CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

The Clash of Worldviews

Jun 7, 2007

Ideas have consequences, and worldviews matter. If we happen to have a bad worldview, it will lead to bad results. For example, Hitler picked up the bad ideas of Darwin and Nietzsche, and the world experienced some really bad consequences.

In one sense, there are only two major worldviews in existence: the biblical Christian worldview, and all others. Either the God of the Bible exists, or he does not. And the implications of his existence are profound.

Atheists like to argue that belief in God is on a par with belief in the tooth fairy or some such thing. But that is not the case. If the tooth fairy does not exist, it really does not matter at all. But if the God of the Bible does not exist, it makes a huge difference, compared to if he does. Indeed, belief in God affects the way we view the very character of the universe.

At the heart of the Christian worldview is the fact that God exists, he has revealed himself to us, and he seeks a relationship with us, but a relationship in which he is the infinite, personal, creator God, and we are created, finite, personal beings.

In the biblical version of events, idolatry is the worst sin. This is because in idolatry, we seek to dethrone God and put something else in his place. Often it is ourselves. If we refuse to believe in, and bow down to, the God of the universe, then we invariably choose some other god to worship.

That is why atheists are just as religious as anyone else. No atheist chooses merely to deny God. He also chooses to promote himself as God, to claim that he is the centre of the universe. Thus no atheist is really godless: he simply chooses to worship false gods.

The biblical message is all about God seeking to break us from our idolatry; to get us to stop worshipping false gods. Vincent Miceli, in his marvelous book, The Gods of Atheism, puts it this way: “Moses failed to write the following commandment: ‘Thou shall not be an atheist.’ Instead his first commandment read: ‘I am the Lord thy God . . . Thou shalt not have strange gods before me.’ It was as if Moses had written: ‘Atheists are not godless men; they are men addicted to false gods’.” (Arlington House, 1971, p. 477)

As C. S. Lewis said, God “is the great iconoclast.” He has to continuously shatter our false idols, our useless icons. Getting men to recognise who God really is, and who they really are, is the first order of business.

As such, the biblical worldview makes a huge difference in every area of life. If we will not bow down to our creator, we will instead worship the created order, as the apostle Paul warns about in Romans 1. And worshiping anything other than the true God usually degenerates into self-worship. Indeed, G. K. Chesterton noted that the worship of the god within – as in the New Age and Eastern religions – turns into self-worship.

But we are to worship the true God alone. He and he only deserves our worship. Thus the whole purpose of our existence is to worship the true God, and seek his glory. As the opening line of Rick Warren’s best selling book, The Purpose Driven Life says, “It’s not about you”. Exactly.

But today most people (including, unfortunately, many Christians) think it is about them. We have ceased worshipping the true God and are now worshipping ourselves. We think we are the centre of the universe, and that the whole world revolves around us.

This is idolatry, pure and simple. In its extreme form, it looks quite grotesque. Consider the final paragraph in the best-selling New Age mumbo-jumbo book, The Secret: “The earth turns on its orbit for You. The oceans ebb and flow for You. The birds sing for You. The sun rises and sets for You. The stars come out for You. Every beautiful thing you see, every wonderful thing you experience, is all there for You. Take a look around. None of it can exist, without You. No matter who you thought you were, now you know the Truth of Who You Really Are. You are the master of the universe. You are the heir of the kingdom. You are the perfection of life. And now you know The Secret.”

This is greedy, narcissistic, self-centred nonsense. And it is the very opposite of the biblical world view. Jesus made it quite clear as to what sort of people we should be: “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matt. 16:24-25)

Self-denial, taking up our cross, and following Jesus as Lord is the designated way to be a disciple of Jesus. It stands in marked contrast to all non-Christian traditions which argue that man is the centre of the universe, and is accountable to no-one but his or herself.

Thus in the end we have two completely differing ways of life, based on two differing worldviews. Only one can be true. And if the biblical Christian worldview is true, then there will be a lot of people who will be very surprised, to say the least, when they stand before their maker and have to give an account of why they sought to dislodge God from his throne.

The truth is, we should make that decision now, instead of waiting till it is too late. As C. S. Lewis once remarked, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done’.” Which sort of person are you?

[996 words]

24 Responses to The Clash of Worldviews

  • Thanks Bill,

    I have heard some similar things from Christians too, like those warm fuzzy emails that “God was looking for you, so he gave you the sunrise”.

    Similarly, those hyper power-prayers effectively making demands of God. If God was to answer such prayers he would be our servant and not our Master.

