Monthly Archives: September 2013

This is Your World: The Human Divide

The Truth Divide I wrote about before is one major piece of the puzzle in determining why the world is the way it is, and why people think the way they do, but it is not the entire thing. Another crucial piece is the affect it had on the way people view themselves. I’ll call this the human divide, or the person divide, as just like with truth, people began to have a two-story view of themselves.

As we talked about before, humans began to view truth in a fragmented way, with the lower story belonging solely to physics and math, and therefore to facts, and the upper story belonging to everything else. The upper story included things which were only subjective, because they could not be tested via the scientific method, or verified by the senses. These were things like love, meaning, ethics, morality, religion, and purpose.

Consequently, people began to question what it means to be a human being. This is something that people have asked since forever, but with this two story framework in place, people began to develop a fragmented view of the self. Scientific discoveries and advancements translated down to the public into new machines, and people began to make connections between the machines of the day and the way the human body operates. In today’s terminology, we often hear how the brain is much like an advanced computer.

Classically, cultures have divided the human self into the physical/biological portions and the spiritual portions. With the divided view of truth solidly in place, the only thing that was on the lower story was the physical body. The upper story contained everything that made human life worth living. Things like meaning and purpose, love and hope, ethics and morality. In psychological terms, the things in the upper story would be referred to as the “I” or the “self” , and then you have the body, which is a biological organism, or a biochemical machine.

Important in this discussion is the idea of autonomy. Since this is something that cannot be tested by science or interpreted by the senses, it is, by necessity, an upper story concept. The body is basically something that carries out the will of the “self”. The upper story (call it mind, soul, spirit, what have you) is autonomous (makes free decisions) and in cause and effect style, the body responds. In a way, this gets around the discussion of determinism/free will by simply shifting the determinism into the lower story and the free will into the upper story.

The lower story can be determined by a number of things. Biological forces determine how our body reacts to certain things, and our autonomous (upper story) self makes choices that determine what the biochemical machines known as our bodies will do. Interestingly, this is an attempt of the upper story worldviews (heirs of the Romanticism tradition) to take over the lower story worldviews (heirs of the Enlightenment tradition). Some of this came about when quantum physics discovered that things aren’t as “solid” as we originally thought. The connection was made that if things weren’t as solid as we thought they were, then maybe the scientific and mathematic communities aren’t the sole bearers of truth they were thought to be.

This is a radical departure from the Christian approach to our bodies, which holds that our bodies are fallen, but ultimately redeemed and are part of what makes us partakers of the image of God. This fragmented view of the human body has important implications on the current issues of our day. Next we will take a look at those issues and determine how to best respond to them in ways that are both meaningful to the world, and helpful to the cause and glory of God.

SDG

This is Your World: The Truth Divide

I think most people recognize the relativism which is so prevalent in society today, but the roots of that stretch back much further, and its roots are much deeper than usually appears.

Have you ever found it interesting that only certain things are considered relative? Every time you try and bring up God or what is right or wrong, or if a certain piece of music/art is good or not, then suddenly everything becomes relative or subjective. Those things are all relegated to personal opinion, but you will never see people clamoring for architecture built by a relativist who doesn’t necessarily believe in the holding power of welding or in the effects of gravity. We see parents committed to raise their children in a “gender-neutral” environment, but you don’t see people tell their children things like “it’s time for you to go to bed, but that’s just my idea of bed-time; whatever time works for you is good too.” In order to understand why only some things seem to be relative while others don’t, we’ll have to take a quick look back at history.

Way back in the day, life used to be thought of as a coherent whole. Francis Schaeffer uses an illustration to explain this by drawing a circle in the sand. One guy would draw a circle and say “There. You can explain everything in life if you just use my circle.” Then the next guy would say “No no no, that circle doesn’t work, you need this circle to explain everything.” and that’s how things progressed for some time. Eventually, people realized that after decades of circle making, clearly nothing worked the way those old people thought they did. And if the old ways didn’t work, then we needed to come up with another system for figuring life out.

Beginning in the 1540s or so, we had the beginnings of the scientific revolution. Science and math were joining forces and making discoveries and improvements every other day (or so it seemed), and people were rightly impressed. Certain philosophers started thinking that in order to solve the old circles problem, all they had to do is observe the methods the scientists were using (since they had so much success) and apply them to philosophy and all the old problems would disappear.

The methods they observed were basically these: scientists found things via their senses and their experiments. So philosophers started what became known as Empiricism. The idea there is that the only things that are true (or, at the very least, the things we know to be true) are those things that science and math can find. So things that we find out through our senses, and that can be tested in scientific experiments or calculated with mathematics.

