Archive for January, 2009

World View Views – Part 7

Friday, January 30th, 2009



Naturalism was inclined to agree with Romanticism’s criticism of Theism and Deism, but did not believe in a benevolent Nature.  In fact, Nature, to the Naturalist, was malevolent, mischievous, and unpredictable.  Mankind, as it were, lost control of the universe and the person who had control did not really care much for his creation.   Theism of course was absurd.  How could any sane person who experienced World War I believe in a loving, living God?  Deism was equally wrong.  God was not absent–he was present in an unpredictable, at times evil way.  Romanticism was on the right track but terribly naive.   God and His creation were certainly not “good” in any sense of the word.  Nature was evil.  Naturalism embraced a concept of fate not dissimilar to that held by the Greeks.  In Homer’s Iliad, for instance, the characters were subject to uncontrolled fate and pernicious gods and goddesses who inflicted terrible and good things on mankind with no apparent design or reason.   No, to the Naturalist, God was at best absent or  wimpish; at worst, he was malevolent.


Realism was philosophically akin to Naturalism.  In a sense, Naturalism was a natural companion to Realism.  Realism was different from Naturalism in degree, not in substance.  Realism argued that it people were honest they would admit that God was not present at all.  It there was anything worth embracing, it was reality.  Realism advanced an in-your-face view of life. Realists prided themselves in “telling it like it is.”  They entered the cosmic arena and let the chips fall where they may.  They shared the same criticisms of  views that the Naturalists held.


Absurdism certainly believed that Realism was on track.  Where Realism erred, however, was its propensity to see meaning in life.  Mind you, the meaning was tied to things one could see and feel–not in things that were abstract or immutable–but the Realist still sought some meaning in this life.  The Absurdist abandoned all hope of finding meaning in life and embraced a sort of nihilism.  The Absurdist was convinced that everything was meaningless and  absurd.  The subjectivity of a Romantic was appealing to the Absurd.  However, even that implied that something was transcendent–a desire–and the Absurdist would have nothing to do with that.  Billy Pilgrim, a protagonist in one of the Absurdist  Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s novels, became “unhinged from time” and “wandered around in the cosmos.  Things without meaning happen to him whose life had no meaning.  Everything was absurd.


Existentialism stepped outside the debate of meaning altogether. Existentialists argued that the quest was futile.  The only thing that matters was subjective feeling.   “Experience” was a God at whose feet the Existentialist worshiped.   Romanticism was on the right track in that it invited mankind to explore subjectivity.  Where it erred was when it refused to give up the deity.  Naturalism was an anomaly.  It was too busy arguing with the cosmos to see that reality was in human desire not in providence.  The degree to which mankind was to discover and experience these desires determined the degree to which people participated in the divine.

Call Forth Elijahs

Friday, January 30th, 2009

In 49 BC, the crossing of a small stream in northern Italy by ambitious Roman general Julius Caesar became one of the pivotal events in world history. From it sprang the Roman Empire and the genesis of modern Europe.

An ancient Roman law forbade any general from crossing the Rubicon River and entering Italy proper with a standing army. To do so was treason. Caesar was well aware of this. Coming up with his troops on the banks of the Rubicon, he halted for a while, and rehearsed in his mind the importance of the next step. “Still we can retreat!” he said. “But once let us pass this little bridge, – and nothing is left but to fight it out with arms!” (Suetonius ). He crossed the river and we all know the rest.

After raising four home schooled children, attending over 300 home school conventions, participating in a HSLDA court case victory (Stobaugh, et al., vs. Pittsburgh Board of Education), attending 15 or 16 field trips a year, it is time for Karen and me to cross the Rubicon.

America is very different from the American in which Karen and I began home schooling in 1985. Really different. Our president wonders why we 2010 evangelicals cannot be “civil” in our discussions about things like abortion. Civil? Abortion is murder, Mr. President. Murder. I could be civil discussing tax increases or even the Surge in Iraqi, but there are some things I just can’t be civil about.

In 1 Kings 18-19, the famous Mt. Carmel challenge chapters, choleric Elijah is coming home—and no one wants him to come home. He is crossing his Rubicon. After a long time, in the third year, the word of the LORD came to Elijah: “Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.” King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, of course, hate him. But even, Obadiah, a faithful follower of God and trusted advisor to the king and queen, who had learned so well to survive in this hostile land, who has done so much good for God’s people—Obadiah was not too thrilled to see him either. In fact, no one welcomed Elijah – not the hostile king and queen nor the pious evangelical Obadiah.

