What Hath Memorial Day To Do With Worldview?
- Alex Crain Editor, Christianity.com
- 2011 26 May
Begun as a ritual after the American Civil War to honor fallen soldiers, Memorial Day (formerly the "Day of Decoration") seems to have broadened in recent years. Many people view it as a day to remember deceased friends and loved ones, regardless of military service. The propriety of this phenomenon is not so much the focus of this article. What is of interest, however, is the fact that there even exists a universal human urge to honor the dead. Thinking worldview-ishly—what perspective besides the Christian's is able to provide a consistent and satisfying explanation for this?
Take atheistic evolution, for example. 1How do invisible realities like love, honor, and dignity evolve by random processes in a purely material universe? These are enduring aspects of human personality. Each is non-material, but each is very real. Deep down, we all know that they exist. Yet atheistic evolution, which says that these things can be nothing more than the product of chemical reactions in our brains, renders them meaningless. (Somehow, that little factoid gets swept under the rug in biology class though, doesn't it?)
At a fundamental level, we know that these ideals aren't just the product of chemical reactions in our brains. Oh, someone might protest that they are just chemical reactions. But if you could follow that person home and observe him for a while among his friends and loved ones, you'd see a different story played out.
The image of God is something which humans cannot contain or fully eradicate. Sooner or later it pokes out and finds expression. In an unguarded moment, the God-denier looks into the eyes of his beloved, or cradles a child or grandchild in his arms and knows deeply that the love he's experiencing is not a mere product of bio-chemistry. In The God Who Is There, author Francis Schaeffer said it this way:
"Though your system may say love does not exist, your own experience shows that it does." (chap. 2, conclusion)
We humans have an insuppressible knowledge that love is real and that there is something eternal and significant about us. We may not be able to put our finger on it or explain it precisely, but the Bible says that the living God has made mankind in His image (Genesis 1:26). At the very least, what that means is that we are distinct from animals. The ability to reflect on ourselves and write an essay about it (or read one), sets us apart from every other species. This is a function of the image of God at work.
God specially created us as rational and moral creatures possessing complex, intangible elements of personality. We are self-conscious; we reflect on memories of ourselves and others; we experience love—on and on. These are distinctly human qualities. We are unique in our "mannishness" as Schaeffer called it. Elsewhere, he wrote concerning this, saying:
God thinks and we think. The world of thoughts is that which distinguishes me as a man.
[Therefore,]…the battle for people is centrally in the world of thought.
(True Spirituality, chap. 9: conclusion)
Granted, people don't always live in full awareness of these deep truths. But a so-called "non-religious" holiday like Memorial Day can help shock the awareness back, if we pause to consider it.
As Christians, we are right to observe Memorial Day. Honoring the dead is something completely consistent with our worldview. We might also observe Memorial Day by looking for opportunities to graciously challenge others to think about where their worldview leads them, and why they do what they do.
When a non-Christian friend, neighbor, or family member brings up the subject of Memorial Day, ask them why they think humans honor their dead. Seize the occasion to start a conversation that points others to their Creator whose image they bear.
Colossians 3 (esp. 3:10)
The Myth of Neutrality (a worldview & apologetics study by Greg Bahnsen)
How to Know Truth and Evaluate Competing Worldviews, by Chris Daniel
1The deficiencies of other worldviews are demonstrable re: honoring the dead. However, for the sake of brevity, the discussion is being limited here to atheistic evolution.