Western worldview and Christianity–Harold Eberle

from  Christianity Unshackled by Harold Eberle,

Harold R. Eberle

Harold R. Eberle

Many agnostics will reason that if there is a God, then it is His responsibility to reveal Himself. Certainly a person cannot be expected to believe in something that cannot be seen or verified. Certainly if there is a God, He will not hold us accountable to believe in Him, since He is the one who is failing to make Himself known. It is His fault that we do not believe in Him— or so the agnostic reasons.
Yet, it is the western worldview that blinds a person from seeing the reality of God. To see this more clearly, think again of the words we quoted earlier from the famous atheist Richard Dawkins: “Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence.” Dawkins can only make this statement because he has assumed the worldview of modern Western intellectualism. However, if we hold to a worldview with no wall between the spiritual and natural realms, we could restructure Dawkins’ words to state: “The worldview of modern Western intellectualism is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think about God and evaluate evidence for His existence.”

The truth is that any worldview that relegates things like God, religion, and faith to the spiritual world is a worldview built on an indefensible foundation. It may be attractive to people who want to distance themselves from facing reality, but it is tragic when modern-day Christians get pulled into that deceptive way of thinking.

Most Christians think that their worldview has been built on a biblical foundation. In reality, Western Christianity has a mixture of biblical thought and Western thought. It is most accurate to say that Western Christianity is the result of taking biblical truths and laying them upon the spiritual/ natural division developed by the ancient Greek philosophers.

That division became more and more pronounced throughout the later part of the Middle Ages. As I mentioned earlier, theology and philosophy were king and queen in the kingdom of education. Much more than the Bible, Aristotle’s writings were the focus of study. When discussing theology, students and professors spent most of their time dissecting and rehashing the writings of Church giants like Augustine and Thomas Aquinas— leaders who had developed their theology on the ancient Greek foundation.

When the historical Church went through the Scientific Revolution along with the rest of Western society, it was pulled right along and in many ways was at the forefront of change. The separation of the spiritual and natural worlds became even more clearly defined. Then God and faith were compartmentalized in the spiritual world while science and knowledge were compartmentalized in the natural world.

This compartmentalization was most prominent in philosophy. When philosophers such as Descartes, Hume, Kant, and Hegel developed their ideas, they each built on the spiritual/ natural division. Even today Western philosophy is fully locked into the dichotomous world-view laid down by the ancient Greek philosophers.

Unfortunately, Christian theology developed side-by-side and intertwined with Western philosophy. Church leaders like Martin Luther and John Calvin were fully submerged in the Western dichotomy of the spiritual world versus the natural world. Of course, they did not limit God to the spiritual world, but they still were Western people with Western minds. It is disturbing for modern Christians to hear this, but in some ways, Plato and Aristotle have had a more profound impact upon Western Christianity than the apostle Paul (proven by the fact that most university-educated Christians today cannot agree with Paul that God’s existence is undeniable and obvious).

There are many implications of this that we will discuss as we continue. Here we can simply mention how the foundation that divides the spiritual world from the natural world tends to create a lifestyle separated from the spiritual and supernatural. This is most obvious by considering a Western-minded atheist and then relating that to a modern Christian. Let me explain.

If God were to perform a miracle healing before a crowd of Western-minded atheists, they would make every attempt to give a natural explanation for the event. In their minds, natural events must have natural causes. Therefore, if God were to work a miraculous healing in their presence, thoughts would immediately go through their minds that the healing was not a true miracle but perhaps the result of coincidence, psychosomatic phenomenon, or deception. The modern Western mind can’t help but impose such thoughts upon supernatural experiences. Because the framework through which they view life allows for no miracles, they must search for a natural explanation— and they usually find it.

This same process goes through the mind of Christians who have been indoctrinated in the Western worldview. They may want to believe, but their minds will mold the events to fit the split spiritual/ natural framework. Such patterns of thought go beyond our understanding of miracles and permeate all our understanding. They subtly create a lifestyle separated from the spiritual and supernatural. They lead to a form of godliness, but deny the power.

Eberle, Harold (2009-12-28). Christianity Unshackled: Are You A Truth Seeker (pp. 90-94). Destiny Image, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