Even though Elijah brings good news – it is finally going to rain—no one welcomes him. Elijah’s fish-or-cut-bait prophetic messages are irritating the life out of the status quo. That is bad enough. But what really scares the dickens out of everyone is the fact that Elijah has come home to Zion, to the City of God, to challenge the gods of society to a duel.

World View Views – Part 6

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

World View Review


Christian Theism advances a world view that there is an omnipotent God who has authored an inspired, authoritative work called the Bible, upon whose precepts mankind should base its society. 


Deism advances a world view that accepts the notion that there is an authoritative, inspired source from which mankind should base its society (i.e., the Bible).  Likewise the Deist is certain that there was once an omnipotent God.  However, once the world was created, that same omnipotent God chose to absent Himself from His creation.  The world, then, is like a clock.  It was once created by an intelligent process.  However, now the creator is absent leaving mankind  on its own to figure out how the clock works and go on living.


A natural companion to Deism was Rationalism.  Rationalism (e.g., John Locke’s philosophy) invited the Deist to see mankind as a “chalkboard” on which was written experience that ultimately created a personality. Thus, Rationalists/Deists were fond of speaking of “unalienable right” or “common sense.”  The Romantic (in America the Romantic would be called “the Transcendentalist”) took issue with Deism and Theism.  To the Romantic, Nature was God.  Nature–an undefined indigenous,  omnipotent presence–was very good.  Original sin was man’s separation from Nature.   In fact, the degree to which mankind returned to Nature would determine his goodness and effectiveness.  Thus, a man like Henry David Thoreau lived a year on Walden Pond so that he could find his God.  In Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper, the protagonist is safe while he is on a lake separated from evil mankind.  Only when he participates in human society is he in trouble.  The Romantic was naturally suspicious of Theism because Theism appeared to be dogmatic and close minded.  The Romantics had confessions, but they had no dogma.  Deism also bothered the Romantics.  Romanticism emphasized the subjective; Deism emphasized the objective.  In the Romantic novel Frankenstein the Deist/Rationalist Dr. Frankenstein creates a monster.   Dr. Frankenstein, with disastrous results turns his back on the subjective and tries to use science to create life.

World View Views – Part 5

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

The following are seven world views found in art and literature:

Theism: God is personally involved with humankind.  Theism argues that the universe is a purposive, divinely created entity.  It argues that all human life is sacred and all persons are of equal dignity.  They are, in other words, created in the image of God.  History is linear and moves toward a final goal.  Nature is controlled by God and is an orderly system.  Humanity is neither the center of nature nor the universe, but are the steward of creation.  Righteousness will triumph in a decisive conquest of evil.  Earthly life does not exhaust human existence but looks ahead to the resurrection of the dead and to a final, comprehensive judgement of humanity (adapted form Carl F. H. Henry, Toward a Recovery of Christian Belief).  This is the only viable world view until the Renaissance.  Examples: Homer, Virgil, C. S. Lewis, A. J. Cronin, Tolkien.

Deism: God was present, but is no longer present.  The world is like a clock wound up by God many years ago but He is now absent. The clock (i.e., the world) is present; God is absent.  Still, though, Deism embraced a Judeo-Christian morality.  God’s absence, for instance, in no way mitigated His importance to original creation.   He was also omnipotent, but not omniscient.  His absence was His decision.  He was in no way forced to be absent from=2
0the world.  He chose to assume that role so that Socratic empiricism and rationalism could reign as sovereign king.  Speculative Theism replaced revelatory biblical Theism.   Once the Living God was abandoned, Jesus Christ and the Bible became cognitive orphans (Carl H. Henry).   Examples: Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson.

Romanticism: Once Americans distanced themselves from the self-revealing God of the Old and New Testaments, they could not resist making further concessions to subjectivity.  Romanticism, and its American version, Transcendentalism,  posited that God was nature and “it” was good.  The more natural things were, the better.   Nature was inherently good.  Nature alone was the ultimate reality.  In other words, nature was the Romantic god.   Man was essentially a complex animal, too complex to be controlled by absolute, codified truth (as one would find in the Bible).  Human intuition replaced the  Holy Spirit.  Depending upon the demands on individual lives, truth and good were relative and changing.  Romanticism, however, like Deism, had not completely abandoned Judeo-Christian morality.  Truth and the good, although changing, were nonetheless relatively durable.    Examples: James Fenimore Cooper, Goethe.

