Worldviews: God Explains it All
- 2007 27 Aug
What do you believe and why do you believe it? Such a question is basic to our very existence and all people must answer it in some way whether consciously or unconsciously. To answer the question unconsciously is both to answer it and to ignore it at the same time. To ignore the question is to answer it along these lines, “I only believe what I feel like believing at any given moment.” In other words, this individual has no coherent philosophical grid by which he approaches life in general except that he acts merely upon circumstantial feelings. This individual will live with philosophical inconsistencies and contradictions within his own mind without really caring or perhaps even knowing such to be the case.
Some take a more thoughtful approach and attempt to develop some sort of belief system. In other words, they know what they believe and are often very committed to those beliefs. Yet, they are not so different from those who ignore the question, though they may conceive themselves as being different by virtue of the fact that they at least answer the first half of the question: what do you believe? They are not so different because setting forth what one believes is not enough. What one believes is irrelevant if he does not know why he believes it. If one does not know why he believes something then he is his own authority and has relegated himself to a position of relativism, or, to put it more aptly, arbitrariness. That is, he is philosophically uncertain about anything because he has no ground for what he believes. He simply believes it because he believes it.
Others are more thoughtful still. Not only have they answered the first half of the question, but they have wrestled with the second half as well. These individuals know what they believe and offer some justification for it. In other words, they have attempted to answer the question: why do you believe it? They have consciously committed themselves to a particular worldview. Of course, those who ignore the question and those who answer only the first half have committed themselves to their respective worldviews to be sure. The difference between those individuals and the one who wrestles with the “why” question is that the former are unconsciously committed to their worldviews and the latter is consciously committed to his worldview. The latter is attempting to make some sense out of his world.
There is yet another category to be brought forth momentarily. The concept of “worldview” must be dealt with first. A “worldview” quite obviously has to do with the way a person looks at the world. In one sense, it is the totality of what one believes. In another sense, it is the lens through which a person views the world or ultimate reality. It consists of one’s presuppositions or assumptions about the nature of our world. A worldview is made up of those presuppositions that individuals believe without evidence or outside support; they are merely taken for granted or on faith. Then there are those presuppositions or beliefs that persons hold to based on some kind of rationale. A person will always speak from his particular worldview whether he is conscious he is doing so or not, whether he is consistent or not, or whether he has determined to do so or not. Everyone brings his worldview to the marketplace of ideas.
To pick up on the opening question once again is to put these issues in sharper focus. It is not difficult to see that the individual who has ignored the question has no ground for what he believes. And, it is perhaps quite clear that the one who has only set forth what he believes without asking why he believes it has no ground for what he believes either. And yet, it is also true that the one who has answered both sides of the question, the one who knows what he believes and why, has no rational, philosophical ground for what he believes if he holds to any worldview other than a biblical worldview. In other words, the one who does not presuppose the God of the bible has no ground for believing what he believes about anything. He has relegated himself to a life of intellectual futility and philosophical inconsistency.
By way of example, one committed to an evolutionary/naturalist worldview must live with philosophical contradictions. He conceives of the universe as a box. The only things that exist are those things within the box. One may not go outside of the box to search for answers to anything or to explain anything. There is only the physical universe in which we live. There is nothing metaphysical. Thus, he says there is no God.
Yet, there are a number of things that he cannot justify on his worldview. He presupposes laws of logic to engage in scientific method or have a conversation, etc... But laws of logic are immaterial, that is, metaphysical and cannot be justified on his worldview. He cannot justify concepts like honesty on his worldview though he presupposes those concepts in the reporting of data or in formulating hypotheses or theories, etc. He violates his own worldview by presupposing the uniformity of nature though he says the origin of the universe was a random chance accident. He posits a natural law that says matter and energy cannot come from nothing yet he says just that: the universe came from nothing. He posits a natural law that says that life cannot come from non-life yet in the beginning life did in fact come from non-life says he. On an evolutionary worldview, we are but an accident with no real purpose for being here. On that worldview, values mean nothing and there is no life after death. Evolutionists do indeed attempt to inject meaning into our existence. But, they have no justification for doing so on their worldview.
