Exploring Biblical Parallels to the Lean – the Leading Management System

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Nearly everyone in the corporate world has heard of Lean, which comes from the Toyota Production System, and which dramatically accelerated the performance of Toyota and countless other companies. Due to its impact, Lean has spread from automobiles to aircraft to nearly every industry. But it is not so well known and even less practiced in nonprofits and NGOs, let alone churches. In our article What Christian Leaders can Learn from Lean, Professor Don Pope of Abilene Christian University and I identify and explore seven similarities between the principles of Lean and Christianity. These similarities reveal that Lean has discovered some fundamental truths about growth that are already familiar to believers. Because of this, Christian Leaders should not consider Lean something foreign or only relevant for business, but can readily accept and apply Lean in their work (whether a business, ministry or church). Furthermore, we argue that Lean reminds Christian leaders of these biblical principles for spiritual growth that they may have forgotten or neglected.

I hope and pray:

  1. You will find this insightful analysis to be another evidence of the manifold wisdom of God gifted to us in the Bible.
  2. It will also encourage you and others to embark on a Lean transformation journey in your work.
  3. You will renew your walk with God by strengthening the Christian parallels in your life

I’ll be glad to hear your feedback.



comment on “Biblical Creationism”

Very sorry, Roy Squires, I’ve only just seen your comment on my article, 8 years after you wrote it!!  I can’t find any Comment facility at present under that article or anywhere on the site and so I’m using the open blogposts area.

Someting like this is stated several times in your article on Biblical Creationism”; “Genesis 2 and 3 should be interpreted literally as intended at the time of writing” How can you actually KNOW what was intended by the writers or the hearers of these creation narratives. Isn’t it a presuppostion which by its nature is not provable? Rather like a physicist having to assume cause and effect in his/her experiments but being unable to set up an experiment to prove cause and effect without assuming it to begin with. Regards

Thank you, Roy, for your very fair challenge.

There are two aspects of your comment to  consider.  One is your general presupposition that it not possible to know (really “KNOW’) anything without the claim being “proved”.  There’s danger here of the taking the position we only know something if it is certain.  Even mathematicians (and logicians) hesitate to claim that their proofs have absolute certainty. Knowing that “2 + 2 = 4” depends on presuppositions about the number series 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc. (and about + and =).  A mre workable view of knowledge is as reasonable belief about what is true, where “reasonable” means taking account of available alternatives.  Thus, a hypothesis set within or presupposed by a theory accepted by experts the field it covers approaches definite truth if it survives testing that could refute it.  My article happens to give an example as general as yours about cause and effect (which is commonly denied in contemorary physics!) – the Principle of Uiversality, a reasobable basic pressopostion until is is consistently refuted by observation or experiment.

Your example is important to me because I believe that causal processes are what The Trinity creates and sustains – not just physical causation but also social causation (as I quote from Isaiah 40 and Hebrews 1), and in my science mental causation too.

The second aspect of your comment is the constraints on speculsation about what the original speakers, writers, editors, listeners and readers understood by the Genesis account.  I have sought as much information as I can over the decades about the history of the documents and the peoples in that region 2-3000+ years ago but I am merely an amateur scholar of that field. I cite a book for the general reader summarising the most releant literary history in the end notes – sadly the citations of note numbers in the main text were lost when the C-A-N- website was renovated – “3. For an exposition by a former research scientist who has long been a Christian academic scholar of the Bible, see Can we believe Genesis today? by the Rev. Dr. Ernest C. Lucas (IVP, 2001, 2005).”  Just before lockdown, the Sunday morning sermon by the traned leader of my home church invoke the understanding of the poetic strcutre of Genesis 1:2-2:3 as a parallel sets of 3 days giving us a home in which to focus on the Creator, Sustainer, Judge, Saviour and Inspirer.

I hope that is helpful.  Again, apologies for the very tardy response.  – David

Nativity Scenes: A Live Performance, London Catholic Studies Lecture

Monday 10 December 2018

Durham University’s Centre for Catholic Studies and The University of Notre Dame host:


Nativity Scenes: A Live Performance


The Catholic Studies London Christmas Lecture


Stefano Cracolici (Durham University) traces the history of the nativity scene as a seasonal display in art, cinema and popular culture. His lecture will also focus on its performative re-enactments as ‘living nativity scenes’ (tableaux vivants), in which real humans and animals interact. The presentation will also discuss two little-known admirable paintings by Franz von Rohden at Ushaw College, in which living contemporary characters are featured.


6.30pm at the University of Notre Dame (USA) in England, 1-4 Suffolk Street, London, SW1Y 4HG


More details and registration

G.K Chesterton London Lecture

Dear friends and colleagues,
The University of Notre Dame London Global Gateway warmly welcomes you to an upcoming G.K. Chesterton lecture at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, November 14. The talk will finish at 7:30 p.m. and will be followed immediately by a reception. The event will take place at the University of Notre Dame’s Fischer Hall (1-4 Suffolk Street, London SW1Y 4HG).
G.K. Chesterton spent part of the fall term in 1930 at Notre Dame’s home campus in South Bend, Indiana, during which time he gave 36 lectures in the Washington Hall auditorium with an average attendance of 500 people at each. (We should hope to have as many at Melanie McDonagh’s lecture!) At that time, Chesterton also received an honorary degree from the University of Notre Dame.
In the wake of the resurgent interest in his literary work, and because of his connections to Notre Dame, the London Global Gateway wishes to open an ongoing public dialogue about G.K. Chesterton, his work, and contributions to christianity, beginning with this lecture, presented by journalist Melanie McDonagh, entitled G.K Chesterton: Polemicist…and Theologian.
Learn more about this lecture, and register your interest hereWe’d be delighted if you could join us. Please don’t hesitate to pass this invitation along to anyone whom you think might be interested. 