Naturalism: If God exists, He is pretty wimpish. Only the laws of nature have any force. God is either uninterested or downright mean.  All reality was reducible to impersonal processes and energy events (Carl F. H. Henry).  All life, including human life, was transient.  Its final destination was death.  Truth and good, therefore, were also transient.  They were culture-conditioned distinctions that the human race projected upon the cosmos and upon history (Carl F. H. Henry).    This maturation, as it were, of the human race, necessitated a deliberate rejection of all transcendentally final authority.   Examples: Joseph Conrad, Stephen Crane.

Realism: Akin to Naturalism is Realism.  Reality is, to a Realist, a world with no purpose, no meaning, no order. Realism insists that personality has no ultimate status in the universe, but is logically inconsistent when it affirms an ethically imperative social agenda congruent with universal human rights and dignity.   Realism, then throws around terms like “dignity” and “human rights” and “power.”  What Realists mean, however, is that these concepts are real when they fulfill a social agenda that enhances human dominance over the universal.  Thus, Realism believes in  a world where bad things happen all the time to good people.  Why not?  There is no God, no ontological controlling force for good.  The world is a place where the only reality is that which we can experience, but it must be experience that we can measure or replicate.  Certainly pain and misery fit that category.   If an experience is a unique occurrence (Example: a miracle) it is not real.  Examples: Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald.  

Absurdism: A modern movement where there is neither a god, nor any reason to have one.  Everything is disorganized, anarchy rules.   There is a compete abandonment of explaining the cosmos and therefore an abandonment of being in relationship with the deity.  It is not that Absurdists are unsure about who creates everything, or in control of everything.  Absurdists simply do not care one way or the other.   Examples: John Barth, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.  

Existentialism: The submergence of God in overwhelming data and in experience is the first step toward putting God out to die.  Truth is open to debate.  Everything is relative.  A very pessimistic view. Examples, Albert Camus, Franz Kafka, and Jean Paul Sartre.

World View Views – Part 4

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

From Aristotle vs. Plato a panoply of world views evolved in four main epochs.

The following are characteristics of each epoch:

Classical Theism: Ancient Times to Augustine Pernicious gods involved in human affairs
Christian Theism: Augustine to Goethe Loving God involved in human affairs
Modernism: Goethe to Camus Faith in science
Post-Modernism: Camus to Present Authors Faith in experience; suspicious of science

Most of you have not heard of this particular world view paradigm.  It is called a cultural world view paradigm (as contrasted to a socio-political paradigm).  Both are useful.  Both are accurate. However, most Americans obtain their world views from culture, not from scholarship and education.

While socio-political descriptions of world views are completely accurate, they are not used by American universities or the media at all.  When have you hear the word “Cosmic Humanist” used on television?  In a movie?  Very few people use this terminology in the real world.  Therefore, if Christians wish to be involved in apologetics they must use a language that the unsaved can understand.  Chesterton once lamented that Evangelical Christians are like Americans who visit France.  Chesterton generalized that Americans, by and large, speak their words slower, articulate their words more carefully, and speak fewer words to complete a thought.  However, what they should do, Chesterton argues, is to speak French in France!  If we believers want the world to hear us we need to speak their language.

The four epochs above manifested seven basic world views. The world view are best discerned through works of art and of literature.  The world view of an artist/writer is a reflection of how the author expresses his views on essential iss
ues like: God, Man, Morality.

World View Views – Part 3

Monday, January 26th, 2009

There was no more important philosopher in Western culture than Socrates’ disciple, Plato.   Plato, like Socrates, regarded ethics as the highest branch of knowledge.   Plato stress
ed the intellectual basis of virtue, identifying virtue with wisdom.  Plato believed that the world was made of forms (such as, a rock) and ideas (such as, virtue).  The ability of human beings to appreciate forms made a person virtuous.  Knowledge came from the gods; opinion was from man.  Virtuous activity, then, was dependent upon knowledge of the forms.

