7 Questions to Get to the Heart of Any Worldview

 

Everyone has a worldview. Even the person who says worldview studies are a waste of time says it because of their worldview. A worldview is a person’s perspective of the world, but at its core, it is a set of basic presuppositions that a person believes through which they filter all other non-basic beliefs. There are thousands of religions and ‘ism that people hold, and no one can learn all of them, but there are only a handful of worldviews into which they all fit. If you learn the underlying worldviews, you will be better able to understand where a person is coming from, no matter what they call themselves. Some of the basic worldviews are theism, deism, naturalism, existentialism, postmodernism, and Eastern pantheistic monism.

James Sire, in his book, The Universe Next Door does us a huge favor by cataloging these worldviews and providing us with seven questions to get to the heart of any worldview. By asking these seven questions, we can find out not only where someone else stands, but where we stand as well. They can also reveal where a person may be inconsistent in their beliefs. I was once talking with someone who answered one questions by telling me all roads lead to God, and then when asked “what happens when someone dies,” told me that a person either goes to the light or the dark. When I asked if the dark was God too, she then saw the conflict in her two views and said that she needed to think things through a little better. That moment became a perfect opportunity to share the gospel.

Here are the seven questions to get the to the heart of any worldview, followed by a few possible answers.

1. What is prime reality—the really real?

Christians will say it is God. The atheist may answer matter, the universe, or natural laws.

2. What is the nature of the world or universe around us?

Was it created, did it just pop into being, is it ordered, is it chaos, does it even exist or is something we create in our mind?

3. What is a human being?

Is it created in the image of God, a highly complex machine, a cosmic accident, an evolved ape?

4. What happens when a person dies?

Is it heaven with God, or hell, a higher state, reincarnation, or do we cease to exist altogether?

5. Is it possible to know absolute truth?

Is it, yes, we are made in the image of God. Christ, who was fully God, became flesh and knew all truth. Therefore, we can know truth as well. Or is it, no, consciousness is something that evolved based on the survival of the fittest, and we cannot have confidence that what survives can necessarily know truth. It is all just chemicals firing in the brain. What we call knowledge is just a mental phenomenon, and we cannot know whether it corresponds to reality.

6. How do we know what is right and wrong?

Are we made in the image of God and have his law written on our hearts and told to us in His revealed word? Or is morality something we make up to order society, so there is no ultimate right and wrong?

7. What is the meaning of human history? Or who is in charge of history?

Did God create it for a purpose and has a plan that all things are moving toward? Or is no one in charge? All of it is random chance and ultimately meaningless, and though we may place some meaning on it, even our meaning is relative.

All of these questions reveal a person’s worldview, and you will see that at the center is either the true God or something else. Any worldview not based on the God of scripture cannot ultimately hold together. In Jesus, the creator and sustainer of all things, are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Not only is it important to understand where other people stand in order to show them that their foundation is sinking sand, but it is important to make sure Christ is the rock upon which we stand in all matters of truth as well.

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. – Colossians 2:8

D. Eaton

Understanding Moral Dilemmas 1: Non-Conflicting Absolutism

In a recent post, I introduced Moral Absolutism in relation to God’s moral law and said that I would be posting three posts on how moral absolutists handle ethical dilemmas, here is the first post in the series.

Non-Conflicting Absolutism (NCA)

One way to deal with moral dilemmas is to argue that the so-called dilemmas only appear to be conflicts of moral laws but are not real conflicts, hence the term Non-Conflicting Absolutism. This theory is one of the most popular positions today. It has been held by many great theologians such as John Murray, Walter Kaiser, and John Frame. This view holds that God has given us absolute moral norms that cannot be altered. Any apparent conflict is due to a lack of knowledge rather than a real conflict in the commands.

Whenever there seems to be a conflict, such as in the case of the midwives in Exodus 1, where a person must choose between loving her neighbor and lying, the reason the conflict seems to exist is because of a lack of knowledge in how to handle the situation. Whatever the person must do to love her neighbor, she must do it without lying. A lie is always a lie and can never be justified by a non-conflicting absolutist. In this case, an NCA proponent would say that God honored the midwives in spite of their lying. What He was commending was their faith even though it may have been misdirected. Had they chose not to lie, they would not have been held responsible for the deaths of the children, because they would not have been the ones that would have killed them. That sin would rest upon the Egyptians soldiers.

