavior therapy, family base therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and self-compassion.”

Jay C. Wang, MD
PGYIII Psychiatry Resident, Doctor of Medicine, University of British Columbia under Dr. Evan Wood, Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS St. Paul’s Hospital, Vancouver.
Dr. Jay Wang Is a graduate of the University of British Columbia School of Medicine. Currently, he is completing his specialty training in psychiatry. Having seen the effects of drugs and addiction on psychiatric patients, he is interested in the interface between psychiatry and addiction, and will be completing subspecialty training in addiction psychiatry in the following academic year. In his opinion, the treatment of addiction emphasizes the biopsychosocial approach, where medications, therapy, and social factors all have a role to play in helping a patient recover.
Live Recording of Panel
Some Questions to Ponder

Is addiction a brain disease or a chosen habit or something in between?  If we call addiction a disease does that absolve individuals from moral responsibility?

Do you think decriminalization (rather than legalization) of opioids would increase or decrease the present addiction crisis?

Is there a danger that widespread use of opioid antagonists  might merely encourage greater use of opioids?   

Nicotine is far deadlier and more addictive than cannabis. Should the government be taking greater steps to prevent nicotine addiction? 

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Thoughts on Addiction by Dr. Judith Toronchuk, Neuropsychologist

In order for organisms to learn and successfully repeat behaviours that result in survival of the individual and the social encounters necessary for survival of the species, certain brain mechanisms for motivation, emotion and executive control must be activated.  Addiction occurs when these normal mechanisms become hijacked by particular substances. The common mechanism for this hijacking involves increased sensitivity to the neurotransmitter dopamine. Pleasurable behaviors including eating, drinking, music, video games, social and sexual interactions are all accompanied by dopamine release in an area deep in the frontal brain called the nucleus accumbens.   Substances that are abused also directly or indirectly activate this area, but psychostimulants, opiates, ethanol, cannabinoids and nicotine all result in bursts of dopamine release 3 to 5 times greater than that provided by normal reinforcers.

Dopamine release in this brain area flags whatever produced this dopamine spike as worth attending to, and any cues associated with it as worth learning. This is the normal brain mechanism which promotes learning of the behaviours necessary for survival.  Initial bursts of dopamine during successful behaviours causes positive reinforcement and results in the  longterm structural changes in synapses and dendritic spines which underlie learning. The mechanism works as it should if the organism learns, for example, where food is available. The problem arises with the supra-physiological amounts of dopamine produced by addictive substances. This learning of drug associated cues and pleasurable feelings leads to addiction.

Sensitization of the nucleus accumbens occurs during this addiction process. Drugs, alcohol and nicotine can restructure the synaptic pathways so they stimulate more dendrites than previously, but other normal reinforcers stimulate fewer dendrites. This action hijacks motivational processes and the person becomes focused only on the drug. Now the brain is sensitized to the drug cues and any reminder of the drug can cause craving and drug seeking even in abstinent former users. Cues associated with the drug such as paraphernalia or even specific places and people increase anticipatory activity in the sensitized nucleus accumbens and related areas and bring back the craving.

Now we have set the stage for long-term changes in motivation, emotion and executive control of behavior that occur in addiction. Due to physiological adaptation to the high levels of dopamine, chronic use leads to a decrease in the  subjective feeling of pleasure provided by the drug by a mechanism referred to as tolerance. Tolerance means an increasingly greater amount of the drug is necessary to produce the same “high”. Eventually drug users seek to avoid the distress, irritability and restlessness of the withdrawal symptoms produced when dopamine release in the accumbens is decreased if they do not continue to take the drug regularly. To prevent withdrawal with its resulting negative sensations and feelings, individuals become focussed on compulsively seeking more of the drug. Thus, in addition to changes in motivation, there are changes in emotional mechanisms. The memory of reinforcement also decreases the activity in the cortical executive circuits which normally provide inhibitory control over all adult behaviour and allow us to make wise decisions. Thus ability to regulate behaviour thus becomes impaired due to altered cortical control circuits.

~ Dr. Judith Toronchuk, Neuropsychologist Hacking of the American Mind, Dr. Robert Lustig, His book: The Hacking of the American Mind: the science behind the corporate takeover of our minds and bodies.



GFCF Program for Academic Year 2017-18

William Newsome, Department of Neurobiology, Stanford University School of Medicine

Wednesday, January 31, 2018 @ 4:00 p.m., Irving Barber Learning Centre –

 Of Two Minds: A Neuroscientist Balances Science and Faith


The ‘central dogma’ of neuroscience is that all our behavior and mental life—including our sense of a conscious, continuing self—is inextricably linked to the biology of the brain.  Neuroscience ‘explanations’, therefore, tend to account for mental phenomena such as thought, emotion and belief in terms of the basic elements of cellular communication within the brain—action potentials, synapses and neuromodulation.  Such mechanistic accounts, which appear increasingly powerful, have been cited as evidence that ‘folk psychological’ explanations of behavior—including beliefs, values and faith—will be replaced ultimately by deeper and more accurate neuroscientific explanations.  In contrast, I argue that the deepest and most accurate accounts of behavior necessarily involve multiple levels of explanation.  Within neuroscience itself, the best explanations are inherently multilevel, appealing simultaneously to behavioral, circuit-level, cellular and genetic insights.  Outside the domain of neuroscience proper, human behavior depends additionally on multiple levels of social and cultural organization and insight.  Each level of explanation complements and corrects, but does not replace, the others.  More than ever in our world, beliefs, values and faith matter.


William “Bill” Newsome is the Harman Family Provostial Professor, Vincent V.C. Woo Director of the Stanford Neuroscience Institute and Professor of Neurobiology at Stanford University. His PhD is from California Institute of Technology. He is the recipient of numerous honours and awards including being elected to membership in the American Philosophical Society, the Dan David Prize and being elected to Membership in the National Academy of Science. His research aims to understand the neuronal processes that mediate visual perception and visually guided behaviour.

Next @ GFCF: Expert Medical Panel Discussion on Mitigating the Addiction Crisis

Wednesday, March 14, 2018 @ 4:00 p.m. Woodward IRC, Room 5 

  • John Koehn, Addiction Medical Practitioner, New Westminster, Royal Columbia Hospital, completed a Fellowship under Dr. Evan Wood, BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS
  • Jay Wong, Psychiatry Resident UBC—St. Paul’s Hospital, Providence Health.
  • Jadine Cairns, Nutritionist, Children’s Hospital, Specialist in Eating Disorders
  • Gabriel Loh, Doctor of Pharmacology UBC—Clinical Coordinator Pharmacy Proctice, Richmond Hospital, Vancouver Coastal Health, Clinical Assistant Professor UBC



Rabbi Lord Jonathan SacksScreen Shot 2017-09-20 at 1.31.03 PM

The Dignity of Difference: the Critical Moral Contribution of Religion in our Globalized World.

Wednesday, October 25 @ 4:00 p.m., Chemistry D200, 2036 Main Mall, UBC 

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, philosopher, theologian, politician, one of the UK’s top public intellectuals, former Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregation of the Commonwealth 1991-2013. Baron Sacks will be brought to us by video.