To Plato, knowledge and virtue were inseparable.  To Aristotle, they were unconnected.  Aristotle was not on a search for absolute truth.  He was not even certain it existed.  Truth, beauty, and goodness were to be observed and quantified from human behavior and the senses but they were not the legal tender of the land.  Goodness in particular was not an absolute and in Aristotle’s opinion it was much abused.  Goodness was an average between two absolutes.   Aristotle said that mankind should strike a balance between passion and temperance, between extremes of all sorts. He said that good people should seek the “Golden Mean” defined as a course of life that was never extreme.  Finally, while Plato argued that reality lay in knowledge of the gods, Aristotle argued that reality lay in empirical, measurable knowledge.   To Aristotle, reality was tied to purpose and to action.  For these reasons, Aristotle, became known as the father of modern science.  Aristotle’s most enduring impact occurred in the area of metaphysics–philosophical speculation about the nature, substance, and structure
of reality.  It is not physics–concerned with the visible or natural world.  Metaphysics is concerned with explaining the non-physical world.  Aristotle, then advanced the discussion about God, the human soul, and the nature of space and time. What makes this particularly interesting is Aristotle’s penchant for delving into the metaphysical by talking about the gods in human terms.   Aristotle said, “All men by nature desire to know” and it is by the senses that the gods were known–or not.  Faith had nothing to do with it.   In other words, Aristotle, for the first time, discussed the gods as if they were quantified entities.  He spoke about them as if they were not present.   The Hebrews had done this earlier (Genesis 3) but Aristotle was probably not aware of Moses’ text.   While some Christian thinkers such as Augustine and Aquinas employed Aristotelian logic in their discussions about God, they never speculated about His existence as Aristotle did.  They only used Aristotle’s techniques to understand more about Him.

World View Views – Part 2

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

From our study of Greek history we know that there are basically two world view roots: One originates from Aristotle and argues that the empirical world is primary.  Thus, if one wants to advance knowledge one has to learn more about the world.  Another root originates with Plato who argues that the unseen world is primary. In Plato’s case, that meant that if one wished to understand the world one studied the gods.  In our case, we agree with Plato to the extent that we believe that God–who cannot be seen, measured–is in fact more real than the world.

Both Plato and Aristotle were impacted by Socrates.  Socrates was one of the most influential but mysterious figures in Western philosophy.  He wrote nothing, yet he had a profou
nd influence on someone who did: Plato.  Plato carefully recorded most of his dialogues.  Unlike earlier philosophers, Socrates’ main concern was with ethics.  There was nothing remotely pragmatic about Socrates who was the consummate idealist.  Until his day, philosophers invested most of their time explaining the natural world.   In fact, the natural world often intruded into the abstract world of ideas and reality.  Socrates kept both worlds completely separate.  To Socrates, the natural laws governing the rotation of the earth were merely uninteresting speculation of no earthly good.   Socrates was more interested in such meaty concepts as “virtue” and “justice.”  Taking issue with the Sophists, Socrates believed that ethics, specifically virtue, must be learned and practiced like any trade.   One was not born virtuous; one developed virtue as he would a good habit.  It could be practiced only by experts.  There was, then, nothing pragmatic about the pursuit of virtue.  It was systematic; it was intentional.  Virtue was acquired and maintained by open and free dialogue.  For the first time, the importance of human language was advanced by a philosopher (to reappear at the end of the 20th century in Post-modern philosophy).

World View Views

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

If you are a committed Christian believer, you will be challenged to analyze the world views of individuals and institutions around you. You are inextricably tied to your culture; but that does not mean you can’t be in this culture but not of this culture. Furthermore, you will be asked to explain your own and to defend that world view against all sorts of assaults.  Is important that you pause and examine several world views that you will encounter .  You also need to articulate your own world view.

Throughout this course and your educational career you will be challenged to analyze the world views of many writers.   You will be asked to articulate your own and to defend that world view against all sorts of assaults.   William Bradford, for instance, has a world view that is radically different from many writers you have read and hopefully similar to yours.  What is Bradford’s world view?  His world view is obviously Christian theistic.  For now, though, it is important that you pause and examine several world views that you will encounter in literature and the arts.  You will then need to articulate your own world view.

What is a “world view?”  A world view is a way that a person understands, relates to, and responds from a philosophical position that he embraces as his own. World view is a framework that ties everything together, that allows us to understand society, the world, and our place in it.  A wor
ld view helps us to make the critical decisions which will shape our future.  A world view colors all our decisions and all our artistic creations.  In the first Star Wars movie (1977), for instance, Luke Skywalker clearly values a Judeo-Christian code of ethics.  That does not mean that he is a believing Christian–indeed he is not–but he does uphold and fight for a moral world.   Darth Vader, on the other hand, represents chaos and amoral behavior.  He does whatever it takes to advance the Emperor’s agenda, regardless of who he hurts or what rule he breaks.  It is important that you articulate your world view now so that you will be ready to discern other world views later.


Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Some people understand life better.

And they call some of these people “challenged”…

At the Seattle Special Olympics, nine contestants, all physically or mentally disabled, assembled at the starting line for the 100-yard dash.

At the gun, they all started out, not exactly in a dash, but with a relish to run the race to the finish and win.

All, that is, except one little boy who stumbled on the asphalt, tumbled over a couple of times, and began to cry. The other eight heard the boy cry.

They slowed down and looked back. Then they all turned around and went back every one of them. One girl with Down’s Syndrome bent down and kissed him and said, “This will make it better.”

Then all nine linked arms and walked together to the finish line.

Everyone in the stadium stood, the cheering went on for several minutes.

People who were there are still telling the story… Why? Because deep down we know this one thing: What matters in this life is more than winning for ourselves.

What matters in this life is helping others win, even if it means slowing down and changing our course.


Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

A. Eat, drink, and be merry for one never knows what tomorrow will bring

Paul: “And we know all things work together for good, to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 Paul would argue that everything is in God’s hands, and we just need to trust in Him. God knows what tomorrow will bring. Thus there is no reason to squander today.

Meditations: “Do now act as if thou wert going to live ten thousand years. Death hangs over thee. While thou livest, while it is in thy power, be good.” (Meditations pg 23) Marcus Aurelius would argue that we need to make the best of our lives, since we never know when we will die. Don’t squander your life, but make it good. ok

B. I might as well not try to make an A on this test because it is impossible to do.

Paul: “For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in you body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (Romans 6:20) Paul would say to do the best on the test to glorify God. Glorify God in everything you do, regardless of what it is. Go for the A, to plea se the Lord.

Meditations: “Every moment think steadily as a Roman and a man to do what thou hast in hand with perfect and simple dignity, and feeling of affection, and freedom, and justice; and to give thyself relief from all other thoughts.” (Mediations pg 9) Marcus Aurelius would argue we should do the best at everything, like the Romans always did. Go for the A, because the Romans would. ok

C. In this third book of Meditations, we see Marcus Aurelius lay out some of the core ideas of Stoicism. When compared to what Jesus Christ taught in the New Testament, we see some similar ideas, even though these men lived in different times and in different classes of society. ok

“We must make haste then, not only because we are daily nearer to death, but also because the conception of things and the understanding of them cease first.” (Meditations Book III Chapter 1) Marcus Aurelius tells his reader to make the most of each day, because we never know when we will die. In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus gives a similar motivation. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you, even to the end of the age.” Although he does not say it hear, Jesus tells his disciples to go out into the world in order to spread the Gospel to people that one day will die. Jesus commands his disciples to go out into the world so that a lost humanity may be found. Ok

In the second chapter of Book III, Marcus writes, “And so he will see even the real gaping jaws of wild beasts with no less pleasure than those which painters and sculptors show by imitation;…and [he] will be able to see a certain maturity and ccomeliness;6and many such things will present themselves, not pleasing to every man, but to him only who has become truly familiar with nature and her works.” (Meditations Book III Chapter 2) Here, Marcus argues that only the trained eye can pick out maturity and the differences among people. Only the man who is familiar with “Nature” can see these things. The un-trained eye cannot. Similarly, Jesus talks about the Holy Spirit in a similar way. “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever-the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him…” (John 14:16-17) The Holy Spirit helps allows those who trust in Christ to have the real truth. The world is unable to receive such knowledge. Only those trained by the Holy Spirit can see the truth in events. Both Christ and Marcus write how only the trained eye can found differences in the world.

Although there are various other similarities between this passage and what Christ teaches, we can conclude that what Marcus and Christ teach is remarkably similar. They both agree we must make something out of our lives, since we do not know when we will do. We cannot just be lazy and expect things to get done, for we do not know when we will leave this world. And Marcus and Christ further claim that only the trained eye can see differences in nature. Only the trained eye can see maturity and truth in the world. Both men present remarkably similar ideas, despite being men of different times and different places in society.

Marcus, Aurelius, “Meditations”, Barnes&Noble, New York, 2003