CultureWatch

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

Two Views of Humanity

Jun 23, 2008

There is no shortage of nutty ideas. A recent news item proclaimed that by mid-century, humans and robots will engage in loving and sexual relationships. Our understanding of personhood continues to weaken, as harmful worldviews continue to triumph.

And worldviews really do matter. Indeed, ideas have consequences, and bad ideas have bad consequences. That phrase – not original to me – is one I have used many times. The twentieth century has been a good example of this, with some pretty lousy philosophies and ideologies resulting in some pretty lousy consequences.

One’s worldview will indeed have consequences. Ideas matter, and people suffer when bad ideas reign. Consider the issue of what it is to be a person. There are two major worldviews competing to determine who we are and how we should be understood – and treated.

The secular humanist worldview offers its own particular take on mankind. Based as it is on purposeless and random evolution, we are simply an accident without meaning, value or direction. Humankind has no special place in the cosmos, and our time on earth is marked by futility and aimlessness.

Philosopher and ethicist Peter Singer is a good example of this worldview. Indeed, he takes secular humanism to its logical conclusion. He of course is well known as an animal rights campaigner who is pro-euthanasia, pro-abortion and pro-infanticide.

He even once championed bestiality in a now infamous article. Evidently according to the good professor one is allowed in all good moral standing to have sex with animals, as long as one does not eat them afterwards. His writings make it clear that humans are nothing special. Consider a few representative quotes.

“The evidence for personhood is at present most conclusive for the great apes, but whales, dolphins, elephants, monkeys, dogs, pigs and other animals may eventually also be shown to be aware of their own existence over time and capable of reasoning.”

“Not all members of the species Homo sapiens are persons, and not all persons are members of the species Homo sapiens.”

“Species membership in Homo-sapiens is not morally relevant. If we compare a dog or a pig to a severely defective infant, we often find the non-human to have superior capacities.”

Thus he could consistently argue (based on his own worldview) that newborns do not have an intrinsic value and right to life, but should be made to pass certain tests first, to see whether we allow them to live or not. “We do not think new-born infants have an inherent right to life.”

A worldview which says pigs are more important than certain infants is a worldview which offers no dignity to humanity. It is the worldview that says some are better than others, and in the interests of survival, some can be weeded out accordingly.

The Judeo-Christian worldview on the other hand takes a radically different approach to understanding who we are. Based as it is on the view that we are made in God’s image, we all have inherent dignity, value and worth. We also have a history and a purpose. We have hope, knowing that this life is not all there is. Every individual is unique and special.

C.S. Lewis did a great job of dissecting the secular humanist view of mankind, and promoting the superior alternative of the Judeo-Christian worldview. In a number of books and articles he warned about where we were heading, as new technologies, coupled with increased statism, spelt “the abolition of man”.

A half century ago he sounded the alarm: “What we call Man’s power over Nature turns out to be power exercised by some men over other men with Nature as its instrument.” He explained,

“Man’s conquest of Nature, if the dreams of some scientific planners are realized, means the rule of a few hundreds of men over billions upon billions of men. There neither is nor can be any simple increase of power on Man’s side. Each new power won by man is a power over man as well.”

He knew rampant technology undergirded by the secularist worldview would spell the end of man, and the rise of even greater tyranny. The counter to all this is the Biblical understanding of personhood. In a very important essay, “The Weight of Glory,” he laid out this vision:

“It may be possible for each of us to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbour. The load, or weight, or burden, of my neighbour’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken.”

This is a much different view of persons than that offered by the materialists and secularists. We are dealing with the crown of creation, and need to treat one another with all due respect and dignity. As image-bearers of God, we deserve no less and can do no less.

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.”

Lewis summarises, “There are no ‘ordinary’ people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.”

The Judeo-Christian worldview offers a marvellous view of mankind. It recognises his majesty, as made in God’s image, but it also recognises his limitations, because of the fall. It can account for both good and evil in the human person. The secular humanists vision on the other hand has no solid foundation for human morality or the significance of the individual. It cannot logically speak of personhood in such glowing terms as C.S. Lewis did.

These two worldviews are right now battling it out for supremacy. The question is, which view will triumph? Will it be the secular humanist vision or the Judeo-Christian vision?  The consequences are great, so we best choose wisely.

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6 Responses to Two Views of Humanity

  • Bill,

    Whilst I concur with the thrust (and indeed, the content) of your article, one thing at the end did trouble me. I am wrestling right now with the amount of time I can give to considering contemporary issues mainly because of how much I tend to veer towards a despairing frame of mind as a result.

