Tag Archives: worldview

Feeling Snarky

I’m having a day of snark – one of those where everything I want to write about involves some sort of sarcastic response toward ridiculous opinions and viewpoints. Hazards of coming off a couple of sick days, I suppose – I tend to be a little less patient and tolerant.

For starters, in response to the shooting at Virginia Tech the other day, gun control outcriers have cropped again. And they’re welcome to their opinions, of course. But I still think they’re wrong. There seems to be this mentality that allowing people to own and carry weapons will only cause the crime rate to increase, since guns will be that much more available. Almost without exception, though, I find that those opinions come from folks who have had very little exposure to guns. For those of us who have grown up with guns and have been taught how to safely handle them, we know that those folks who make the decision to 1) own guns and 2) earn the license that gives them the right to carry said guns are _far_ more likely to handle them safely. These are the people who respect these weapons enough to, get this, keep one with them at all times. The people who go on these shooting sprees usually acquire their weapons by illegal means or, if they’ve acquired them legally, haven’t bothered to learn how to use them properly or gained the licenses necessary to carry them. In short, shooters like this do not respect the laws that govern the use and ownership of guns. It places those of us who actually _do_ respect these laws in a difficult spot because the resultant fear from tragedies like these threatens the right of American citizens to own and carry guns.

Recognize this – psychos like this Virginia Tech shooter will always be able to find guns when they want them, no matter what sort of legislation is in place to make it “impossible” to do so. The black market will never be shut down. All these gun control laws do is make it more difficult for honest citizens to put a quick end to a shooter’s spree should such a crisis arise. Personally, I feel much safer with a licensed-to-carry citizen next to me than without. But then again, I realize that said citizen has been trained in how to use that weapon and would never casually use said weapon unless there was no other option.

The other thing that has my snark up right now involves Fox News apparent posthumous besmirching of Kurt Vonnegut. Apparently, Fox News ran a story the other day that wasn’t terribly flattering to the late science fiction author. Ultimately, I couldn’t care less what Fox News thinks of the author or how people are reacting to the news story. I deliberately tend to avoid the news in any form exactly because the news seems to bring out the worst in people.

What I _am_ a little bit surprised by is Fox News’s deliberate mention of Vonnegut being a ‘leftist.’ Well, of _course_ he was a leftist – most science fiction authors are. Read just about any science fiction novel, and you’ll see worlds in which religion is all but dead, with God having been debunked and traditional and historical forms of morality having been given up in favor of less restrictive and more ‘liberating’ personal values. These are worlds where anything goes, guilt-free, so long as others are not harmed in the process. This is the ideal of 21st-century man, to live as he desires rather than being bound to a set of rules set down by a third party, whatever that third party may be. This view is liberal and leftist, and for some reason this viewpoint, this hopeful future, goes hand-in-hand with science fiction. The shirking of religion, with all its rules and regulations, is seen as progress for mankind, and science fiction embraces this hope with vigor, eagerness, and passion.

What _I’d_ like to see is science fiction where the future world doesn’t look all that much different to the world we see today, with the obvious exception of more advanced technology. I’d like to see some science fiction where, if anything, morality and religion have become _more_ entrenched, just to see what that kind of world would like. I wouldn’t mind seeing such worlds built in both a positive and negative light, since either outcome is equally likely, in my opinion. Essentially, I’d like to see a more deliberate exploration of such universes. And just once, I’d like to see a world of the future where religion isn’t the demon that it’s made out to be today, where religion is actually beneficial and productive. Stephen Lawhead attempts this in his Empyrion set, and Orson Scott Card presents another version in his Ender series. But these are the exceptions, rather than the rule. I just tend to think that science fiction does not necessarily need to be divorced from religion and morality in order to be good and exceptional. But since many times science fiction expresses the ideologies of each writer, they tend toward a certain brand of preachiness against religion that grows wearisome after a while.

So that’s a bit of the snark factor bouncing around in my brain today. And now that it’s out there, perhaps it’ll leave me alone.

