A handsome young graduate student in sociology was my seat mate, and I was the president of a Christian liberal arts college looking for someone who could teach that discipline with integrity. His willingness to talk about mutual interests brightened a long plane trip.

Knowing that a good social scientist must work (so they tell us) from a value-free model system, I inquired as to whether he as a sociologist could use such categories as good/evil or right/wrong in his work. With little hesitancy he assured me that a good social scientist does not use these categories. He must be objective.

I pushed the question a bit further by asking if that meant he must do his work as if there were no universal moral order. Again, his hesitation was only momentary. With commendable logic he affirmed that as a social scientist he had to work as if there were no universal moral order.

I then asked how he enjoyed his work, and whether he intended to devote his life to it. With fervor he assured me of his love for his discipline. I inquired as to why such commitment. His response: “There are so many blooming things wrong in this world.”

Taken aback by this seeming lapse in logic, I sat silent for a few moments. Then my companion’s neck began to redden. “You trapped me,” he said limply, “didn’t you?”

I really am not the type who can cleverly set up a stranger like that. So, the question remains, who did the trapping? The fellow himself? Or human nature? Or a holy God who made us in his own moral image? Even a social scientist is unwilling to see his own life as value free. Somehow he feels he is of worth, and value-free judgments are not appropriate when they existentially affect that worth.

It is fun for an outsider to watch the honest scientist ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.