Online Location:


Dr. Olav Slaymaker, Professor Emeritus Geography, UBC and Dr. Jason Byassee, Professor of Hermeneutics and Homiletics, Vancouver School of Theology.



Jonathan Sacks affirms that religion is indeed part of human controversy today, but he wants to emphasize that it most certainly can and should be a big part of the solution to contemporary tensions and conflicts. Especially true for him, the morality carried by religious traditions has a vital contribution with respect to the powerful forces of globalization in late capitalism. He wants us to celebrate the differences among religious traditions and use them to preserve and enlarge, not stunt, our humanity. Sacks, a man of conservative temperament, following a very orthodox version of Judaism, is a large-hearted person who has come to respect the different ways humans have expressed their search for meaning and identity. The liberating thing about this lecture, also a theme in two key books (The Dignity of Difference, and Not in God’s Name), is that he uses it to open the wisdom of the Hebrew tradition, especially the Genesis narrative. He does this because he believes it will help us find a way to heal the troubles that beset us, including terrible violence and injustice. The astonishing thing about this achievement is that his application of the Hebrew religious genius to the human condition works, whether you believe in God or not. He posits a world where all can participate on a level economic playing field, and where there can be respect for the Other. Judaism has always had a healthy attitude towards the world, it has always sought moderation in its adherents and a strong sense of responsibility toward the less fortunate. It is for this reason that Rabbi Sacks’ analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the global market economy is so compelling and hopeful. He attends to important nuances of the human condition and the variety of our motives. His genius involves a re-thinking of the narrative of the relationships between the three great Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. This posture resonates with people concerned to pursue peace and the global common good, heal fragmented relationships and end violence.


An international religious leader, philosopher, award-winning author and respected moral voice, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks was awarded the 2016 Templeton Prize in recognition of his “exceptional contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimension.” Described by H.R.H. The Prince of Wales as “a light unto this nation” and by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as “an intellectual giant”, Rabbi Sacks is a frequent and sought after contributor to radio, television and the press both in Britain and around the world. Since stepping down as the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth – a position he served for 22 years between 1991 and 2013 – Rabbi Sacks has held a number of professorships at several academic institutions including Yeshiva University and King’s College London. He currently serves as the Ingeborg and Ira Rennert Global Distinguished Professor at New York University. Rabbi Sacks has been awarded 17 honorary doctorates including a Doctor of Divinity conferred to mark his first ten years in office as Chief Rabbi, by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey.

Much has been said and written in recent years about the connection between religion and violence. Three answers have emerged. The first: Religion is the major source of violence. Therefore, if we seek a more peaceful world we should abolish religion. The second: Religion is not a source of violence. People are made violent, as Hobbes said, by fear, glory and the ‘perpetual and restless desire for power after power that ceaseth only in death’. Religion has nothing to do with it. It may be used by manipulative leaders to motivate people to wage wars precisely because it inspires people to heroic acts of self-sacrifice, but religion itself teaches us to love and forgive, not to hate and fight. The third answer is: Their religion, yes; our religion, no. We are for peace. They are for war. ~Jonathan Sacks

Now is the time for Jews, Christians and Muslims to say what they failed to say in the past: We are all children of Abraham. And whether we are Isaac or Ishmael, Jacob or Esau, Leah or Rachel, Joseph or his brothers, we are precious in the sight of God. We are blessed. And to be blessed, no one has to be cursed. God’s love does not work that way. Today God is calling us, Jew, Christian and Muslim, to let go of hate and the preaching of hate, and live at last as brothers and sisters, true to our faith and a blessing to others regardless of their faith, honouring God’s name by honouring his image, humankind. ~Jonathan Sacks

Responses to the Video: Dr. Olav Slaymaker, Professor Emeritus from UBC Geography, Dr. Jason Byassee, from Vancouver School of Theology, will respond to the lecture and take questions.

Dr. Olav Slaymaker, Professor Emeritus, UBC Geography  

University of Cambridge, King’s College, BA Honours, Geography; Harvard University, AM, Geology; University of Cambridge, 1968, PhD, Geomorphology; 1968-2004: Assistant, Associate and Full Professor, Geography, UBC; 2004-Present: Professor Emeritus, Geography, UBC

The focus of Olav’s teaching and research has been on understanding landscape science and, particularly, on water and sediment budgets as fundamental geomorphological knowledge. His regional focus has been on mountain environments, especially in British Columbia, Scandinavia, the Austrian Alps, Japan, Ethiopia and Taiwan. His wider interest extends to global physical geography and to stewardship of mountain regions. In recent years, he has broadened his interests further to embrace the meta-problems of global environmental change and environmental sustainability. He has served the International Geographical Union as Chair and member of several Commissions and as a coopted member of its Executive Committee; he was Head of Geography (1982-1991) and an Executive Committee member of the International Association of Geomorphologists from 1989-2001 (President, 1997-2001). He was President of the Canadian Association of Geographers (1991-1992) and Associate Vice-President of UBC (1991-1995). In the wider world, he was Governor of the International Development Research Centre, a major Canadian initiative to build capacity for sustainability in less developed countries (1994-2002). Since his retirement in 2004 he has been Visiting Professor at the University of Vienna. Honours: Member of the Order of Canada; Foreign Member of the Norwegian Academy of Science; DSc honoris causa, University of Wales.

Comments During the Event by Dr Slaymaker


The Dignity of Difference: the Intrinsic Value of Diversity in the Light of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’ Call for Monotheists to Claim their Common Heritage

  1. What is the dignity of difference?

The expression “Dignity of Difference” was coined by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in describing the glory of the created world in its astonishing multiplicity: the thousands of different languages spoken by mankind, the proliferation of cultures, the sheer variety of the imaginative expressions of the human spirit in most of which the voice of wisdom can be heard. The world is not a single machine but it is more like a complex interactive ecology in which diversity is of the essence. At the very least, that realization should make us better listeners. No civilization has the right to impose itself on others by force. This is why God asks us to respect the freedom and dignity of those who are not like us. “Do not oppress a stranger for you know what it feels like to be a stranger, for you yourselves were once strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23, v.9) 

  1. Engaging the discussion: is there some intrinsic value in diversity?

In contemporary Canada there is a strong emphasis on embracing diversity, with the underlying assumption that diversity is a good thing. Intrinsic value of diversity can be argued from geodiversity, biodiversity and cultural/religious diversity, but a separate lecture would be required to do these ideas justice. The worlds of inorganic objects (GEODIVERSITY), of living organisms (BIODIVERSITY) and human traditions (CULTURAL AND RELIGIOUS DIVERSITY) exemplify the value of diversity by underlining concepts such as complexity, keystone species and resilience that relate to the sustainability of the human species. Cultural and religious diversity gives colour and a sense of security to people whereas globalization flattens the globe and leads to alienation. Cultural and religious diversity is often overwhelmed by the global market. Nevertheless, cultural and religious diversity reflects biodiversity and geodiversity and is important to preserve for its own sake because it is a part of God’s creative work..