Hold the Line

It could be I am simply overworked and weary right now, but I find that I have little more than an apathetic interest in the broad view of the world right now. It is a fine line that one must walk, an acrobatic tightrope of sorts. On the one hand, the broad view is necessary for forward motion to occur – on anything, in any issue. On the other, too much focus on the broad view causes one to lose sight of important trivial details. So a balance must be struck with one eye on the broad view, with the end goal in sight, but with the other eye focused on the details that must be considered and put in place so that one may ultimately arrive at said goal.

Sometimes the balance can be found by looking at both the broad and the narrow views simulatanously, skillfully juggling the two to manage one’s state of affairs with grace and poise. Sometimes, though, one must place one’s total and complete concentration on one or the other view (never forgetting about the forsaken view, merely pushing it aside for a spell) in order to deal with the issues at hand. Generally, one must look away from the broad view for a while and focus on the narrow. The little details of life, the pebbles of minutiae, pile up such that there is a gargantuan pile of rubble in your path, and the general must be forgotten for a time in favor of handling the very specific.

These past few weeks, whenever I attempt to look at the broad view, to focus on the issues and their corollaries, I am blinded and overwhelmed. All I see are conflicts and divisions, strivings and contentions. It’s not that these battles were not there before; they certainly were. The issues and the folks involved in them have not changed. It is simply that I have become more burdened by matters closer to home and so do not have the personal resources available to invest into solving the world’s problems. ((A bit of tongue-in-cheek there, for those who missed it.)) What I know is that I see folks everywhere who claim to be striving toward unity yet who seem not to notice the ‘us-versus-them’ mentality in their own thinking. I also see folks who know they have such divisions in their thoughts and who simply don’t care, nay, who even foster such strife and animosity.

This is, of course, the way of men, the way of a fallen world, and ever will it be so until God completes His work of redemption. For now I must pull back from the fight and tend to matters at home. I may stick a sword in here and there, but it is swung only halfheartedly. It is simply too much for me when those under my charge more immediately require my attention. I have not completely disengaged from the fray; I can still hear the battle sounds of my comrades in the heat of the fight. They hold my place on the line, knowing I shall soon return and lend my strength once again to the greater good of the whole.

Dealing Truth with Grace

Back from the weekend internet desert…

bq. Jim,
OK…now here’s the dilemma I find I get myself into…but I feel you can help me clarify this in my mind. I believe in absolute truth. And yet, in situations like you’ve described here, with the Hindu, (very similar to what I deal with on my blog in some ways with some of the visitors I get) how do you declare that your truth is absolute without offending them to the point that you can’t be agreeable? I sometimes feel like I don’t speak the truth plainly enough and yet, I do…I really think I do. I don’t know. Can you give me a word of encouragment about this…”#”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/?p=108#comment-269

Good question. Honestly, I think the way you would handle this is going to vary a bit, depending on your audience. To some extent, we have to do exactly as Christ instructed — declare our faith with boldness. Sure, this is going to offend some people, maybe even a lot of people, but Christianity is offensive to those who want to live life on their own terms. They don’t like to be told that the things they do and believe, that the way they have lived their lives is wrong and displeasing to an Almighty God. But the only way they are going to know is if someone tells them.

Now, this does not mean that we have to be harsh and cruel about it. Tact is a virtue. With people who are more understanding and not quick to anger, I am usually able to speak with a greater degree of frankness without having to worry about using exactly the right phrases and words to avoid stepping on their personal sensibilities. With people who are, in my opinion, more insecure, I try to speak openly and honestly about what I believe and why without using dialogue that is abrasive. Essentially, I share what I believe, that I hold that my beliefs are right and true and the _only_ way to live and believe, without trying to force anyone to believe as I do. I try to always make it clear that I can’t make anyone think the way I do and that I am not trying to. Part of this requires me to treat the viewpoints and opinions of others with respect, even if I disagree, and if I can poke holes in their arguments, I will do so (even though this is not usually well-received). But part of discoursing about what is truth and what is not requires people to talk and share and pick apart each others’ arguments.

One of my favorite philosophers is Francis Schaeffer, and it was his ministry to tear apart the inaccurate philosophies and worldviews and demonstrate why those philosophies could not be held with any kind of consistency. He showed time and again how the philosophy of the Bible was the only one that could be adhered to consistently. Yet, he was not ‘offensive’ about it, _per se_, though he offended a great many people by demonstrating the untruths of their philosophies.