Creation is the only explanation as regards to Medicine and Biology

I’ve recently read an article entitled: “Here’s why Stephen Hawking says there is no God”* the author denied to publish my humble opinion as an academic Christian physician and I’m honored to submit it to you:

“The fool has said in his heart, “[There is] no God” They are corrupt, They have done abominable works, There is none who does good” (Psa 14 : 1).
Even if we accept that “something”or as Hawking has written “great many universes”  may appear out of “nothing” which has not been proved “scientifically” yet, a sane physician can never accept that this wonderful amazing cell, which is one out of more than 35 billions in every human body, came out of nothing! A sane physician can never accept that this unbelievable harmony among those billions of cells differentiated into numerous body organs and systems came out of chance! It’s as similar to accept that a computer came all of a sudden out of nothing, yet any cell of our 35 billions cells and more is much more complex than the latest generation of our computers.
A christian physician “believes” that these living miracles of interacting cells, tissues, organs and systems called creatures whether animals or humans can only be reasoned through creation made by the Logos (the Son) in the Holy Spirit for the glory of Father. Again, a christian physician sees the cross in this lovely creation and when he/she asks agnostics or atheists why the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body and vice versa, some may honestly reply that there’s no known reason for that. For them there’s no reason but for the believers there’s always a reason, as when one sees the neural decussation for the pyramidal tract or the optic pathway, an image of the holy cross of the creator came to mind as a finger print of the divine love represented in the miracle of creation. For a Christian researcher and solely from a scientific point of view, there’s no possible explanation to justify these wonders represented in all fields of medicine as anatomy, histology, biochemistry … etc other than creation.
Thus, the heart and mind of the believers will remain scientifically uncorruptable by the false claims of the corrupt scientists denying the Lord their Savior. “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him” (Col 1 : 16) “And even as they did not like to retain God in [their] knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting” (Rom 1 : 28).       Dr. Mina Thabet Kelleni is an Assistant Professor at Faculty of Medicine, Minia University, Egypt; Coptic Orthodox researcher and the chairman of the council of Arakhna (elders) and Wise. Previous C.A.N. contribution: http://christianacademicnetwork.net/newjoomla/index.php/contributions/voices-theory-a-biblical-orthodox-modifications-on-freuds-structure-of-the-mind The amazing cell The pyramidal decussation The optic chiasm

Two Provocatives (Part 1)

First of Two Provocative Statements About a Philosophical Understanding of Sustainability

Andrew Basden

My problem, my confusion was I was a member of the Green Party in the 1980’s, I still am actually [although I don’t like it]. I came across lots of different factions fighting against each other. There were the deep ecologists who emphasised species and so on, there were the green economists, there were the new agers and spirituality. There were people who were emphasising decentralisation, and so on, and I couldn’t understand what is sustainability. I wanted to understand what is sustainability.

I gave a talk at a conference and this guy afterwards came up to me and said, “You know that book you recommended, the book called Thine is the Kingdom by Paul Marshall?”, he said “Do you know what that book’s based on? It’s based on a Dutch philosopher by the name of Herman Dooyeweerd” and he explained a number of aspects.

And immediately over coffee, I saw that the factions in the Green movement were each emphasising one or other aspect. And so in a flash I saw, at last, I could understand sustainability as the working together in all aspects, and that all these different movements have something to give, even though they themselves may see their own aspect as the answer. So I started thinking about that.

This is about 1990 after I’d been with Peter for a time working technically.

I then saw that the other problem that I had in my work, which was the usefulness and benefits of ICT in use, could also be explained by aspects. They {Expert Systems or other ICT applications} could be socially beneficial, but economically detrimental, or the other way round: economically beneficial increasing profits, but socially detrimental. This gave me a way of thinking about aspects {about both ICT in use, and sustainability}.

Dooyeweerd’s Aspects and Sustainability

So I’d like very quickly to go through these aspects now and explain how I see their relation to sustainability, very briefly and Patrizia I think can do a lot more than that because that’s part of her PhD.

[I’ll start with the physical aspect.] I’ll go through them, there’s fifteen of these things (aspects).

