2. The Place We All Stand: Everyone Stands within the Biblical Worldview
When I say that we all stand within the biblical worldview, I know that I have some explaining to do. I want to say right away that I am not claiming that we all acknowledge this. In fact, the Bible says we act to suppress the knowledge of God. But it protrudes here and there since it must. For God must be already there in order for anything else to be there. Cornelius Van Til called God “the precondition of intelligibility.” He meant that the existence of the God of the Bible was necessary in order for us to assert anything about anything – even if that assertion is false. Hence, the Christian-biblical worldview is the environment in which we all live, even though many of us wish it were otherwise, and try to construct other “explanations” for things like love, truth, justice, logic, number, information, good & evil, the external world, consciousness & personhood, etc., or even if that means throwing up our hands and saying (in something akin to blind faith) “it’s just there.”
Let me give a few examples of this suppression of truth:
- A solipsist is someone who denies the reality of anyone or anything but their own existence. As such they are exceedingly rare creatures! I once spoke with someone who told me he thought that solipsism was the most rational philosophical position to take. I asked him who he thought he was talking to?
- So, many Hindus believe the external world isn’t real. They believe all is one. Yet in propagating it and its central doctrine of reincarnation Hindus actually presuppose the objective reality of an external world to be re-born in to (e.g there is the cycle of samsara and there is the transcending of it). They believe their views are reasonable, although they must hold that the laws of reason are essentially unreal since these laws of logic make distinctions between things, which is a denial of the monism that undergirds much Hindu belief.
- A church member called me last week after she had been talking with a friend who held Panthesitic New Age beliefs which deny the existence of evil. She told me she had asked her friend about the Holocaust and was told that it wasn’t evil, just necessary. I think a worldview which denies evil is obstinately myopic. It is a denial of the world.
- Naturalistic materialists may tell us that we are mere bio-chemical machines with no freewill, just dancing to the music of our DNA, but they will take those “machines” to a graveside, to a Shakespeare play, or to the coffee house, or to the university (where they got this stuff from), or even to events like this; and they believe they are free to agree or disagree with other people’s viewpoints. They believe that their views are rational, despite the fact that they must hold that the non-physical laws of thought evolved as our brains evolved, and point towards, not truth, but merely pragmatic ‘aids’ to survival. Laws of thought require a mind to think them. The brain is not the same as the mind. Intentionality and consciousness are not reducible to the laws of physics. As one of my favorite writers, David Bentley Hart, observes in showing up the obvious difference: “Software no more “thinks” than a minute hand knows the time or the printed word ‘pelican’ knows what a pelican is.” – The Experience of God, 219.
These are accounts of the world. But as G. K. Chesterton put it, these worldviews are, “complete in theory and crippling in practice.”
I say that there is a cognitive dissonance here. Many worldviews just cannot be lived out in the real world. But this dissonance too is explained by the biblical worldview, namely, the sinful suppression of the knowledge of the Creator, and the replacement of the biblical-Theistic picture with another picture (an idolatrous one).
God is necessary:
Logic/Reason…..precondition ……. God who is immaterial perfect rationality
Morality…………..precondition ……..God who is righteous
Truth……………….precondition ……..God who is unchanging Truth
Uniformity……….precondition ……..God who upholds regularity (providence)
Love………………….precondition ……..God who is Love and demonstrates it
Personality………….precondition ……..God who is Personal
Relationship………..precondition ……..God who is social
Science………………..precondition ……..God who gives skills & conditions for analysis
History………………..precondition ……..God who created & guides with a telos in view
Hope……………………..precondition ……..God who raises Christ from the dead
Meaning & Significance...precondition ……..God who made us in His image
Now, you take God out of all this and all these things cry out for an explanation. They hang like half-inflated balloons, untethered from a central hub which lends them value and coherence (recall my quotation of Barthes earlier!). They are needing to be related to each other, and to us!
Therefore, it is not the case that deciding to disbelieve in God leaves a person with nothing to prove.
It is rather the case that there is an immense about of work to do to make sense of oneself and the world without the biblical God (a job which I say is impossible to complete – see Rom. 1:18-22). The canvass must be completed, but how?
In Scripture Creation leads to purpose and order. I teach the Bible Story as “the Creation Project” – a project to be consummated; a project full of hope. There is a Creation Mandate for us to explore the world and to analyze it – to do science. All the founders of modern science believed this creation mandate. It is simply wrong to think you can exclude God and not pay the price. For example, if you were walking down a dark alley and you saw a group of young guys coming towards you, wouldn’t you be relieved to see them carrying Bibles in their hands?
Listen to these words by atheist philosopher Jurgen Habermas:
For the normative self-understanding of modernity, Christianity has functioned as more than just a precursor or catalyst. Universalistic egalitarianism, from which sprang the ideals of freedom and a collective life in solidarity, the autonomous conduct of life and emancipation, the individual morality of conscience, human rights and democracy, is the direct legacy of the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love. This legacy, substantially unchanged, has been the object of a continual critical re-appropriation and reinterpretation. Up to this very day there is no alternative to it. And in light of the current challenges of a post-national constellation, we must draw sustenance now, as in the past, from this substance,… everything else is idle postmodern talk.
We have built on a Theistic foundation. But the Bible Story records the entrance of sin and death which mark our independence from God and the misuse of God’s gifts, from love and reason to community, and the natural world itself. You cannot make sense of things without the God of Scripture. Logic, consciousness, the necessity of a second and third person perspective, number, truth – these cannot be traced back to nothing. Neither can they be grounded in a capricious or absentee deity. Neither can they be explained in terms of illusion.
We live in the west in an age of scientism – the naive belief that science can answer every question and that any question it can’t answer isn’t a proper question. Today’s intellectual climate is like a sitting room where only the naturalists are allowed to sit in the chairs, then anyone who is not sitting in a chair is told (in the name of tolerance) to leave. MIT Nuclear Physicist Ian Hutchinson calls the belief that all knowledge comes from the natural sciences “a ghastly intellectual mistake” – Monopolizing Knowledge, ch. 1. It again is self-evidently false, since the dictum “all true knowledge comes from the natural sciences” is not a statement testable by the natural sciences. Scientism is the cultural imperialism of the Western academic world.
And what about our inability to live up to even our principles? What about all the thoughts we have had which we knew were wrong and harmful? Envy, lust, ingratitude, pride, dishonesty, partiality, anger, cowardice, malice, greed, etc., we’ve all felt them. These things come from within us and express themselves in our lives – in some more blatantly then others. We are part of the problem. How then are we to be the cure? No, we “suppress the truth in unrighteousness,” and on our best days we know we do. And in all this there is a message. It concerns the sacrificial love of God.
In closing I want to refer to the 8th chapter of the Gospel of Mark.
– Jesus encounters Pharisees who disingenuously ask for a sign (Jesus is exasperated)
– Then Jesus gets a little frustrated with His disciples because they don’t grasp His true identity
– And then Jesus is asked to heal a blind man; and at first He only half-heals him. He asks the man, “What do you see?” The answer was “I see men as trees walking.” That’s how we often see others. But the Bible tells us that we are made in the image of God! The story goes on to relate how Jesus completely healed the man, and it says, “and he saw all things clearly.”
Religion opposed and killed Jesus. His followers sometimes don’t have their heads in the game. The biblical worldview corrects both of them.
They say “love is blind.” But love is not blind. Loves knows! Love sacrifices. It is sight-producing! God is love. So we look unto Jesus. Jesus says 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.”