Let me take it a step further. The evolutionist says there is no God. The question must be put to him, “how do you know there is no God?” On his worldview, one of observation and data, he does not know. He has not searched every corner of the universe. He has limited knowledge and limited investigative ability. He posits a statement of absolute fact concerning the existence of God but he is relegated to a position of complete uncertainty on his worldview. He cannot justify his claim.
Suppose he says, “You’re right, we cannot know there is no God.” Once again he falls into a philosophical dilemma on his worldview. Has he searched the universe to know that he cannot know there is no God? The point is that by rejecting the reality of God, he has rendered himself to a position of futility in the area of knowledge.
When anyone attempts to know truth apart from God he renders himself to a position of futility. The reason for such is clear: “in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3).” Let’s flesh that statement out a bit.
The bible is clear that “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1).” He is the Creator and Sustainer of all things (Jn. 1:1f; Col. 1:15f). Nothing exists apart from God and He upholds all things by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3). He is before all things, He is eternal, and He alone is wise (Col. 1:17; 1 Tim. 1:17). To put it simply, God is distinct from His creation; He is outside of time and space; He is independent of all things. He needs nothing outside of Himself. He simply is. Paul referred to this dynamic when he spoke to the Greek philosophers in Athens: “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men's hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things (Acts 17:24-25).” When Moses asked God what to tell the children of Israel if they asked who sent him, God simply replied, “I Am (Ex. 3:14).” God is. He has always been and will always be. He is independent of His creation.
God is an independent being. He is the only independent being. By way of contrast, man is a dependent being. We would not be able to take the next breath apart from God. All that we are comes from God. We are completely dependent upon Him for our very existence. “Know that the LORD, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves (Ps. 100:3).” Of course, that means that our knowledge, or all that we know, comes from God. We are dependent on God for knowledge. We have no knowledge or wisdom apart from God. “The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken. Behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD; so what wisdom do they have (Jer. 8:9)?”
As noted, because God is independent and man is dependent upon God, man’s knowledge comes from God. In order for man to know anything, God must reveal it. If God did not reveal Himself or knowledge about the world, man would know absolutely nothing. As a dependent being and as a dependent thinker, his mind is incapable of knowing anything apart from the action of God.
Of course, God has revealed Himself and we can classify that revelation under two broad headings: general revelation and special revelation. General revelation is that revelation God has given to men in general through creation, conscience, and history among other things. That revelation cannot save anyone. Paul explains that everyone has been given a knowledge of the true and living God but each one has suppressed that knowledge by virtue of his own sinfulness (Rom. 1:18f). But, that revelation can still be apprehended by all men in some sense so that man may know something of how God’s world works. The scientific method is simply the investigation of God’s general revelation of Himself, man, and His world.
Special revelation is that revelation of God that speaks directly to who He is, His will, and His ways. That revelation comes by way of the Lord Jesus Christ and His word: the Scriptures. This revelation is a potentially saving revelation of God. The Holy Spirit uses the word of God in the lives of some to effect the new birth. That’s why Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation… (Rom. 1:16).”
Because man is dependent upon God for knowledge, he commits himself to a position of futility in the area of knowledge when he seeks to know something apart from God. When he commits himself to a position of independence from God he cannot know the truth. He may get certain facts right when he investigates God’s world by virtue of the general revelation of God available to all men. Despite the fact that the image of God in man has been marred by the fall, all men are created in the image of God. That fact enables even lost men to apprehend something of God’s general revelation. But, the lost man cannot know the meaning of that general revelation in an ultimate sense because he observes it through a lens that presupposes independence from God. He will misinterpret its ultimate meaning every time and he will misinterpret its obvious meaning part of the time.
By way of example, Charles Darwin observed differences in finches in different habitats in the Galapagos Islands. Because he was looking through a lens of independence from God, he developed a hypothesis of gradual change over time in animals. This change over time accompanied by mutations would be such that one animal could evolve into another animal on a macro or vertical scale. In other words, according to Darwin, a monkey could become a man.