The proponent of NCA is not ignorant of the effects of the decisions they make. Like the utilitarian, they consider the results of their actions, even if their actions are ethical. In the case of the Nazi’s at the door, it would not be unethical to tell them where the Jews are hiding if there is no other alternative even though they do not want the Jews to be found our hurt. This is because the ethical dilemma is only apparent, not actual.

What about the scenario of a pregnant mother who has a tumor that will kill her if not removed before the child is born, but removing the tumor would kill the child. In this type of situation, they would bring into play what is called the theory of double effect. What do we do in this situation? Whatever we do will have two effects, one positive and the other negative. In a case like this, an NCA proponent would say it is permissible to try to save the mother because the death of the child is not intended. The action that they are taking is ethical. They seek to save the mother, not kill the child, and since there is no real ethical conflict, the death of the child is a negative result of a positive action.

Strengths of This Position

1) It has a strong understanding of absolutes. There is never a time where lying becomes justified. In holding this position, they seem to be serious about the nature of absolutes.
2) They have a high regard for the nature of God. Since all of God’s moral laws stem from His nature, they argue that to believe in a conflict of moral laws is to believe in the possibility of conflict in God’s nature.
3) This view can also be argued quite forcibly from scripture though many Bible scholars would disagree with this view.

Weaknesses

1) In the case of the mother and the child, they seem to neglect the fact that their actions are causing the death of the child. The argument of “we didn’t intend to” seems a bit of a weak one. It appears to go back on moral absolutes and make “intent” the final arbiter of what is right and wrong.
2) What do we do about David eating the “bread of the presence” which was not lawful, but is justified by Jesus (Mark 2:26)? This is a clear violation of an absolute of the old covenant. Would intent and the theory of double effect have to play into this somehow? Does this mean that David simply avoided the sin by not intending to eat the bread, but intended to feed the starving people and himself? This seems lacking.

In the next post, we will look at Conflicting Absolutism.

D. Eaton

Other posts in this series

God’s Moral Law and Absolutism: Introduction

What do you do when it seems you have to choose between two sins? For instance, the midwives in the Old Testament, do they lie and say that the Jewish women have their babies too quickly to kill them, or do they tell them the truth and fail to protect the babies (see Exodus chapter 1)? In this case, they lied, and God commends them for it. Over time, I plan on posting three more posts on this topic. I will be discussing three ethical theories surrounding God’s moral law and absolutism. The book covers you will see in these posts are books I have read in my study of Christian ethics and have helped me in my understanding of this topic.

When studying ethics, we encounter many different theories. Such as utilitarian ethics, virtue based ethics, and deontological ethics. Utilitarian ethics bases its ethical system on some non-moral outcome such as happiness or pleasure. For instance, the way we decide what is right and wrong could be based on what will produce the greatest pleasure for the greatest number of people. A couple of proponents of this view are David Hume and John Stuart Mill. This is the view that seems to be the most popular in today’s secular society. Virtue based ethics looks to character to decide what is right and wrong. In other words, we do not look to follow rules, but we look to virtues that we wish to cultivate such as courage, prudence, and temperance then we look to how we should live them out our lives. As Leslie Stephens says, “The moral law…has to be expressed in the form “be this” not in the form “do this.” Proponents of this view have been Alasdair MacIntyre, Stanley Hauerwas, and, of course, Aristotle (though it is debated whether his teaching was as extreme as today’s virtue ethicists). This view has gained momentum in today’s church and has also gained acceptance by many in what used to be called the Emergent Church. It is also held by many in the Catholic church.

Both views have their flaws, for instance, utilitarian ethics would have to say that committing adultery is a good thing to do if it will lead to the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people. As we know, this is contrary to scripture. Virtue based ethics has serious trouble in explaining how good character leads to doing the right thing. For example, if courage is a virtue we are trying to cultivate, how do we apply this to doing the right thing? A woman who abstains from an abortion could be said to be courageous, but so could the woman who was brave enough to have one. Which one is right? I realize if you hold to one of these two views, these simple arguments will not convince you otherwise, but my point here is not to refute these systems. Instead, I want to look at absolutism.

The first two theories mentioned, say that there is no intrinsic value in any action. The value is in either in the outcome of the action (utilitarian) or in the character of the person doing the act (Virtue). Deontological ethics, on the other hand, is a duty or obligation driven system. Deontological ethics says there is some intrinsic value in certain actions, such as not killing, or truth telling, that requires us to do them. The prima fascia understanding of scripture, and I believe the correct understanding, seems to show this view as the most accurate. There are certain actions that we are to do to be ethical. This flows from God’s moral law which is summarized in the Ten Commandments and further summarized when Jesus said the two greatest commandments were to love God and love our neighbor. The Christian understanding of this view does not neglect the character of the person doing the act. For an action to truly be Godly, it must stem from the right attitude or character, but there is value in particular acts and not only in the heart.

