Ligon Duncan on the Non-Negotiables of the Gospel

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  • Tuesday, October 21, 2008

    BPC Worldview Conference Notes: Lecture 1 "Intutitions of the Heart: A Biblical View of Human Reason

    Intuitions of the Heart: A Biblical View of Human Reason

    Few Americans have been taught to think in terms of worldviews. They do not know what a worldview is; they could not spell out the content of their own worldview if their lives depended upon it; they are unaware of how various aspects of conflicting worldviews clash logically.
    - Ronald Nash

    I. The Biblical Worldview: This is God’s Story or The Big Picture
    A. Creation: God formed all things (explains the origins of the universe as well as its orderly nature and character, it’s beauty and majesty, etc.; He created man in his image/likeness so that man is a moral creature, with the capacity and desire to know God and the world truly, to be social and familial and culture makers, to reason, create, and govern, etc.)
    B. The Fall: Sin deformed all things (the world in natural and moral evil; man’s relationship with God, with each other, his culture making, his reasoning capacities, etc.).
    C. Redemption: Christ reforms all things (God promised that the offspring of the woman would crush the head of the serpent, destroy death and evil, and bring salvation and healing to the whole world; to this end, He does it in the most unexpected unpredictable seemingly impossible and therefore glorious way: He called Abraham, promised Him that His descendants would be a blessing to the whole world, and that one of His descendants, Jesus Christ, Son of David, Son of Abraham, Son of God, would accomplish full redemption of the world by announcing the worldwide expansion of His Kingdom and showcasing to the world that the way of the Kingdom was not through earthly glory but service and suffering, even death on a cross. Christ’s kingdom is here already and it is not here yet. Indeed, all throughout history, God gives us little pictures of the Big Picture. He chooses a people (Adam/Eve, Israel, Christians from every tribe, tongue and nation), gives them a place (Eden, Canaan, Church, New Heavens and New Earth), personally dwells among and rules over them (in the garden with His word, in the Temple with His Law, among the followers of Jesus with Himself as suffering servant, in the church and our hearts, with His Spirit, and in the New Jerusalem with Himself as King. At that point, He will make all things new (Rev. 21:5).
    D. This is a worldview. It tells us where we are (my Father’s world), who we are (image bearers), why we are here (spiritual, social, and cultural purposes), what’s gone wrong (human rebellion and misuse), and what’s the remedy (the restoration of the kingdom of God through person and work of Christ). Learn it, share it, love it, work in it.
    II. Introduction: Why worldview thinking?
    A. Because it is at the heart of how we were created to think, as humans and Christians, which means it is the heart of the separation between people (worldview conflict; dispute over whole systems of thought)
    B. Because it is the Christian’s mandate to heal and restore all things in the world back to their original and good creational purposes by offering the world a comprehensive and unifying view of truth, not a divided view of reality.
    C. Because God’s story, which moves history from Eden to the new Jerusalem, is True and therefore makes sense. It is logically consistent, empirically plausible, and experientially livable compared to other worldviews, like Naturalism and Postmodernism.
    III. What is a worldview?
    A. Al Wolters’ in Creation Regained – “comprehensive framework of one’s basic beliefs about things.” ‘Things’ refers to the range of things we might hold beliefs about, e.g., suffering, family life, evil, ethics, purpose, history, God, origins, etc. ‘Beliefs’ says something about the nature of our claims about the world (they are our ultimate convictions; the kind we are least likely to change and most likely to defend). ‘Framework’ indicates that there is a unifying and comprehensive nature to worldviews. They tend to try and be logically coherent and explain everything.
    B. Key Questions (the puzzle ‘corners’ of everyone’s worldview)
    1. Ultimate reality. What is eternally self-existent? Bible’s God? Hindus’ gods? Plato’s forms? The materialists’ matter?
    2. Truth. Can we know it, if so how? Through reason alone? Through revelation? Through science alone? Often, this is put forward as the “touchstone proposition.” The starting premise which is put forward as a given and by which all other truth claims are judged. It is the ultimate measuring stick by which all else is judged and upon which all else depends. This starting assumption must be accepted by faith, not by prior reasoning, otherwise it is not really the ultimate starting point. For the Christian, the ultimate starting point is the word of God. In the Christian system, nothing can stand in judgment of the Word of God because nothing is prior to or higher than the word of God (John 8:14 and Heb 6:13, Jesus and God swear by their own authority). If that sounds like a circular argument, it is. But everyone argues in a circle this way. Something must be assumed as an ultimate criterion of truth in order to judge every other truth claim. For others it may be the Koran, the individual, popular vote, etc. Again, we are comparing whole systems of thought (worldviews). We assume that Bible is self-authenticating. Others will assume that something else is self-authenticating.
    3. Ethics. On what basis do we make moral judgments, determine right from wrong? Are ethics absolute? Are they invented by us from within or do they come to us from without?
    4. Origins/Destiny. Why is there something rather than nothing? Where is it all headed? What happens when we die? Are humans special? How special? Is there an afterlife?
    C. Worldview as spectacles – we look through them, we ‘indwell’ them, we rarely look at them. They are the prisms, interpretive grids, through which we see and interpret the world.
    IV. Worldviews: The Heart of Human Reason
    A. A Matter of the Heart.

