Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Shape Of Reality

“Any benefit that people get from religion – any power it has to fulfill them emotionally or motivate them morally – comes from the conviction that it is first of all true.”  Nancy Pearcey, Saving Leonardo

The Christian worldview claims to provide a rational, compelling presentation and defense of the Christian faith. Through reason, revelation (of the natural and supernatural world) and experience, we search for knowledge about God and His creation. This accumulation of knowledge is not simply a process of absorbing dull facts; it's the way in which we access foundational, transformative truth.

Christian theologians and philosophers claim to say something profoundly true about human experience. The claim is supported in numerous ways: archaeology; historical documents; eyewitness testimony; deductive, inductive, and abductive arguments; philosophy and transcendent personal experiences. But if the truth claims of the Christian faith don’t actually explain our existence truthfully and meaningfully, none of these things matter.

“Your worldview has to have the same shape that reality does.” – J. Budziszewski

There are many significant questions that all belief systems have to address in their attempt to fully engage with the reality of our existence:

  • Why is there something rather than nothing?
  • How did the universe start?
  • How did life begin?
  • Why does there appear to be design in the universe?
  • Does free will exist?
  • Do moral truths exist?
  • What does it mean to be human?
  • How do we explain pain, evil and injustice?
  • Why is there beauty?
All worldviews have something to say about these issues, and they all claim to speak truth. The question is whether or not their claims actually match our experience and knowledge of the world and give fulfilling answers to the deepest questions in life. Those who embrace false views of reality will live and believe in a way that simply does not match the shape of reality.

“The purpose of a worldview is to explain the basic data of human experience, not to deny it.”   Nancy Pearcey, Saving Leonardo

A worldview carries quite a burden. It must offer a serious explanation for the world as we know it; it must be existentially satisfying to the individuals who adhere to it; it should be free of self-contradiction; it must be practically livable; and it should seek the simple explanation over the complicated when plausible. Here's a practical example. In “Evolutionary Naturalism and the Fear of Religion,” Thomas Nagel writes the following:
“I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God. I don't want there to be a God. I don’t want the universe to be like that.”
It's a bold and honest acknowledgment. But what if God is part of the shape of reality? Will Mr. Nagel’s worldview adjust to fit reality, or will it reality be forced to conform to what he wishes to be true?  Christianity is not exempt from these demands. Suppose a Christian had written the following:
“I want theism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are not religious believers. It isn’t just that I believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope atheism is false. I want there to be a God. I want the universe to be like that.”
The same challenge would apply. Do Christians believe in God simply because they want His existence to be true? Or do they have good reason to believe that God's existence is part of the shape of the universe as it really is?

It's important that our worldview match our world.

In the series that follows, I will attempt to show why I believe Christianity offers compelling reasons to believe that truth is found most fully and consistently within the framework of a Christian worldview.

Up Next: Identifying Evil


  1. I stumbled on your blog. I like your blog and your attempt to get at the objective facts of any particular issue. However, I take issue with one basic problem with this particular series (which I recognize is 2 years old). You ignore the claims of your own faith and hide behind general philosophical type arguments. It may be easier - but it's not intellectually honest in my view. I may be wrong but I think you believe that your (and everyone's) raison d'etre is based on the objective facts that (1) an alien (you call god) impregnated a young virgin woman thousands of years ago, (2) the woman had a child that was both fully human and fully alien; (3) that being (Jesus) was born because alien being(s) (the trinity), which created the cosmos, wanted the alien/human to be born so he could be a sacrifice for bad stuff you (and all of humanity) do so you can go to a good place after you die, and (4) after the sacrifice was complete then the alien/human came back to life after several days. I'm not even scratching the surface of talking donkeys, 900 year old men, numerous people popping up out of their graves and walking around, water turned to blood, supernatural strength caused by long hair, ocean waters parting, sun standing still in the sky, sun moving backward in the sky, floating ax heads, bread falling from the sky, magically multiplying food/oil, walking on water, injunctions to commit genocide, stone children.... I could go on (and on but won't). Why don't you provide something that actually defends the facts of the Bible that you contend are true? With respect, your fundamental lack of disclosure in attacking a non-belief in god's existence lacks candor.

  2. Good questions, ones which will take much longer than a reply box to answer :) Two short responses.

    1. If God is merely an alien, I take your point. If God is, however, God as the Judeo-Christian tradition presents him, then your alien analogy is flawed.

    2. I readily concede that biblical interpretation is a tricky thing. Here is a link to a "recommended resources" page we have at our church. I believe there are some resources on here that could give much more detailed responses on a number of issues you mentioned than I can in this space.

    3. As for miracles, this resource will point you in a direction that more thoroughly explains my thoughts on this.

    FWIW, I have a youtube page with a number of videos on different issues. This, too, explains more.