I call upon You, Lord, God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob and Israel, You who are the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who, through the abundance of your mercy, was well-pleased towards us so that we may know You, who made heaven and earth, who rules over all, You who are the one and the true God, above whom there is no other God; You who, by our Lord Jesus Christ gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit, give to every one who reads this writing to know You, that You alone are God, to be strengthened in You, and to avoid every heretical and godless and impious teaching.

St Irenaeus of Lyons, Against the Heresies 3:6:4

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Worldviews: Faith Goes Deeper Still

Scripture and experience have taught me how little the creation-evolution debate actually has to do with evidences and “science.”  Solid creationist materials have highlighted that what is at stake in this is an all-out clash of worldviews.  Even the humanist materials have, consciously or not, alluded to this reality here and there, mentioning the socio-situational relativity of the scientific enterprise.  This observation helps us get beneath the fact-lobbing type of discourse and into a deeper analysis of the conflict between not facts and evidences per se but each perspective’s philosophy of fact and philosophy of evidence, and most importantly the nature of epistemological authorities.  However, I now question if the worldview level of analysis is sufficient for truly understanding what is at stake for the subjects holding one or the other of these antithetical perspectives. 

I believe to really get at the root of the divide, at least of the personal, existential, or psychological level, we need to look even deeper than mere worldviews.  Worldviews are not selected like pudding or pie at a buffet; neither are they caught passively like a common cold.  Rather, just as philosophical theorizing and scientific hypothesizing have a particular worldview undergirding them, that worldview is not a self-sufficient, self-grounding paradigm.  Worldviews are themselves a more or less self-consistent, more or less internally coherent and systematic expression of a deeper heart commitment, namely a faith. 

Every worldview—again, consciously or not—is characterized by faith.  When we are plumbing questions of the origin and destination of the world, and by extension ourselves, the unity and diversity of our experience, and such matters, we soon discover that the answers to these questions are far beyond analytical or linear reason and even farther from inductive, scientific thought and theory.  The answers ultimately grow out of what Herman Dooyeweerd called a ‘religious ground-motive.’  This is equally true for both Christian and non-Christian worldviews.  This religious ground-motive is prior to and tethers the entirety of one’s life attitude or outlook.  As Solomon said, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23; cf. Matt. 12:35).  So, just as worldview is logically and practically prior to one’s epistemic authority and philosophy of facts and evidences, so also is one’s deepest heart commitment, that is, faith, prior to his worldview.

This realization has had a subjective and objective effect on my thinking about the creation-evolution debate.  With respect to the subjective side, this realization has granted me an even sounder cognitive rest in my faith commitment to a young-earth creational view.  Understanding the pre-worldview commitments involved helps to undermine any insecurity that a Christian may have in the face of evolutionary theories and so-called evidences.  The debate is ultimately not, as it is often misunderstood to be, faith versus reason, even less is it religion versus science.  It is one faith commitment versus another; it is ultimately two antithetical religious ground-motives in mortal combat.  Additionally, because the relatively young-earth creational view is perfectly self-consistent and self-referentially coherent, as an integral element of the biblical worldview; and, because of my faith commitment to the biblical worldview through the gospel of Jesus Christ, I find myself at imperturbable cognitive rest in the biblical creational perspective. 

With respect to the objective side, these observations have serious implications for apologetical and evangelistic engagements.  If these observations are so, then no amount of so-called scientific evidence will change a person’s mind, toward either direction in the debate.  This does not disparage the right place and purpose of evidences within the broader context of a particular worldview.  What it does do is encourage the apologist-witness to quickly move the direction of the conversation to the crux of the issue, the misplaced faith and faulty ground-motive of the non-Christian, who needs to experience a Copernican revolution, so to speak, of the heart—repentance and trusting obedience to the gospel of Christ. 

All this has led to a related disposition, that is, a more critical view of so-called scientific truth, whether in the context of either worldview, be it creationism or humanism-evolution.  Science—all science—is a human endeavor.  Science is one expression of the human response to God’s revelation in nature.  It is the attempt at producing a systematic ordering and description of the created order.  As such, true science is always provisional and contingent; at best, we may ascribe to its conclusions ‘scientific knowledge,’ but never ‘scientific truth.’  Because of its inherent nature, scientific reasoning can never achieve epistemic certainty; it can never result in “truth.”  Truth is immutable, that is, unchanging.  However, the natural order, which is the lawful field of scientific investigation, is always changing.  Truth is eternal or timeless; science deals only with the temporal structures of reality.  Truth is abstract, whereas science deals only with concrete particulars.  Truth is universal, but scientific studies are, again, bound to particulars. Therefore, anytime the conclusion is reach, which claims to have been demonstrated as “scientific truth,” one can rest assured that the argument for the so-called “truth” is a non-sequitur—that is, it does not follow. 

Similar to the first, this observation has a two-fold effect.  First, when confronting evolutionary “truth,” in so far as the proponent claims to be conducting science, it is demonstrable that his reasoning is fallacious and will always be so.  Every claim to scientific “truth” is false, ironically.  This, I believe, would be immensely helpful for young Christians especially and their interpretations and explanations of the popular science on TV and in other media, which naively presents the findings or those of others as “scientific truth.”  Secondly, it teaches us that despite our commitment to creationism, we must be cautious with respect to a number of statements in Scripture.  The creation account of Scripture was not written by scientists for scientists, neither was it meant to serve as a scientific textbook.  The biblical account of creation is pre-scientific, as are all origin accounts, including evolution, pantheism, and the rest.  It is pre-scientific in both the historical and the logical sense.  Historically, the creation account is centuries anterior to the rise of modern science.  Logically, in light of the above observations, it is anterior to scientific investigation.  However, this is the case with all accounts of the origin and destination of humanity and the cosmos.  So, this must be borne in mind, while considering the manifold aspects of the debate.  To say that the creation account is pre-scientific in either sense is not to suggest that it is un- or anti-scientific at all.  However, as they put it is my neck of the woods, “It is what it is.”  Therefore, we must take it on its own terms and resist at all costs the temptation of imposing a modernistic, scientific mode of thought upon the text.

For me, then, all of this is compelling me to look beyond the typical battleground passages of the debate toward other deep, related, and profound statements, as I continue to nurture my creational outlook.  Consider passages like St. Paul’s doxological outburst in Romans 11:36, “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen;” or, the Christ creed of Colossians 1, “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence” (vv. 16—18).  How should these texts shape one’s creational outlook?  It is typical among creationist literature to point out that one will have an anemic view of Christ if he doubts Genesis 1, but what if we inverted the reasoning; we will have a warped view of creation apart from a full, rich knowledge and grace as it is in the incomprehensible Christ.  Let us therefore keep the Center, Christ. 

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