Aspects are ways in which reality can be meaningful and lawful, the way in which reality functions and works. So for example, the situation we have now {the talk situation}, functions in the lingual aspect of communication, but also the social aspect of friendship; if I was trying to talk to you, not treating you as friends, it wouldn’t be a good talk. Then the pistic aspect (the Greek word pistis means faith, vision and commitment): If I didn’t believe what I was saying, it wouldn’t be a good talk. You have probably all heard lecturers who deliver their stuff without really believing it – and the students know. {Now we will go through the aspects of sustainability.}

  • So let’s start with the physical aspect. Things like climate change and geology, climate and geology are physical aspects of sustainability.
  • The biotic aspect is to do with life functions. So things like food, health, ecosystems are to do with the biotic aspect of sustainability.
  • The psychical or sensory aspect is when entities can feel and sense and respond to each other. And it’s also about animal emotions like fear and so on, that’s the Psychical or sensory aspect to sustainability.
  • Analytic aspect is more for humans. It our ability to distinguish one thing from another. So we distinguish issues in sustainability when we discuss it: What do we distinguish and what do we overlook? How do we classify things? That affects sustainability. The various arguments of different classification systems of “Here are the four things of sustainability” and “Here’s the ten”.
  • Formative aspect is our formative power: creative, deliberate formative power. Like a potter shaping mud or clay into a pot, or us shaping ideas, [or something], shaping people into an organisation. It’s to do with techniques, it’s to do with achievement. And sustainability requires techniques and achievements. Technology is in there as well.
  • Lingual aspect is to do with communications, and records and things like that. If we don’t have good communication we’ll not have good sustainability.
  • Social aspect is to do with collaboration, working together rather than just as separate individuals. The idea of ‘we’ rather than just a lot of I’s. Institutions – and the role of institutions in sustainability.
  • Economic aspect is of course to do with resources. Not just with money or production and consumption, but frugality in the use of scarce resources: management of scarce resources. Not necessarily use {of resources}. Of course there’s lots to discuss about that.
  • Aesthetic aspect is, Dooyeweerd said, the aspect of harmony as in an orchestra – lots of things, working together to produce something more than the sum of the parts. Holism is aesthetic. Also people are saying: fun is aesthetic. If sustainability isn’t fun, it’s not going to be taken up by people. Michelle was talking about teaching being fun.
  • Juridical aspect is the idea of “what is due” {to something}. It’s to do with laws and so on. But it’s more than laws, it’s something more fundamental. It gives us responsibility – to human beings, to the future generations, to the poor, to forests, to ecosystems, to animals – and it helps us separate out {different rights or responsibilities}. It helped me to make sense of the animal rights people, not just reject them {as many do}, but to see their place {in contributing to sustainability}.
  • The ethical aspect is not to do with good-and-bad: it’s goodness, self-giving, generosity. If society is generous with people self-giving and being willing to sacrifice themselves, {then sustainability increases}, but if everyone is self-interested and self-protective, sustainability is going to be harmed.
  • Finally the faith {or pistic} aspect: Ideology and religion, but it’s the aspect of commitment and vision; of trust or distrust. If that’s not there, if a community has low morale, it’s not so sustainable.

That helped me to see and think about sustainability in the round.

The Nature of Dooyeweerd’s Aspects: An Overview

Dooyeweerd claimed that this was not a final set {of aspects} nor some kind of absolute truth; it was always provisional – but maybe our best guess. It’s better than Maslow’s hierarchy because it’s wider and deeper and more philosophically based; Maslow’s hierarchy can be seen as perhaps a subset {of Dooyeweerd’s suite of aspects}.

It’s useful for a number of things as you can see in the paper {given out at the workshop}. It’s useful not so much as a check list – you can use it as a check list – or for making up questions in a questionnaire. But it’s better for separating out kinds of issues, because all of the aspects are irreducible {to each other}.

The green {pointing to diagram on a flipchart} is the characteristics that Dooyeweerd felt were of the aspects. Aspects are irreducible for example. Aspects are also normative – they have a normative thrust – and so they’re useful for guidance. Also they’re aspects of possibility, they’re a law side and so they’re useful for anticipation.

We find them very useful for stimulation, for thinking of what issues are being overlooked in a discourse. What elephants in the room are there? ({For example,} Often the aesthetic aspect is overlooked.8

They’re useful for research and practice, to guide both research and practice. Each science or discipline can be seen as centred on an aspect linked to other aspects. {See Page on sciences.}

The bridge between the human and the non-human.

Now there are some aspects which are mainly human. But in the same aspectual set there are the pre-human aspects, that animals and plants function in – and humans as well – and so it brings things together. It {Dooyeweerd’s approach} doesn’t separate the human from the non-human. It also doesn’t separate the subject from the object as Descartes did. It has aspects to do with the individual, it has aspects to do with the social, it has aspects to do with the structural elements of society, all in the same set.

The aspects have relationships with each other and so it offers the possibility of integrating – integrating various things. They are seen as practical because Dooyeweerd started with pre-theoretical thought rather than theoretical.

So I used Dooyeweerd as a framework, for understanding information systems, and possibly for sustainability as well. (I’m involved in the Ecosystem Services project to develop this.)

What I’ve done in my paper, is I’ve tried to work out from each person’s abstract, what I thought they were on about. I won’t go into this, you can see it in the paper, but {explaining the diagram} a house with someone in it is someone living in a city or in a urban environment. The guy with the hammer is the construction industry. The guy with arms extended is to do with values and care. Trees are obvious. A cloud is someone thinking or our view or something. An arrow between two people is communication and a long straight arrow is time and future.

Then in my paper I thought what aspects is each one focusing on? I don’t want to go into that detail.

Provocative Statement 1

Peter asked us to be provocative and I didn’t realise that when I wrote the paper. So I’ll make one provocative statement:

Dooyeweerd can address all sustainability issues,
or rather,

Dooyeweerd can help us address all sustainability issues.
Provocative? too arrogant? I put it forward as something to test. There still needs to be research and exploration of these possibilities, not just to see the aspects separating the issues, but all these other things as well and Patrizia and Manila especially have done some of that.