It is impossible to live the Christian life well without offending other people. Christ said that we would be hated by the world for our beliefs, and we see this every day. But it is possible to have agreeable discourse with those who disagree with our beliefs. Really, I think the biggest part of attaining this is maintaining respect for people who disagree. Those Christians who lose respect with the world and who find they cannot minister effectively are typically those who treat the world with condescension and snide behavior. It is impossible to share Christ when you make yourself better than Christ.

Morality Informs Worldview

bq. When you eat a hamburger, is that a moral issue? Some people in India would seem to think so. “#”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/?p=105#comment-258

When I say that everything is a moral issue, what I am driving at, what I am actually trying to say is that every single action we take and every decision we make is informed by our worldview, which is nothing more than a set of morals, a set of value statements about the world around us. When I get angry and make the choice to react with violence or respond with peace, that decision is informed my values about human life, about how to react to situations that make me angry, about self-control. When I see something I want and make the choice to steal it or leave it alone, my value system, the morals I live by inform that decision. When I eat a hamburger, yes, that decision, too, is informed by my values. And since I have nothing morally against eating meat (or beef) and since there is nothing against the practice of consuming beef in my Bible, which serves as the foundation for my moral beliefs, then I can eat a hamburger with a clean conscience. If a Hindu, for example, takes issue with that, then I engage him in conversation, explain my beliefs and frame them in juxtaposition to his, with hopes that we can at least arrive at a peaceful and agreeable relationship. We may still disagree with one another, but we can continue to have respectful fellowship.

Everyone’s worldview is informed by the morals and values by which they live, even down to the smallest thing. Some of these may seem trivial by comparison to the major issues of our day, but they are values and morals, nonetheless, and they do inform our worldview.

Pointless Speculation, Revisited

bq. What about questioning the existence of God, the legitimacy of the Bible, whether or not one should be living to bring glory to God? Are these also questions one should speculativly ask? “#”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/index.php/archives/69#comment-180

Absolutely. I think everyone asks these questions at some point in their life, and probably more than once. Growing up I was raised in a particular way of belief. As a teenager I took that belief system for granted. It wasn’t until I got to college that my belief system was challenged, both by practical living and by my academics. I asked myself a lot of difficult questions — does God really exist? what if He really doesn’t, what then? what would it mean for my life now and in the future if we really are all alone in this universe? could evolution be true? could Christians be wrong? how do we know the Bible is true? how do we know that Christianity is the one, true faith? is God really good? why couldn’t God have created man without the ability to sin? if God knew man was going to sin, why did He create him anyway? what was the point of doing all this? did God need company? I asked myself all these questions and so many more. And I didn’t ask them once or even twice. I ran through them many, many times over the years. I conducted heavy research, talked to a lot of different people, wept and cried and wrestled with the questions and the answers. I was no less a Christian, even though there were points when my faith flagged, even though there were times when I really thought maybe Christianity was a bunch of garbage and lies and myths.

Ultimately, though, I came back to Christianity as the only complete answer for everything. Part of what swayed me was the general revelation of the world around me — I found it impossible to believe that the level of complexity this world, this universe exhibits could come about by some cosmic accident, even one that took billions of years. Over the years I have systematically answered all of these questions for myself. In the process I have made my belief system my own and become more convinced than ever. It does not mean, however, that I am opposed to listening to new viewpoints and contemplating them for a time. But what it does mean is that I subject every viewpoint to the same scrutiny that I ran my own belief system through. What has happened is that every other viewpoint has folded up beneath that level of questioning, leaving my own belief system as the only one able to answer every question and to answer it well.

All this to say one thing — yes, I believe that these are all questions that one can speculatively ask. I believe that it is expected that we should ask them, that it is good and healthy to do so. Not everyone will arrive at the same answers, of course, and many who arrive at different answers will criticize and belittle those who come to different ones. But the process of searching out your own worldview is important, and I do not think that there is any question that is off-limits. Ask the questions, find the answers. Through the process everyone will have the opportunity to choose or reject God. Through the process He will get all the glory.