A person who holds this view is usually known as a Moral Absolutist. Absolutism means that the moral laws are absolute in that they are binding on all men, at all times and in all situations. This is what most Christians hold to regarding the Ten Commandments and other moral principles found in Scripture. In this view, however, there are what we call moral dilemmas. To use the old example, what do you do when the Nazi’s are at your door looking for Jews which you are hiding? You are under two different principles which seem to be in conflict. First, you are morally obligated not to lie, and second you are morally obligated to love your neighbor and protect them. Regarding this dilemma, there are three different categories of moral absolutists, with three different answers. There is the non-conflicting absolutist, the conflicting absolutist, and the graded or hierarchical absolutist. In three future posts (which have now been posted), I will be looking at each one of these to see how they deal with the dilemma.

D. Eaton

Other posts in this series

Gordon Clark on the Verbal Inspiration of Scripture

The verbal inspiration of Scripture is the truth that the Bible is exactly word-for-word what God wanted to say. This doctrine is constantly under attack by liberals and postmoderns. They argue that God did not put the writers of Scripture in a trance and use their bodies to write the Bible, nor did He audibly dictate to them exactly what to write like an executive to a secretary, and we agree with both of these statements. So how did God get word-for-word what He wanted out of the writers? Below is a great quote by Gordon Clark on this topic.

“Verbal inspiration therefore must be understood in connection with the complete system of Christian doctrine. It may not be detached there from, and a fortiori it may not be framed in an alien view of God. Verbal inspiration is integral with the doctrines of providence and predestination. When the liberals surreptitiously deny predestination in picturing God as dictating to stenographers, they so misrepresent verbal inspiration that their objections do not apply to the God of the Bible. The trouble is not as the liberals think, that the boss controls the stenographer too completely; on the contrary, the analogy misses the mark because the boss hardly controls the stenographer at all.

Put it this way: God, from all eternity, decreed to lead the Jews out of slavery by the hand of Moses. To this end he so controlled events that Moses was born at a given date, placed in the water to save him from an earthly death, found and adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter, given the best education possible, driven into the wilderness to learn patience, and in every way so prepared by heredity and environment that when the time came, Moses’ mentality and literary style were the instruments precisely fitted to speak God’s words.”

Gordon H. Clark – God’s Hammer, The Bible and Its Critics

Defending the Resurrection of Jesus: The Core Facts Approach

Resurrection

There are several approaches to defending the resurrection of Jesus. One way is called the core facts approach. It involves using four core facts held by Christian and non-Christian scholars and applying them to naturalistic explanations of the resurrection. Here are the four facts.

1. Jesus was crucified and died
2. Jesus’ tomb was found empty
3. The Apostles believed they had experiences with the risen Christ.
4. Christ’s disciples were radically transformed after these experiences.

1) Jesus was crucified and died– Virtually every scholar holds to this proposition. They believe that Jesus was crucified and that He did in fact die. Rarely is this fact contested. The idea of the actual crucifixion being a conspiracy is not one that is generally held. He was nailed to the cross and died.

2) Jesus tomb was found empty– The first point that this core fact assumes is that Jesus was actually buried. William Lane Craig, in his article The Empty Tomb of Jesus, goes into great detail and gives us five points why scholars believe this. 1) There are many early sources that attest to the burial of Jesus. 2) Even skeptical scholars agree that it is unlikely that Joseph of Arimathea was a Christian invention because he was a Jewish Sanhedrist. Christians were at odds with the Sanhedrin, so why would they create a story of a Sanhedrist doing what was right in burying Jesus. 3) The story of the burial is simple and is not trying to conjure theological reflection, and it is non-apologetic. 4) It is also believed because this type of burial was the custom in dealing with the death of a Holy man. 5) Finally, this is the only burial tradition that existed, which means it would have been entirely out of character to do something different. The belief in the burial is necessary because it is needed to believe in an empty tomb. He had to be buried, and they had to know which tomb he was buried in to find it empty. Why it was found empty is where scholars differ.

3) The apostles believed they had experiences with the risen Jesus– Again most scholars will agree that the apostles had some experience which they believed was the risen Jesus, but they do not agree on what the experience was. Some say it was a hallucination; some say it was the ghost of Jesus, and others believe it was the physical resurrected body of Jesus. These issues will be covered in the arguments against the naturalistic theories about Jesus’ death and resurrection, but no one disagrees that the disciples had some kind of experience.

