4 ways Sir Roger Scruton shaped me

Mourning our loss and celebrating his influence

January 14, 2020

I was sitting in Panera when I received a text message from a friend and colleague: “Roger Scruton has died.” I was with my family and a widow from our church, holding back tears until I could get in the car. A man that changed so many things about my world has now passed away. Sir Roger Scruton, British philosopher statesman, passed away Sunday morning after a battle with cancer. 

I drove home with my kids in the back and Jason Isbell on the speakers. Ironically, his song with The 400 Unit “The Last of My Kind” was playing. While the song is about small-town folk and fears of the city, I couldn’t help but realize the man who just died may indeed be the last of his kind. He wrote on everything from political philosophy to aesthetics to current events, and he did so with a sharp wit, a careful eye, and brilliant prose. Even if you disagreed with him—as I often did—you nevertheless appreciated how he put his thoughts together. 

I have read nearly everything Scruton has written. I wanted to write my dissertation on his thought, particularly his conservatism and aesthetics. He shaped my view of the world as much as anyone else alive, and his passing is a great loss. He was a giant intellect and the best embodiment of conservatism I know. In writing this tribute, I thought of four areas where Scruton’s influence shines brightest, though it was hard to choose only four.

1. Conservatism

My first taste of the broader tradition was through Scruton. In The Meaning of Conservatism, I came to know and understand that what I imbibed for so long was not conservatism, but a modern amalgamation of ideologies and “isms” that had forgotten their first love. Conservatism is an invitation to view politics from a broader lens than a mere legislative and political processes. Instead, it is a disposition, a posture one takes toward critical concepts that are often discussed but rarely defined. When it is disentangled from a clear ontology, it becomes ugly and vapid. Scruton was well-read and a perfect guide for providing accessibility to a wide audience. He was immersed in the tradition, thus able to synthesize and distinguish between rival conservatism(s) of the day. He saw the lay of the land and instructed me on where to walk, who else to trust, and what to reject. I saw conservatism is more than a political project. Indeed, that’s the least interesting part of it.

Conservatism offers solutions to discontents of culture. Whether it is an absolutizing of the market on the far-right or the distortion of proper sentiments by groups such as the alt-right, the conservative tradition holds the mantle of belief that conservatism is at first a disposition before it is a political or economic program. It conserves the best of what we’ve had and rejects notions of progress separated from the good, true, and beauty of the past. Scruton taught me a conservative was first and foremost a lover (as did Augustine), to see the good in even the worst of scenarios, and change requires taking the worst of the present and making the best of it. 

2. Beauty

More than any other topic, Scruton taught me to love and appreciate beauty. I first read Beauty as a grad student while taking a seminar in aesthetics. I grew up in a small, rural town and never really understood the aesthetic impulse or those that seemed to have it more than I did. And while I didn’t care much for the arts, when I read this book it opened my eyes to the world. 

Rage and resentment may build movements, but they cannot sustain a people, much less secure necessary political goods. Scruton taught me patience speaks a better word.

“Beauty is vanishing from the world,” Scruton writes, “because we live as though it did not matter.” I finally realized just how much of my existence has been shaped by beauty—and the failure to appreciate it. I realized this desire for beauty is not circumstantial. It cannot be explained merely by the places you were nurtured or the things you like. It is not just “in the eye of the beholder.” Rather, it is embedded in you and in the cosmos. We were made to hear this song of the created order. It declares its presence in the voice of a beautiful chorus and whispers with vibrant colors that streak the sky at sunset. Beauty speaks. 

Scruton showed me I cannot live without beauty. I am currently writing a book on beauty, and I’ve dedicated this work to him. I was hoping to send a copy to him in order to show my affection and that his lifelong work to help the world see and appreciate beauty has changed at least one life: mine. Few things in my Christian life have steadied my faith and quieted my doubts like beauty. 

3. Patience

In an age of rage and change, The necessity of the latter requires that one considers how such change occurs and how fast. I learned from Scruton that the conservative understands that political change will occur, and it indeed it must. But in addition, those societal and political changes require stability. The conservative may champion progress, but such movement must be guided by prudence. Progress for the sake of progress, or progress that merely mirrors contemporary social norms is wrong. Progress requires patience. He writes in the beginning of How to Be a Conservative

“Conservatism starts from a sentiment that all mature people can readily share: the sentiment that good things are easily destroyed, but not easily created. This is especially true of good things that come to us as collective assets: peace, freedom, law, civility, public spirit, the security of property and family life, in all of life which we depend on the cooperation of others while having no means singlehandedly to obtain it. In respect of such things, the work of destruction is quick, easy and exhilarating; the work of creation slow, laborious and dull.” 

To do something and do it well requires the necessity of slowing down. Patient reflection and consideration of alternative views, concepts, and perspectives requires the recognition that time is not wasted, but rather you are being shaped by this slow process. In other words, to paraphrase Wendell Berry, we are investing in the millennium. We are planting sequoias.

There is no question that we live in what some might describe as an age of rage. Both culturally and politically, the impulse is toward expressing resentment first and searching for solutions only after the rage has subsided. If left to continue, there will be much said but little settled. Scruton taught me that a patient spirit speaks to the current climate by suggesting the way forward is to understand the past. Rage and resentment may build movements, but they cannot sustain a people, much less secure necessary political goods. Scruton taught me patience speaks a better word. 

4. Home

Scruton taught me a new word: oikophilia, or a love of home. Modern political philosophies, influenced as they are by autonomy and individuality, can often force a person to become essentially homeless. By “homeless” we do not mean a literal homelessness. Instead, it is describing an existential relationship between the individual and the broader social networks at play. Scruton showed me we are social beings from particular places and particular spaces. We have a membership and history. We love our homes because they are, in some sense, reflections of us and what we love. This is good and right and stimulates a sense of shared obligation and love of home. Scruton taught me that okiphilia attaches humanity to creation around them. We are embedded in the created order because, well, this is our home. 

From this understanding, he showed me conservatives should and indeed must care for the environment around us. What we may term “creation care” is, in fact, a deeply conservative value. Instead of employing the apocalyptic zeitgeist today, how much more compelling would it be to say that conservatives care for nature because it is the spaces and places wherein we are situated in the broader created order? Or, to put a finer point on it, we care for the natural world because it is the shared space we all inhabit. Oikiophillia “tells us to love, and not to use, to respect and not to exploit. It invites us to look on things in our ‘homespace’ as we look on persons, not as means only, but as ends in themselves.” (253). Rather than somehow standing above nature in domination, it reorients us to see that it is ours to care for. We love our home because ours is a common world; it is our Father’s world.


I must admit it is hard to write words of appreciation for someone with whom you’ve never conversed. I had an opportunity to meet Scruton when he was in the United States a few years ago. I was unable to attend, hoping one day I would be able to meet him and express how deeply indebted I am to his writings. I’ll never get that chance. But his imprint on my life will stay forever. 

The last thing Scruton wrote, right before Christmas 2019, was a reflection on the year that had passed. The final words he ever wrote in public were embodiments of his life and writing: “Coming close to death you begin to know what life means, and what it means is gratitude.” My gratitude to him cannot be fully expressed in words. I’ve done my best here, but they pale in comparison to what he has done for me. My Christian faith is stronger because of him. I am a better human being because of Scruton. 

Photo: roger-scruton.com

Bryan Baise

Bryan Baise is the Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Apologetics and Program Coordinator, Worldview and Apologetics. Baise has served in various capacities before coming to Boyce. He was a college pastor for an upstart church plant before moving to Louisville and has preached in various churches and revivals across Kentuckiana. Baise has served on … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24