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8 Major Worldviews (Part 1)

By: Brian Chilton

Before the website transferred from pastorbrianchilton.wordpress.com to bellatorchristi.com, I had written an article on the major worldviews across the globe. I presented six major worldviews at the time. While I still think the previous article treated the most major of worldviews, I have come to realize after reading Douglas Groothius’ book, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith, that other major worldviews exist that should be discussed and incorporated into the list.[1] So, let’s revisit the major worldviews in this article. The goal of the article will be to notify the reader of each belief and will show how Christian theism triumphs. In addition, the Christian apologist will need to understand the starting points that must be taken with each worldview.

Worldviews

  1. Atheism/Naturalism: Rejection of God’s Existence, Only the Physical World Exists.

The term “atheist” is taken from the Greek term “a” meaning “no” and “theos” meaning “God.” Placed together, the term means “no God.” The atheist, therefore, is one who does not believe in the existence of God. Atheists are often termed “naturalists” as they only accept the existence of the natural/physical world, thereby rejecting the existence of things like God, spirits, the human soul, angels, and demons. Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss are good examples of atheism.

Atheism holds a problem as it pertains to the immaterial world. Naturalism cannot explain the existence of human consciousness. Even if the consciousness could be shown to derive from material means, naturalism (or materialism) faces a great problem as the human consciousness is a non-material thing. A scanner can see brainwaves, but not mental thoughts and the like. Naturalism holds two additional problems. On the one hand, naturalism cannot answer why anything exists. It has been mathematically demonstrated by the theorem of Borg, Vilenkin, and Guth (i.e., the BVG Theorem) that there cannot be an infinite regress of material worlds. Every material world must have a beginning point. On the other hand, naturalism fails to account for the mounting evidence of near death experiences.[2] Atheism and naturalism hold great problems serving as a cohesive worldview. The Christian apologist will need to demonstrate the reasonability of God’s existence and the means by which naturalism fails.

  1. Agnosticism: God’s Existence is Unknowable.

Agnosticism comes from two terms: “a” the Greek term meaning “no” and “gnosis” the Greek term meaning “knowledge.” The agnostic does not necessarily reject belief in God. The agnostic claims no knowledge on the issue. There are at least two forms of agnosticism. Atheistic agnostics incline to reject belief in God, but are open to the possibility of God’s existence. The atheistic agnostic claims that it is impossible to know whether God exists or not. Bart Ehrman and Neil deGrasse Tyson are examples of atheistic agnostics.

Theistic agnostics are individuals who are inclined to believe in God’s existence. However, they are doubtful whether individuals can know anything about God. The theistic agnostic may either reject divine revelation altogether and claim that no religion is correct, or the theistic agnostic may reject exclusive revelation and will claim that all religions are correct. When I stumbled into my time of personal doubt, I became more of the theistic agnostic (one who claimed to be spiritual but not religious). The Ba’hai religion and Morgan Freeman may be considered examples of theistic agnosticism.

The trouble with agnosticism is with divine revelation. If God can truly be shown to exist, then atheistic agnosticism begins to wane. If one can demonstrate that God has revealed himself to humanity (particularly through Jesus of Nazareth), then theistic agnosticism begins to fade. The Christian apologist will need to understand, first, that agnosticism can cover a wide variety of flavors. Second, the Christian apologist will need to describe the evidence for Jesus of Nazareth’s life, miracles, and resurrection.

  1. Pantheism: The Force is With You.

Pantheism comes from two Greek terms: “pan” meaning “all” and “theos” meaning “God.” Pantheism may look quite a bit like panentheism and even theistic agnosticism. However, generally speaking, pantheism is the belief that God is an impersonal force. Buddhism is the greatest example of pantheism. The Star Wars idea of the “force” is another example of pantheism. Buddhists claim to be agnostic concerning God’s existence. Yet, the Buddhist believes in impersonal forces (i.e., the force behind reincarnation). The goal of such a worldview is to become nothing. In fact, the Buddhist concept of Nirvana means that one has become so enlightened that he or she escapes the wheel of reincarnation and becomes nothing.