Scientists who are Christians look at the same evidence through a lens of dependence upon God. They presuppose that God is. They observe that changes can occur in animals due to different factors. These changes can be illustrated in the breeding of different kinds of dogs for example. All the DNA necessary to produce every breed of dog was present in the fist dogs created by God. However, one species cannot evolve into another species regardless of how much time is given nor do mutations ever add DNA. All mutations involve a loss of DNA. When different breeds of dogs are developed, it is done so through a loss of DNA and not through an evolution of a lower form of dog into a higher form of dog.
Evolution in the simple sense of the word, change, on a micro scale, that is horizontal change or changes within a kind of animal that results in different breeds, is a given. Evolution on a macro scale, that is vertical change or change from a lower life form to a higher life form or even change from one kind of form to another, or Darwinian Evolution, is impossible. Because the evolutionist looks through a lens of independence from God, he misinterprets what he observes and does not know the truth.
When men look at the world through a lens of independence from God, they misinterpret what they observe and do not know the truth. Neither can man ever know the truth concerning ultimate reality or spiritual things apart from the saving revelation of God in Christ Jesus. The Scripture is clear on this point: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools (Rom. 1:20-22).” Further, “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14).” And, “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart (Eph. 4:17-18).” In the realm of knowledge, apart from God, man is futile in his thoughts by virtue of his darkened heart. He is a fool and has no ability to understand the things of God. His thinking is futile, his understanding is darkened, he is ignorant, and blind to truth.
Man’s commitment to knowledge independent from God goes all the way back to the garden. The very nature of Satan’s temptation of Eve had to do with knowing truth or ultimate things. “Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil (Gen. 3:4-5).’” Satan told her that her eyes would be opened and that she would know what God knew. No longer would she have to be dependent upon God for knowledge. She would be like Him. And note v. 6: “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” She saw that the tree was desirable “to make one wise.” She had committed herself to independence from God. Once Adam partook, they both fell, all of creation fell, and the entire human race was plunged into ruin, that is, sin and death. That ruin also included futility in the realm of knowledge apart from the gracious, saving revelation of God.
One’s worldview is critically important, to say the least. As noted earlier, there are those who ignore the question of what they believe and why they believe it and there are those who answer only the first half of the question. Both have committed themselves to their respective worldviews unconsciously and relegated themselves to philosophical futility in the realm of knowledge. There are those who wrestle with the “why” question and are thus consciously committed to their worldview. The problem lies in the fact, as also noted, that they have no rational, philosophical ground for what they believe if they hold to any worldview other than a biblical worldview. They too are relegated to futility.
That leads us to the final category of individuals alluded to earlier: those who believe the Scriptures unto salvation. These individuals alone know what they believe and why they believe it. They alone have a justification for what they believe. They are committed to dependence upon God in the realm of knowledge and they presuppose that He is. They know why they are here: God created them. They have a purpose in living: to glorify God. They have morals and values that come from God. Things like honesty, promises, contracts, and marriage vows make sense on their worldview because God is a God of values. They know there is life after death and they will spend eternity with God. They can justify laws of logic on their worldview because not only is God a logical God but they are not relegated to justifying what they believe from the physical box alone. They believe in the metaphysical. They believe that communication has meaning because God gives it meaning. And, long before Darwin came along and evolutionists contradicted themselves by saying that something came from nothing and life came from non-life, even though it’s impossible on their worldview, the bible declared that God was outside of the box. The bible declared that God is eternal. The Christian can justify the existence of the universe on his worldview: the eternal God who is distinct from His universe created it. The God who is outside of time and space hung the earth on nothing (Job. 26:7). The evolutionist cannot even justify the world’s or even his own existence on his worldview. In other words, he cannot logically explain the fact of his existence. Christians can because they presuppose God.
When one has a biblical worldview, he can make sense out of his world and experience. He can philosophically justify what he believes without contradiction or inconsistency. On the other hand, those with a different worldview cannot justify any number of things on their worldview nor do they really have the truth. Do you want to know what you believe and why you believe it? Do you want to be a philosophical fool or do you want to be philosophically wise? If you want to be wise, be dependent on God. He explains it all.
Dr. Paul J. Dean is the pastor of Providence Baptist Church in Greer, SC, and hosts a daily, live, call-in radio talk show: "Calling for Truth." He serves as the Director of Applied Ministry at the Greenville, SC extension of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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