Close-Mindedness, Open-Mindedness, and Meta-Systemic Thinking

Seen on a bumper sticker on the way home this evening:

bq. “The mind is like a parachute-It only works when it is open.”

I find it interesting that the general assumption is that a person is either open-minded or close-minded. It’s like you have to pick which one you want to be, and it had better not be close-minded (according to the edicts of the culture-at-large). For those who consider themselves open-minded, it’s the only way to view to the world. Open-mindedness is a breath of fresh air, allowing all men to be at peace with another because they can now accept one another without prejudice because all beliefs, all values, and all worldviews are equally correct, because there is no such thing as being right (or at least not 100% right) about anything, because it is the height of arrogance to ever propose to your fellow man that his beliefs might be in error or flawed in the slightest. The only blight upon this system are those they consider to be close-minded (a condition considered almost on a level with pedophilia, it seems), those who believe that their way is the only way, those who feel that they have no need for further analysis of their beliefs and worldviews.

Strangely enough, neither position recognizes, let alone acknowledges, the inconsistencies of their own stances. The ‘open-minded’ individual is tolerant of everything but the close-minded individual, making the open-minded individual close-minded in his very open-mindedness. The ‘close-minded’ individual is so self-assured of his correctness, of his ‘rightness’, that he is completely unwilling to acknowledge the idea that he may be mistaken in his logic or in his
conclusions and is thus unable to admit that the open-minded individual with whom he has been conversing may have a valid point. Both extremes are so confident and comfortable in their self-chosen philosophical stances that they rotely discard the entirety of the other’s arguments out of hand because it is seen as deriving from a philosophy which is completely counter to their own. Sadly, as a result, many great trues and compromises are lost to this practice, and
many great and wise men are reduced to foolishness and idiocy.

What both the open-minded individual and the close-minded individual seem to not understand is that their philosophical approaches are not simply an either/or choice but rather are two ends of a continuum. The continuum looks something like this:

Close-minded ————————– Open-minded

Every man, woman, and child alive fits somewhere along this line, and few populate the furthest extremes. Few people (if any) are so open-minded that they are willing to embrace any and every philosophy arbitrarily. And few (if any) are so close-minded that they reject every single philosophy that is not their own. Instead, everyone is open-minded about some things and close-minded about others.

I would propose that a specific mid-point be assigned to the above continuum.

Close-minded ————- Meta-System ————- Open-minded

This is my conceptualization of meta-systemic thinking. The prefix meta in this case means “beyond; transcending; more comprehensive; at a higher state of development.” When applied to thinking systems, meta opens up a whole new world of possibilities. It combines the best of close-minded and open-minded thinking while discarding the worst of both. Meta-systemic thinking would be known, in more familiar terms, as critical thinking, but in calling it meta-systemic thinking, certain implications and techniques are found that the definition of ‘critical thinking’ has lost (or never had).

Meta-systemic thinking approaches every philosophy and every worldview with a fresh eye, critiquing, anyalzing, breaking down, identifying assumptions, naming presuppositions, ferreting out flaws, and praising strengths. Meta-systemic thinking collates all that which is worth keeping and discards all that which is not. Meta-systemic thinking is continually reshaping the individual, being just open-minded enough to accept the possibility that a personal conclusion
or bit of logic may be flawed and in being willing to correct that flaw, even in accepting a bit of truth from a philosophy traditionally viewed as being wholly incorrect. It is also just close-minded enough to be willing to settle down to a firm stance once the individual believes that all available information has been gathered and processed and the chaff discarded. It is something of a tight-rope to walk, constantly struggling to balance on the edge of correctness while admitting the flaw of human error. Meta-systemic thinking acknowledges the existence of absolute truth and that that truth can be known by men. Meta-systemic thinking is an ongoing process, lifelong and continual, but overall it is a healthier and more robust approach to critical thought.

What I find so amazing is how few individuals are unwilling or unable to engage in meta-systemic thought, allowing instead personal hubris to interfere. Many a productive discussion has been derailed by the refusal to critically listen and think about the opposing argument and adjust accordingly. If only more people were willing to use their minds, rather than their feelings, to engage the world, we might find ourselves in a better place.