It is undoubtedly true that the immense power of globalization has positive  aspects, including notably the defeat of fascism and communism and globalization is also thought to be a good thing as it enables a sense of the global community. On the face of it, the global and the national priorities cannot be resolved and lie at the root of many civil unrests and protests surrounding, for example, the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs.

Books of substance have been written on this topic but relatively little to my knowledge has been written by the religious community

  1. What does the Bible have to say about the national versus the global according to Sacks?

In my view, though I am open to correction, Rabbi Sacks is the first heavy weight religious person to take aim at the end of history (Fukuyama, 1992) and end of geography (Friedman, 2005) arguments. Significantly, he points out that in each case, God is left out of the discussion. He proposes that Judaism uniquely among the monotheisms has seriously grappled with the tension between the global and the national.  Specifically, he directs attention to the first eleven chapters of Genesis as a trial run for globalism that failed. The rest of Genesis emphasizes family, tribe and nation (Genesis 15). Judaism, he says, is strictly national. It is an explicitly Judaic interpretation of diversity that, he says, has relevance to humanity, secular or religious and creates a new paradigm of mutual acceptance instead of factionalism. He argues from Genesis that God has created difference, through the creation of many cultures, the diversity of faiths and individual civilizations, all with only one place to live, our blue planet Earth. Can we make space for difference? There need to be two theologies Sacks argues: a theology of commonality and a theology of difference (p.21 of the Dignity of Difference) and that is exactly what Judaism has done by contrast with Islam and Christianity. “God has spoken to mankind in many languages: through Judaism to Jews, Christianity to Christians and Islam to Muslims – no one creed has a monopoly on spiritual truth. “The God of Abraham is the God of all mankind but the faith of Abraham is not the faith of all mankind” (p.53).  He also suggests that Christianity and Islam have failed to resolve this tension because of their emphasis on globalism and their disrespect for difference. But the thoughtful reader will ask whether the details of Sacks’ argument can ever sit comfortably with the reality of God’s activity in the unique history of Judaism and the reality of the incarnation.

Rabbi Sacks proceeds to recommend a deeper exegesis of the book of Genesis, a book that is common to all three monotheisms. His argument, that difference is always good, is endorsed by the uniqueness of the history of Judaism.  He asks why our common book (Genesis) emphasizes story-telling and not philosophy (in the way that classical Western thinking has evolved)? The central point of his discussion is that we have all misread the book of Genesis by focusing on superficial exegesis. Sacks recommends reading Genesis at five levels. This is a more intricate argument that looks at the stories of the main characters from five vantage points:

  • Superficial reading: primogeniture overturned: Ishmael and Esau deprived of birthrights: this is the standard reading
  • From the vantage point of fathers: Abraham loved Ishmael and Isaac loved Esau
  • Where are your sympathies drawn? Hagar and Ishmael; Isaac and Esau.
  • What is the final scene in each story? Isaac and Ishmael standing side by side at their Dad’s funeral; Jacob and Esau reconciled; Joseph and his brothers reconciled
  • How do Jews read? How do Christians read? How do Muslims read?


The sustainability of humanity probably depends on the understanding of difference through compassion, conservation, resilience and eventual reconciliation. We could think of these as being keystone principles without which humanity is unlikely to survive.  Systemic discrimination has arisen through undue emphasis on the differences between monotheisms. The recommendation to read more carefully and at many levels of interpretation to discover the commonalities in monotheism’s traditions is a profound and hope-filled theme. The call for a conversation that recognizes the common heritage of Judaism, Islam and Christianity is timely and well made. Apart from the obvious and central difficulty around the fact of the Incarnation, much wisdom could be gained from reading our common book (in this case specifically Genesis) together. At the very least, such a proposal would inform monotheists of the importance of hermeneutics and potentially reduce violence between religious fundamentalists.


Olav Slaymaker’s presentation at the Graduate and Faculty Christian Forum on Wednesday, October 25, 2017.



Jason Byassee is the inaugural holder of the Butler Chair in Homiletics and Biblical Hermeneutics at Vancouver School of Theology. His primary vocation is to reinvigorate today’s church with the best of ancient and contemporary wisdom for creatively faithful living. He was previously senior pastor of Boone United Methodist Church in Boone, North Carolina. There he directed eight other pastoral staff members and pastored a congregation of 1500 from five worshiping communities.

He studied at Davidson College and Duke University, where he earned a Ph.D. in systematic theology in 2005. He is also a contributing editor to Christian Century magazine, where he served as an assistant editor from 2004-2008. He is a Fellow in Theology and Leadership at Leadership Education at Duke Divinity School. He has served previously as a Research Fellow in the New Media Project at Union Theological Seminary in New York. He is the author or editor of nine books, most recently Trinity: The God We Don’t Know (Abingdon, 2015). He is at work co-editing or co-authoring books on clergy health in North Carolina, mentoring as a Christian practice, and growing United Methodist church plants. Future solo volumes include a commentary on the last third of the Psalter and a book on reading the bible with the church fathers. His work has also appeared in Christianity Today, Theology Today, Books & Culture, Sojourners, and First Things.

At Vancouver School of Theology he teaches subjects as various as preaching, biblical interpretation, leadership, church history, and writing. He has previously taught as an adjunct at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, North Park Theological Seminary, Northern Seminary, and Wheaton College.


  1. Wednesday, November 29 @ 4:00 p.m., MacLeod Building Room 254, 2356 Main Mall – Dr. Thomas Heilke, Professor of Political Science, and Associate Dean of the College of Graduate Studies, UBC Okanagan

 A Close Examination of the Foundations of Democracy: Religion and the Current Crisis


Limitless human potential and progress will result in this-worldly, pan-humanist fulfilment for all people groups. Inclusive pluralism, tolerance and respect will rule the day. Human possibilities will extend into a perfected and still perfecting future, supported by and supporting human autonomy, equality, and freedom. These expectations (or values) form one stream of the Western political tradition—liberal democracy. It functions as a political “myth” that regulates our thinking about public discourse, political leadership and perhaps reality itself. The myth has often been thought to originate within religious sensibilities and thought-ways, especially (but not exclusively) those of Christianity. Recent national and international political shock events have cast doubt on this myth and its inherent hopes for democratic polities like Canada. Therefore, we want to circumspectly probe: What indeed are the foundations of such a myth? Can a rigorous examination of current events help us think more clearly about the meaning of such foundations in the light of institutions and emotions, virtues and vices? Included in this inquiry, we contend, is the understanding that they are arguably based in the same religious sensibilities that underpin the hope of human progress. Professor Thomas Heilke will argue that the sources can be fruitfully examined, but also that their theological origins—alongside the parallel theological origins of progressivist thinking— must be more clearly discerned.


