Saturday, December 30, 2006

Worldview - Part 1 - Origin

The first question to be dealt with in a worldview is that of origin - where did we come from? The answer to this question has a lot of implications for how we live our lives.

From a Christian perspective, the answer is that we were created by a personal God who loves us and has a purpose for our lives. Using the Bible as our frame of reference, we see from Psalm 139 that God was intimately involved in the smallest detail of our formation. Genesis 1 tells that God gave each human being a living soul, designed for relationship with Him. This applies to every human being, and so affects the way Christians are to treat others. Jesus stated that all of God's law can be summed up in two commandments: to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and then to love our neighbor (our fellow man) as ourself.

This view of origin changed the way that people treated each other right from the first days of Christianity. Christians cared for the outcasts of society, not because they could contribute anything, but because they were people created in the image of God. It was Christians like William Wilberforce and John Newton who eventually brought an end to the inhuman slave trade for the same reason. Today, still, Christians minister to the poor and the outcast of society because, in each of them, we see the "Imago Dei" - the image of God.

Critics would quickly point to the pogroms and the persecution of which the church has been guilty over the centuries - and that criticism is valid to a point. However, those who would perpetrate such evil in the name of Christianity go against the teachings of the God they claim to serve. In other words, they are living in a manner that is inconsistent with a Biblical worldview. Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21). It would be akin to a medical doctor who, rather than healing, contributes to someone's illness, breaking his hippocratic oath.

On the other hand, a secular worldview would take as its view of origin that mankind evolved from a series of random occurrences in amindless universe. We are here simply because we survived while other species didn't. We are merely highly developed animals, whose final destiny is the dust. The logical outworking of this belief is the devaluing of human life. What, after all, is the justification for helping the disadvantaged when they have nothing to offer back to the species?

If we are only flotsam and jetsom in the universe and have no purpose beyond this life, why keep the unwanted child - abortion makes sense; why care for the severely disabled - they serve no purpose. It was this reasoning that led Hitler to destroy millions in the gas chambers of World War II. He was a staunch believer in the superiority of the Aryan Race and set out to destroy the "mongrel races." He believed, as he learned from evolutionary theory, in the survival of the fittest. He was merely helping nature along. The Nuremberg Trials were an eye-opener in that they had to appeal to a "higher law" in order to find the Nazis guilty of crimes against humanity.

While the criticisms of a sometimes violent church history are somewhat valid, as admitted above, what about the atrocities committed by those with a non-theistic view of the world? The worst tyrants in the history of the world have been those who denied the existence of God and therefore lived as though there was no-one to whom they must ultimately give account. I speak of men like Stalin, Pol Pot, Hitler, Chairman Mao and those who have inherited his office. If you believe that we are all the products of a mindless process, on what grounds do you say that they were wrong?

What I've tried to demonstrate here is an example of how worldview does shape the way we live our lives and affects culture at large. We need to think about what we believe and why because ideas have consequences. We'll pick up on the second question tomorrow.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Worldview - an introduction.

Yesterday we looked at the question of worldview and its importance in helping us find the truth. Today we're going to continue in that theme and look at exactly what a worldview is and how to frame the discussion.
Simply put, a worldview is a lens through which we view the world and by which we interpret events, information and experiences. Each of us has one, whether we have thought it through or not.
I have found Ravi Zacharias, a prolific Christian author and speaker, very helpful in his work on this subject. He says that a worldview has to answer four basic questions: Where did I come from? What is life's meaning? How do I define right from wrong and what happens to me when I die? These can be categorized as Origin, Meaning, Morality and Destiny. The catch, and the reason that Christianity rises above other worldviews, is that these four categories must be coherent: they must make sense together. The answer to each question must also stand on its own - it has to conform to reality.
Nancy Pearcey has taken a slightly different approach in her book Total Truth. She gives three categories: Creation, Fall, and Redemption. The questions are basically the same. I would highly recommend her newsletter for an example of how a solid grasp of worldview can help you to make sense of the world. Understanding this subject can also help you to better identify the biases and prejudicial tendencies of news outlets and academic institutions. As already stated, we all have a worldview. What we need to do is be upfront about that fact. Tomorrow we'll begin with the first question and look at the different answers we might get from various viewpoints.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Christianity & Science

There's a theme that keeps being repeated over and over again in the popular media which basically states that there is a war between religion (particularly Christianity) and science. Time magazine recently did a cover on just this subject. A British television station went one further, airing a two-part special titled "The Root of All Evil?". Both Time and the TV series featured Richard Dawkins, arguably the most famous apologist of Darwinism.

One of the most consistent myths being perpetrated by Dawkins and his ilk is that Christianity promotes ignorance and superstition. He may have some scientific qualifications, but his grasp of history could certainly be improved.

As Rodney Stark outlines in his book, The Victory of Reason, it was Christian Europe that provided the fertile soil for modern science. As he states, Christianity "embraced reason and logic as the primary guides to religious truth." It was, in part, the understanding that God was an intelligent being who created in a logical and orderly manner that encouraged scientists to look for the order in nature. There were laws in nature because there was a law-giver.