The trouble with pantheism is diverse. On the one hand, the pantheist will speak of such forces in such a way that intelligence is necessary. For example, why is there a wheel of reincarnation? Why is it that good behavior elevates one to a higher level and vice versa? On the other hand, pantheists have great trouble in explaining why anything exists at all. Much more could be said on this issue as it pertains to the trouble of pantheism. The Christian apologist will need to describe the internal inconsistencies of pantheism as a starting point as well as note the personal nature of the divine.

  1. Panentheism: Everything is God.

Panentheism comes from three Greek terms: “pan” meaning “all,” “en” meaning “in,” and “theos” meaning “God.” Therefore, panentheism is literally defined as “all in God.” Panentheists hold that God penetrates everything. While the Christian may initially be inclined to agree, one must understand that panentheists believe that everything is God. Thus, the panentheist would agree that Jesus of Nazareth is God. But, the panentheist would also agree that you are God, he is God, everyone is God, and even your kitchen sink is God. The panentheist does not distinguish between the personal God and the physical creation. Hinduism is the greatest example of panentheism.

Panentheism, however, holds issues as it pertains to the world. If the world is God, then why is there so much evil? God is certainly good. So, if everyone is God, then wouldn’t everything be perfect? To accept such a claim, one must have a flawed idea of God’s nature. With the panentheist, the Christian apologist will need to begin by teaching the distinction between the personal divine being of God and the physical, material creation that is the world.

We have investigated the first four of the eight major worldviews. In our next article, we will describe the final four: polytheism, dualism, deism, and monotheism/theism.

Notes

[1] See Douglas Groothius, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2011), 50.

[2] Here, I do not mean heavenly or hellish experiences. I am addressing the scientific verification of such events in this world. For instance, if one were to see something that could not have been otherwise seen after one’s death, then this would serve as a verification of the soul’s survival past death. Soul survival discredits naturalism.

© 2017. Bellator Christi.


Resources for Greater Impact

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I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist (Paperback)

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Why I Still Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist (Set)


One Fewer God?

By Derrick Stokes

There’s a popular quote by atheist Steven F. Roberts that many nonbelievers cite or paraphrase when debating Christians that says, “I contend we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer God than you do.”

The atheist is saying that since we Christians don’t believe in Baal, Zeus, Odin, Vishnu, Quetzalcoatl, or any other god other than the God of the Bible, then we assume the same lack of belief system. They just take it one deity further.

One Fewer God

So what’s the difference?

Well it doesn’t take much to realize that this argument is constructed in a way to throw the believer off guard. Let’s look at the two members of the argument. An atheist and a theist. The word atheist comes from the Greek atheos.  The prefix a meaning “without” and theos meaning “god”. In other words atheism is the belief that there is no god or gods. No Supreme Ruler whatsoever. The atheist’s worldview is completely shrouded and perceived in the material realm. That anything outside it is pure speculation and unprovable (or not proven yet).

However, for the theist (Christian in our case) the material realm is just another dimension of reality. For us there is also the spiritual realm. The spiritual realm is, in fact, the truest reality because it existed first. God is spirit (John 4:24) and He created all that exists (Genesis 1, John 1:3) in the spiritual and material world.

Now let me point out that Christians during the 1st century were called atheists because they rejected the pantheon of greco-roman gods of the surrounding culture. This was also because the Christians of the day had no temple, priest, or sacrifice, as Romans would have recognized. Yet, believers in Christ saw Jesus as the temple. He is the only way to the Holy of Holies. Believers in Christ saw Him as priest because He is the Ultimate High Priest. Believers in Christ saw Jesus as the sacrifice because of the work He accomplished on the cross. He is the sacrificial Lamb of God and no sacrifice is needed after Him. (John 1:29; Hebrews 4:14; 10:10-11, 19-20)

After the resurrection of Jesus and the birth of the Church there was no “physical” representation of their God like the Romans had. The Romans had statues and Caesar.  If you didn’t worship as they worshipped and whom they worshipped then you worshipped nothing. Therefore, the term atheist was applied to early Christians out of ignorance and out of insult.