Thomas Heilke received his PhD from Duke University in 1990. After 23 years as a faculty member and a variety of administrative positions at the University of Kansas, he has been Professor of Political Science and Associate Dean of the College of Graduate Studies UBC Okanagan since January, 2014. He is the recipient of three teaching awards, and has written on a variety of topics in political philosophy, including civic friendship, political theology, the political thought of Friedrich Nietzsche, Eric Voegelin, John Howard Yoder, and Thucydides, and Anabaptist political thought. He has authored or co-authored four books and edited or co-edited six further volumes. His work has appeared in journals that include American Political Science Review, Political Theory, Polity, The Review of Politics, and Modern Theology. Among his published books are Voegelin on the Idea of Race: An Analysis of Modern European Racism (1990); Nietzsche’s Tragic Regime: Culture, Aesthetics, and Political Education (1998); Eric Voegelin: In Quest of Reality (1999). He co-edited with Ashley Woodwiss The Re-Enchantment of Political Science: Christian Scholars Engage Their Discipline, (2001). He belongs to the American Political Science Association and the Phi Beta Delta Honor Society for International Scholars.

 DInteresting Interview with Dr. Robert Lustig University of California San Francisco, author of The Hacking of the American Mind

More details to follow: Your GFCF Committee

Jason Lepojarvi on Re-Thinking Love(s)


Jason Lepojarvi

Postdoctoral Scholar in Residence, Regent College

Junior Research Fellow St. Benet’s Hall, Oxford, UK

How Many Loves? A Friendly Critique of CS Lewis’ The Four Loves

Wednesday, March 15 @ 4:00 p.m.   in Woodward (IRC) Room 5

Audio File of Jason Lepojarvi:



C. S. Lewis’s The Four Loves has greatly shaped Christian understanding of love. It has become common practice to speak of “four” loves. But are there really four? What is love itself in essence? Dr. Lepojärvi, a former President of the Oxford University C. S. Lewis Society, argues that the title of The Four Loves is misleading. He claims that there are not “four”, nor are they even “loves”. Charity or agape is the most misunderstood – even, or especially, among Lewis’s most devoted readers. This will provide an intriguing rethink of a long time classic.


Dr. Jason Lepojärvi is a scholar-in-residence at Regent College for the 2016-17 academic year. His current passion is a Postdoctoral research project on the theology of love, entitled Idolatry: Catholic and Protestant Perspectives. Born to a Canadian mother and a Finnish father, Jason studied theology and philosophy at the University of Helsinki, obtaining a PGCE. His master’s thesis focused on Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body and sexuality. It was published as the first introduction to the subject in Finnish. As a Visiting DPhil Candidate at Oriel College, Oxford, Jason served as the President of the Oxford University C. S. Lewis Society in 2012–13. He, his wife, and their two daughters moved to Vancouver in July 2016. Prior to this, they lived in Oxford, where Jason worked as the Junior Research Fellow in Theology at St Benet’s Hall. His doctoral thesis “God Is Love but Love Is Not God: C. S. Lewis’s Theology of Love” (2015) critically analyzed C. S. Lewis’s contribution to the debate on love (agape versus eros) that preoccupied much of twentieth century Protestant and Roman Catholic thought. It is a vital contribution to inter-religious dialogue.

Jason writes in order to capture our imagination:

“I intend to offer a definition of love itself (the genus of which the “four” loves are species), of Charity or agape in The Four Loves (it is not what we think it is), and of “Christian love” (if such a thing exists).

“Charity has undeniably been the most misunderstood of the ‘four’ loves, even or especially among his most devoted readers.”

“The word agape, too, had a more or less fixed meaning in the imagination of his contemporary Christian readership. This assumed fixed meaning, I now suspect, was actually part of the mindset Lewis wanted to correct. And it probably continues to be the default understanding of many Christians.”

“So absorbing is the description of these loves that one’s critical faculties are lulled to sleep.”

“There are not ‘four’, nor are they even ‘loves’.”

The Four Loves—a simple and memorable title, brilliant really, but at the expense of creating a false expectation.”

“One of the most peculiar facts about The Four Loves is that it never tells us what love is. If you comb its pages for a definition of love, you will leave empty-handed.”

“Lewis dissected love but never patched it back together.”

“Charity or agape in The Four Loves is not what we think it is. It is actually surprisingly practical, mundane, and even ‘secular’.”

“Strictly speaking there is no such thing as a ‘Christian love’, only a Christian praxis of love.”


To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.  ~C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves.


Allyson Jule Gives a Fresh Voice to Gender Issues

Allyson Jule, PhD


Professor of Education & Co-Director of the Gender Studies Minor

Trinity Western University

Wednesday, January 25, 2017 @ 4:00 p.m.

Friedman Building, Room 153, UBC Gate One

 Classroom Silences: 

Why Saying Nothing at All Can Ruin a Perfectly Good Education

Audio file


There is a substantial and wide-ranging body of research connecting gender with achievement in schools and in career and home life.  This lecture explores the intersection of feminism, faith, classroom silence and linguistic patterns. Gendered speech tendencies are understood as often aligned with expectations of femininity and masculinity with education as a primary site for gendered performances. The particular pattern of silence among female students in a whole variety of educational settings has been surprisingly consistent, particularly in light of advances in feminist pedagogical methods. Many female students are not very vocal in typical teacher-led classroom lessons. In addition, the Christian subculture has added identity factors and pressures concerning gender roles. While more recent work marks an important shift away from gender generalizations and sex differences to the particular situations and events at work in various educational settings, the research presented in this lecture explores how male students ‘have the floor’ with female students often serving as attentive, silent listeners. Various classrooms will serve as case studies, including a grade 2 classroom and 2 theology college classrooms; these examples offer implications for schooling in general and for what student silence tells us about the educational enterprise.


Allyson Jule, PhD, is Professor of Education and Co-Director of the Gender Studies Institute at Trinity Western University in Langley, BC, Canada.  She is also the President of Canada’s Women’s and Gender Studies et Recherches Féministes ( and a 3M Canada Fellowship winner, 2016. Allyson has particular research interests in the area of gender & language & silence in the classroom as well as gender & language alongside religious identity. She is the author of 2 monographs Gender, Participation and Silence in the Language Classroom:Sh-shushing the Girls and A Beginner’s Guide to Language and Gender (with a second edition due out later this year) and 5 edited collections of sociolinguistic or Christian scholarship: Gender and the Language of ReligionBeing Feminist, Being Christian: Essays from Academia, edited with Bettina Tate Pedersen, Language and Religious Identity, Shifting Visions: Gender and Discourse,Facing Challenges: Feminism in Christian Higher Education and Other Places, also with Pedersen. Dr. Jule has also authored several articles in books and peer-reviewed journals of significant readership, including The Canadian Modern Language Review and Gender and Education. She has been very active on the editorial boards of academic journals, such as Gender and Education journal, Gender and Language journal, the British Journal of Contemporary Religion and the Irish Journal of Applied Social Sciences. She serves on the executive council for the International Gender and Language Association (IGALA).

Allyson Jule is a highly respected and internationally renowned scholar in the field of gender and education and gender and language and gender and Christian identity.  She has presented her research in interdisciplinary contexts, connecting strongly as an interdisciplinary scholar in the fields of Women’s Studies, Education, Applied Linguistics, Teacher Education, Christian scholarship and Media Studies. She has presented at many national and international conferences, including at conferences in Canada, Germany, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain, Taiwan, Belgium, and Brazil, and ranging in topics from Sex and the City, the Mary Tyler Moore show, a critique of the Women’s Cancer memoir genre, princesses and superheroes in classroom textbooks, and Christian feminism.