    Pascal here reminds us that our beliefs about the world are ultimately controlled by our hearts. They are the intuitions of the heart. Again, these intuitions or presuppositions or core beliefs or first principles can not be proven in the normal sense. They are givens or assumptions taken on faith. They are the premises upon which we build our whole worldview. They are the ultimate answers to ultimate questions (What is man, What is God like, How do I know what is true, where are we all headed). Our hearts are the seat or government of our ideas, mind, actions, etc. It governs all we do, think, believe, etc. Reason does not determine who we are or what we think, our hearts do or our natures do. It’s not for lack of reason or evidence that the non-Christian remains at war with God. It’s that he is enslaved to a sinful heart and has yet to be liberated from the bondage of sin so that he can think correctly (as he was intended to think). Psalm 14:1 “The fool…”
    The Chief Regulator of our being. It regulates our wisdom (Prov 2:10), our emotions (Jn 14:1), desire and will (1 Chron 29:18), spirituality (Acts 8:21), and intellect (Rom 1:21). These faculties are not functioning properly to the extent that they are not governed by the Lord and King Jesus Christ.
    B. The Biblical View of Human Reason (Romans 1:18-22, 32)
    1. Origin of rationality – God is described as the divine Logos (where we get the word logic). He is the ground of rational thought. Having been made in the image of God (a personal absolute rational orderly being who can’t lie), man was likewise created with the ability to reason, with the capacity for rational thought, with the capacity to know the world truly and properly. Reason is the means by which revelation from God concerning Himself and the world is understood and organized in the mind.
    2. The Fall, having touched every aspect of the creation, also marred all of man’s faculties, including his reasoning capabilities. He then uses his God-given mind to war against God, embracing & constructing all sorts of non-Christian worldviews, which reduce his thought to irrationality and makes his thinking an exercise in futility.
    3. Fallen Man: Romans 1:18-22, 32. Man in some sense knows God through revelation (21). His power and nature, His law, the fact that he deserves his Wrath are plainly seen so that man is without excuse (18-20); but they suppress that knowledge in unrighteousness (18b). Yet, because they live in our Father’s World, share in His common grace, and because fallen man is still a divine imager bearer, man will draw on God’s gifts (doing good, using logic, trusting his senses, etc.), but does so without acknowledging the Giver (21) and he uses reasoning to construct all sorts of “futile thoughts” or irrational and self-destructive worldviews (21). They will desire autonomy from God and resort to idolatry to escape him (22-23). When he is pressed to give an account for these things (logic, morality, knowledge, science), he will not ultimately be able to escape the reality that he can’t function apart from the God of the Bible and that his own worldviews fail to explain his life experience and the world he lives in. Indeed, he can’t make sense of anything apart from the Triune God of Scripture. Example: Like a volleyball under water! (Also see 1 Cor. 2:14)
    4. The goal of worldview evangelism is to remind the unbeliever about the God they subconsciously know by showing them first the futility of their own worldview (how it reduces to irrationality and can’t be consistently lived out) and how the Christian worldview is superior since it consistently accounts for logic, morality, science, and basic human experience, the preconditions of knowledge. No other worldview provides it.
    5. But it will not be until he is born again that he will be able to see and appreciate Christ and His Kingdom (John 3:3). So be patient and loving.
    6. What about the Christian? Avoid sin of syncretism (the fusion of different worldviews; an oft repeated plea to the people of God in the prophetical literature like Jeremiah). We are to be circumcised in heart not only in the way we live but in the way we think (Jeremiah 9). Christians are commanded to avoid thinking like the non-Christian (even to win him). We are not to pretend or put aside the fact that God exists and that we can’t think or function apart from him. Ephesians 4:17-19 ( 17So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts) and Col 2:8-10 (8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. 9For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.). This is part of what it means to not be conformed to the world but transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2), to take every thought captive to the word of Christ. 2 Cor 10:5-6 “The tools of our trade aren't for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ” (The Message). This is what it means to build your house upon the Rock, to begin to see everything through the lens of a Christian worldview. Even if we fail to win souls for Christ, we must never try and prove the truthfulness of Christianity by reaching “common ground” or claiming to be neutral or embracing the methodology of the unbeliever. This is dishonest and dishonoring to God. Rather, “let God be true and every man a liar” (Rom 3:4). We must remember that, according to Deut 32:31, “their rock is not our Rock…”
    V. Worldview neutrality is impossible: Greg Bahnsen’s advice to Christian students entering the University regarding pressure to be ‘neutral’: “They aren’t and you shouldn’t be.” Because all men have a heart enslaved to something (Christ or sin; father in heaven or the devil) and because all human systems of thought must logically begin with faith in an ultimate principle (or criterion for truth), worldview neutrality is impossible. Christians, particularly in the public space, are commonly told to be neutral, to put aside their beliefs about the Bible or God, look at things without preconceived ideas, be non-committal and open-minded (keep church at church). But no one is; no one can be. Rather all men are religious. Why? Because facts can’t be separated from their interpretations. Facts don’t speak, we speak for them. Facts are understood in terms broad systems of thought.