    I didn’t think that sheep thought so much of themselves.

    Jeremy Peet

  • Nice work Bill.

    It would seem true that most people who don’t believe in God have a summary statement like ‘I don’t think anything/anyone else should rule my life’ as one of their core beliefs. This philosophy allows many Christians as well as agnostics and atheists to ignore the evidence of Christianity and instead remain self focused.

    What most people don’t realize is that selfish thinking is a base cause of unhappiness. A selfless person can be generous, forgiving, trusting, loving, content and joyful in almost any situation. On the other hand if ‘self’ is in charge it seems to constantly demand more (for itself) from the world around it as well as blaming the universe (e.g. why did God allow..) for all problems; creating discontent, un-forgiveness, greed and unhappiness.

    Putting God first is not just because of His greatness it is also for your own good in life.
    Jay Rusty, Victoria

  • HI Bill,

    I think you are drawing a long bow claiming that all non-Christian traditions only worship man.

    I agree that rubbish like “The Secret” is absurd mumbo-jumbo.

    James Beattie

  • Bill,

    You claim:
    “In one sense, there are only two major worldviews in existence: the biblical Christian worldview, and all others. Either the God of the Bible exists, or he does not.”

    If the God of the Bible exists, there are several other religions that would claim to have a different worldview from Christianity, the two most obvious being Islam and Judaism.

    Even within Christianity, there are several different worldviews, ranging from the Biblical literalists who insist that that the observations of science about origins are wrong, to the liberal Christians who consider the Resurrection to be spiritual rather than physical.

    If the God of the Bible doesn’t exist, there are many other Gods who might. Maybe Hindus are on the right track. Or Buddhists, or shock, horror, even atheists.

    You can no more prove that your God exists, or even that your interpretation of Christianity is correct, than I can prove that there are no supernatural gods at all.

    We each come to our particular view of the world through various cultural, educational, environmental and social influences. There is no objective truth in these matters, there is only opinion arrived at by careful, or perhaps careless, analysis as the case may be.

    You are entitled to hold your worldview, as I am mine, but on what basis can you honestly claim that your worldview is “correct”. It is only your subjective belief.

    Your assertion that atheists proclaim themselves to be God, or the “centre of the universe” is unsubstantiated and inflammatory hyperbole. Atheists are nothing other than humans who do not accept that there is evidence of a supernatural God, or that human consciousness survives death.

    To an atheist, the God theory is bizarre, and if Christians actually wish to convert people to their beliefs they would do far better to use logic and reason than to vilify those who aren’t convinced. Your eagerness to promote the idea of cultural “warfare” between Christians and atheists is simply not borne out by everyday experience. We are all entitled to our own opinions, and we all should respect the right of others to peacefully hold views that are at odds with our own. I certainly extend that right to you.

    Steve Angelino, WA

  • Dear Bill, May I give a chilling example of your proposition.

    I am sure most people are aware of the catholic adoption agencies shutting down in the state of Massachusetts rather than comply with state law requiring that gays be allowed to adopt children. The same is happening in Britain, since the introduction of the Sexual Orientation Regulations.

    On Tuesday 23rd Jan,on BBC2’s Newsnight programme the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, was questioned with utter contempt by Jeremy Paxman as though he were an elder of the Ku Klux Klan, for planning to shut down all its excellent adoption agencies, rather than be forced to hand over children in its care to homosexual couples. The Roman Catholics pose no threat to blow up people or try to force one to accept their values, yet are faced by the tyranny of a vocal homosexual minority which passes itself off as the majority. Chilling indeed was the spectacle as we watched Angela Eagle, Labour MP, a member of the party’s national executive and an open lesbian, being interviewed by Mr Paxman, as he turned to her fondly when he had finished sneering at the Archbishop of Birmingham. She actually accused the Archbishop of blackmail for not continuing to make available a ready supply of goods (children).
    Ms Eagle said that the new law putting homosexuals on an equal legal footing with heterosexuals in adoptions would have to apply to everyone, including Roman Catholics.
    She actually said: “We can’t have exceptions.” There is no room for discretion, no opportunity for people to live by different, and equally valid, standards. Everyone must conform.
    Here is the authentic voice of totalitarianism. Indeed as she sat expressionless, devoid of all humour or compassion, attired in her dark, masculine-cut power suit she looked as though she had stepped straight out of Stalinist Russia.