Allyson Jule won TWU’s Davis Distinguished Teaching Award in 2011 and was named one of Canada’s top 10 professors for 2016. She was awarded the prestigious 3M Teaching Fellowship for excellence in university teaching and leadership, marking the only time a TWU professor has been so honoured. The announcement is found here:

Tom McLeish November 2016 Lecture Videos

November 3, 2016 Trinity Western University

November 4, 2016 St John’s College UBC The Medieval Big Bang


Tom McLeish in Vancouver and Harvard

screen-shot-2016-08-16-at-6-34-21-pmThis week I am enjoying my first ever visit to Vancouver to give a series of lectures and discussions on Faith and Wisdom in Science and the ideas and actions that flow from thinking through a Christian Theology of Science.  There are a few science lectures thrown in (in biophysics of protein dynamics – at Simon Fraser University, and the molecular rheology of polymer melts in processing – at UBC), and a final Friday night at St John’s (Graduate) College, UBC, on Medieval Science and the Ordered Universe Project.  Last night saw a fruitful and friendly welcome at Regent College.

The question sessions following the science/theology talks so far have been fascinating


Faith and Wisdom in Science (OUP 2014)

and inspiring (the questions that is – I can’t speak for the answers). The central section of the presentations, focussing on drawing resource from Biblical wisdom literature, draws on the close reading of the Book of Job that forms the central chapter of Faith and Wisdom.  So one of the questioners wanted to know about Jesus’ sayings about nature in the gospels, and their significance.  As in the cycles of speeches between Job and his comforters, way before the probing questions of the Lord’s Answer in chapter 38, the gospels, too, are full of nature metaphor and action.  The calming of the waves, the wind-image of the Spirit, the liking of the ‘signs of the times’ to the signs that the coming of the Kingdom is close – all these speak of a relationship with the natural world that reflects the Godly Wisdom of a deep seeing, an inner understanding, and an investment of significance into the material, natural world.  More thinking required here!

Another question searched the dilemma facing the church in sharing both the positive narrative for science and its consequences for an ethical, hopeful and fruitful managing of nature in future.  Given the explicit Creation-Fall-Election-Incarnation-Resurrection-Ministry of Reconciliation-New Creation story within which science and technology make sense as God’s gifts, how is all this worked through in a world that largely does not recognise that big story?  It reminded me of a wonderful question from an atheist sociologist at one of the first ever university-based discussions of the Faith and Wisdom in Science idea: ‘I wish I could share in your vision and hope, but as an atheist I can’t begin to share your assumptions: what can you give me?’

I think that the answer is not ‘nothing’ by any means.  Back to St. Paul and his brilliant summary of the work of the Church – the ‘ministry of reconciliation’ of 2 Corinthians 5.  To talk about our work being that of ‘healing broken relationships’ is something that everyone knows about and everyone wants.  To point to ways in which we can hope to reverse the mutual harm that we and our planet are inflicting on each other, by framing the challenge in those terms, and then by proceeding as one does in the healing of any broken relationship, is a practical way ahead that anyone can buy into.  Replacing ignorance with knowledge, fear with wisdom, and mutual harm with mutual flourishing – this is a framework for political and social care that has already generated practical outcomes, such as the Responsible Research and Innovation policy in the UK and Europe.

I hope to be able to say more about the work that new theologically-generated narratives can do in our managing of science and technology at a Harvard STS-Programme seminar next week (on the day of the US presidential election!), Narratives of Hope: Science, Theology and Environmental Public Policy rainbow.  But that is for next week. Today there is more at UBC with Investigating the Deep Structure of Modern Science: the Search for Wisdom

I am extremely grateful to the Canadian Scientific and Christian affiliation for supporting the visit, and to my kind hosts and organisers for all their tremendous hard work.

Tom McLeish @ UBC November 2

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Prof Tom McLeish, FInstP, FRS

Durham University

Tom McLeish’s Medieval Big Bang talk at St. John’s College, UBC November 4, 2016: 

Tom McLeish GFCF Talk at UBC

Professor in the  Department of Physics
Professor in the  Department of Chemistry
Author Faith & Wisdom in Science
 Investigating the Deep Structure of Modern Science: the Search for Wisdom
Wednesday, November 2, 4:00 p.m. in Woodward (IRC) Room 6
Faith and Wisdom in Science blog:


Tom McLeish takes a scientist’s reading of a historical series of texts (the oldest is the celebrated nature poem from the ancient Middle-Eastern ‘wisdom’ text – the Book of Job) describing the search for understanding of nature.  He makes the case for science as a deeply human, social and ancient activity, embedded in some of the oldest stories told about human desire to understand the natural world.  Drawing on stories from the modern science of chaos and uncertainty alongside these medieval, patristic, classical and Biblical sources, this narrative approach challenges much of the current ‘science and religion’ debate as operating with the wrong assumptions and in the wrong space. It also develops a natural critique of the cultural separation of sciences and humanities, suggesting an approach to science, or in its more ancient form natural philosophy – the ‘love of wisdom of natural things’ – that can draw on theological and cultural roots that remain highly relevant today. McLeish suggests that deriving a human narrative for science in this way can transform the way political discussions of ‘troubled technologies’ are framed, the way we approach science in education and the media, and reframe the modes in which faith traditions engage with science.


Tom McLeish is a very accomplished prize-winning biophysics professor and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research (2008-2014) at the highly ranked University of Durham in the UK. In 2011 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.  He served as Vice-President of Science and Innovation in the Institute of Physics 2012-2015, and is currently chair of the Royal Society’s Education Committee. Tom did a first degree in physics and PhD (1987) in polymer physics at Cambridge University.  A lectureship at Sheffield University in complex fluid physics was followed by a chair at Leeds University from 1993.  He has since won several awards both in Europe (Weissenberg Medal) and the USA (Bingham Medal) for his work on molecular rheology of polymers, and ran a large collaborative and multidisciplinary research program in this field from 1999-2009 co-funded by EPSRC and industry. His research interests include: (i) molecular rheology of polymeric fluids); (ii) macromolecular biological physics; (iii) issues of theology, ethics and history of science.  He has published over 180 scientific papers and reviews, and is in addition regularly involved in science-communication with the public, including lectures and workshops on science and faith.  He has been a Reader in the Anglican Church since 1993, in the dioceses of Ripon and York. In 2014, he published an important book called Faith and Wisdom in Science (Oxford University Press).

Tom McLeish is a truly original and creative thinker, a superior intellect and a super nice and approachable guy. He is a deeply curious person that is offering a game changing perspective on contemporary debates of science and religion, science and the humanities. Professor McLeish draws on insights from a wide variety of disciplines. He has spoken at SFU, downtown Vancouver and Regent College. His lectures just keep getting better and richer each time. His book Faith and Wisdom in Science is a gem, as Dr. Olav Slaymaker says in his review. You simply must not miss him when he speaks at St. John’s College. He claims that ‘science’ is the current chapter of a longer book of natural philosophy, the love of wisdom about natural things. He taps into a long human quest to find a healing relationship to the whole cosmos.