Is It Wrong to Be Right?

“Everyone who is consumed with being right and a little too uptight about being exact and so on shoudl take heed of my little girl’s quote: “‘R’ is for ‘Bunny'” was her response when we were doing flashcards the other night. The letter R was on one side and a picture of a rabbit on
the other.”

In this postmodern society, it is less important for an individual to be right than it is to make sure that no one’s feelings get hurt, that the social relationship is preserved and without conflict. It is more important to avoid offending anyone, to avoid telling anyone that they are wrong, than it is to make sure that the information you have and believe is true and accurate. The unspoken rule now is that it might just be wrong to be right because it might hurt someone’s ego or damage their self-esteem.

The trouble is that this approach is dangerous. I think it may be a part of why so many of our generation are unable to articulate what they believe, why their worldviews and values and standards waffle and waver so much. No one is allowed to be right, at least not obviously so, because of the effect that being right might have on others. There are countless examples in our society where what is right and true and correct is passed over in favor of what looks and
feels best. In the end the final result is shallow and meaningless, leaving everyone without guidance and direction.

Biblically, I believe we are called to seek out that which is right and true, to know what you believe and to know it so well that you can defend it to any who would attack it. Certainty and confidence are powerful allies and can set your course straight and honest. All things have a right and a wrong, but often it requires experience and wisdom to discern the difference, and wisdom is so dearly lacking in our society. How can there be wisdom when one is not allowed
to be right? How can there be wisdom when one is not allowed to speak his mind and give voice to truth and discernment? So, we must try everything, sifting it carefully, using wisdom and the
guidance of the Holy Spirit to determine that which is right, setting it in a place of prominence so that it may gleam forth and draw others toward God.

My Head Is Decidely Full

So many good topics of discussion going on in so many places
right now.� I wish I had the time to run each one down thoroughly
and hash it out with people whose thoughts and opinions I so
respect.� For now I have to simply content myself with thoughtful
and quiet contemplation.� Just a few topics waging war inside my
skull:

-Intellectual reasons for rejecting God
-Knowing when to speak up for what’s right and dealing with those who don’t want to hear it
-Existentialism, modernism, postmodernism, and other philosophical worldviews
-The hardcore 1611 KJV crowd and their affect on the collective testimonies of the Body of Christ

Like I said, a lot going on up in the ol’ noggin.� I’ll be lucky to fall asleep before midnight…

Forced Worship

[Why is it that I always come up with my best thoughts when I’m driving down the road, listening to jazz, away from any venue where I could possibly actually record my thoughts as they come to me? I really ought to find my mini-recorder and keep it in the Explorer with me….]

I recently just finished up a CD series of Donald Carson, who spoke this past winter at Cedarville University during the annual Staley Lectureship Series. He spoke on the emergent church movement and integration of postmodernism into that movement. Something that he said really stuck out to me — postmodernism holds as one of its primary foundations the establishment of personal experience to determine truth. This method of finding ‘truth’ has crept into the church and influenced it in ways that I, personally, find somewhat alarming.

Something that has stuck in my craw for a few years now has finally been revealed to me, based upon this ‘revelation’. The worship times at Cedarville (during my five-year tenure there), especially the student-led times, often had a feeling of wrongness to them. A good friend of mine described it like this: “It was like they were ‘forcing’ us to worship, like they were saying, ‘Worship, dang it!'” This was in response to the call to worship, where the congregation was called to think on God, to think on all He has done for us, and to worship him with your heart, essentially with your feelings, your emotions. On the surface, this all sounded very good, but something still stuck out as being wrong about it. In reflection now, I see that this call to worship focused almost exclusively on the experience of God, little on the knowledge of Him and on His revealed truth through His Word. And the songs we sang, the worship choruses, were fantastic for building up emotion and describing the experience of God in our lives, but they also left me feeling theologically destitute, frequently neglecting words of Scripture, words of absolute truth to put all my experiences as a Christian, as a follower of Jehovah, into perspective in light of the Almighty One of Heaven, instead paving over them with poetic niceties. (Don’t get me wrong; I believe there is a place for this sort of worship, just not to exclusivity.) This is the wrongness that I perceived there, this almost single-minded focus on the experience, to the near-exclusion of the absolute and powerfully revealed truth of the Bible.