    Anselm of Canterbury, a medieval monk, defined God as the “Being than which no greater can be conceived”. Tony Blair’s government defines the state as that which no greater can be conceived.

    It is bad enough to have to cope with warring with the sin within oneself but to have laws being introduced which will force us to engage in blatant evil – as is happening by forcing adoption agencies to hand over their children to sodomites and potential paedophiles is a death wish for any nation.
    Driven by exactly the same kind of oppressive ideology that resulted in the hell of communist Russia and present day North Korea, the British government is imposing evolutionary humanism on us all through the introduction of the SORs and a legislative machinery that has gained absolute control of the moral code. The SORs are couched in such complicated legal jargon that the only way of avoiding a visit from the thought police is to do what everybody else is doing. Better to go with the crowd.
    What might be shocking and completely unacceptable behaviour can almost overnight become respectable and what was previously considered to be decent and responsible behaviour can become criminal. Morality can become completely turned on its head. Without any fixed, absolute point of reference, human nature has a way of accommodating and becoming comfortable over a period of time with a state of hell. It can gradually sleep walk into becoming hardened, desensitised to cruelty, barbarism and evil, until what was considered abnormal or deviant becomes the acceptable norm, as happened in Nazi Germany, Russia, China, Cambodia and now – even Britain. This is not science fiction; we have already travelled far down this road , unaware of the growing dark or unfamiliarity of the landmarks.
    David Skinner, Uk

  • Thanks Steve

    But the same evidence is available for both believer and non-believer. It is a question of whether we follow the evidence where it leads, or whether we close our minds ahead of time, choosing to commit to certain a priori assumptions, such as philosophical naturalism.

    Of course all these debates will be decided the moment we die. Then we will know instantly whether we have been right or wrong about God’s existence.

    As to the claim that in the end there are only two worldviews, in a sense that is right. Sure, there are all kinds of variations and differences among worldviews, and there are many theistic options, such as polytheism, pantheism, monotheism, etc. But at the end of the day, sayings such as this by Jesus are either true or not true: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Jesus speaking in John 14:6). If what he said there is true, and other sayings like it, then the choices really narrow down very quickly.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks James

    All people are essentially and intrinsically religious, and will always find something or someone to worship. In the end, there really are only two choices: we either worship the one true God, or we do not. And in denying the true God, we effectively set ourselves up as God. Thus one can argue, from a Biblical point of view, that these are in fact the only two ultimate final options available to us.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Dear Steve, I would not sit up and take notice of Bill’s tooth fairy who supposedly collects old teeth in exchange for silver coins but I would sit up and take notice of a being who claims to have the ability to either throw me into eternal hell, or give me eternal life.

    No matter how much our physical appetites are satiated, there still remains a deep spiritual hunger for something which no scientist has ever been able to explain; that this is a yearning for infinite, personal relationship, significance, security, truth and hope – something which forever seems out of our grasp. Malcom Muggeridge used to say we are efugees- displaced persons, always searching for home. Consequently man’s history is one of perpetual enslavement to something which only gives temporary compensation for a tragic sense of loss and abandonment.

    Your comment that “various cultural, educational, environmental and social influences. There is no objective truth in these matters”: I do not think this is born out by the way you and I live. We may believe that to exit a room we can walk through the wall, go up the chimney or climb through the window, but the vast majority of the human race unerringly goes out through the door – no matter what fanciful notions they may have. When I used to judge kid’s painting, I used to judge them against a certain set of criteria, irrespective of whether I liked their work or not. C.S Lewis, In “Mere Christianity” said :
    “The reason why your idea of New York can be truer or less true than mine is that New York is a real place, existing quite apart from what either of us thinks. If when each of us said ‘New York’ each means merely ‘The town I am imagining in my own head’, how could one of have truer ideas than the other? There would be no question of truth or falsehood at all. In the same way, if moral values meant simply ‘whatever each nation happens to approve’, there would be no sense in its approval than any other; no sense in saying that the world could ever grow morally better or worse.”

    Where does the United Nations get the ideal of progress – the belief that society ought to become more mature and humane – if there is not at the back of its mind the knowledge that the human race falls way short of a universal and absolute notion of righteousness and justice – and which incidentally it is not likely to achieve now or ever?

    One last thing. All those other religions were respectively the brain child of a single individual. The Bible was written over a period of 1400 to 1800 years by more than 40 different authors, from many backgrounds and all of them, guided by the Holy Spirit, speaking from the same hymn sheet. Moreover, those other religions flatter their disciples with the fancy that they can by their own unaided efforts achieve perfection: their salvation is in their own hands. Christianity offers us no such vain hope except through grace – the redeeming and finished work of Christ and him crucified.

