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Examples for the SDC Five Questions

This page suggests the kinds of direction that discussing the Five Questions in Shaping Our Disciplines for Christ might go. Five questions are provided for discussion to stimulate Christians towards a vision of how they might contribute, as followers of Christ, to the content of their discipline (rather than merely its practice). Q4 is the most important, but Q1-3 help us get to it. The questions are:

As you will see, the idea behind this approach is that Christian thought should neither antagonise nor acquiesce to mainstream thought, but should critically enrich it.

However, if we begin with Q4 (what contribtions), we are likely to think up what we as Christians believe to be a good contribution but which would mean little to those working in the field. We have to respond to what is going on in the field, and not to an agenda of our own. This is why Q4 is the main question, and Q1-3 are there to help reach it in a way that should be acceptable to those working in the discipline.

It is based on the idea that all humanity is working and thinking within God's good, meaningful creation, and that the realities of this creation will not be obliterated but people will keep on discovering aspects of it. (Even though what they do with the discovered aspects might be governed by sin or idolatry etc.) It is based on the idea that perspectives or paradigms that have emerged do so as expressions of some important kernel of meaning that has been discovered in the discipline. It is also based on the idea that God's people should humbly lead rather than follow or resist.

Note: By 'discipline' we mean both an area in which theory is developed (whether in mathematics, natural sciences, humanities, arts, etc.) and a practical area that tries to improve the world in relevant ways. It might be useful to see each discipline as roughly centred on an area of meaning - e.g. statistics may be centred on countable amount, psychology on mental activity, jurisprudence on the notion of 'due'. Better than trying to define boundaries.

So, to help discussion of the questions, here are some examples of how Q2, Q3, Q4, Q5 might be addressed. Note that some disciplines are named are very broad, others very narrow - and these are all just examples.

Examples to assist discussion of the Five Questions
Discipline Q2. Perspectives Q3. Omissions
or Distortions
Q4. Possible
Q5. Friends
Statistics Frequentism, Bayesianism Meaningfulness.
The camps speak past each other.
Meaningfulness goes beyond, to serve in 'application'.
There may be a way to a "pragmatic synthesis" [Hartley 2008].
Perception (psychology) Direct, Inferential, Ecological Tendency to reduce post-psychological functioning like technology, language, sociality, ethics to psychological. Fruitful humility: work out what the 'proper' interests are in perception, and how to relate in due ways to thought within those post-psychical disciplines.
Information systems research Positivist, interpretivist and critical research approaches These are all rather self-centred, and each tends to despise the others. Integration of disciplines on the basis that each addresses a different sphere of meaning. Maybe there are yet other spheres of meaning that all these overlook? e.g. Basden [2011]. Practitioners
Technology and Society Studies Technological determinism, Social construction of technology, Social shaping of technology All three are narrow in their view, blinkered on technology as a whole and society as a whole. They ignore 'down to earth' realities. Schuurman's [1980] 'liberating vision for technology' which accords real substance to technology but sees it as meaningful in the 'scheme of things' but that this meaningfulness as technology being directed not by its own norms but by norms of other disciplines. Practioners; Wenger's idea of communities of practice.
Economics Free market capitalism, Marxist-rooted ideas. Both tend to assume economics is 'the science of life', i.e. there is nothing meaningful outside economics. Seek to determine what are the 'proper' limits of economics (that apply to either capitalist or marxist or any other economics), how economics should recognise these limitations, and therefore how it should relate to other disciplines in which other things are meaningful. Ecological economics, those who question the idea of economic growth as such, feminist economics, non-Western cultures.
Middle English Manuscripts
[inspired by Daniel Sawyer]
Study the content (poem, romance, etc.) or study the physical artefacts that are the books Use rather than content or form See early manuscripts as things that were used and the use of which affected the way people lived or thought. Critical theorists like Lacan, Deleuze, but these tend to focus on a narrow range of aspects of impact
Some other possible disciplines ...
Materials Science
Business Ethics
Fine Arts
Political theory
Development Ethics
Theology (or its sub-disciplines)

There are many gaps, and some of the disciplines above are too broad, too narrow or nonsensical. Please send comments, and especially ideas for these or other disciplines and some possible examples.

To send comments, queries, suggestions, please send an email to:

        at kgsvr net

In case you cannot read that, it is the letters "xn" (for "Christian") at "kgsvr" followed by ".net" (standing for knowledge server on the net").

Thank you.


Basden A. (2011). Enabling a Kleinian integration of interpretivist and critical-social IS research: The contribution of Dooyeweerd's philosophy. European Journal of Information Systems. 20, 477-489.

Hartley, A.M. (2008). Christian and Humanist Foundatinos for Statistical Inference; Religious Control of Statistical Paradigms. Resource Publications, Eugene, Oregon, USA.

Schuurman E, (1980), Technology and the Future: A Philosophical Challenge, Wedge Publishing, Toronto.

Compiled by Prof. Andrew Basden (Christian Academic Network; University of Salford).

Created 11 January 2014. Updated: 13 January 2014 from comments by David Booth and Tim Brown; early manuscripts. 16 January 2021 better commenting facility. Link to home page.