Can We Impose Our Preferences On The External World?

By Arthur Khachatryan

We are subjective creatures. We have a consciousness that provides us with an internal reality, one we experience within of our inner self. We have private preferences, opinions, fears, and biases, which are very real in our thoughts and reflect in our actions. This internal reality is immediate and cannot be overthrown, at least not without receding into irrational alternatives. However, there is also the external world for which we have to account.

Impse Preferences External World

Reality is after all comprised of not only conscious creatures but also the environment in which they live. When people say, ‘you have your truth, and I have mine,’ are they suggesting that the world is different for them? Or are they trying to say that truth is merely subjective? It couldn’t be the latter though since truth is that which corresponds to reality. And since reality includes the entire known physical world, it cannot be a personal internal thing. So, while the ‘your truth, my truth’ mentality is representative of the popular sentiment of the day, it is rooted in a personal internal battle with the external reality.

When Christians assert that Jesus is the only way to heaven, it is not meant to be taken merely as an internal subjective belief that Jesus saves, but one that corresponds to an external reality. The belief is an internal representation of an outward reality. Some would think it to be arrogant and intolerant of people to claim that they have come to the one true God and reject all false gods and religions. But mutually exclusive claims are made by virtually all religions. Are all religious views arrogant? Or do they merely all make truth claims, which may or may not be representative of reality? Truth, by its very definition, is exclusive. If something is true, then all views contradicting that must be false.

We may legitimately differ in our preferences, and there’s nothing wrong with these differences. But truth does not lay hostage, shackled by our preferences. An overwhelming body of work that includes the biblical writings and ancient historians testify of Jesus of Nazareth. But many atheists claim that such a man never existed. Jesus either existed, or he didn’t. The Bible tells us that Jesus was crucified. The Koran tells that Jesus was not crucified. Jesus was either crucified, or he wasn’t. He either rose from the dead or he didn’t. There is little use for opinion in the matter. When we look at the historical record we can be fairly certain that Jesus of Nazareth existed and was crucified, even though the Koran would tell us that he was not. When we look at the historical record, we see a very compelling case for the Bible being the inspired word of God, even though virtually every other religious view would be in disagreement.

Now, how do you see Jesus? Did he exist? Who was he? Was he just a human being, perhaps a good moral teacher? These are relatively common conclusion that people have come to regarding Jesus. But are any of these real options? When we read what Jesus claimed about Himself, we should be awestruck at how precisely he pointed to himself as the one and only true God. C.S. Lewis put it brilliantly when he said,

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him, ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon, or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”[1]

Preferences will differ, and that’s what makes the world so diverse and interesting. However, that which is to be found in the real world apart from mere desire or preference, that which aligns with reality, cannot be approached merely by the existential monotony of the merely internal self. It must be cohesive with the external world. Preferences, as wonderfully diverse as they may be, cannot be rationally imposed on the external world.

Notes

[1]Lewis, C. S., Mere Christianity: Revised/Amplified Edition, 52.

 


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4 replies
  1. jcb says:

    We exist. We have preferences. There exists an external environment. There are various claims about what is true, what is real.
    Yes, some people believe that Jesus can get people to heaven, but they are wrong. There is virtually no evidence of this.
    It is arrogant to claim that one knows the one true god, but the more important fact is that no one knows that god exists.
    If arrogance means something like unjustified confidence, then yes, all religious views that claim to know that god exists are arrogant. But the important thing is that they make truth claims about reality, and are wrong, when they make assertions about a known supernatural being.
    Preferences refer to things we want, like, prefer over other things. In general, this has nothing to do with reality. If I prefer to win the lottery, it doesn’t tell me if I have won the lottery.
    Yes, Jesus probably existed. Yes, Jesus probably was crucified. No, the Bible is not probably “the inspired word of god”.
    Jesus in the Bible claims to be the true god. He was wrong.
    That C.S. Lewis thinks Jesus is god is not evidence that Jesus is god.
    C.S. Lewis wrong. To say that Jesus was a great moral teacher is NOT foolish, and to say Jesus was god is foolish. A lunatic who says “love your neighbor” is still a great moral teacher. That Jesus said “love your neighbor” does nothing to prove that Jesus is god.
    Our preferences don’t create the external world, but it seems as if theists, who desire eternal life, have tried to do that, with no success.

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  2. Andy Ryan says:

    “C.S. Lewis put it brilliantly when he said…”
    Lewis posits ‘liar, lunatic or lord’ but missing out ‘legend’. Could have simply been a great moral teacher about whom a legend grew, with added fabrications from later authors. That aside, it’s possible to say you’re the son of God and mean it in the sense ‘we are all sons of God’.

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  3. gary says:

    When I tell Christians that I believe that it is it is wrong and foolish to believe any truth claim “by faith”, they complain. “You obviously don’t understand the word ‘faith’,” they retort. “We all use faith in many areas of our lives.”

    A typical evangelical Christian’s definition of “faith”: ” Faith is trust based on past performance. It is faith in a person, not so much the claims about that person. It is based on personal knowledge of that person gained by personal experience.”

    Same evangelical Christian’s response to this question: Is faith a gift from God as the Apostle Paul claims in his Epistle to the Ephesians?

    “Yes. The faith that leads us to personally grasp hold of the promises God made to us in Christ Jesus is something that is given to us.”

    Gary: So if we combine these two statements we have this: “Faith is trust based on personal knowledge about someone (or some thing); a personal knowledge that is given to us as a gift from God.”

    Isn’t this statement saying that it is impossible to believe in Jesus as one’s god unless Jesus has gifted you the knowledge (about him) to believe? If that is true, what is the point of Christian apologetics? If only God can flip the switch in the human heart (brain) to believe, why do Christian apologists go to such lengths to debate evidence in an effort to convert skeptical non-believers? Why do Christian apologists accuse skeptics of being biased against “good” evidence, when what they really believe is that no amount of good evidence will ever convince the skeptic to believe in Jesus as his or her Savior? If faith is truly a gift from God, debating evidence is pointless.

    So why do Christian apologists persist in doing it?

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  4. Bryan says:

    This all or nothing black or white thinking reminds me of what the leaders of the Mormon Church taught while I was a member:

    “He [Joseph Smith jr]was either a prophet of God, divinely called, properly appointed and commissioned, or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen. There is no middle ground.”
    —Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, Pages 188-189

    “Our whole strength rests on the validity of [Joseph Smith’s vision of God and Jesus]. It either occurred or it did not occur. If it did not, then this work is a fraud. If it did, then it is the most important and wonderful work under the heavens.”
    —President Gordon B. Hinckley

    “Each of us has to face the matter — either the[Mormon] Church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no middle ground. It is the church and kingdom of God, or it is nothing.”
    —President Gordon B. Hinckley

    “Well, it’s either true or false. If it’s false, we’re engaged in a great fraud. If it’s true, it’s the most important thing in the world. Now, that’s the whole picture. It is either right or wrong, true or false, fraudulent or true. And that’s exactly where we stand, with a conviction in our hearts that it is true: that Joseph went into the [Sacred] Grove; that he saw the Father and the Son; that he talked with them; that Moroni came; that the Book of Mormon was translated from the plates; that the priesthood was restored by those who held it anciently. That’s our claim. That’s where we stand, and that’s where we fall, if we fall. But we don’t. We just stand secure in that faith.”
    —President Gordon B. Hinckley

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