I think we need a hundred PhD students doing this. I believe that we need as many people exploring Dooyeweerd as used Michel Foucault or Jürgen Habermas, before we can really know whether Dooyeweerd can help us, whether this is true or not.

I was disappointed Chrisna that you moved away from Dooyeweerd and gave him lip service.

Chrisna: I used Dooyeweerd in my thesis.

A: I know! :-) But only with a bit of lip service there, I think? ;-)

Actually no, a PhD student ought to do what they think is interesting, not what the supervisor thinks interesting. Actually you ended up with probably one of the best PhD’s, so you actually did the right thing. But it did put a pause on the Dooyeweerd exploration to sustainability.

That’s one provocative statement.

NOTES Note 1. Professor Peter Brandon, whom the Workshop was honouring as a kind of Festschrift.

Note 2. I was at that time working in a research project led by Peter Brandon to build expert systems to help the Surveying Profession. Expert systems are computer applications that encapsulate human expertise about a particular topic, so as to give advice, stimulate thinking, provide understanding, etc.

Note 3. Aspects of ICT in use, or aspects of sustainability. The same suite of aspects. See “http://www.dooy.info/aspects.html”.

Note 4. Patrizia Lombardi, joint organiser of the Workshop. Patrizia undertook a PhD with Peter Brandon and, at my suggestion, developed Dooyeweerd’s aspects as a framework for understanding urban sustainability. See Brandon PS, Lombardi P (2005) Evaluating Sustainable Development in the Built Environment. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Science.

Note 5. Michelle was one of the participants in the workshop, who had just spoken.

Note 6. The paper is a printed version that I wrote as a draft for the workshop.

Two Provocatives (Part 2)

Second of Two Provocative Statements About a Philosophical Understanding of Sustainability

Andrew Basden

Provocative Statement 2

I’ve got ten minutes left. So I want to make another provocative statement that’s not in my paper but was stimulated partly by Chrisna, who said “We need deep inner personal transformation.” And Peter I think said “we need personal conversion.” Over the last five/ten years I’ve been gradually thinking this: that if we’re going to solve the issues of sustainability and climate change, we need deep inner personal transformation.

Peter: I think John Wilson also made that statement.

A: Yes, I think he did. Several people did.

I joined the Green Party in the 1970’s, it’s now 2015, forty years later. The problems haven’t been solved, anything like. The heart of the people has not been changed.

Let me just tell you a few things. It’s what we’re going to go provocative about. One of my colleagues, one of my friends, in deference to me and my green ideas, he changed his car for a small car in the 1980’s/90’s. But then he got a Jaguar and he explained that his son had said to him, “Well maybe God wants you to have what you like.” The problem was that, although he did his duty and got a small car, his heart wasn’t changed. He was still hankering after whatever it was, a Jaguar or whatever it was. This ‘hankering-after‘ needs to change.

Peter: Use the term ‘aspiration’?

A: Yes.

So my second provocative statement is this.

Jesus Christ works.
Now I remember Michael Howard or somebody from the conservative government saying “prison works” and in fact it turned out that prison doesn’t work, so maybe it will turn out that Jesus Christ doesn’t work.

I don’t mean “Christianity works”, it doesn’t.
I don’t mean that Christians work, they don’t.
I don’t mean that the churches work, they don’t.
I mean: Jesus Christ works.

Now I say this in an academic situation where most people will not be Christian believers, will not be followers of Jesus Christ. So I’m not saying this to try and convert to you or to try and argue. I’m saying this as a kind of theoretical possibility – for which research is needed. And it has never been researched. Let me explain.

How/Why Jesus Christ Works

Jesus Christ can change the heart, that means things like aspirations, I’ve got a list here. Attitude, uprightness, world view can change, mind set can change, aspirations, expectations, motivations, enthusiasms. ?Leaned? people who can exercise leadership in their community, good leadership because they’re self-giving and so on.

Jesus Christ can change the heart freely, so it’s not that we’ve become automatons but as C S Lewis puts it; “Our hearts become freely aligned – Our wills become freely aligned with God’s will.” (And I’ve experienced something of that.) There’s a kind of freedom there.

Historical Evidence

The second point is: there is historical evidence for this working, which is not usually talked about but occasionally is. I’m thinking in terms especially of spiritual revivals. First of all there was the Reformation (now the Roman Catholics here might not like what I’m saying here, seeing that as a spiritual revival). But the Reformation helped people see that you didn’t have to come to church and go through all the church hierarchy to get to God. You could approach God directly and be justified before God by the work of Jesus Christ direct, not through the Mass and through the Virgin Mary. That had great affect. But it then deteriorated.

In the 1700’s John Wesley and George Whitefield preached to the minors. Because, even after the Reformation (it had deteriorated), [and] the hard-living, ‘uncouth’ miners were told, “You clean up your lives, then put on suits, and come to church and then you can learn about God.” John Wesley and George Whitefield said “No!” They preached directly to the miners and said, “You are sinners. You need to repent. And then Jesus Christ died on the cross to get you forgiven,so that you are acceptable to God as you are, without any church.” Thousands listened, thousands flocked to their preaching and discovered this for themselves. And then they changed their lives, as a result of what Jesus Christ did in their hearts. And so, for example, drunkenness diminished, cruelty to women diminished, and so on. And the Methodist Church was born. (In fact the Methodist Church has {also} deteriorated over the years.)