    David Skinner, UK

  • A thought about selfishness and self-centred-ness.
    Think about the most deeply unhappy people you have known in your life. When I think of my group, the only thing that is really consistent among them is that they all think that they are the centre of the universe.
    How about your group?
    Ian Brearley, Canberra

  • Bill,

    You are simply arguing for “afterlife insurance” as in Pascal’s wager. But Pascal argued for Catholicism against all other beliefs, while you are arguing for Christian fundamentalism against all other beliefs. Similar arguments could be made for Islam against all other beliefs, or for any other belief system.

    All belief systems have elements that render them mutually exclusive with other belief systems, so how does a truly objective observer choose one belief over another as if their afterlife depended on it? Isn’t it safer to pick no religion than to pick the wrong one and be damned for it? What kind of God creates such a dilemma?

    You preach a vengeful God who you claim will destroy anyone who makes the wrong choice, or happens to be born into the wrong culture. Yet such a God defies reason. Anger and the desire for vengeance are human imperfections, so how can a perfect and benevolent God possess such a human fault?

    You claim the answer can be obtained by looking at the evidence, but all religions have origins which are shrouded in obscurity and defy objective examination. How do you know that there isn’t a God who rewards reason ahead of blind faith?

    I much prefer the Athiest’s Wager:
    “You should live your life and try to make the world a better place for your being in it, whether or not you believe in God. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will be remembered fondly by those you left behind. If there is a benevolent God, he may judge you on your merits and your commitments, and not just on whether or not you believed in him.”

    Steve Angelino, WA

  • Thanks again Steve

    I simply made the claim that upon death you and I both will instantly know who was right and who was wrong regarding God’s existence.

    Moreover, to paraphrase you, ‘As Kuhn and others have pointed out, all scientific paradigms have elements that render them mutually exclusive with other scientific paradigms, so how does a truly objective observer choose one paradigm over another as if the pursuit of knowledge depended on it? Isn’t it safer to pick no scientific paradigm than to pick the wrong one and be mistaken? What kind of scientist creates such a dilemma?’

    God doesn’t create any dilemma nor does he go around destroying anyone. He has done everything necessary to reveal himself, including coming to planet earth and living among us. He has done all that is possible so that we need not spend eternity without him, in sending his own son to take your place and mine for the just punishment we rightfully deserve in rejecting him and claiming to take his place as boss of the universe.

    It has nothing to do with anger or vengeance, and everything to do with God doing everything he possibly could – without overriding our free will – to make reunion with him possible. In the end we will get the eternity we want and deserve.

    We either accept what he has done for us and come to him on his terms, or we reject that and tell him to get lost. The trouble, if we tell him to get lost, he is a gentlemen, and will indeed allow us to go our own way. And hell is exactly that: snubbing God and his love and forgiveness, and living with our own rebellion and selfishness, forever.

    There will be no excuses when the day of judgment comes. It is up to all of us what we do with the choices put before us now.

    Indeed, you are wrong on every count here. It is the God of the Bible who says, “Come now, let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18). The evidence for a creator God is plentiful, as is the evidence for the life, claims, deeds, death and resurrection of Jesus. You can either follow the evidence where it leads, or refuse it. It is up to you.

    And as an unbeliever just how do you decide how it is that we can “make the world a better place”? Better than what? By whose standard? Hitler thought what he was doing was making the world a better place. How can you say he was wrong? Your worldview has no place for objective morality. Instead, you are living on borrowed spiritual capital to even talk about such things as a better world.

    At least some of your ideological colleagues are more consistent here. Michael Ruse can rightly say (based on his worldview): “Morality is no more … than an adaptation, and as such has the same status as such things as teeth and eyes and noses. . . . [M]orality is a creation of the genes”.

    Why should teeth or noses want a better world? And how would they know what one was? By smell? Taste?

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill,

    You said:
    “I simply made the claim that upon death you and I both will instantly know who was right and who was wrong regarding God’s existence.”

    This is a very strange statement. If you are wrong, you will never know!

    Your assertions about objective morality can’t be substantiated. Humans have evolved an intelligence that enables us to distinguish right from wrong. Surely you are not suggesting that it is only fear of God that prevents you from harming others?