Science is part of a larger culture. Classically it was the love of wisdom about natural things.

Science is a participative, relational, co-creative work within the overall kingdom of God for healing the broken relationship of humans and nature. It involves the critical factor of a broken covenant between humans and rocks.

Science is not about answers, but finding the right creative questions that give us traction.

The biblical narrative, upon deeper reflection, is deeply rooted in nature from beginning to end.

Job in his search for wisdom finds himself alongside God looking into creation with all the good, the bad and the ugly and grappling with it all. It involves courage.

The book of Job is God’s answer to suffering in a poem of questions.

We need to proceed with a deep kind of seeing in order to get beyond the kind of myths that block our vision, and freeze our intellect.

Wisdom is seeing the deep structure of nature. Nature is the long way to wisdom.

Wisdom comes from a healthy respect for the otherness of God and the otherness of nature.

In healthy biological life, there is a layer of dynamic chaos below the perceived order.

Tom McLeish’s scientific research over the last 25 years has contributed to the formation of the new field of ‘soft matter physics’. Interdisciplinary work with chemists, chemical engineers and biologists has sought to connect molecular structure and behaviour with emergent material or biological properties. He has also worked intensively with industrial researchers developing molecular design tools for new polymeric (plastic) materials, leading large national and international programs, with personal contributions mostly theoretical. Throughout he has also maintained an interest in public engagement with science, science policy and public values including the underlying, but often hidden, public narratives of science. He has been especially interested in the potential for theological narratives to inform debates in science and technology, both explicitly and implicitly.

Professor McLeish takes a fresh approach to the ‘science and religion’ debate, taking a scientist’s reading of the enigmatic and beautiful Book of Job as a centrepiece, and asking what science might ultimately be for. Rather than conflicting with faith, science can be seen as a deeply religious activity, and the current form of a deep and continuous thread in human culture.

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Faith and Wisdom in Science presents science as the current flourishing of a very old and deeply human story. Weaving material from the modern science of the unpredictable together with ancient biblical and historical material it takes a fresh approach to the ‘science and religion’ debate – taking a scientist’s reading of the enigmatic and beautiful Book of Job as a centrepiece, and asking what science might ultimately be for. It makes the case for a story as human as any other – pain, love, desire, reconciliation, risk and healing emerge as surprising ingredients without which science is rootless. Rather than conflicting with faith, science can be seen as a deeply religious activity. There are urgent messages for the way we both celebrate and govern science.

McLeish delivers a picture of science as a questioning discipline nested within a much older, wider set of questions about the world, as represented by the searches for wisdom and a better understanding of creation in the books of Genesis, in Proverbs, in the letters of St Paul, in Isaiah and Hosea but most of all in that wonderful hymn to earth system science known as the Book of Job.

“This unique book is for those who are tired of the usual debates over science and religion. It is an intriguing read that includes stories from the lab about the quirkiness of scientific discovery, a deep meditation on the book of Job, and reflections on the current role of science in society. McLeish offers a thought-provoking view of the place of chaos and suffering in a universe under God’s control.”  ~Deborah Haarsma, President of BioLogos

“Tom McLeish’s engaging passion for science is matched by his unique ability to help the reader locate science in a complex and enriching relationship with ancient texts and stories, contemporary culture and the big questions of human existence.” ~David Wilkinson, Durham University.

Tom McLeish is Professor of Physics at Durham University and also chairs the Royal Society’s education committee. After a first degree in physics and PhD (1987) in polymer physics at Cambridge University, a lectureship at Sheffield University, in complex fluid physics, lead to a chair at Leeds University from 1993.

He has since won several awards both in Europe (Weissenberg Medal) and the USA (Bingham Medal) for his work on molecular rheology of polymers, and ran a large collaborative and multidisciplinary research programme in this field from 1999-2009 co-funded by EPSRC and industry.

His research interests include: (i) molecular rheology of polymeric fluids); (ii) macromolecular biological physics; (iii) issues of theology, ethics and history of science. He has published over 180 scientific papers and reviews, and is in addition regularly involved in science-communication with the public, including lectures and workshops on science and faith. In 2014 OUP published his book Faith and Wisdom in Science. He has been a Reader in the Anglican Church since 1993, in the dioceses of Ripon and York.

From 2008-2014 he served as Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at Durham University. In 2011 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. In 2012 he was made Vice-President of Science by the Institute of Physics (IoP).

Support and Sponsorship Gratitude: Oikodome Foundation, Canadian Science & Christian Affiliation, Templeton Foundation, UBC Murrin Fund

Book Review: Tom McLeish (2014). Faith and Wisdom in Science. Oxford University Press. by Professor Emeritus Olav Slaymaker from UBC Geography

Tom McLeish is Professor of Physics and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at the highly ranked University of Durham in the UK.. With this book he has initiated a new genre of writing about the relation between science and faith. I have a raft of books on theology AND science; this book is the first one of which I am aware that attempts a theology OF science. It is an exciting book in so many ways and is marked by great originality. For some readers the case for the identicality of the scope of theology and science will be too radical to contemplate. Yet the argument is succinct and equally well grounded in Biblical exegesis and experiential empirical and theoretical science. I expect to continue to mine this book for several years to come.

 The central theme of the book is that the scope of science and theology is identical and that therefore there must be insights that are worthy of exploration and exchange between the two disciplines. Both science and theology are built on faith; they are both more about imagination and creative questions than about method, logic and providing answers and they both involve pain and love as their central emotions. Perhaps the most revelatory part of his thinking is his view that order and chaos are equally part of God’s world and his refusal to accept the simplistic argument that God’s existence is proven from the fine tuning of the universe. He insists that we must grapple with the chaos and disorderliness of much of creation and incorporate this into our theology beyond simply throwing up our arms and declaring that the disorder is caused by the Fall. And he bases his view on an original exegesis of parts of Proverbs, Psalms, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Hosea, Job (especially Job) and Genesis 1 and 2 and bolsters his argument with insights from Romans, I Corinthians, the Gospel according to John and the Revelation of John.

But I am getting ahead of myself. The starting point of his presentation is the question “What is the difference between science as knowledge and natural philosophy as the love of wisdom about nature?” He suggests that our contemporary use of the term science is only a small, though powerful, part of the story. Science as knowledge implies certainty; the love of wisdom implies a journey. He immediately proceeds to describe his own journey from ignorance to understanding in his research into the nature of jellies, peptides and other natural substances. The excitement and frustrations of the process of discovery of new insights are communicated effectively.

Paralleling his love of wisdom achieved in his laboratory is the author’s enthusiasm for the natural wisdom of the Old Testament. He moves from wisdom as a practical way of life (Proverbs 8) through the importance of the creative word (Psalm 33); the dynamism of creation (Psalm 104); the teaching of correction from creation (Jeremiah); the importance of care for creation (later Isaiah) and a focus on a distant hope and a different cosmos (early Isaiah and Hosea); to the establishing of order through classification (Genesis 1 and 2). But the ever-present tension of chaos and order has to be addressed head-on. What does understanding mean in the context of chaotic objects like comets, storms and earthquakes? Only a little understanding but profound amazement. The fact that order can emerge from chaos “lies within the foundations of science today but it is also a narrative theme of human culture that is as old as any.” (p.101).