    A. Can’t be neutral with respect to faith. The “pretended neutrality” fallacy (Bahnsen). No one is neutral. It is misleading to speak of ‘people of faith’ as if there are some people who know things because they are not neutral and some people who believe things because they are ‘religious.’ No, there are only believers in different things. The question is not ‘to believe or not to believe.’ The question is, ‘in what shall we believe?’ As one historian has said, "Religion must always be judged on the basis of another religion." Why? Because all things, even ‘scientific facts,’ are interpreted through the prism or framework of someone’s overarching worldview. We may all see the stars. But the naturalist sees only cosmic debris; the eastern religionist sees the Oneness with all things; and the Christian is awed by the splendid creativity of Almighty God. USM example: men cheat. The speaker explained the fact that men cheat on their wives from the perspective of his worldview (man is an animal whose sole purpose is to spread his genes. The most efficient means of doing that is multiple partners. So, men cheat and society’s efforts to constrain him will fail because cheating is natural). But we could start with different assumptions, another worldview. God mad man in his image, but man fell and became not only unfaithful to God but is pressured from within to be unfaithful to his wife and children. He feels guilty for cheating because deep down he has God’s law written on heart but his sin nature often gets the best of him. Efforts to constrain cheating will often fail because man’s heart needs supernatural surgery.” Same fact, diff interpretation (one is allowed in the university, the other is not).
    B. But what about science? Neutral, right? Non-neutrality is true ‘even’ of science: Before the scientist walks into the lab, he/she makes major philosophical assumptions in order to make research possible (Newbigin, Polanyi, Kuhn). 1. They make ethical assumptions (honesty is good, vital for research; we ought to answer questions in certain ways; some questions are worth studying more than other). 2. They make metaphysical assumptions (the universe is regular, uniform, orderly). 3. They make epistemological assumptions (memories are reliable, reports from other scientists are trustworthy, knowledge is possible, there is a real correspondence between physical phenomena and the human mind). Einstein always described science not as an assumption-less philosophy or value free exercise. Rather, what is true of a great poet is true of a great scientist, intuition (rather than some mechanical neutral process) is essential to good science. “The mechanics of discovery are neither logical nor intellectual. It’s a sudden illumination, almost a rapture. Later, to be sure, intelligence and analysis and experiment confirm or invalidate the intuition. But initially there is a great leap of the imagination.” So, we are told that there is the realm of believing (values, opinions) in which we are non-neutral; then there is the realm of knowing (facts, science and reason) in which we are neutral. What we see instead is that science is not ethically, metaphysically, epistemologically or practically neutral (it’s not worldview neutral). Rather than two paths to learning, there appears to be one. To know is to believe; no knowing without believing; believing is the path to knowing. As Augustine said, I believe so that I may understand. That’s how we are wired. Richard Lewontin – “We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have an a prior commitment, a commitment to [the worldview of] materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, we are forced to by our a priori adherence to material causes… Moreover, [we say] that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.” "Billions and Billions of Demons"
    C. Now many, probably most, people hold worldviews unconsciously. Most people do not get up trying to justify their use of logic, math, senses, ethics, etc. They just use them. They don’t get up actively thinking of man as the moral equivalent of an ant. But they may hold that position when pressed. This is the task of worldview evangelism, to get people to discover their worldview, to challenge them to live according to that worldview, and to tell them how God’s Story of creation, the Fall, redemption/consummation in Christ can better answer the ultimate questions in life than any other alternate belief system concerning who we are, where we come from, how we can know things, etc.
    That is the message we need to press home to our friends and to our impressionable kids. They need to know that everyone embraces one philosophy or another-a worldview that defines his or her conception of the world, of reality, and of human life. These beliefs are woven into movies-often in subtle ways that viewers miss. That is why it's so important that we teach our kids how to find the worldview message in every film. - Chuck Colson

    VI. Challenge: Always look for ways to explain the world in terms of the Christian worldview, especially with kids. It get’s easier. And once you become familiar with the Christian worldview as holistic (Total in scope), you will see it more and more all around you, in movies, in your work, in parenting. Ask new Questions: We work, but why? We clean, but why? Why do we have to rake the yard? (God intends for us to be custodians of His garden and keep it clean until Christ returns). Why is it humane to put sickly or week animals or homeless animals to sleep but not their human counterparts? (we are made in the image of God and so we all know deep down that humans are below the angels but above animals). Why does 1+1=2? (rational God) Why do some men do horrible things like murder and others do wonderful things like cure diseases? (fall, image and common grace). Why can we generally trust that our senses and minds correctly understand much in the world? (God has fashioned our bodies and minds and he has structured the world so that we can know the world truly and properly). Why is it okay to own cattle? (man is given dominion over the earth). Why is there government? Why do humans have rights that dogs do not? To all these, we can confidently say to the unbeliever and our kids, “God has revealed to us that…” To the unbeliever, we can say, let’s compare explanations and the consequences of those explanations. Let’s judge each others’ religion! Let’s see if your worldview answers these questions while remaining logically consistent, explaining the world as we experience it, and is livable.

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