    The Dalai Lama is in Australia at present. While I am not a follower of Buddhism, I know that it is a worldview that does not depend on belief in supernatural deities. Surely you can’t disagree that Buddhism represents an example of objective good? Yet its followers are atheists.

    You don’t need to be a believer to know that Hitler was evil. He was a Christian by the way, and had the support of Pius XII.

    And surely you can do better than “paraphrase” my comments (I think you meant “parody”, or perhaps “mimic” by the way. You misunderstand the meaning of “paraphrase”). Don’t you have any original thoughts? “Tu quoque” ripostes are rather childish, and in this instance make no sense at all. Science thrives by disagreement, which enables discernment of truth. Choice of religious belief, according to you, is a matter of life and death. Some scientists might be passionate about their pet theories, but will discard them if proven wrong, and the only downside is a bruised ego.

    Steve Angelino, WA

  • Thanks Steve

    But as is often the case with atheists, you simply keep avoiding the real issues and will not answer straight-forward questions. If materialism is true, there is no such thing as objective morality. The more honest atheists have admitted as such.

    The fact that a Buddhist or anyone else for that matter can do good and believe in goodness is easily explainable in terms of my worldview. A personal, moral God exists, and we are made in his image, and because of common grace, we can all do some good at times. But because of the fall, we are all capable of great evil as well. Good and evil makes very good sense in my worldview.

    But good and evil makes no sense whatsoever in terms of your worldview. There simply is no such thing as objective morality if philosophical naturalism is true. Morality is a clearly immaterial concept, which fits nowhere in a totally materialistic view of reality.

    As to Hitler, like a good atheist, you think if you parade a lie often enough, and loud enough, it somehow becomes true. Even Dawkins is willing to provide many quotes showing Hitler’s hatred of Christianity. So why are you still pushing this falsehood?

    And in a fallen world full of finite creatures, yes there will always be disagreements. But like all truth claims, you weigh them up, examine the evidence, see which claims are most coherent, consistent, grounded in reality, and so on. But you have simply ruled out such a common sense approach to the truth by your atheistic presuppositions.

    As Jesus said in a different context, “And you will not come to me, that you might have life.” (John 5:40) It is all about the human will. Some will not come. Some refuse to come. They thus seal their own fate.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Christian world view comments.
    If and when one endeavours to compare the Christian worldview to that of secular [naturalistic] materialist view, the tendency is to separate the discussion into naturalistic and spiritual perspectives. Spiritual explanations are supposedly based on faith and not reason. These are considered to be “religious” points of view. Meanwhile, conversely, naturalistic explanations are based on reason without faith, and are supposedly aimed at reflecting a “scientific” view.

    Notwithstanding, there are as yet, no naturalistic explanations for the emergence of the universe or the life that exists within it.

    Even Dawkins must revert to the concept of incredible luck.
    In his words— “initial stroke of luck’’ …p. 140 see The God Delusion ; concluding on p.137 earlier …. “However improbable the origin of life might be, we know it happened on Earth because we are here.”

    Thus one could say that all views eventually enter into the realm of the supernatural because naturalism cannot answer the questions of “why, how, and what for,”? These are barriers beyond human comprehension and impenetrable by any mathematical formulae or physical laws.

    As a worldview Christianity is continually challenged—yet remains a worldview that is reasoned, historic, and moralistic; the antithesis of materialistic naturalism. In truth the Christian message has nothing to fear from scholarly inquiry or scientific discovery, for as the Apostle Peter said:

    “Do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defence to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” (1 Peter 3:14,15).

    The problem remains however, that rarely and often even then with embarrassed difficulty does the average Christian present a sound defence.

    Neil Ryan

  • Steve, you wrote: “We each come to our particular view of the world through various cultural, educational, environmental and social influences. There is no objective truth in these matters, there is only opinion arrived at by careful, or perhaps careless, analysis as the case may be.”

    If there is no objective truth (no right or wrong – true for all times, in all places), why would I spend every week counselling families who have been devastated by sexual abuse, domestic violence, and family breakdown?

    Our nation would be devastated if paedophilia was declared “only opinion” and it was never wrong. Why are the following criminal offences in Australia? Murder, stealing, family violence and sexual abuse? Plainly there is objective truth and not what you are advocating, subjective truth, i.e. only your opinion.

    I thank God that the Christian world and life view provides objective truth for the health of individuals, families and nations, and for the punishment of those who do wrong.

    By the way, is your statement that “there is no objective truth in these matters” objectively true or only your opinion?