The 1800’s the Skye revivals in the Isle of Skye in Scotland, that I’m now reading about, similar things happened. Then there was the Evangelical Awakening in the 1800’s, that brought in the Factory Acts and workers’ rights – and also animals {rights} interestingly. And then there was a Welsh revival in 1904, that had a similar effect of the Wesley revival.

But there’s more. Because of the Wesley revival and similar work going on in the 1700’s, William Wilberforce was motivated by the Spirit of God (because his heart was changed), in Parliament, to try and ban the slave trade. Every year he put forward a bill to try and ban the slave trade for twenty years, and after twenty years it succeeded. But he was motivated by Jesus Christ – not by Church, not by Christianity. He wrote

“I feel God has given me two great objects in life: The abolition of the slave trade and the reformation of manners.” (By manners he didn’t mean etiquette, he meant attitudes.)

And Eric Metaxas, in his book on Wilberforce commented that what Wilberforce and his colleagues did was more than abolish the slave trade and later slavery. He changed the mind-set of a whole generation. Because, before that, slavery was seen as the natural order of things and it was something that upheld the economy of Brittan, especially while they were at war with France. And so, it was very difficult to argue to ban or abolish the slave trade – and also the Bible didn’t actually say anything against slavery, much. But his heart was changed by the Spirit of Christ, and the slave trade was banned or abolished – and the people agreed with it.

Working for Sustainability

The thing is, the way I see it working is like this; You don’t need everyone to be changed by Christ, there’s a person whose heart has changed {pointing to a diagram with a central person} and they affect others – perhaps other Christians whose hearts have half changed, and half changed their lifestyle – which affects others who are maybe not Christians who have partly changed their lifestyle and ethics, and so on. And some of these might be people in Parliament.

This is my thought for sustainability. What we need is thousands of people discovering having their hearts changed by Christ.

Now I must finish, there’s a lot more I could say. This is the first time ever, that I’ve said this in public, so very raw and it’s provisional, I’d be grateful for feedback.

But I want to say something. It could be that other religions or other ideologies work just as well. What I know is, there is historical evidence, from the revivals, that Christ has worked. So I’d like to recommend that – as the idea that Jesus Christ works – as something that ought to be researched in the sustainability community.

Many people will immediately react against it and reject it; that’s not a rational response. Some Christians will use it as evangelism; that’s not a rational response. Neither are worthy of the sustainability community. Rather I put it out as something to be researched and discussed. Thank you.


Note 1. Professor Peter Brandon, whom the Workshop was honouring as a kind of Festschrift.

Note 2. I was at that time working in a research project led by Peter Brandon to build expert systems to help the Surveying Profession. Expert systems are computer applications that encapsulate human expertise about a particular topic, so as to give advice, stimulate thinking, provide understanding, etc.

Note 3. Aspects of ICT in use, or aspects of sustainability. The same suite of aspects. See “http://www.dooy.info/aspects.html”.

Note 4. Patrizia Lombardi, joint organiser of the Workshop. Patrizia undertook a PhD with Peter Brandon and, at my suggestion, developed Dooyeweerd’s aspects as a framework for understanding urban sustainability. See Brandon PS, Lombardi P (2005) Evaluating Sustainable Development in the Built Environment. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Science.

Note 5. Michelle was one of the participants in the workshop, who had just spoken.

Note 6. The paper is a printed version that I wrote as a draft for the workshop.

A Case of Good Christian Scholarship: David Lyon

I want to examine a case of what I think is good Christian scholarship, as an exemplar that we might follow: the work of the sociologist, David Lyon, who has become known as a leading expert on surveillance studies.

Many Christians in the academe adopt approaches that, I believe, are neither effective, nor satisfactory as genuine Christian scholarship. One common unsatisfactory way is to be an ‘upright’ person and a ‘good witness’ in the conduct of the activities of scholarship — but this does not affect the theoretical content of our fields, so our fields are deprived of genuine Christian contributions, and Christians simply acquiesce to the content. Another, does try to affect the content, by trying to bring in God or Christian principles — but this usually ends up as an antagonistic elite position, with little to recommend it to the field.

David Lyon takes a third way, which I find more satisfactory and effective, and ‘resonates’ with me as genuine Christian scholarship. His approach may be described as neither antagonism, nor acquiescence, but treating the world’s thought as impaired insight. As a result, his Christian faith and viewpoint make a genuine contribution to the field, which scholars of other faiths and ‘none’ can value, and the whole field benefits.

What Does David Lyon Do?

To make this contribution, does David cite Bible verses? No (with one exception, below). Does he argue from Biblical principles? No (with one exception, below). Does he argue from a Christian world view? Not even that, as far as I can tell.
He begins from Christian presuppositions. He explains [Lyon 2007, 3]:

“A note is needed at this point on the perspective that underpins this book. While I genuinely try to present an overview of surveillance studies and to be fair to different theoretical positions in particular, I cannot pretend that I myself take no position. … I draw readers’ attention to valuable insights in the work of many thinkers, including those who disagree with each other. Readers will not find the work of a consistent disciple of Zygmunt Baumann, Judith Butler, Émile Durkheim, Jacques Ellul, Michel Foucault, Nancy Fraser, Karl Marx, Georg Simmel or Max Weber here … Yet the analysis done by each of these, among others, contains very helpful ideas. … While I find substantial agreement with others in the field, analytically and ethically, I try to find consistent ways of expression my position. However poorly I live them, my convictions are Christian.”

