A Worldview Built on a Shaky Foundation

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Photo Credit:  Curt Smith

Most Christians hold a worldview that is built on a shaky foundation.  (Cue the outrage.)  Allow me to explain.  Very few Christians are able to articulate their rationale for why they believe what they believe.  When asked for a rationale for their worldview, they are generally unable to offer a cogent reason and say something to the effect of “Well, that’s why it’s called faith.”  The end.  God said it, I believe it, that settles it.

Many will confidently state that they have a Biblical worldview.  I believe what I believe, because the Bible says….  Let’s set aside for the moment the fact that any number of views—many of them contradictory—can be labeled as Biblical.  A Biblical worldview, generally speaking, is the Judeo-Christian concept of a Creator/God, a fallen/sinful humanity, and a messiah (Jesus), God’s Son who died and came back to life to rescue mankind and reconcile them to God.  Due to irreconcilable differences in Christian denominational beliefs, this is about as far as we can explicitly define a “Biblical worldview,” because here is where doctrine begins to radically diverge and the allegations of heresy start flying.  Regardless of the denominational flavor, most holders of a Biblical worldview cannot provide a reason for their belief in the Bible other than that they assume it is God’s Word, and it resonates with their view of the world.  In other words, the narrative makes some sense of the mess that humans have made.  While there is some merit to this, the narrative by itself is nothing more than a theory that hasn’t been disproved unless it is based on evidence.

For most Christians, their worldview usually boils down to one of a few reasons:

  • I was raised as a Christian.
  • My peers accept Christianity (at least generically), and I find comfort in popular consensus.
  • The Biblical narrative (fill in the denominational flavor) is acceptable to me.
  • The Christian religion encourages people to live moral lives and that seems like a good thing.

None of these reasons come anywhere close to offering assurance of correctness.  They certainly don’t provide an intellectually honest basis for trying to convince others of the correctness of a Christian worldview.  Nor do they provide a reason for why a Christian worldview is more valid than a Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist worldview.

Because most Christians do not hold a worldview with a solid foundation, they may have some beliefs that are correct; but they don’t have assurance for the correctness of their beliefs other than the affirmation of their peers.  No one can truly progress in his spiritual development as long as his worldview is built on wishful thinking.

This spiritual quandary bleeds over into the psychological and physiological realms.  In a simplistic sense, the human brain stores thoughts as electrical charges in its neurons, which are a type of nerve cell.  Jerry Peterson, in his presentation “Building Blocks of a Fearless Life,” discusses this concept as it relates to worldview development.  He touches on the clash that ensues when conflicting thoughts are stored in the brain—especially when these thoughts are linked to an emotional response.

You see, incongruous thoughts stored in the brain will eventually come into conflict with each other.  This conflict will be manifested in the physical body as well as the mind.  The mental conflict will produce physical tension, primarily as involuntarily-tightened muscles and hormonal imbalances.  The brain sends signals to the body that something is wrong and these signals result in physical discomfort which is designed to serve as an alert system that the person cannot ignore.  The mental confusion and physical discomfort tend to produce an emotional response at precisely the time when we need to set aside our emotion and use our intellect to sort through the problem.  Emotions serve as powerful drivers, but using emotion alone is an unbalanced way to make decisions.  Those who approach life with an honest outlook will set aside their emotion and logically work through the problem.  Most people, however, will make a comfort-based decision and pick a readily-available “solution” that makes the bad feeling go away.  This supposed solution, however, does nothing to solidify their worldview.  It simply bolsters their suppositions enough to call a truce between the conflicting thoughts and temporarily suspend the hostilities in their brain.  This is akin to sustaining a physical injury and ingesting enough pain killer to assuage the pain.  The immediate discomfort of the injury is suspended, but the problem remains.wishful-thinking-quote

Here’s just one example of a conflict that most Christians over the last century have faced or will face at some point:  Creation vs Evolution.

Let’s say that Johnny and Mike grew up attending church and Sunday school regularly and were taught that God created the world.  They learned in school, however, that the universe evolved and that believing in God was an unnecessary complication that violated Occam’s razor.  The theory of evolution had the backing of many, highly-revered scientists.  Many of their peers in the workplace held this view.  The theory of creation had the backing of many highly-revered theologians.  Many of their peers in church held this view.  The evolution theory made a lot of sense because, among other things, most of the stars in the universe were located millions of light years away from the earth.  Millions of light years is a great deal longer than the ten thousand-ish years of age that most creation subscribers believe the earth to be.

However, the matter of the universe had to come from somewhere, didn’t it?  And the idea of being a cosmic accident left them both feeling ill at ease.  Surely there must be some purpose to life.  After all, this is a universal desire and most people throughout history have attributed this to the presence of a creator.  And then there was the possibility of burning in hell forever if they rejected the Christian religion.

Johnny, now an adjunct professor of sociology at a state university, was required to teach evolution in a History of Human Communication class.  He began wondering if he should stop going to church because it was feeling more and more like a waste of time.

Mike was asked to become a deacon in his church, but he wasn’t sure he had enough conviction to lead others in a church setting—especially if his doctrinal views were ever called into question.  He preferred to remain a spectator in his church’s weekly worship service.

Johnny really liked the notion that his life had a purpose, and he really didn’t want to be on the losing side when when heaven and hell chose teams.  He continues to attend church and soothes his mind by deciding that God created the matter of the universe hundreds of billions of years ago and that life has evolved essentially unaided ever since.

Mike decided that he should move up in his church’s hierarchy and that he needed to strengthen his faith.  He has quelled his anxiety by deciding that since God created the earth within the last 10,000 years as the Bible indicates, He therefore must have created the starlight near the earth before He created the source of the light.  He is proud of himself for holding fast his profession of faith and is happy that he won’t be rejected as a heretic by his church.  He is esteemed by his Christian friends for his staunch faith in God.

Neither Johnny’s nor Mike’s worldview was ever based on a solid foundation.  Neither worldview was logical, and each was based on nothing more than wishful thinking.  The arguments that bolstered each worldview were possible explanations but were merely contrived theories that were not based on evidence.  Bolstering a worldview by adding theories does nothing to bring the adherent closer to the truth.  Using theories that lack evidence in this manner is simply wishful thinking.  Christians have a tendency (as do most people) to come up with semi-plausible explanations for the conflicts they see in their worldviews.  These flimsy theories allow them to comfortably cling to their faith-based worldview while ignoring the nagging feeling that something substantial is missing.

To make matters worse, many Christian leaders of all denominations actually encourage this line of thinking, providing semi-plausible theories to explain away their followers’ hard questions and using fear and guilt trips to coerce them into maintaining their faith.  Even if a worldview is ultimately correct, coercing people to subscribe to a system of beliefs based on a flimsy foundation is disingenuous, unconscionable, and ultimately self-defeating.  This is likely the primary reason that the Christian religion is rapidly crumbling, losing its credibility and its adherents.

Again, we find ourselves facing a choice between religion and relationship.  Christians should consider what God desires more:  for people to blindly pledge allegiance to specific theological technicalities or for people to honestly seek the truth so that they can know Him better.  Only when one’s worldview is based on a solid evidential foundation, can he offer genuine hope to others that are seeking the truth.

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