    Spencer Gear, Qld

  • Steve, science does not thrive by disagreement. Science thrives when useful ideas find practical uses in life, when there is sufficient consensus that people use them, and they work. Science thrives when people move from disagreement to agreement.
    Part of the process is to allow ideas to be challenged and tested. As more understanding is gained, a scientific theory is sometimes superseded by a more comprehensive understanding. In this sense, really useful theories are rarely found to be “wrong”. More often they are just found to be limited in their scope of application. Reality has not changed, but rather the scientist’s understanding or perspective of reality.
    One of the most productive techniques in scientific research is to start with an idea or theory, and test it. Many Christians use similar principles to explore the love of God. The Bible talks about our faith growing as we practice living Christ’s worldview, as we test it.
    I get the impression from your emails that you do not want to examine the various options in case you are wrong. You seem to be starting without an idea, and hoping that you stumble across a good outcome by accident. You say that you want to make the world a better place. I appreciate your desire. However I see some weaknesses with your philosophy that we should believe nothing and just try to make the world a better place.
    Firstly, it does not give us much direction in how to make the world a better place, nor does it follow the most productive principles of scientific method.
    Secondly, an individual often ends up working for what seems best for them and their friends. The good desire usually becomes somewhat selfish in practice.
    Thirdly, the person’s ideas often get pushed onto others. Atheism is no exception. Atheism is not just an idea that impacts only the atheist. Atheism is a man-made worldview that by definition cannot be proven. Arrogantly forcing ideas onto others can do a lot of harm, because no-one knows everything.
    Fourthly it ignores a lot of evidence, including the evidence that living out Jesus’ values makes people happier. In which case it is advisable to look at all of Christ’s claims, not just the ones we happen to like.
    Most of all, the idea that we can achieve paradise by our own effort is simply not supported by human experience. As I understand it, the Bible’s denial that we can reach or create paradise by our own efforts distinguishes the Biblical worldview from every other worldview or religion.
    It is sometimes easy to leave discussions in the realm of ideas and theories. The most useful ideas are not proven wrong by mere academic debate. The most useful ideas are tested by practical experience, by “experiment”.
    In our everyday lives, our beliefs, ideas and theories are tested by our actions. Most everyday decisions and actions are formed around attitudes and relationships. Here too, the Christian worldview offers some unique blessings. For me, there is most of all the joy and reassurance of knowing that God is a living being who cares about me, who wants me to succeed and who is willing to personally guide me. There is the joy that nothing that happens can change the ultimate outcome of my life. There is the confidence in Jesus and in his worldview, a confidence supported by many small and larger tests applied over many years.
    I challenge you to begin to test Jesus’ worldview. Allow your ideas to be changed by experience. What have you got to lose? Some pride, perhaps? Find a Jesus-follower who can accept your heart’s deepest desires despite the imperfections we all carry. Find someone who is not concerned about pride or honour but rather someone who is modelling themselves on Christ’s character.
    Experiment wisely. Some experiments initially claim to disprove a theory, but are later found to have not properly tested the theory. Other experiments claim to support a theory, but for the wrong reasons. These are equally useless.
    Experiment wisely.
    Bless you.
    James Wheeler

  • Here is a parody (not a paraphrase) of the atheist’s wager:

    You should live your life and try to make the world a better place for your being in it, whether or not you believe in God, [but if you don’t believe in eternal reward/punishment you risk succumbing to nihilism]. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will be remembered fondly by those you left behind, [but of course this will be of no comfort to you because you will be dead!]. If there is a benevolent God, he may judge you on your merits coupled with your commitments, and not just on whether or not you believed in him, [but if that God has likened your best efforts to “filthy rags” then you may need a saviour but by then it will be too late for you so you lose again].

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria

  • Spencer,

    You have totally misconstrued my meaning. My statement was “There is no objective truth in these matters“. The matters I referred to were the many different worldviews and belief systems, the subject of Bill’s article.

    My point was that it is not possible to objectively discern the truth of any of them, including atheism. We each have an opinion about whether or not there is a God, and those who believe there is a God have different opinions about his/her nature.

    The Harm Principle articulated by John Stuart Mill can readily discern that the criminal offences you mentioned, such as paedophilia, murder, stealing, family violence and sexual abuse, are intrinsically evil. That is a clear example of the objective morality that most people, whether atheists or believers, can understand and subscribe to.