    But despair is sin, as a friend reminded me in the last few days, and I had to further remind myself that we definitely know “which view will triumph.” The possible (but if then, only temporary) triumph of secular values will reap their deadly consequences as millions continue to suffer and die at the hands of this wolf in sheep’s clothing. And Jesus did speak of birth pains. (Matthew 24)

    So, whilst we fight a spiritual foe that is deceiving many and bringing pain, betrayal, persecution, hatred, selfishness and death with it, this was prophesied and it is not unexpected when technologies such as television and the internet reflecting and quickly multiplying what is already in the hearts of us humans. It used to be that sin had a more ‘individual’ voice. I submit it is now becoming more easily ‘collective’ and public, and therefore much worse. The anonymity of the internet and (to a lesser extent) the writers/producers of television is probably a major factor. People can reveal what’s in their hearts without having to pay full price for the social consequences. (I’m sure the reason your blog comments are generally civilized is because of your moderation policy!) And it’s no wonder that in human history the worst atrocities were committed by states, not individuals.

    But God wins in the end. The Judeo-Christian values will find their ultimate and final victory over the counterfeits. I just struggle to find the balance between making a difference for the Kingdom of God – and therefore caring enough to speak up – but caring so much about the degeneration of good values to find myself in a very negative frame of mind. Which isn’t very joyful, so what do I have to share? Aaarrrgghh. Then I’m reminded to cast my cares onto Him…

    We Christians certainly hold to some dichotomies in our lives – in the world but not of it, sinners but sanctified, joyful but sad about the state of the world, etc. Sigh. How I’m looking forward to heaven… But in the meantime, I’m still here, so I guess there’s work to do!

    God Bless You!
    Mark Rabich

  • Thanks Mark

    Hey I despair quite often doing this ministry! So I know what you are going through. And not everyone is called to take on all these issues, or to be so immersed in all this stuff. Indeed, we can only do what God calls us to do. But he always gives us grace for the job, whatever it may be.

    Jesus was tempted to give up along the way but he did not. We must follow in his footsteps and persevere. The battles are many and the war is fierce. But as you say, we serve a triumphant Lord and victory is assured.

    I am just now reading a book about Winston Churchill which someone kindly sent me. If there is one word that describes him, it is persistence. He is famous for one speech in which he said, “We must never, never, never surrender”. He also said, “Arm yourselves, and be ye men of valour, and be in readiness for the conflict; for it is better for us to perish in battle than to look upon the outrage of our nation and our altars.”

    And of course the biblical admonitions to persevere are well known. So I encourage you to keep on keeping on. You are doing a great job, and it will certainly be rewarded in that day that we all look forward to.

    Blessings
    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • See also ‘Bioethicists’ and Obama agree: infanticide should be legal by Lita Cosner, 13 June 2008.
    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Yes it is easy to despair when observing the negative side of the battle for some time. The battlelines of two worldviews are being drawn rapidly before our eyes, in our generation and it can be quite overwhelming. But the changes we are seeing were clearly foretold in scripture and this very encouraging to see God’s faithfulness through His Word. He has not left His Church as the Holy Spirit has been given to His children and the gates of hell shall not prevail. Neither will the Church be cowering in the corner feeling embarrassed or apologetic but she will stand tall in Christ looking to Him and taking it up to anything this world can bring. “This world” may win alot of ground but many souls will be won to Christ nevertheless and isn’t that what it is all about?
    Keith Lewis

  • From Marx (Communism), Nietzsche (true materialism), Darwin (Nazi Germany) and Machiavelli (all modern politics, Obama is a great believer in Machiavelli it seems) are all examples of anti-Christian worldviews which have brought nothing but misery to humanity. And each of these philosophers is responsible for these disasters.

    Michael Mifsud

  • Just reading this site does encouraged me to respond. It definitely seems to me that the Judeo-Christian view is winning, Halleluja! I sometimes feel down, like everyone else on this page and wonder how many more wars and disasters and also pain and suffering non-Christians need to experience to wake up and commit to Christ? I don’t even have to read the newspaper or watch the daily news because everything what is happening now was already predicted in the book of Revelation. God gave everyone of us a conscience and a moral obligation, or we can call it morals. Our moral obligations are definately founded in Creation. We have all the same foundations but through the Fall and Sin some or many of us have walked away from who we were ment to be. But ultimately Christianity will win. Satan has not long to go, so he is speeding his work up. Be encouraged to go through all these times of trouble, the reward will be wonderful.
    Del Tatnell

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