from Darwin’s Black Box, by Michael Behe

A VERY BRIEF HISTORY OF BIOLOGY

When things are going smoothly in our lives most of us tend to think that the society we live in is “natural,” and that our ideas about the world are self-evidently true. It’s hard to imagine how other people in other times and places lived as they did or why they believed the things they did. During periods of upheaval, however, when apparently solid verities are questioned, it can seem as if nothing in the world makes sense. During those times history can remind us that the search for reliable knowledge is a long, difficult process that has not yet reached an end. In order to develop a perspective from which we can view the idea of Darwinian evolution, over the next few pages I will very briefly outline the history of biology. In a way, this history has been a chain of black boxes; as one is opened, another is revealed. Black box is a whimsical term for a device that does something, but whose inner workings are mysterious—sometimes because the workings can’t be seen, and sometimes because they just aren’t comprehensible. Computers are a good example of a black box. Most of us use these marvelous machines without the vaguest idea of how they work, processing words or plotting graphs or playing games in contented ignorance of what is going on underneath the outer case. Even if we were to remove the cover, though, few of us could make heads or tails of the jumble of pieces inside. There is no simple, observable connection between the parts of the computer and the things that it does. Imagine that a computer with a long-lasting battery was transported back in time a thousand years to King Arthur’s court. How would people of that era react to a computer in action? Most would be in awe, but with luck someone might want to understand the thing. Someone might notice that letters appeared on the screen as he or she touched the keys. Some combinations of letters—corresponding to computer commands—might make the screen change; after a while, many commands would be figured out. Our medieval Englishmen might believe they had unlocked the secrets of the computer. But eventually somebody would remove the cover and gaze on the computer’s inner workings. Suddenly the theory of “how a computer works” would be revealed as profoundly naive. The black box that had been slowly decoded would have exposed another black box. In ancient times allof biology was a black box, because no one understood on even the broadest level how living things worked. The ancients who gaped at a plant or animal and wondered just how the thing worked were in the presence of unfathomable technology. They were truly in the dark. The earliest biological investigations began in the only way they could—with the naked eye.2 A number of books from about 400 B.C. (attributed to Hippocrates, the “father of medicine”) describe the symptoms of some common diseases and attribute sickness to diet and other physical causes, rather than to the work of the gods. Although the writings were a beginning, the ancients were still lost when it came to the composition of living things. They believed that all matter was made up of four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. Living bodies were thought to be made of four “humors”—blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm—and all disease supposedly arose from an excess of one of the humors. The greatest biologist of the Greeks was also their greatest philosopher, Aristotle. Born when Hippocrates was still alive, Aristotle realized (unlike almost everyone before him) that knowledge of nature requires systematic observation. Through careful examination he recognized an astounding amount of order within the living world, a crucial first step. Aristotle grouped animals into two general categories—those with blood, and those without—that correspond closely to the modern classifications of vertebrate and invertebrate. Within the vertebrates he recognized the categories of mammals, birds, and fish. He put most amphibians and reptiles in a single group, and snakes in a separate class. Even though his observations were unaided by instruments, much of Aristotle’s reasoning remains sound despite the knowledge gained in the thousands of years since he died. Only a few significant biological investigators lived during the millennium following Aristotle. One of them was Galen, a second-century A.D. physician in Rome. Galen’s work shows that careful observation of the outside and (with dissection) the inside of plants and animals, although necessary, is not sufficient to comprehend biology. For example, Galen tried to understand the function of animal organs. Although he knew that the heart pumped blood, he could not tell just from looking that the blood circulated and returned to the heart. Galen mistakenly thought that blood was pumped out to “irrigate” the tissues, and that new blood was made continuously to resupply the heart. His idea was taught for nearly fifteen hundred years. It was not until the seventeenth century that an Englishman, William Harvey, introduced the theory that blood flows continuously in one direction, making a complete circuit and returning to the heart. Harvey calculated that if the heart pumps out just two ounces of blood per beat, at 72 beats per minute, in one hour it would have pumped 540 pounds of blood—triple the weight of a man! Since making that much blood in so short a time is clearly impossible, the blood had to be reused. Harvey’s logical reasoning (aided by the still-new Arabic numerals, which made calculating easy) in support of an unobservable activity was unprecedented; it set the stage for modern biological thought. In the Middle Ages the pace of scientific investigation quickened. The example set by Aristotle had been followed by increasing numbers of naturalists. Many plants were described by the early botanists Brunfels, Bock, Fuchs, and Valerius Cordus. Scientific illustration developed as Rondelet drew animal life in detail. The encyclopedists, such as Conrad Gesner, published large volumes summarizing all of biological knowledge. Linnaeus greatly extended Aristotle’s work of classification, inventing the categories of class, order, genus, and species. Studies of comparative biology showed many similarities between diverse branches of life, and the idea of common descent began to be discussed. Biology advanced rapidly in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as scientists combined Aristotle’s and Harvey’s examples of attentive observation and clever reasoning. Yet even the strictest attention and cleverest reasoning will take you only so far if important parts of a system aren’t visible. Although the human eye can resolve objects as small as one-tenth of a millimeter, a lot of the action in life occurs on a micro level, a Lilliputian scale. So biology reached a plateau: One black box, the gross structure of organisms, was opened only to reveal the black box of the finer levels of life. In order to proceed further biology needed a series of technological breakthroughs. The first was the microscope.

