Subtraction stories

“…if someone tells you that he or she has converted to unbelief because of science, don’t believe them. Because what’s usually captured the person is not scientific evidence per se, but the form of science: ‘Even where the conclusions of science seem to be doing the work of conversion, it is very often not the detailed findings so much as the form.’ Indeed, the ‘appeal of scientific materialism is not so much the cogency of its detailed findings as that of the underlying epistemological stance, and that for ethical reasons. It is seen as the stance of maturity, of courage, of manliness, over against childish fears and sentimentality.’ But you can also understand how on the retelling, the convert to unbelief will want to give the impression that it was scientific evidence that was doing the work. Converts to unbelief always tell subtraction stories.

And the belief such persons have converted from has usually been an immature, Sunday schoolish faith that could easily be toppled. So while such converts to unbelief tell themselves stories about ‘growing up’ and ‘facing reality’ – and thus paint belief as essentially immature and childish – their ‘testimony’ betrays the simplistic shape of the faith they’ve abandoned. ‘If our faith has remained at the stage of the immature images, then the story that materialism equals maturity can seem plausible.’ But in fact their conversion to unbelief was also conversion to a new faith…”

James K.A. Smith, How (Not) To Be Secular, p.76,77.

2 thoughts on “Subtraction stories

  1. Pardon me for using your blog to write; I did not know how else to reach you. I have been enjoying hearing your sermons (from as we drive to Los Angeles every month or so, for my dad’s medical appointments. I hope that, if and when you are in L.A. or thereabouts, we can take advantage & hear you speak….Sincerely, in Christ, Jen Rincon (TMC Class of ’98)

    1. It is great to hear from you! I am so glad to hear God’s Word has been an encouragement. We actually are just finishing up a visit to the United States and leaving this week for South Africa.We’ll definitely try to let you know next time we are on this area. It would be so fun for us to be able to see you then.

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