The weakness of this is that each individual interprets the same experience in a slightly different way, thereby gleaning a different version of the ‘truth’ than all the others. Truth suddenly becomes relative to the individual, based upon their own analysis of the experience in question. Multiple psychological studies have shown that people often define reality by their experiences, much more so in today’s world than in any other time in history. Their ideas of what is true and what is not is flavored by the circumstances they encounter each and every day. The trouble is, every single person encounters a different version of the ‘truth’ because of this approach. Of course, a postmodernist would probably now say that this all the more justification for their worldview, that nothing can ever be truly known because every person’s perspective is slightly different, that reality is constantly shifting for everyone because the only basis they have for ‘truth’ is their own experience of the world around them. They would even say that individual interpretation of the Bible as a standard for absolute truth is perpetually flawed and relative to personal experience because everyone is going to interpret the Bible according to the ways in which they perceive and experience the world. And yet, this is a flawed premise, in and of itself, for the Bible can be interpreted according to an unchanging standard and often be applied to a wide variety of circumstances and settings. All this is not to belittle the practicality of experience in determining truth. Paul himself, in many of his epistles to the early church, specifically encouraged the saints to test their faith against their own experiences and knowledge. But he also pointed them to Scripture, pointing out their sins and flaws, pointing them back to the path that leads to Christ. So, while experience is valuable for the testing of our faith and the working of our salvation, it cannot be held up exclusively as the only means for establishing truth because our own interpretations of experiences are frequently flawed and tainted by our finite sensory and cognitive capacities. The one source of truth that I am aware of that never changes (and has never changed over the centuries) is the Holy Scriptures, and while my own experiences help me understand this God that I love a little better and relate to my fellow man, they fall short of the true understanding of Him who I serve. Can I ever hope to know God and His truth fully? No. Not ever, for I am limited in my understanding, and I always, ever will be. But it is not enough to stop me from trying to learn more and understand more, from the only Source of true knowledge, for all the rest of my days. And I expect that I will often be wrong in my understanding. But I can frame my daily experiences within the context of the Word of God, and thereby gain truth and sanity and direction for my life.

Self-perpetuating Philosophical Lifestyle Cycles

I have a wondering, something I have thought about recently and frequently. I am interested in any feedback that anyone has on this topic. It’s called “self-perpetuating philosophical lifestyle cycles.”

Which came first: the chicken, or the egg? Or put another way, which came first: the philosophy, or the lifestyle?

I know a number of Christians who see one of their ‘fellows’ living a particular lifestyle. Let’s choose Goth, just for a developmental example (and for those of you who consider yourselves to be Goth, please take no offense; I am neither condemning nor picking on you; I just need something to develop this thought, so please bear with me). And let’s pick a person to be our Goth — Trudy, for instance.

So, Trudy is a Goth and has been for a couple of years now. She’s just in her first year of college. She is a Christian, been saved since she was seven years old. In fact, her dad is a pastor. Trudy is also very strong in her faith. But she prefers the dark look of the Goth, with the clothing, the makeup, the piercings, the works. Now, I repeat my former question: which came first? The thoughts and philosophies, or the lifestyle?

Put it in more general terms now. Does a person begin thinking a particular way and then ‘discover’ a lifestyle that fits that way of thinking? Or do they find a lifestyle that attracts them (for any variety of reasons) and fall into that lifestyle, with the lifestyle gradually (or not so gradually) changing the way that person thinks? Is it different for different poeple? (BTW – you can insert pretty much any lifestyle into this example — punk, hippy, drug addict, alcoholic, child abuser, pastor, businessman, etc.). Does the person choose the lifestyle, or does the lifestyle choose the person (in a manner of speaking)?

And then, once in the lifestyle, does it become a cycle? Does the thought encourage the lifestyle, which encourages the thought, which encourages the lifestyle, and so on and so forth? When, where, and how is ita good thing? A bad thing? How does one break the cycle if they decide it is a bad thing?

I have a theory on this, but before I choose to post it, I’m interested in hearing some feedback, if any cares to contribute…..