In the Martyrdom of Polycarp, Polycarp is brought before the Roman governor for trial. The governor has the intention of making Polycarp betray his Christian brethren. Polycarp must say, “Away with the atheists” or else be condemned. He looks around at “the crowd of lawless heathen”(the pagan Romans) and says “Away with the atheists” flipping the name on to his accusers. (Martyrdom of Polycarp 9:2)

But, let’s be reminded. Atheists reject all gods. They reject false gods and the true God, Yahweh. They don’t just reject one more god than Christians. They reject THE God. The only true and living God. Even though God has made Himself plainly evident through His creation, atheists won’t come to the knowledge of the truth. (Romans 19:21)

However…

Atheists might reject the notion of gods as supernatural, ethereal beings, but they still have gods. We all serve something or someone. We all worship something or someone. Whether it be ourselves, pleasure, fortune, fame, other people, hobbies, pets, nature, gods made of wood or gold, or the God of the Bible; something gets our worship whether we choose to accept the notion or not.

This brings us to the first two commandments:

1)You shall have no other gods before Me [Yahweh]
2)You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them. (Exodus 20:3-4a)

If we have broken these commandments, and we all have if God is not who we worship, then we make ourselves idolaters. Anything other than God that gets our worship has become an idol. These are Paul’s words in Philippians 3:18-19

18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.

If this is true of you today, please understand that God wants to be the object of your worship. He knows that anything else that competes for your attention above Him is a false god. He knows that no other god can bring you true joy and fulfillment. Anything else is an imitation and will never come close to the perfect love, holiness, and eternality of God. Don’t be blinded by passion for the things of the world. Things will break. Trends will fade. This world and everything in it will pass away. God and His Word are forever. And don’t place any person above God. Human beings are imperfect and all have fallen far short of God’s glory. But, God is not man that He should lie or change His mind. Nor will He ever leave us or forsake us. So, give your worship to God and to God alone because He alone is worthy.

Derrick Stokes

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This post was originally published as “…ONE LESS GOD…”? at https://theologetics315.wordpress.com/2016/11/13/one-less-god/

Is Spiritual Truth a Matter of Opinion? An Open Letter to a Relativist

By Natasha Crain

I received the following blog comment this week, packed with statements that your kids are likely to hear (and possibly come to believe) about the nature of truth. I wanted to reply to the commenter right here in a blog post because I feel there is so much that is important for everyone to understand about what he is saying.

I’m going to include the full comment below so you can read it in its unbroken entirety, then I’ll break it down part-by-part. If you have older kids, I encourage you to read them this letter and use it as a discussion starter.

For context, this person is responding to an atheist who had commented on a post previously, and is encouraging him to stay strong in the midst of Christian claims.

You are really brave defending your stance against a bunch of evangelical Christians banging on you. I myself am not an atheist. If I have to put a label on myself, I would choose agnostic theist. I believe in God or a higher power, but I don’t have an absolute certainty of his or her nature.

 My belief is rational to [a] certain extent. The rest is on faith. However, unlike Christians, my spiritual path is highly personal and subjective. I will never say that “you’d better believe what I believe or you will suffer eternal consequences”. Christians, whichever denominations, like to intimidate me which [sic] this “Jesus is the high way” tactic even though I never initiate any religious conversation with them. However, I have survived as a gay, Vietnamese, and non-Abrahamic-faith person, and my life is pretty good so far. I know you may not like to hear this. I feel connected to God with contemplation, prayer, and compassion practice. When I have a child, I will not raise him or her as an atheist or a believer. I will do my best to raise him as a person who has a higher sense of empathy and compassion. If he chooses to be a Christian, Buddhist, Wiccan, Pagan, etc., I will support his decision. I believe that God is like an ocean, and different spiritual paths are like rivers. I am not the one who decides which river is the best to reach the ocean…

Keep your stance and keep searching truth…your truth. Not mine and definitely not these Christians’.

 

My Response: An Open Letter to a Relativist

 

Dear Minh,

Thank you for being willing to honestly share your spiritual journey in the comments section of my blog. It’s clear that spirituality is an important topic for you, as it is for me. With that in mind, I’d like to respond to several of the points you make.