I think it's a given that there are many, if not most, religions which are anti-science, but Christianity is not one of them. What Christians object to is pseudo-science: making outlandish faith claims and calling it science. Retired Berkeley law school professor Phillip E. Johnson, among others, have pointed out the propensity of some members of the scientific community to make truth claims without the required evidence.

The Discovery Institute is an organization established by well-known scientists such as Michael Behe, William Dembski, Stephen Meyer and Jay Richards who also happen to be Christians. So was Isaac Newton, by the way. All of these men - and countless other men and women - have found that their Christian faith and scientific investigation are mutually compatible.

What intellectually drew me to Christianity was the fact that it is based in history and has a comprehensive view of the world. It has as its central tenet an historical event - the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It presents a view of the world that makes sense at every level. As C.S. lewis wrote: "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."

Over the next few posts we're going to look at the idea of worldview, and how the Biblical worldview compares with that of other faiths - including atheism. Your comments are welcome.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Merry Christmas!

It's Christmas season again, and once again the debate is raging all over post-Christian North America. Do we say "Merry Christmas" or are we infringing on someone's rights? Do we put up a Christmas tree or is it now a "Holiday Tree?"

Walmart has done its polling and decided that its good for business to dare to say the "C" word. Most others will stick with the politically correct "Happy Holidays." All of this foolishness has once again got a lot of Christians up in arms and writing letters in defence of Christmas. I was tempted to do the same with this blog.
However, the fact is this: we no longer live in a Christian society, and we need to stop pretending that we do. It is not our job to try to make everyone celebrate our Christian holidays just because we do, and just because everybody used to. It's our job to make the way we celebrate so attractive that they want to join us. I love Christmas - it's a great time of year. I like the fact that we can turn our attention to the coming of Jesus Christ into this world. He is the greatest gift ever given, after all.
So, what can you do to demonstrate the real meaning of Christmas? Put up your own nativity on your own lawn. Take a neighbor to see the new movie "The Nativity Story" and talk about it afterwards. Invite a friend to a Christmas Eve service. Take some carolers to a Nursing Home or a street-corner. Give a secret gift to someone who needs it and do it in the name of Jesus. Celebrate Christmas and let your good works point people to our Father in heaven.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Surprise! Hollywood Influences Children.

I know that some of you are shocked by this, but a recent study has confirmed what many have been saying all along, graphic movies have a negative impact on our children. According to an article in the Washington Post and re-run in the Toronto Star, there was a substantial difference in risky behavior between 9-12 year-olds whose parents allowed them to watch 'R' rated movies and those who didn't.

Remember that in Canada the ratings system is quite different, so many movies rated 'R' stateside are actually '14A' here or even 'PG13.' According to the study done by researchers at Dartmouth Medical School, children with permissive parents were 40% more likely to consider using cigarettes or alcohol than their more restricted peers.

This simply confirms what many parents have already assumed to be fact - GIGO "Garbage In, Garbage Out." There have been voices speaking up for years but they have largely been ignored by the mainstream media or dismissed as crackpots. Movie critic Michael Medved has been an especially articulate spokesman in favor of some self-control from Hollywood (don't hold your breath). A couple of books have spoken specifically to this issue, incuding: "Hollywood vs. America: Popular Culture and the War on Traditional Values" and one he co-authored with his psychologist wife: "Saving Childhood: Protecting Our Children from the National Assault on Innocence."
We live in a complicated age. Technology has enabled us to have instant access to news and entertainment from anywhere in the world to wherever we happen to be. This new freedom is not necessarily a good thing if we haven't learned how to discern. This is particularly important for the age group mentioned in this study. We've focused a lot in our society on the unhealthy diets which our fast-food culture has inflicted on our kids, but what about the junk food for the brain that passes for entertainment. Regarding the morality of the movie and music industry the question seems to be "how low can you go?"
I guess the good news coming out of this study is that parents who took an active role in the viewing choices of their children were actually able to make a difference. Don't give up on being parents. Your kids may fight you, your friends may criticize you, liberal media may mock you, but your kids need you. Hang in there!

Stephane Dion's Big Adventure

So, it looks like all of the prognosticators and seers of the future missed the boat. The little guy from Quebec (Oh, Oh!) has surprised everyone with an upset win in the Liberal leadership race. There will be no "Rae days" for Canada and Iggy and Stephen Harper will not have to wrestle over who gets to be the conservative. Instead, it appears that the environment will be front and center in the next general election if Mr. Dion has his way.

Will this be a new day for the Liberals? Can they put the scandals and infighting of the past behind them? Will Dion be electable West of the Ontario/Manitoba border? Time will tell but now the clock is ticking on the next election.

It's an interesting time in Canadian politics. We now have a Conservative minority government which appears willing to take principled stands on issues such as human rights and yet is terrified of allowing their own MPs to comment on moral issues. Bloggers are even now leading a charge in an attempt to force them to declare themselves on abortion and other contentious issues.

There's no such ambivalence from the Liberal camp. With very few exceptions their party is pro-abortion, pro-homosexual marriage, pro-marijuana, etc... They do live up their name, don't they?

The problem that many have with politics in Canada is that, in spite of all of the media hand-wringing about the Liberals, our real party choices seem to start in the Center and move Left from there. There are policy differences, but not on many of the issues which resonate with moral conservatives. For us, it appears that the long walk through the political wilderness will continue for the foreseeable future.