David Hume was the big dog in this fight, and he took empiricism and applied it to morality. If sense data (things we learn from our senses) was what was true, then morality must fight this model. What we find to be moral must be things that bring us pleasure, and things we find immoral must be things that bring us pain. This was a huge step, if you think about the old way of thinking. Philosophy, and therefore truth, was a coherent whole where you had to figure out something that made sense of all of life. Hume started the divide that would come to dominate philosophy, and sooner or later, all of thinking.

Immanuel Kant took things much further than Hume did, and he really laid the groundwork for the way we see things today. The general worldview that most people have, whether they are secular or even Christian to an extent, more or less came from Kant. What came out of the dust clouds of Hume and Kant became known as the fact/value split. Basically, anything we could know for sure via math and the scientific method were deemed “facts” and everything else was under the “value” umbrella. Francis Schaeffer described this with the analogy of a building with two stories. It looks like this:

Values (Upper Story)

——————————–

Facts (Lower Story)

 

The implications of this were huge then, and are still today, though most people function on this view without realizing it. This was the step that started the perceived conflict between religion and science. For if things like the existence of God can’t be tested or perceived through the senses, then clearly it can’t be a fact. It is thrown into the upper story; into the realm of subjective things and mere preference or feelings.

However, it wasn’t just religion that was in danger of this mind-splitting philosophy. All sorts of things were relegated to the upstairs. This didn’t happen all at once, but over the centuries, everything from the concept of truth at all, to religion, metaphysics, ethics, morals, love, beauty, aesthetics, opinions, values, and even philosophy itself got thrown upstairs. And if those things weren’t “facts” then they must actually be illusions.

In order to save space, I’ve flown over a lot, but this happened in very subtle ways (though there were certainly some overt things going on too), and became very common. So much so that you could have people like Martin Luther King Jr. say “Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values.” and similarly, Einstein echoes “Science yields facts but not ‘value judgments’; religion expresses values but cannot ‘speak of facts’.

This had ripple effects (or perhaps tsunami effects) throughout the various disciplines of art, music, philosophy, ethics etc. and you can see this around you every day. This is why only some things in our society are deemed relative, while others are objective facts. Science still reigns supreme in our day, but the results of this split in thinking have been many and they have been quite disastrous.

You can be on the lookout for this as you go about your day. The next time you hear someone say “well, that’s just your opinion” or “it’s not right to push your views on others” or “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” or “you shouldn’t judge people” etc. you can recognize that as an effect of this fact/value split. As you start to realize this, you can start navigating the worldview waters of our current culture. You can start knowing how to point people back to the holistic Biblical worldview, where everything is a coherent whole.

Next time we’ll take a look at how this divided view of truth lead to a divided view of the human body.

 

SDG

Don’t Rest on Sunday

Now before you start throwing full wine bottles at your computer screens, allow me to explain what I mean. I do not mean that we should ignore the call to keep the Sabbath holy (Exodus 20:8-11) or the restatement in Hebrews or any of the various places the Bible talks about it. In fact, I think this article does a really good job with handling all those questions about what is and is not ok to do on the Sabbath. It grants a much needed perspective shift.

So if I don’t mean any of that, what do I mean? I mean that we should not let going to church be the only thing we do on Sundays. I know it’s a tendency for me (I just did it yesterday) to let going to church override any commitment I have to do anything else spiritual on Sundays. I mean, I went to church and the pastor prayed and read the Bible and we sang songs and had communion, so that has to be enough, right? Wrong. At least it is for me. 1 Peter 5:8 does not say that the Devil is a roaring lion who does no work on Sunday. In fact, if I were him, I would plan on doing a lot of attacking on Sunday, knowing that going to church tends to drop my spiritual guard.

We still need to be doing all the things we’re doing the other days of the week. Still reading the Bible (even though it was read at church) , still praying (even though praying happened at church) etc. The very next verse from the 1 Peter passage actually gives some good advice when it reads “Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” Think on your brothers and sisters in more dangerous parts of the world who are suffering for their faith. Though persecution is growing in America (I hesitate to use that word, lest it be compared with the people whose lives are at stake for the gospel) we still have it quite easy in comparison.

Sunday church provides many blessings, but it is not a substitute for your continuing growth in sanctification. I’m entirely fine with using church as a springboard for the rest of your day. Reflect on the truths presented in the sermon and in the songs sung. Meditate on the Scripture that was expounded and read more around that area.

Whatever you do, do not let up in your fight against the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Your enemy will not stop, so neither should you.

 

SDG