4) Jesus’ disciples were radically transformed after these experiences– We can look at the example of Peter, who denied Jesus three times in fear of his life during the events that lead up to the crucifixion. After these experiences with the risen Christ, he went on to be the leading spokesperson for the resurrection of Jesus. He was later crucified and would not back down even if it meant death. In fact, all of Jesus’ disciples were killed for their belief, except for John, who was dipped in boiling oil and survived.

Virtually every scholar holds the four core facts listed above. In light of these four facts, there have been three naturalistic arguments which try to explain that Jesus did not rise from the dead. They are 1) the swoon theory 2) the hallucination theory, and 3) the stolen body or conspiracy theory.

1) Arguments against the swoon theory– The swoon theory is the argument that Jesus never actually died on the cross, he merely went into a swoon, a kind of coma or unconsciousness, and later he was revived by the cool of the tomb. The first thing we notice is that this theory violates core fact #1 that Jesus was crucified and died. It also violates core fact #4; Jesus disciples were radically changed after the experiences of seeing Jesus. This raises the question, would the disciples have been radically transformed by the sight of a half-dead Jesus? The swoon theory is not a highly regarded argument because of these violations, but to not commit the bandwagon fallacy, let us look at a few other reasons why this is not possible. A) Kreeft and Tacelli in the book Handbook of Christian Apologetics, point out that Jesus’ body was completely encased in a winding sheet (we know this from the burial tradition mentioned earlier). How could a half dead man escape a virtual straightjacket? B) We know that a swooning corpse could not have overpowered the Roman guards. C) Who moved the stone? D) Kreeft and Tacelli also make a great point that the swoon theory actually turns into the conspiracy theory, because the disciples attest to a resurrected Jesus, who did not swoon. The conspiracy theory will be addressed later. E) Finally, a swooning Jesus would have had to die eventually, so where is His body?

2) Arguments against the hallucination theory– the hallucination theory is the theory that the disciples did not really see a resurrected Jesus, but merely hallucinated. This theory would explain why the disciples were radically transformed because they actually thought they saw a resurrected Jesus, but this violates core fact #2; Jesus’ tomb was found empty. If the disciples were hallucinating why didn’t the Romans take them to the grave and show them the body when the disciples began preaching. This would have stopped them in their tracks. Kreeft and Tacelli bring up some other arguments also. A) There were too many witnesses. At one point Jesus appeared to 500 people at on time. Did they all have the same hallucination? B) One of the criteria that doctors say is needed hallucinations of this type is that the people expect to see what they see. The disciples didn’t expect to see Jesus. In fact, when they did see him they still didn’t believe, which lead to Thomas touching His wounds, and hallucinations do not have material properties. C) Jesus ate. Hallucinations do not eat. At one point the disciples sat down and ate with Jesus. If this was a hallucination, then either a hallucination (Jesus) ate actual food, or the disciples ate hallucinated food. It is clear from all the details of the appearances of Jesus that they could not have been hallucinations.

3) Arguments against the stolen body or conspiracy theory– This is the idea that the disciples stole the body to make people believe Jesus had actually resurrected, but this violates core fact #4 the disciples were radically transformed. How could a group of men go from being men who feared for their lives to men who would die for their beliefs if they knew that their beliefs were a lie? Another argument is that this goes against the character of the disciples. These were honest, upright men who would have had to violate their core beliefs to pull this off.

Some might say that it was not the disciples who took the body but the Romans, but we have already shown earlier that if it were the Romans, all they would have to do to put a stop to the disciples preaching would be to produce the body. This also violates core fact #3 that the disciples believed they saw a resurrected Jesus. If the Romans had taken the body then the disciples would have had hallucinations, and we have already shown that this does not work.

Up to this point, there has not been a plausible naturalistic explanation for the resurrection of Jesus, which leaves us with the alternative that he did rise physically from the dead.

He is not here, but has risen. – Luke 24:6

D. Eaton

Answering Jewish Arguments Against Jesus

I recently had the privilege of being a guest on the Apologetics.com radio show which airs Saturday mornings on KKLA 99.5 FM in Los Angeles.  The discussion was lead by Christopher Neiswonger on how to answer Jewish arguments against Jesus.

The MP3 can be found at the link below, or it can be downloaded here. It can also be found in the Apologetics.com podcast.

Answering Jewish Arguments Against Jesus

D. Eaton