Let us pick this apart, to see what David Lyon does, which might act as a model for good Christian scholarship.

1. “A note is needed at this point on the perspective that underpins this book.” It is good to be aware that we have a distinct perspective, and in papers or books to tell readers openly what it is. David Lyon does not belabour it, but places his explanation where it is appropriate. Often the appropriate place to do so is in the Introduction after outlining the topic, or sometimes at the end, as a postscript, as is done in Hart [1984] and Basden & Wood-Harper [2006].

2. “While I genuinely try to present an overview of surveillance studies and to be fair to different theoretical positions in particular, I cannot pretend that I myself take no position.” Try to be fair, but do not hide behind any pretence of being ‘neutral’. We all hold a position, so admit it. Readers will trust us more if we do so. David Lyon does not give the impression of arrogance, of holding ‘the truth’, but one of humble offering of the treasure he believes he has.

3. “I draw readers’ attention to valuable insights in the work of many thinkers, including those who disagree with each other. … Yet the analysis done by each of these, among others, contains very helpful ideas.” Affirm the work of extant thinkers in the field. See their insights as ‘valuable’. Recognise that disagreements in the field do not necessarily mean that we have to take sides. Just as when Joshua asked the Angel of the Lord “Are you with us or with our enemies?”, he told Joshua “Nay, but as Captain of the Lord’s Host I come”, so God’s perspective usually transcends the battles that go on in each field.

I saw a website that claimed to be ‘Christian economics’, which was little more than a poor-quality promotion of free-market competitive capitalism, and one-sidedly ignore issues of justice for the poor or for the earth. That site, in my view, dishonours Christ, despite having in one corner a brief statement of the gospel.

4. “Readers will not find the work of a consistent disciple of Zygmunt Baumann, Judith Butler, Émile Durkheim, Jacques Ellul, Michel Foucault, Nancy Fraser, Karl Marx, Georg Simmel or Max Weber here …” Critique the work of others in terms that are relevant to the field — but critique in a way that all reasonable readers would see as valid critique. Here David Lyon signals that every line of thought that he finds insightful, is also open to critique. For example, later in his book, he makes one of the best critiques of Foucault’s thought that I have yet seen — sandwiched between his appreciation of some aspects of Foucault.

Some ‘Christian’ writers criticise Foucault because they don’t like his secularist, postmodern views, and especially not his views on sexuality, and fail to acknowledge Foucault’s penetrating insights and his courage. By contrast, Lyon’s critique is in terms of how Foucault ignores certain aspects that are important in the reality of his field.

5. “While I find substantial agreement with others in the field, analytically and ethically, …” Understand points with which we agree, and write about them. It might require digging deeper, because it it easy to be blinded by the points on which we disagree with them.

‘Analytically’, We might dislike some of their theories, especially those that grabbed the headlines, but dig underneath to see what theoretical contribution they have made, perhaps in questioning previous flawed ideas.

‘Ethically’, we might dislike their view of what is right and wrong, especially those for which they are well known, but dig deeper because usually their ethical views are based on an important stance with which we would agree and which was in need of being said.

6. “I try to find consistent ways of expression my position. However poorly I live them, my convictions are Christian.” It is at this point that it is appropriate for David Lyon to mention his Christian viewpoint. He does not try to define what this means, nor does he use many words about it. Rather, he lets the rest of his book speak for itself, just as Jesus did to John’s disciples: he let the works speak for themselves.

I do not suggest that these are the only things we need to do. For example, to Affirm and Critique we might add Enrich, and this is what David Lyon does throughout his book, Surveillance Studies: An Overview [Lyon 2007].

In What Way is This ‘Christian’?

The result is a work that seems to me second to none as a reference point for the field of surveillance studies. It is not just comprehensive but rich, and has a certain ‘feel’ that I like, being not just technical but also ‘human’ in its approach.
What makes it good Christian scholarship, to me, is:

  • It is rich, as just mentioned. What I mean is that it covers all the varied aspects of the field. Lyon [2007] discusses legal, the technical, the informational, the social, the economic, the ethical, and the faith aspects, among others. This, to me, is ‘Christian’. If reality is created, rather than ‘just is’, then it is likely to exhibit a diversity of aspects, a diversity of ways in which it is ultimately meaningful. Meaningfulness refers always to an Origin of Meaning. By contrast, many works try to promote one aspect, often one that had previously been overlooked. By doing so, they sing to the tune that reality ultimately has no meaning except what we give it. Good Christian scholarship, in my view, tries to give equal due to every sphere of meaningfulness. Call it ‘non reductionist’ if you like.
  • It breathes the coherence of reality. The distinct aspects are woven together as a beautiful tapestry of material. If reality has its Origin in a Loving Creator, then we would expect the diversity to cohere and work together. Christian scholarship, in my view, tries to understand how the irreducible modes of being and functioning all work in harmony to bring something good and beautiful in the field. Christian scholarship can often produce an ‘overview’ kind of work that others will find useful.
  • It is ‘human‘, as just mentioned. It recognises that the process of logical thought is never neutral, and that every thinker holds a position. We have seen above that thought is not neutral. At one point, Lyon [2007, 68] says “For me, such commitments are expressed in a quest for …” [see below]. We are responsible for the logic we employ. A sense of responsibility and responsiveness pervades Lyon’s work.
  • It is ‘ethical’. It exhibits the attitude that normativity, ethicality cannot be divorced from an understanding of the field. The text above continues, “For me, such commitments are expressed in a quest for the kind of justice that takes special account of the very vulnerable …” [Lyon 2007, 68]. It is the Humanist ground-motive of theoretical thought that divorces ‘Is’ from ‘Ought’, and the Scholastic ground-motive that began to put them into different compartments of our lives, sacred and secular. To a Biblical ground-motive or viewpoint, what ‘is’ has ‘goodness’ built into it (Genesis 1). The Fall has not negated that, though it distorts human views.
  • Finally, it can mention or allude to what we believe: God, Christian faith, the gospel and the Bible but in a way that is appropriate, stimulatory and seductive