 

You said: I myself am not an atheist. If I have to put a label on myself, I would choose agnostic theist. I believe in God or a higher power, but I don’t have an absolute certainty of his or her nature.

From what you’re saying here, it sounds like you are “agnostic” about what kind of God or higher power exists because you haven’t found anything pointing to that Being’s nature withabsolute certainty. However, it’s important that we’re honest with ourselves about this desire for absolute certainty. There’s pretty much nothing in life we know with “absolute certainty.” For example, do you know with absolute certainty that you are a real person and that everything you experience is not just an illusion? No, but you have good reason to believe you really exist and you live accordingly. We claim to know things all the time that we can’t beabsolutely certain about. When the preponderance of evidence points toward something being true, we go ahead and say we know it.

The question I would leave you to consider, therefore, is this: If you discovered that a preponderance of evidence pointed to a specific religion being the one true revelation of God to humans, would you accept it as truth? Or do you require a level of certainty that you don’t require of anything else in your life?

If you require a unique level of certainty in spiritual matters, then I would suggest perhaps you don’t want to find truth. If you are open to considering the weight of the evidence for the possible objective truth of a specific religion, then I would invite you to begin that investigation in earnest. If you would like to learn about the evidence for Christianity specifically, I will recommend a great starting book at the end of this letter.

 

You said: My belief is rational to certain extent. The rest is on faith. However, unlike Christians, my spiritual path is highly personal and subjective.

It sounds as though you are suggesting that a highly personal and subjective spiritual path is a better way than an objective one, such as in Christianity. However, it’s important to realize (if that’s indeed what you are implying) that by claiming this, YOU are making an objective statement–that a highly personal and subjective spiritual path is best for everyone! That’s a contradiction.

 

You said: I will never say that “you’d better believe what I believe or you will suffer eternal consequences”.

If you’re an agnostic theist, then you presumably don’t believe there are eternal consequences for your beliefs, so of course you will never say that. But what you are really saying here is that it’s wrong (and probably arrogant) for Christians to suggest to others that they have objective knowledge that beliefs have eternal consequences. Here’s the problem: What if Christianity is true? What if there are eternal consequences for what you believe? Would it be more loving for Christians to tell others about that, or to stay silent in the fear that the truth might bother you? Whether you believe Christianity is true or not, it’s not logical to suggest it’s a bad thing for Christians to warn other people about what they believe to be eternal consequences. When a person truly believes something horrible will happen to another person unless they warn them about it (think of someone about to get hit by a bus), the logical and loving action is to warn them. I would hope you would do the same if that were your belief.

 

You said: Christians, whichever denominations, like to intimidate me which this “Jesus is the high way” tactic even though I never initiate any religious conversation with them.

We really need to stop here and better define the nature of intimidation; there is a huge difference between an intimidating delivery of a message, an intimidating message, and feelingintimidated.

If a Christian has gotten in your face, waving a Bible in the air and shouted angrily at you, “Jesus is the only way!” then they have delivered a message in an intimidating way. And I apologize if you have been the recipient of any such graceless delivery. That is not how Jesus would speak.

An intimidating message is one that is frightening in and of itself. Is the message that Jesus is the only way to God frightening? If so, I encourage you to really dig deep and understand why it would be frightening to you if there was really just one objective truth. The gospel is good news…Jesus died so that our sins can be forgiven and we can be reconciled to our wonderful Creator.

Finally, a person can feel intimidated even if someone does not deliver a message in an intimidating way and doesn’t even deliver an intimidating message. There is nothing inherently intimidating about saying that Jesus is the only way to God! But if, in response to that, you feelintimidated, then it’s worth digging within to understand why the notion of one objective truth is so challenging to you personally.

 

You said: However, I have survived as a gay, Vietnamese, and non Abrahamic-faith person, and my life is pretty good so far. I know you may not like to hear this.

Minh, the test of truth should never be whether or not our lives are “pretty good.” A person can believe the world is flat (a wrong belief about reality) while having an amazing life from an earthly perspective. It’s not about survival and circumstances; it’s about having good reason to know that what you believe is an accurate picture of reality.

