This is the working document I used for my talk at the Bible and Beer Consortium in Fort Worth last week. As you will discover if you watch the presentation itself, I departed from the notes quite a bit (which is not unusual for me).
Let me begin with a few lines from T. S. Eliot:
“Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, but ignorance of the Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,
All our ignorance brings us nearer to death, But nearness to death no nearer to God.
Where is the Life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” – Choruses from ‘The Rock’
I want to add to this the words of Jesus in John 8:12:
“I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
We live in a world suffused with the information of which the poet speaks, and much of it trivial. If we don’t prioritize correctly we will never be wise. But what information we prioritize depends much on how we view our lives and our world. Some questions are bigger and more solemn than others. It is a shame when men and women settle for explanations which do not explain; answers which do not answer. The ‘choice’ of worldview is a determining choice.
Before I launch into my talk I want to make 2 clarifications:
- No neutrality: Everyone has an angle (Dawkins, Krauss, etc., are classic examples of no neutrality). All assertions about reality and ethics are to a large extent controlled by prior beliefs. These beliefs emanate from the picture of the world which a person holds in their heart. So for someone to claim that their outlook is neutral while that of those who disagree with him is biased is both naïve and absurd. We all have our biases, and these must be declared so that they can be compared. To ignore them or to forget about them is a form of self-deception.
Many atheists I’ve dealt with seem to hold the attitude, “Let the Xtian give up his biases; I’ll stick with mine.” (By bias I mean “an opinion or inclination towards something.”) Not all biases are bad. E.g., a bias for an umbrella over a paper bag when it’s raining outside.
- Proper definition of ‘Faith’ – “persuasion of Divine truth” (J. Frame). It is common for New Atheists to wrongly define faith as “belief in something without evidence.” (The multiverse hypothesis would exemplify this definition).
This definition of faith is nonsense. In the Bible, “through faith we understand…” (Heb. 11:3). Though there is such a thing as blind faith, this is not the biblical understanding. Faith is not credulity. Scripture tells us to “prove all things.” (1 Thess. 5:21). Faith is never blind, it is always reasonable, and, indeed evidence based. Blind faith can be coerced. True biblical faith cannot be coerced. Faith properly defined is essential to all knowledge.
You don’t have to be a Christian to see this. Renowned physicist Max Planck said,
“Anybody who has been seriously engaged in scientific work of any kind realizes that over the entrance to the gates of the temple of science are written the words: Ye must have faith. It is a quality which the scientist cannot dispense with.” – Science, Faith and Revelation, 350.
This is because, as physical chemist and philosopher of science Michael Polanyi noted, “all acts of knowing include an appraisal by the knower.” (Personal Knowledge, 17). And as Polanyi said in his book Personal Knowledge (266), “No intelligence, however critical or original, can operate outside [of] a fiduciary framework.” As the Puritan William Gouge wrote, “Faith is in the understanding.” – Faith is implicit in all understanding! Faith is thinking God’s thoughts after Him. Any view of biblical faith which opposes it to reason and evidence is a red herring.
The Bible says and Polanyi explains, faith is necessary to know. Faith in God anchors both mind and soul.
What if we try to exclude God from our attempt to explain the world?
Just here let me introduce a quotation from the French post-modern critic Roland Barthes, from his The Death of the Author: “to refuse to fix meaning is, in the end, to refuse God.” Barthes said there is no such thing as a fixed meaning of a text (or the world). Meaning is assigned, not by the author (or God as Author), but by the reader.
Of course, in order to believe what he said what have you got to do? – believe Barthes, the author!
- A Place To Stand: We all have a perspective
So I am here to talk about the biblical worldview, and in doing that I shall be commenting on other outlooks. A worldview is the lens through which a person views reality. It is a commitment or inclination of the heart. To qualify as a worldview, any picture of life should be able to comment on and offer explanations of our varied experience, and then to put the pieces together. In other words a worldview must tackle the array of data to do with ourselves, our environment, and our beliefs: it must deal with God, Man and the World.
A worldview must confront the big questions about purpose and significance. E.g., Is the world an illusion? Are my experiences unreal? Or is the world uncaused, unguided and therefore purposeless. Or is it created? And if so, by Whom? And why is there is nagging sense that things are not the way they ought to be? The contemporary artist John Mayer caught some of this when he wrote, “Stop this train. I wanna get off and go home again. I can’t take the speed it’s movin’ in. Honestly, won’t someone stop this train?”
The biblical worldview makes sense of our experience as humans in a multifarious environment, and it all starts with the biblical God. The God of the Bible is the great Fact underlying every other fact. All goodness, truth, knowledge, power, justice, beauty, purity, and love comes from Him. The Bible declares “God is love.” He is referred to as “the God of all Truth,” as “the Almighty,” “all [Whose] ways are justice,” etc. As the Psalmist puts it, “all our springs are in Him.” We see ourselves and life rightly when we ourselves in relation to Him. In His light we see light (cf. Psa. 36:9).
God transcends His creation but He acts within it. He is both transcendent and immanent, He is Lord above and within the world. (“Know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.” – Deut. 4:39). Creation has been made with its own integrity. Yet all our abilities are derived, just as all our knowledge is derived. Knowledge itself, in the biblical worldview, is that which corresponds to the reality which God has made. Complete objectivity, therefore, is only possible to God, yet objectivity is attainable to humans. Further, God has made the extended world for us and made it amenable to us: we are told to investigate the world analytically and ethically; to do science and to treat other creatures with care as custodians of the earth, under God’s eye.