    Steve Angelino, WA

  • Thanks Steve

    Ah, but now we are cutting to the quick. It took you a long time to ‘fess up: “it is not possible to objectively discern the truth of any of them, including atheism”. OK, so let me get this straight: you are not an atheist after all, just an agnostic? That seems to be to be a slightly more respectable position to hold: admitting our limitations and ignorance is preferable to arrogant claims of total knowledge. So maybe now we can have a genuine exploration of the options, including theism, in a spirit of humility and a desire to follow truth where it leads.

    As to the Harm Principle, is does not get us very far. Many feel that homosexuality is a harmful behaviour, and therefore should be discouraged. Who decides what is harmful and what is not? And how can we determine all the variables to properly assess and limit harm? Utilitarianism just is not sufficient in a fallen world. Only God would know all the variables to make such choices.

    And how, if we are simply here due to a goo-to-you process, can you speak of harm at all? Harm presupposes such ideas as, it is good not to harm people. But what is the source of goodness in a purely material universe? I have already cited more honest materialists here in this regard.

    And even Mill admitted that his position could not stand alone, but notions such as justice and equity had to be appealed to. But the same problem applies here. What good is justice without absolutes? We simply get bogged down again in moral relativism.

    You have yet to come up with any objective and workable basis for morality, all the while taking continual pot-shots at those who do in fact have a very good basis for discussing both good and evil..

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Steve,

    I was responding to your statement: “We each come to our particular view of the world through various cultural, educational, environmental and social influences. There is no objective truth in these matters, there is only opinion arrived at by careful, or perhaps careless, analysis as the case may be.”

    Now you state: “You have totally misconstrued my meaning. My statement was ‘There is no objective truth in these matters’. The matters I referred to were the many different worldviews and belief systems, the subject of Bill’s article.
    “My point was that it is not possible to objectively discern the truth of any of them, including atheism. We each have an opinion about whether or not there is a God, and those who believe there is a God have different opinions about his/her nature.”

    I was addressing the objective truth or otherwise of worldviews. I don’t think I misconstrued your point at all.
    J. S. Mill’s harm principle still requires another referent. Who determines what is harm? Some of the paedophiles and domestic violence perpetrators whom I counsel do not have any sense of doing anybody harm when they sexually abuse a child or are violent towards a spouse. Some of their responses to me in 30 years of counselling have been: (1) They enjoy it; so do I. What’s wrong with having sex with children? These would never be convinced by J. S. Mill’s and your argument in support of the harm principle and rejection of objective truth. (2) She deserves what she gets. If she gave up bitching about any little thing, there would be no need for me to belt into her and call her all kinds of names. The harm principle for a perpetrator like this has nil effect.

    This week I have counseled two families whose lives have been devastated by one partner’s adultery (“affair” was the language they used). Whose view says that adultery is right or wrong? These families have no connection with Christianity or the church but the wives know that adultery is wrong and they acknowledge that it has destroyed their relationships.

    God was establishing something that was a core to healthy families when he established the absolute (objective truth): “You shall not commit adultery.”

    You can promote the harm principle, but when push comes to shove, who is going to define paedophilia, domestic violence or adultery as that which causes harm for all people at all times harm? Is it going to be J. S. Mill’s utilitarianism or God’s objective truth that calls all sexual immorality wrong? It is not only harmful and destructive, it is wrong and I will not back off from that conclusion.

    The harm principle can allow anybody to do his or her own thing according to his or her own opinion of harm. I work extensively with rebel youth who are causing chaos in families. Are disobedience to parents and rebellion against the household boundaries, harmful or not according to J. S. Mill and you? These teens don’t give a hoot about harm to their parents, siblings and school mates. How will the harm principle bring order out of disorder in these families? Its not harmful for some of these kids, yet it is destroying families. Who has the content to “harm” to stop or control what is happening?

    You are whistling in the wind with your harm principle because its definition is based on a flimsy, limited knowledge of human opinion. It is one brand of humanistic ethics and founders on its lack of consistent substance when dealing with all ethical situations.

    Stalin’s Russia, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, Idi Amin’s Uganda, Hitler’s Germany and the leaders of the Sudanese and North Korean slaughter and oppression, would hardly be stopped by a flimsy utilitarianism “harm principle.”

    Sincerely,
    Spencer Gear, Qld.