There follows a profound exegesis of the book of Job. McLeish does so by taking three snapshots of the book: (1) Surveying the foundational questions of cosmology, geology, meteorology, astronomy and zoology, through chapter 38; (2) A whole book survey as a study of the problem of pain (chapters 1, 6, 16, 32, 38 and 39) and (3) Following a “nature trail” through the whole book. His conclusion is  “with trepidation and against the weight of opinion” that the Lord’s answer to Job’s complaint about God’s justice in His  management of creation as a whole is indeed a valid answer for five reasons: (1) There is a third path of constrained freedom in which true exploration of life really lies (by contrast with control and chaos); (2) Job is led to a new perspective that “decentralizes humanity from any claim to primacy in creation and affirms the human possibility of knowing creation with an insight that is an image of the divine”; (3) the final voice is participative and invitational; (4) leads to a human relationship with creation in terms of a covenant; and (5) the Lord’s answer is eschatological and looks to future healing of the broken relationship between humanity and the creation. This leads directly to the New Testament creation narratives of creation and reconciliation.

The chapter labelled “A theology of science” is the capstone of the book. McLeish summarizes three  traditional ways of speaking about theology and science: (1) a conflict model (e.g. Dawkins); (2) a non-overlapping magisterial model (e.g. Gould); and (3) reconciliation by comparative methodology, keeping the objects of enquiry separate (e.g Polkinghorne). Each of these is inadequate, he says. A theology of science, by contrast, assumes a linear history moving from ignorance to understanding, a special human aptitude for wisdom (“the most inexplicable thing about science is that it is explicable”), deep wisdom (“there is a deeper significance to understanding nature than simply knowing things”), ambiguity of problems and pain (the call to wait and experience of pain), order and chaos (God is not only the shaping force of order, he also unleashes the forces of thunder, clouds, lightning and wind), the role of questioning, love in the practice of science and participation in reconciliation. Science becomes, within a Christian theology, the grounded outworking of the ministry of reconciliation between humankind and the world.

The love of wisdom about nature leads to a concluding chapter about how we can mend our ways, share our science and face up to the future. McLeish sees that both science and the church have some hard thinking to do in order to operationalize his insights. The healing of the academy and of the church are both implied.

The epilogue turns to the encounter of Jesus with a Roman Centurion as a parable for science. In that parable Jesus calls the understanding of true authority “great faith”. The ability to do science, to deploy the love of wisdom to do with natural things gives us both extraordinary authority and responsibility. Can we choose the way, in wisdom, that deserves to be called “great faith?”


Thomas Heilke Examines the Secular-Religious Debate

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 Thomas Heilke

Professor of Political Science

Associate Dean of the College of Graduate Studies,

UBC Okanagan

Probing the Potential of the Secular-Religious Interface

Response by Dr. Olav Slaymaker, Professor Emeritus, UBC Geography

Audio File 

Powerpoint File Secular-Religious Interface_Powerpoint

Tuesday, March 1, 2016 @ 5:00 p.m. Woodward (IRC) Room 6,

UBC Main Point Grey Campus


Our understanding of the secular has evolved in significant ways over the past century, and this can often lead to confusion. Within modernity, how do those who most strongly identify as religious and this who view themselves as secular discover their common cause? In this talk, Dr. Heilke will drill down into that language and its surprising history. He will sharpen our understanding and propose creative ways of engaging with one another fruitfully across different visions of societal life. Vital issues of justice, public morality, civic and religious liberties are at stake as we seek sustainable ways forward for human flourishing and the common good. Rejecting the ideological culture wars, Dr. Heilke holds out hope to find a symbiotic interface between the secular and the religious voice. We all see from a limited perspective, and we can all discover our identity and public engagement afresh through constructive dialogue and artful cooperation.


Thomas Heilke received his Ph.D. from Duke University in 1990. After 23 years as a faculty member and a variety of administrative positions at the University of Kansas, he has been Professor of Political Science and Associate Dean of the College of Graduate Studies UBC Okanagan since January, 2014. He is the recipient of three teaching awards, and has written on a variety of topics in political philosophy, including civic friendship, political theology, the political thought of Friedrich Nietzsche, Eric Voegelin, John Howard Yoder, and Thucydides, and Anabaptist political thought. He has authored or co- authored four books and edited or co-edited six further volumes. His work has appeared in journals that include American Political Science Review, Political Theory, Polity, The Review of Politics, and Modern Theology. Among his published books are Voegelin on the Idea of Race: An Analysis of Modern European Racism (1990); Nietzsche’s Tragic Regime: Culture, Aesthetics, and Political Education (1998); Eric Voegelin: In Quest of Reality (1999). He co-edited with Ashley Woodwiss The Re-Enchantment of Political Science: Christian Scholars Engage Their Discipline, (2001). He belongs to the American Political Science Association and the Phi Beta Delta Honor Society for International Scholars.

Research Interests: Political philosophy and theory; classical political thought; modern political thought; political theology; religion and politics; political ideologies; international relations in political philosophy

Teaching: Political philosophy; history of political thought; religion and politics; international relations in political philosophy

Miraslov Volf’s book Flourishing: why we need religion in a globalized world, is an excellent follow-up to this lecture.

See also Page/Button: Literature on Religion and Politics for more bibliography

Higher Education’s Future Prospects

Future Prospects for Higher Education: Key Drivers of Sustainability

November 17, 2015  @ 4:00 p.m.        Woodward (IRC) Room 1

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Panel Members

Jens Zimmermann, Canada Chair in Interpretation, Religion and Culture, Trinity Western University

Emily Osborne, PhD Cambridge, Postdoctoral Fellow UBC English

Bruce Hindmarsh, James Houston Professor of Spiritual Theology, Regent College

Ron Dart, Professor of Political Science and Philosophy, University of the Fraser Valley 

Recording of the Discussion


In a recent Globe and Mail article, CNN’s reporter Farheed Zakaria posits the tough question, “Is liberal-arts education more than a nostalgia for a bygone era of higher learning, now out of sync with today’s hyper-competitive skills-based economies?” Such questions are also posed by many powerful influencers today. In a different issue of the Globe, Alan Wildeman, President and vice-chancellor of University of Windsor, adjures us in an article entitled “We ignore liberal arts at our peril” where he argues that the liberal arts is essential for civility, democracy, wise decision-making and competence in the job world. As a multicultural country playing in the global arena, Canada needs a citizenry that learns and studies human differences, social behaviors and cultural traditions. Indeed, does higher education encourage the pursuit of character development together with academic excellence? Is it innovative, socially relevant and sustainable? Does it prepare students for negotiating an increasingly complex and competitive globalized world? What will inspire and engage their imagination in the pursuit of active citizenship and civil discourse? Post-secondary education has a huge cultural and economic influence in Canada. It shapes the future, while building on a critical appreciation of the past. In its community, UBC Vancouver has 10,000 postgraduate and 41,000 undergraduate students from around the world. They come with high hopes for skill and credential development, and long to contribute to meaningful research and to acquire good future careers. A large percentage hope to make a better world. Education seems essential for both self-awareness and global awareness. At the same time, globally education is under intense pressure from various forces (intrinsic and extrinsic), currently pulling it in different directions, amidst conflicting public and political expectations. In the early history of universities like Oxford and Cambridge, Harvard and Yale, Queen’s and McGill, character development was a central priority. It is timely for this panel to reflect upon the purpose and trajectory of the contemporary university, and the goods it is to pursue.

