Veritas Forum

Veritas Forum: Tuesday January 20 & Wednesday 21 –

Is Reality Secular? Testing the Assumptions of Four Global Worldviews


Keynote Speaker – Mary Poplin

Professor in the School of Educational Studies, Claremont Graduate University

A native of Texas, Mary Poplin earned her Ph.D. in Education from the University of Texas. She began her career teaching elementary school and special education, later becoming a professor at Claremont Graduate University in California where she was director of the Teacher Education Program, 1985-1995 and Dean of the School of Educational Studies, 2000-04. Between those positions Poplin worked with Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta. She has hosted a Summit on Accountability and Social Justice which sought to define the major principles inherent in accountability systems in the U.S. that have been found to be effective in closing the achievement gap between rich and poor and between racial and ethnic groups. She is the author of “Voices from the Inside: A Report on Schooling from Inside the Classroom” (1992). More recently, Poplin has begun to work on the application of the intellectual, social, and psychological principles of the Judeo-Christian worldview as they apply to higher education, particularly among culturally and linguistically diverse peoples and the poor. Poplin has published two books with Veritas through InterVarsity Press: Is Reality Secular? Testing the Assumptions of Four Global Worldviews (2013) and Finding Calcutta: What Mother Teresa Taught Me About Meaningful Work and Service (2008).

What is the nature of reality? At the root of our society’s deepest political and cultural divisions are the conflicting principles of four global worldviews. While each of us holds to some version of one of these worldviews, we are often unconscious of their differences as well as their underlying assumptions. Mary Poplin argues that the ultimate test of a worldview, philosophy or ideology is whether it corresponds with reality. Since different perspectives conflict with each other, how do we make sense of the differences? And if a worldview system accurately reflects reality, what implications does that have for our thinking and living?

In this wide-ranging and perceptive study, Poplin examines four major worldviews: naturalism, humanism, pantheism and Judeo-Christian theism. She explores the fundamental assumptions of each, pressing for limitations. Ultimately she puts each perspective to the test, asking, what if this worldview is true? If reality is secular, that means something for how we orient our lives. But if reality is not best explained by secular perspectives, that would mean something quite different.

Consider for yourself what is the fundamental substance of reality.

Recent Posts

Sin: A Family Tale

We continue a series of blog devotions based on the CRC Contemporary Testimony “Our World Belongs to God.”. These devotions incorporate both Christian and non-Christian student reflections on the statements.  The series begins HERE if you wish to read them all.

Suggested Scripture Reading – Genesis 3

But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” Genesis 3:9-11

Our World Belongs to God – Article 13

In the beginning of human history,
our first parents walked with God.
But rather than living by the Creator’s word of life,
they listened to the serpent’s lie
and fell into sin.
In their rebellion
they tried to be like God.
As sinners, Adam and Eve feared
the nearness of God
and hid.


imagesWCG35L78I recently had the chance to visit my parents and I was reminded of a particular way in which members of my family sit. When we’re relaxed, we’re inclined to sit with our bottoms on the edge of a chair, our legs stretched out with feet crossed, and often our hands folded over our bellies. I sometimes think of this position as the coffin position because it’s how they usually arrange a body in a coffin. Yet in our family we attempt this position as we sit in chairs. My dad does it, I have cousins that do it and I do it. It’s hard to say what part of this sitting position is a learned behaviour and what part of it might be genetics. Either way, it was passed on to me through my parents.

The thirteenth article of Our World Belongs to God makes a thoughtful choice of words. As it begins to discuss the topic of sin and how sin exists in the creation, the subject is made personal. By beginning with the imagery of parents walking with God, it emphasizes our connection to the entire history of our human family. So often when it comes to the problems of our world we like to point fingers at other nations, races, religions, etc. etc. But to understand the problem of evil or sin we must look at ourselves. N.T. Wright in his book “Simply Christian” says it so well:

imagesC0OS667AThe line between good and evil does not lie between ‘us’ and ‘them,’ between the West and the rest, between Left and Right, between rich and poor. That fateful line runs down the middle of each of us, every human society, every individual. This is not to say that all humans, and all societies, are equally good or bad; far from it. Merely that we are all infected and that all easy attempts to see the problem in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’ are fatally flawed.”

The story of sin is OUR story.

untitled (8) When we read Genesis 3, we must hear an incredibly personal story about the way in which so many of us choose ourselves first. Genesis 3 is not just a story about the first sin, it’s a story about the way things go wrong. Our family history shows us a long and sordid tale of people who are constantly seeking ways in which we can be all-knowing. The problem of sin is a family story of learned and genetic behavior where we are always trying to live beyond our means. And in our contemporary society, we only need look at advertising slogans to see how we’re prone to lies of putting ME first – “Just Do It – Nike” “Because You’re Worth It – L’Oreal,” “I Want That – The Source,” “Have it Your Way – Burger King.”

The life aimed at serving the self is a lonely life, something that is emphasized in this article when it points out that as Adam and Eve chose themselves first they feared the nearness of God and hid. Life works best within the confines of a way where we as humans do not put ourselves first, where who we are exists to serve the creation as stewards of the garden, where we seek the good of our neighbor and ultimately where we acknowledge that only God can be all knowing. What lies might we be listening to these days? What does our chapter of the family story look like?


Heavenly Father, have mercy on me, a sinner. Amen