Behe, Michael J. (2001-04-04). Darwin’s Black Box (Kindle Locations 142-194). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Hell–from The Problem of Pain, by C.S. Lewis

I am not going to try to prove the doctrine tolerable. Let us make no mistake; it is not tolerable. But I think the doctrine can be shown to be moral, by a critique of the objections ordinarily made, or felt, against it.

C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis

First, there is an objection, in many minds, to the idea of retributive punishment as such. This has been partly dealt with in a previous chapter. It was there maintained that all punishment became unjust if the ideas of ill-desert and retribution were removed from it; and a core of righteousness was discovered within the vindictive passion its self, in the demand that the evil man must not be left perfectly satisfied with his own evil, that it must be made to appear to him what it rightly appears to others—evil. I said that Pain plants the flag of truth within a rebel fortress. We were then discussing pain which might still lead to repentance. How if it does not—if no further conquest than the planting of the flag ever takes place?

Let us try to be honest with ourselves. Picture to yourself a man who has risen to wealth or power by a continued course of treachery and cruelty, by exploiting for purely selfish ends the noble motions of his victims, laughing the while at their simplicity; who, having thus attained success, uses it for the gratification of lust and hatred and finally parts with the last rag of honour among thieves by betraying his own accomplices and jeering at their last moments of bewildered disillusionment. Suppose, further, that he does all this, not (as we like to imagine) tormented by remorse or even misgiving, but eating like a schoolboy and sleeping like a healthy infant—a jolly, ruddy-cheeked man, without a care in the world, unshakably confident to the very end that he alone has found the answer to the riddle of life, that God and man are fools whom he has got the better of, that his way of life is utterly successful, satisfactory, unassailable. We must be careful at this point. The least indulgence of the passion for revenge is very deadly sin. Christian charity counsels us to make every effort for the conversion of such a man: to prefer his conversion, at the peril of our own lives, perhaps of our own souls, to his punishment; to prefer it infinitely.

But that is not the question. Supposing he will not be converted, what destiny in the eternal world can you regard as proper for him? Can you really desire that such a man, remaining what he is (and he must be able to do that if he has free will) should be confirmed forever in his present happiness—should continue, for all eternity, to be perfectly convinced that the laugh is on his side? And if you cannot regard this as tolerable, is it only your wickedness—only spite—that prevents you from doing so? Or do you find that conflict between Justice and Mercy, which has sometimes seemed to you such an outmoded piece of theology, now actually at work in your own mind, and feeling very much as if it came to you from above, not from below? You are moved not by a desire for the wretched creature’s pain as such, but by a truly ethical demand that, soon or late, the right should be asserted, the flag planted in this horribly rebellious soul, even if no fuller and better conquest is to follow. In a sense, it is better for the creature its self, even if it never becomes good, that it should know its self a failure, a mistake. Even mercy can hardly wish to such a man his eternal, contented continuance in such ghastly illusion. Thomas Aquinas said of suffering, as Aristotle had said of shame, that it was a thing not good in its self; but a thing which might have a certain goodness in particular circumstances. That is to say, if evil is present, pain at recognition of the evil, being a kind of knowledge, is relatively good; for the alternative is that the soul should be ignorant of the evil, or ignorant that the evil is contrary to its nature, ‘either of which’, says the philosopher, ‘is manifestly bad’.* And I think, though we tremble, we agree.

The demand that God should forgive such a man while he remains what he is, is based on a confusion between condoning and forgiving. To condone an evil is simply to ignore it, to treat it as if it were good. But forgiveness needs to be accepted as well as offered if it is to be complete: and a man who admits no guilt can accept no forgiveness.

I have begun with the conception of Hell as a positive retributive punishment inflicted by God because that is the form in which the doctrine is most repellent, and I wished to tackle the strongest objection. But, of course, though Our Lord often speaks of Hell as a sentence inflicted by a tribunal, He also says elsewhere that the judgement consists in the very fact that men prefer darkness to light, and that not He, but His ‘word’, judges men** We are therefore at liberty—since the two conceptions, in the long run, mean the same thing—to think of this bad man’s perdition not as a sentence imposed on him but as the mere fact of being what he is. The characteristic of lost souls is ‘their rejection of everything that is not simply themselves’.***  Our imaginary egoist has tried to turn everything he meets into a province or appendage of the self. The taste for the other, that is, the very capacity for enjoying good, is quenched in him except in so far as his body still draws him into some rudimentary contact with an outer world. Death removes this last contact. He has his wish—to lie wholly in the self and to make the best of what he finds there. And what he finds there is Hell.

1 Summa Theol, I, IIae, Q. xxxix, Art. 1.

** John 3:19; 12:48.

*** See von Hügel, Essays and Addresses, 1st series, What do we mean by Heaven and Hell?

Lewis, C. S. (2009-05-28).  The Problem of Pain (p.123- 125). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.