Panel Information

Jens Zimmermann, Canada Research Chair for Interpretation, Religion, and Culture at Trinity Western University, received his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from UBC and his Doctorate in Philosophy from the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. His research interests in include continental philosophy (especially hermeneutics), theological anthropology, the theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Christian humanism. He is author of Humanism and Religion: A Call For the Renewal of Western Culture (OUP 2012), and more recently of Hermeneutics: A Very Short Introduction, also with Oxford University Press.

Dr. Emily Osborne is currently a SSHRC-postdoctoral fellow in the Department of English, University of British Columbia. She received her PhD and MPhil from Cambridge University, where she studied medieval English, Icelandic and Scandinavian languages and literature. Her current research is interdisciplinary and transcultural, spanning literature from the seventh to fifteenth centuries in four languages, and engaging with sociolinguistics and philosophy of mind. Her academic publications and research projects are concerned with the history of rhetoric, poetic theory and metaphor theory, intentionality, and speech acts.

Bruce Hindmarsh took his D.Phil. degree in theology at Oxford University in 1993.  From 1995 to 1997 he was also a research fellow at Christ Church, Oxford.  He has since published and spoken widely to international audiences on the history of early British evangelicalism.  He is the author of two major booksJohn Newton and the English Evangelical Tradition (Oxford University Press, 1996) and The Evangelical Conversion Narrative (Oxford University Press, 2005). Bruce has been the recipient of numerous teaching awards, research grants and fellowships.  He has been a Mayers Research Fellow at the Huntington Library and a holder of the Henry Luce III Theological Fellowship.  A fellow of the Royal Historical Society, he is also a past-president of the American Society of Church History. He teaches the history of Christian spirituality at Regent College. 

Ron Dart has taught in the department of political science, philosophy, religious studies at University of the Fraser Valley since 1990. He was on staff with Amnesty International in the 1980s. Ron has published more than 30 books/booklets, including books on Stephen Leacock, George Grant and the classical Canadian Red Tory tradition.

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 12.44.45 PM Alan Wildeman September 7, 2015 Douglas Todd, Can Higher Education Rediscover its ‘Soul’? Dr. Paul Moser on Wisdom and Spirit

Clark Kerr, The Uses of the University.

Hans Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method.

Matthew B. Crawford, The World beyond Your Head (2015)

Howard Gardner, 5 Minds for the Future.

Isaac Asimov, The Roving Mind.

Jens Zimmermann, Hermeneutics: a very short introduction. (OUP 2015)

Linda Zagzebski, Virtues of the Mind: an inquiry into the nature of virtue and the ethical foundation of knowledge. (Cambridge, 1996)

C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man

Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge:Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy.

Brad Gregory, The Unexpected Reformation: how a religious revolution secularized society.

John Henry Newman, The Idea of a University.

Josef Pieper, The Four Capital Virtues

George Marsden, The Soul of the American University: from Protestant establishment to established nonbelief.

George Marsden and Bradley J. Longfield, The Secularization of the Academy. (1992)

Harry Lewis, Excellence Without a Soul: Does Liberal Education have a Future?

Sir Ken Robinson, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything.

Tom McLeish, Faith and Wisdom in Science.

David Brooks, The Road to Character (especially 262-67)

Douglas V. Henry and Michael Beaty (eds.), Christianity and the Soul of the University: Faith as a Foundation for Intellectual Community.

Charles Taylor, A Secular Age. (2007)

Timothy W. Burns and Peter Augustine Lawler, The Future of Liberal Education.

Anthony Kronman, Education’s End: Why Our Colleges and Universities Have Given Up on the Meaning of Life.

Martha Nussbaum, Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities. (Princeton, 2010).

David Lyle Jeffrey and Dominic Manganiello, Rethinking The Future of the University.

Jeffrey Selling, College (Un)Bound: the future of higher education.

John Somerville, The Decline of the Secular University.

John Cobb Jr., Spiritual Bankruptcy.

Susan Cain, Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking.

Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown, A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change.

Anya Kamenetz, DIY U: The Transformation of Higher Education.

Elizabeth Losh, The War on Learning: Gaining Ground in the Digital University.

Alexander W. Austin and Helen Austin, Beyond 2020: Envisioning the Future of the University in America.

R. L. Geigler and C. L. Colbeck, Future of the American Public Research University.

Josef A. Mestenhauser, Reflections on the Past, Present and Future of Internationalizing of Higher Education: Discovering Opportunities to Meet the Challenges. 

Others who weigh in on the Subject:

Stefan Collini, European Cultural Historian, Babson College

Ron Barnett, Realizing the University in an Age of Super Complexity (2000); Beyond all Reason: living with ideology in the university (2003)

Mike Higton, Durham University, A Theology of Higher Education (OUP, 2012)

Nigel Biggar, “What Are Universities For?’ in Theology and Human Flourishing: Essays in Honor of Timothy J. Gorringe, ed. Mike Higton, jeremy Law and Christopher Rowland (Wipf and Stock, 2011)

Steven Schwarz (Imperial Space Lab), “Not by Skills Alone’, Times Higher Education Supplement, 16 June 2011

Mary Midgley, Wisdom, Information, Wonder: What is Knowledge For? (Routledge, 1989)

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Critical Questions to Ponder about the Future of Higher Education

How does the pursuit of wisdom relate to developing job skills and work fitness? What are the sources of such wisdom?

What does it mean to become a cultured individual? What does it mean to become robustly personal and relational?

What is the relationship between knowledge and deeper understanding of life? What is the role of contemplation?

Does one’s development have anything to do with a consciousness of social benefit and the common good?

Are there key questions, human questions, that science cannot even begin to ask? Can science provide an adequate worldview? How do we discern between good science and the ideology of scientism?

What does personal formation have to do with education: fostering curiosity, wise judgment, humility and openness?

What cardinal intellectual and social virtues should we be pursuing and where are they sourced? Where are the models or exemplars for such virtues?

What role do universities have in shaping leaders for society? How do students develop into good citizens and learn to negotiate key issues on the international stage?

What is our responsibility to preserve the long history of the academic heritage?

What is the rich content of the good life we are pursuing through education? What is a thick definition of education?

How do we learn to use technology wisely as a tool towards good ends, without being consumed by the ideology of technologism?

Is there a place for religious and theological reflection in shaping the future task of the university? How does this contribute to the knowledge and life skills we need to live well?

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