 

You said: I feel connected to God with contemplation, prayer, and compassion practice.

But why put so much trust in your feelings? Our feelings can’t be the final arbiter of truth. If I tell you I feel connected to Jesus as God’s son, who represents the only way to God, you wouldn’t believe I’m right. So there has to be something objective–evidence outside of your and my personal experiences–to help us determine what is actually true.

 

You said: When I have a child, I will not raise him or her as an atheist or a believer. I will do my best to raise him as a person who has a higher sense of empathy and compassion.

Why are empathy and compassion the most important values? Why are they “higher” in value or truth than whether or not God exists? If God doesn’t exist, and the world is only material, then there is no basis for objective morality; there is nothing morally good or bad because there is no moral authority. Empathy and compassion are morally equivalent to killing people if we are just molecules in motion. To be sure, I’m not suggesting that most atheists would ever think killing a person is OK. But, in a world with no God (a moral authority), at best you could say that killing people is not good in your opinion, and therefore you won’t do it. Atheists can be “good without God,” but they have no objective basis from which to call anything good. Similarly, if you don’t believe in a God who has revealed anything of His nature, you have no objective basis from which to refer to empathy and compassion as “higher” values.

 

You said: If he chooses to be a Christian, Buddhist, Wiccan, Pagan, etc, I will support his decision.

If by “support” you mean you will continue to love him dearly, regardless of what he believes, then I agree wholeheartedly. But if by “support” you mean you will accept whatever he believes as an equally valid picture of truth, then once again this is a contradiction. At the end of your whole comment, you advise fellow readers to not search for the truth of Christianity. Clearly, if your son believed Christianity is true, you would not feel that view is as valid as yours. Thus, you are willing to claim that at least some views are objectively wrong.

 

You said: I believe that God is like an ocean, and different spiritual paths are like rivers.

If you study where all these “rivers” are actually leading, you’ll see that they make logically incompatible truth claims; they aren’t even claiming to run to the same ocean. As a simple example, in Judaism, Jesus is not the Messiah. He is simply a man. In Christianity, Jesus is the Messiah and is God Himself. These claims cannot both be true. They contradict each other and cannot point to the same truth.

 

You said: I am not the one who decides which river is the best to reach the ocean.

If God exists, as you and I both believe, then you are correct: We are not the ones who decide which river is the best to reach the ocean. GOD IS! Ironically, by stating that you are not the one to decide what is best, so you therefore choose to believe that all paths are fine, you ARE making a claim of what is best. God, and God alone, determines which “river” flows to Him. The question is, has He revealed which river that is, and if so, which revelation is correct? Christians believe He has revealed that river as Jesus. We are not claiming to have decided that on your behalf, which I think is a misunderstanding that flows throughout your comment. We are simply claiming that the river that runs to God has already been decided by God and are sharing what we believe He has revealed.

 

You said: Keep your stance and keep searching truth, your truth. Not mine and definitely not these Christians’.

After all you wrote about the equally valid paths to God, it’s hard not to see the irony in how you’re advising others to definitely not search for the truth of “these Christians.” Are all paths valid except Christianity? You champion relative, subjective truth, but in doing so, you are making an objective claim that all paths are equally valid (except, notably, Christianity).

The bottom line is this: Truth is not what we like the best, what makes us most comfortable, what costs us the least, or what makes us happiest. It’s what accurately matches reality. I encourage you to consider the actual evidence for the truth of various worldviews, including of course, Christianity. If you honestly and openly do so, I am confident you will see that there is good reason to believe that Christianity is the uniquely true revelation of God. An excellent book that examines this evidence from the perspective of a detective is Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels.

 I wish you the best and hope that there is some food for thought here.


 

For anyone wanting to better understand the nature of objective truth, whether or not all religions can point to the same truth, why Christians can claim to “know” Christianity is true, and how common sense and personal experience are or are not helpful in determining truth, please check out my new book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith. It’s available from your local Barnes & Noble and Christian book retailers, as well as ChristianBook.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and Amazon.com.

Is Spiritual Truth a Matter of Opinion? An Open Letter to a Relativist