Some Questions

How and when to mention God, Christianity, etc.?

Seldom, and only when appropriate to the topic. Not in a crass way ‘because I feel it my duty as a Christian to do so’. We have seen above how Lyon [2007] just once mentions his Christian convictions (note, not his ‘faith’). At the end of Lyon [2003] we find,

“Jacque Ellul once noted, reflecting on the fate of ancient cities such as Babylon and Nineveh, that these cultures were closed, too, ‘protected against attacks from the outside, in a security built up in walls and machines.’ Is there anything new under the sun? Yet, against that, insists Ellul, is the vision of a city where doing justice and loving one’s neighbour is put first. From that commitment to responsibility for the Other proceeds peace and prosperity, freedom and security, sought otherwise through false priorities. This is a city whose gates are never shut. It is a place of inclusion and trust. And its light finally banishes all that is now done in the dark.

Notice the allusions to Biblical themes, speaking redemption.

It does not explain how to accept Christ, because to do that would not be appropriate to that book. In my view, it can sometimes be appropriate in other books or papers, where solutions are being discussed, and we can offer Biblical salvation as one such solution. But present it humbly, offered as ‘a’ way, even though we might hold Christ to be ‘the’ way, because by doing so we respect the academic readers’ desire to understand options. And, do take pains to argue how it actually contributes a solution; I find the idea of three dimensions of salvation useful here: not just becoming acceptable with God, not just being filled with the Holy Spirit, but also so that the creation can ‘rejoice’. All three of those dimensions can be argued to be relevant to any field, but it takes a lot of effort to work out how. Are we ready for that effort; it is sacrificial?

Can and Should We Critique Christian Scholarship?

Yes indeed we should. Within God’s creation, and within humanity’s calling to open up the potential of reality, no Christian scholarship can claim to be without flaw.
I critique Lyon [2007] work for one thing: The ‘solution’ he seems to suggest, to bring about the state of affairs where the ‘very vulnerable’ are properly taken account of, relies on juridical and informational processes and structures only. In my view, he does not adequately discuss the attitudinal or faith aspects of this solution. He does allude to the attitudinal aspect in Lyon [2003], in his passage quoted above, but does not develop the theme.

I might also wish a discussion of how surveillance fits into a wider set of concerns of society, especially that of climate change. I might also question whether the post-2008 ‘recession’ might change anything. But to expect those in his book would be unfair.


What David Lyon does is to adopt a Biblical presupposition about the nature of reality and the nature of scholarship. His approach is neither antagonism, nor acquiescence, but treating the world’s thought as impaired insight. He does this from an understanding of reality (of the world of surveillance) that is deeply formed and informed by Biblical presuppositions. He does mention his Christian faith once or twice, and he does allude to God once or twice, but only where it would be appropriate in the eyes of others, and not to ‘evangelise’. He adopts a three-point strategy:

 – He affirms each thinker’s view where it seems to him valid.
– He critiques each thinker’s views, from his wider view.
– He enriches the views of those thinkers, so they can be taken further.

As a result, his work is valued throughout the field as of high quality and useful, and his work has become a reference point for his field. But it takes a lot of effort to achieve that. I trust this overview of his work is useful.

Andrew Basden, April 2015


Hart H. 1984. Understanding Our World: An Integral Ontology. Wedge Publishing, Toronto.
Basden A, Wood-Harper AT (2006) “A philosophical discussion of the Root Definition in Soft Systems Thinking: An enrichment of CATWOE” Sys. Res. and Behavioral Sci., 23:61-87.

Lyon D. 2003. Surveillance after September 11. Polity Press.

Lyon D. 2007. Surveillance Studies: An Overview. Polity Press.

Jesus and the superfluity of caesars

In recent months it has been noted that the head of the Catholic church, Pope Francis, has positioned towards what many have interpreted as a vehemently anti-capitalist stance. During the Pope’s recent week long visit to Latin America he referred to the prevailing economic system as a ”subtle dictatorship” which, with its ”greed for money”, amounts to the ”dung of the devil.”(1) It is also the case that recent theological projects, perhaps the most well known to the general public being that of theologian Reza Aslam, have found a Jesus with political impetus to his fervour. Reza’s thesis is that discourse level interpretation of Jesus does not match with the Jesus of history. Hence, requirement for historical understanding seems to entail. Where I disagree is in taking this disconnect as necessarily so, for it will be shown that by being attentive to a certain passage a Jesus just as politically aware is made apparent. The passage we shall determine is the following from the Book of Matthew, 22:15-22 :

15 Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.

