Tutor: Howard Taylor



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  • Christianity and Contemporary Thought.
  • Tutor.
  • Howard Taylor.

Tutor: Howard Taylor.

  • Chaplain - Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh.
    • Also at Heriot-Watt lectures in:
      • `Moral & Social Philosophy’
      • `Philosophy of Science and Religion’.
    • Visiting lecturer `International Christian College’. (Two modules - alternate years).
    • Convenor: Church of Scotland Apologetics Committee.
  • Previously:
    • Church of Scotland Parish Minister:
      • St. David’s Knightswood Glasgow - 12 years.
      • Innellan, Toward, and Inverchaolain Churches - 5 years.
    • Worked in Malawi, Africa - 16 years.
      • Missionary: Minister, Theology lecturer, African Language teacher.
      • Maths and Physics lecturer: University of Malawi.
  • Degrees from: Nottingham, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
  • Author of several small books/booklets.
  • Married with three grown up sons and two grandsons and one granddaughter..

Main Subjects for B313

  • .Background to Christian thinking in the West including analysis of some Biblical passages.
  • Ideologies and views of the human person that have shaped or are shaping our modern Western world, including:
  • Supposed political solutions to the human condition
    • Marxism.
    • Differing views on Religion’s relation to Politics.
  • Alternative spiritual solutions to humanity’s problems:
    • Eastern religions,
    • Green spirituality and especially New Age thought;
  • The collapse of ideology
    • Existentialism, Nihilism and Post Modernism.
  • The ‘problem of evil’ for various worldviews.

The mystery of existence.

  • Why do matter and energy exist? - where did they come from?
  • Scientific theories about the origin of the universe have to assume the initial existence of some kind of energy/law of nature. (Eg: Wave function of the Universe - Stephen Hawking’s phrase)
    • leading to matter/space-time/laws of physics in the big bang.
  • But scientific theories cannot explain how the initial energy/laws of nature came to exist or why they exist or did exist.
  • If God exists why does He exist? Was He created?
  • Whether or not God exists we are face to face with the mystery:Why does anything exist at all?
    • Stephen Hawking:`Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing?’
    • JJC Smart (atheist philosopher): Why should anything exist at all? - it is for me a matter of the deepest awe.

World Views:

  • 1. Atheistic Materialism:
    • There is nothing spiritual - no god, spirit or human soul.
    • Impersonal matter/energy/physical laws (in one form or another) are the basis of all that exist - the whole story.
      • They are eternal
      • They have developed into the universe including all its life and human life and personal human minds.
    • In principle the human person, including his/her appreciation of beauty, right and wrong, could, in the future, be understood entirely by physics.
      • A complete understanding of the human person could, in future, come from a study of impersonal physical laws/matter/energy which make up his physical body/brain and environment. See quotation from
      • Francis Crick on next slide.
  • World Views: Atheistic Materialism continued.
  • Francis Crick: “You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more that the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.” (The Astonishing Hypothesis page 3)

World Views:

  • 2. Deism: God is entirely transcendent - out there, not in here.
    • God created the universe with its physical laws and now leaves it to run its course.
    • There is no continuing relation between God and the physical universe.
    • God is not relevant to our physical lives.
  • 3. Pantheism `God’ is immanent - in here, not out there.
    • There is no Creator God distinct from the universe.
    • `God’ is the spiritual dimension of the physical universe.
    • God is impersonal.
      • We tune into God rather than pray to Him in a personal way.
      • We may pray to spirits but not to God.
    • All things are sacred in their own right.
    • The physical/spiritual universe is eternal.

World Views:

  • 4. Theism - God is both transcendent and immanent
    • He is distinct from the physical world but He is with and `in’ all things.
    • He alone is eternal.
    • He created matter/energy/laws of physics.
    • He holds all things in being.
    • He is personal Mind.
    • Some believe that we may know Him personally.

World Views:

  • 5. Christian Theism. As well as the theism already outlined:
      • God is love.
      • He does not remain distant from our sin and suffering.
      • He stoops to the human level, and bears sin, pain and death for us. (The Cross)
      • He lifts us up back to where we belong, forgiving us all our sin. (The resurrection)
      • Although this is seen in Jesus, it is a process that occurs throughout history - that is what the Bible is about.
      • Judgement, new Creation and eternal life are realities.
      • There our true destiny is fulfilled.
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