  • Dear Bill,
    The New Age movement isn’t properly defined at the moment, you could argue that there are essentially two sides to it, the higher and the lower. The lower is soft, wishy-washy and selfish. However the higher part is based on the Perennial Mysticism which is found all over the world and is extremely cohesive. An essential part of Mystic teachings is to become self-less, to serve all others as we serve God. “The Secret” was indeed very self-centered, but this was compiled by someone seeking money.
    We will indeed all know the truth when we die, read some Near Death Experiences for an insight into what really happens.
    Jim Clark

  • Thanks Jim

    Sorry, but whether high brow or low brow, the NAM in particular and Eastern religions in general stand in complete antithesis to the Judeo-Christian worldview. The only way they can be made to be compatible is if the latter is gutted of its very core teachings and beliefs. The Biblical revelation is highly exclusivist, and does not allow for the inclusivism and syncretism you are trying to force upon it. No wonder that in your list of fav books (as found on your website), you feature all the trendy Eastern and New Age titles, but omit the Bible. There is no way it can be crammed into your mystical bowl of soup.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Hi Bill, Thanks for the response.

    “The only way they can be made to be compatible is if the latter is gutted of its very core teachings and beliefs. The Biblical revelation is highly exclusivist, and does not allow for the inclusivism and syncretism you are trying to force upon it”

    I agree with you almost completely, except for the last 7 words in that unlike most well known writers in the NAM Eckhart Tolle and James Redfield for example), I am not trying to soften the differences between Orthodox Christianity and New Age. On a philosophical and Theological level I am specifically trying to address the differences head on.

    On a practical level, there is much common ground between any Sincere Spiritual seeker, regardless of whether they are Christian or New Age (Serving God, serving all others, aspiring to Unconditional Love, compassion, forgiveness, charity etc). This doesn’t mean that they are all the same however, as the dogma’s of different paths bring people to focus in different areas.

    I deliberately omit the Bible, knowing full well that overall it is not cohesive with the worlds Mystical traditions. Thank you for looking at my website, if you read my articles you will see that I argue that Christianity can be seperated into the positive and negative elements. If you take away the negative elements, than you have Gnostic Christianity, essentially in it’s purest form (there being of course many different Gnostic sects) Perennial Mysticism, virtually identical to the core teachings of Advaita-Vedanta, Buddhism, Taoism, Hermeticism etc.

    So, yes I am arguing that Christians should drop the exclusive aspects of their faith (including belief in a Historical Jesus with Resurrection & Substitutory Atonement and inerrancy of the Bible), and follow a Spiritual path of Love and Light, not dogma and theology.

    The overall gist of your article was to say that only a Christian worldview results in a Self-less life. Clearly this is a misrepresentation of other Worldviews. Great men of many nations have preached the importance of being Self-Less, in giving up Ego (false Self) we gain the greater self-Spirit. Yes, there are false prophets that preach to the lowest common denominator (ie Rhonda Byrnes “The Secret”, appealing to the desire to be Rich, however not everything in The Secret is false, more just the presentation and focus) If a true New-Age worldview was followed then we would have Heaven on earth.

    Jim Clark

  • Thanks Jim

    Sorry, but any common ground is far outweighed by the irreconcilable differences. Indeed, you perfectly illustrate this. What you call the positive elements of Christianity are nothing other than what the early church bitterly opposed and condemned as heretical.

    And what you regard as the negative elements are the very heart and soul of biblical Christianity. You have stripped biblical Christianity of the very things Jesus and the apostles said and did, leaving us with nothing. The early disciples rebutted equally vacuous notions of the faith, calling such views the deception of the enemy and false teachings to be totally rejected.

    Your take on Christianity is as helpful as someone calling for Aussie rules football to be radically redefined and overhauled, by eliminating the field, the ball, the goal posts, the players, the four quarters, the scores, the coaches, and the umpires, and calling what is left true footy.

    And no, what my article did attempt to argue for are the two types of righteousness: human self-righteousness versus God-given righteousness. All our righteous is as filthy rags, as Isaiah informs us. But in Christ through faith and repentance we can have the righteousness of God credited to our account.

    It all comes down to the biblical view of sin, its reality and extent, which you so plainly and utterly reject. It is because of sin that Christ came in the first place. He did not come spouting a message that we are already divine, but that we are alienated from God by sin and selfishness, and only the work of Christ on the cross can bridge this gap with the one true God.

    This always has been and always will be the essential nature of Christian truth claims. They have absolutely nothing to do with New Age mumbo-jumbo or Eastern thought. So anti-Christian heresies have been around for some time now, and your recent version is just more of the same. And given that I once adhered to both New Age and Eastern thought, I can see quite clearly now as a biblical Christian the radical differences between these two worldviews.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

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