16 And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.

17 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?

18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?

19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.

20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?

21 They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.

22 When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.

Jesus has entered the holy temple, and we should reflect that Jesus holds his ”father’s house”(Luke 2:49) , the cultic centre and dwelling place of God(Eze. 43:7), to have been desecrated through economic practices that he took as having turned this ”house of prayer” into a ”den of robbers”.(Mttw.21:13) Also of note is that on leaving Judah for Jerusalem, Jesus took his disciples to one side and prophecised that his journey to Jerusalem would have him, ”delivered to the chief priests and scribes. And they will condemn [me] to death.”(Mttw.20:18) It is with this latter note in mind that we can understand the predicament that the Pharisees’ question, given in order to ”entangle”, places Jesus in. ”Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.17 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?” ask the Pharisees, and as this is taken as a question which may entangle Jesus, we can infer that paying tribute to Caesar was not to Jesus’ favour.”Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. 20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? 21They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s”, and we are told how they marvel at this, going off on their way directly after-ward.

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary” has this to say on the matter: ”Jesus Christ was a faithful Teacher, and a bold reprover. Christ saw their wickedness. Whatever mask the hypocrite puts on, our Lord Jesus sees through it. Christ did not interpose as a judge in matters of this nature, for his kingdom is not of this world, but he enjoins peaceable subjection to the powers that be.‘(2) What seems to be implied is that Jesus submitted, and that this is what led to the Pharisees marvelling. Yet the early church were anything but submissive: refusing to give offerings to the Imperial Cult, under threat of death.(3) Can this really be the true interpretation to be taken? Surely the Pharisees would not have thought to have marvelled at such a defeat?

The Pharisees ask if it is lawful , within the temple, to give tribute; and Jesus asks as to whose image and superscription is on this silver dēnarion coin.Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.It is with the terms used, and knowing that Jesus’ pronouncement has the Pharisees marvel, that we find Jesus, in the Jewish temple, is referring the Pharisees back to the only law, holy law; the laws which Moses brought down from the Mountain.

”You shall have no other god(s) to set against me.” (Ex.20.3)

You shall not make gods of silver to be worshipped as well as me, nor shall you make yourselves gods of gold.” (Ex.20.23-4)

Jesus has shown the Pharisees to have asked for worship to a false idol in what was considered as the holiest place on earth. Jesus turns the very words of the Pharisees against them, having them set their own trap so to speak, and returns a charge of idolatry. What is quite magnificent is that he does so in a way that has the Pharisees unable to lay a charge against him. This was a truly great feat, a work of rhetorical cunning, and it is surely an act worthy of marvel.

Now it may be stated that in an earlier passage(Mttw.17:24-27) Jesus, the man who stated in Judah that we should worship God, not money(Mttw.6:24), did pay temple poll tax in Capernaum. And it is true: he got one of his disciples to fetch stater from the mouth of a fish. Jesus was actually held to have been exempt, an error by Peter resulting in Jesus advising him to go cast a hook in the sea, so not to ‘stumble’ the tax collectors. The crucial difference with this payment though, is that this tribute was paid to community leaders for the upkeep of the Temple, where as it is quite a different case in Jerusalem. In fact we can clearly find difference by being attentive to the language in our passage: ”for thou regardest not the person of men.”To understand what is being said we turn to a quote from the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer:

”There is an unconscious appositeness in the use of the word ‘person’ to designate the human individual, as is done in all European languages: for ‘persona’ really means an actor’s mask, and it is true that no one reveals himself as he is; we all wear a mask and play a role.”

The word ”person” is derived from the Greek ”πρόσωπον”, properly ”persona”, and refers to the masks worn by actors on Ancient Roman stage. Caesar, and caesars, were,we find, taken to be antithetical to human being and divine will.

David Khan is an analytic philosopher from Scotland. He is currently working on a project which looks to do two things: (1) contrary to Reza Aslan’s premise which holds that the discourse level disconnect between Jesus of faith and Jesus the man entails understanding to be sought out with scripture, my work seeks to show that by being attentive to scripture a Jesus, and faith, with both political impetus and egalitarian principles becomes apparent. In fact it is this understanding which informs his own Christianity.(2) David wishes to show that the dualism of secular/theological is a false dichotomy, both being predicated from the same point.



1.Pope calls on global youth to rise up against global capitalism, Common Dreams(News), July 22, 2015, http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/07/13/pope-calls-world-youth-rise-against-global-capitalism?utm_campaign=shareaholic&utm_medium=google_plus&utm_source=socialnetwork,

Date accessed: July 22,2015, 16:29

2.The Bible Hub, Matthew 22:15 commentaries, http://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/22-15.htm, Date accessed: 22/07/2015, 16:59

3.BBC website, History, Christianity and the Roman empire, http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/romans/christianityromanempire_article_01.shtml, Date accessed: 22/07/2015, 17:02

Further References

King James Bible

Samir Chopra (WordPress), Schopenhauer on revealing our true feelings, http://samirchopra.com/2014/03/26/schopenhauer-on-revealing-our-true-feelings/, Date Accessed : 22/07/2015, 19:52