How do you explain evil and suffering? When you look at a beautiful sunset or see any other great spectacle in nature how do you see it? Do you see it as a product of design from a personal creator, do you see it as a product of random chance, or do you see it as an example of how the creation is actually God. How you look at these questions as well as anything else in the world is determined by your worldview.
What in the world is a worldview? It derives from the German word Weltanschauung, and refers to a system of beliefs that seek to answer questions about reality including God, the origin and destiny of mankind and the universe, the nature of truth and how it can be known, the nature of morality, what is wrong with the world, and how it can be fixed. According to theologian Norman Geizler, a worldview is like a pair of glasses that a person puts on and sees the world in. Below I will describe four different worldviews, each one is present in my family. In future posts I will describe my personal interaction with each worldview.
This worldview is held by all atheists, agnostics and existentialists. According to Naturalism, the only thing that exists, has existed, and ever will exist is the material/physical universe. There is no such thing as a soul or spirit or anything supernatural. Everything that occurs can be explained by natural causes.
For a Naturalist, mankind is no different than any other animal. Humans, like other living things, arose by chance through the random process of evolution as well as the entire universe. And just like any other animal, humans will one day be extinct.
Most Naturalists rely heavily on the scientific method to determine truth. Only that which can be proven by science or observed with the five senses can be trusted to be true. If there is something that cannot be proved or disproved by the scientific method, then it is rejected as false or superstitious (i.e. belief in God, fairies, unicorns, etc.).
While Naturalists do not have an absolute standard by which they judge morality, most agree that evil exists in the world. Many point to ignorance as the source of evil: either ignorance in the form of religion or just lack of education in general. The solution to the problem of evil is more education. If more people were educated in sound science instead of religious superstition, the world would be a better place, or so they say.
This view is held by New Age believers, some Buddhists, and Hindus. According to Pantheism, God and creation are one and have always existed. Some believe that there is some distinction between God and creation but even with those exceptions God may be greater than the universe but as the universe changes so does God.
Like Naturalists, Pantheists believe that there is no difference between humans and other animals. However, as previously mentioned, Pantheists do not deny the supernatural as Naturalists do, but they see both animals and humans as being God. They are all part of the one divine reality. Individuality is an illusion.
Unlike Naturalists, Pantheists place little stock in logical reasoning to gain truth. For them truth can only be experienced by being one with the divine. Any other source of truth is relative. Because God for them is impersonal, he does not provide absolute truth to human beings personally.
Pantheists are divided when it comes to moral values. Some believe that there is no distinction between good and evil. Others believe that as long as you do not hurt another human being or animal then the act is fine. Evil acts are the result of being ignorant of the divine within themselves. Once humans are more aware that they are really divine then evil no longer has any hold.
Postmodernism is not just a worldview, it is also a philosophy. Because of this, one could hold to Postmodernism in conjunction with another worldview. According to Postmodernism, all reality is socially constructed. There is no such thing as absolute truth. Therefore an Atheist could claim that God does not exist and a Theist could claim the opposite yet the postmodernist would say that each claim is “true for them.”
Each individual postmodernist have their own beliefs regarding the origin of humans and their view of morality. But all Postmodernists agree that humans are almost completely socially conditioned. Nobody is autonomous or free from their society. From birth, society conditions them on what to believe about themselves, others, the universe, etc. Morality is also relative. The only absolute moral truths that exist are tolerance, the freedom to believe what you want, and the refusal to claim your own truth as somebody else’s truth.
For Postmodernists, the problem with humanity is that for most of human history, people have made absolute truth claims. People have claimed their religion is the only way or their god is the only god. This has been the cause of most wars throughout history. If everyone would just admit that their truth is not absolute, but only personal to them, the world would be a much better place.
Last but not least is the worldview of theism. This worldview is held by Jews, Christians, and Muslims with slight variations. In Theism, a personal God created the universe and everything in it. God and creation are distinct but God’s amazing creativity can be seen in nature. The study of science is designed therefore to figure out how God’s creation works.
While God created everyone, he created humans in his image. They were put in charge of God’s creation to care for it and were in direct relationship with him in the beginning. However, humans rebelled against God and chose to say, “My will be done” instead of “thy will be done,” and thus humans being became sinful both by choice and by nature.
That is the problem with humanity according to Christian Theism. It is not ignorance or absolute truth claims, it is sin. Because we have rebelled against God, we are separated from him. And if we die in our sinful condition, the sentence is death and we will be forever separated from God in hell. The way to fix this problem is not through more education, people will still be selfish anyway. It is not through realizing that we are divine because we are not. It is realizing that we are sinful in the first place that we need God. For God sent his only son to die in our place and take our punishment. All we have to do is admit we are sinful, believe in Jesus, and accept him as savior and Lord of our life. Once we do that, God sends the gift of the Holy Spirit which helps us to obey God’s commands and to live a moral life.
In Theism (in all three forms), truth is absolute. It is a reflection of the true lawgiver, i.e. God. If God says that something is wrong, then it is wrong regardless whether someone believes differently. For theists, this makes morality objective rather than subjective.
Truth can be known in primarily two ways: through revelation, and through the five senses. In revelation, we learn about what God is like and that is through prayer and reading the Bible (or in the Muslim view, the Koran). Using our five senses and the scientific method, humans can learn much about the universe. And since God created the universe, studying the physical world can teach us something about God.
If you have read this far I congratulate you for being a real trooper. In future posts I will explain my personal interactions with each worldview, and why I personally and logically do not believe in the first three worldviews. In my last post in this series, I will explain why I am a Christian Theist.