worldview

Does the Universe Have a Wonderful Plan for My Life?

Is there an overarching plan for your life, the universe and everything? And if there is, just whose plan is it anyway? It has been popular in recent years to personify "the Universe," as though the matter-and energy, space-time reality we inhabit is somehow personal and even governs our lives in some way. In this episode I discuss that trend and how the personification and even deification of "the Universe" is a cheap substitute for the biblical presentation of God as the sovereign Lord over his creation (including us and the universe too).

During the time that I was a pastor at a local church (actually at a couple of local churches), I used to blog on my personal Wordpress site, Settecase.Wordpress.com. I got a lot of traffic over there, and I still do (at least by my standards), but now I write exclusively on the Think Institute site, Truthinconversation.com, so I’m faced with a dilemma. I want to preserve that blog, but I also want to deliver that content to the folks I'm serving through the Think Institute, yet without simply reposting the article onto the T. I. blog.

How do I introduce the articles, resources and content from my personal blog to the new audience of the Think Institute, and the churches I want to partner with for equipping, engagement and encouragement in Gospel ministry?

The answer is this: I’m taking some of my most popular articles from my personal blog and bringing them over to the Think Institute in audio format--i.e. as podcast episodes. I did that already with "30 Questions for Atheists, Agnostics & Skeptics, which was one of the articles on my personal blog that had gotten the most hits. And now I’m doing it with this article. I hope it's helpful and "I hope it makes you think."

Take your study further:

  • Ravi Zacharias on the four questions of a coherent worldview: https://www.rzim.org/listen/just-a-thought/a-coherent-worldview

  • Cornelius Van Til on God’s Transcendence and Immanence: https://corneliusvantil.wordpress.com/2016/04/27/transcendence-and-immanence/

  • A helpful diagram of God’s Lordship Attributes (John Frame's concept) by Neil Robbie: https://transforminggrace.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/john-m-frame-on-the-lordship-attributes/

  • “One or Two?” by Peter Jones: https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/one-or-two/

  • “The Universe Has A Plan, Kids” – a blog post by Virginia Pasley that helped inform this post: https://thoughtcatalog.com/virginia-pasley/2013/11/the-universe-has-a-plan-kids/

  • Read the original article on Joel Settecase’s personal blog: https://settecase.wordpress.com/2018/02/27/does-the-universe-have-a-wonderful-plan-for-your-life/

30 Questions to Ask Your Atheist, Agnostic & Skeptical Friends & Family

By Joel Settecase / 7-minute read

This post is designed to go along with episode 17 of the Think Podcast. You can listen to the Think Podcast here on this site or find it on your favorite podcast app by going to this link.

The other day I received a comment on one of my posts from a friend of mine who identifies as an atheist. He was offended by my post (it was about how science is not accounted for by atheism), and his comment really made me think.

My goal isn't to offend anyone, but in the course of putting so much content out on apologetics, it's bound to happen. I want to equip believers to be ready for any questions that they encounter about their faith. I talk about how to answer questions a lot, but in this episode I want to change things up a little bit, and talk about how to go on the "offensive" without being unnecessarily "offensive," and ask a few questions of our own. Of course, it’s common for Christians to be confronted with questions and objections from non-Christians about the Christian message.

We need to be ready for such questions (1 Peter 3:15). But we also need to be equipped with questions of our own. After all, we aren’t the only ones presenting a worldview.

The atheist, agnostic or skeptic also has a worldview. And like most everyone, there are likely to be aspects of that worldview he or she hasn’t fully thought through. Encouraging an unbeliever to really examine their own worldview can be a powerful apologetic tool.

The goal is not to win the argument but to engage in meaningful dialogue, to seek "truth in conversation" (the Think Institute motto) and, if the Lord gives the opportunity, to point the person to the Good News about Jesus that alone can give them forgiveness and eternal life. I hope you enjoy this and, of course, "I hope it makes you think." 

What follows is content, slightly modified, that originally appeared on my personal blog.

Christians are constantly confronted with questions about the Christian message.  We need to be ready for such questions (1 Peter 3:15). But we also need to be equipped with questions of our own.

Encouraging an unbeliever to really examine their own worldview can be a powerful apologetic tool.

The Questions

Now, here are 30 questions for atheists, agnostics and skeptics (I go into these in greater detail in the podcast episode).

  1. Are you certain that God does not exist, or that you can’t know whether He exists?

  2. How do you know that?

  3. Did you use your five senses to come to that decision?

  4. Given that God is by definition a Spirit, how much sense does it make to decide whether He exists using your five physical senses?

  5. Did you use your reasoning to determine God does not exist?

  6. How do you know your reasoning is working correctly?

  7. Did you use your reasoning to determine your reasoning was working?

  8. Do you see the problem with that?

  9. The Bible says that skepticism about God is the result of a mind suppressing what it knows to be true. Have you ever tried doubting your doubts about God?

  10. The Bible contains hundreds prophecies fulfilled hundreds of years after they were written. How would that be possible without God?

  11. The Bible says that objective moral values are based in God’s morally perfect nature. Without God, what do you think they are based in?

  12. Jesus’ disciples went from being terrified of death, to being willing to die for their belief that Jesus rose from the dead. If Jesus didn’t rise, what do you think changed their mind?

  13. There are hundreds of varieties of unbelief. How do you know yours is the right one?

  14. Archaeology is constantly confirming the details of the accounts in the Bible. Why do you think that is, if the Bible isn’t true?

  15. There is more evidence that Jesus Christ lived, died and came back to life than for just about any other event in ancient history. If God did not exist, or Jesus’ claims to be God were not true, then how would you explain his resurrection?

  16. What do you think makes so many Christians able to live radically different lives from the way they used to live prior to becoming Christians–even to the point of forgiving their abusers for terrible crimes?

  17. One of the most basic principles of philosophy, confirmed by science* is ex nihilo nihil fit (“out of nothing, nothing comes”). Without God, how do you think everything came into being?

  18. The Bible says that we were created to live forever, and that death is an unnatural enemy, brought about by sin. If you are a naturalist who believes death is simply part of life, how do you explain why we feel like we ought to live forever, and why pain and death feel so unnatural and wrong to just about everyone?

  19. If your brain is merely the unplanned result of evolution by natural selection, aimed at survival and nothing else, what makes you think you can trust your reasoning to discover the truth, rather than just whichever belief is best for survival?

  20. If no God, why would anything objectively matter?

  21. If no God, why is there so much good in the world?

  22. If no God, how did our DNA get programmed with such incredibly complex language and instructions?

  23. Is everything in the universe really just matter and energy?

  24. If you just thought, “Yes,” was that thought made of matter and energy?

  25. The Bible says every good and perfect gift is from the Father above (i.e. God). To whom are you grateful for the good things in your life?

  26. Where do you think the laws of logic come from?

  27. Are the laws of logic made of matter and energy?

  28. What evidence would actually convince you that Jesus Christ is God, the Lord, and the only Savior?

  29. How much do you know about the heart of the Christian message, AKA the “Gospel” or good news?

  30. Are you ready to learn more about Jesus? Start here with the Gospel of John.

Note:

In the comments on the original article, someone objected that this is a philosophical, rather than a scientific principle. Yet science corroborates it and even relies upon it. Scientists such as Lawrence Krauss and others have proposed that the universe could have popped into existence from “nothing,” but they define “nothing” as an energy-neutral quantum field. If you have to redefine nothing, you’re no longer talking about nothing. The principle of ex nihilo nihil fit, therefore, turns out to be as true in science (excluding God, of course) as in philosophy. Can you imagine how useless scientific hypothesis and inquiry would be if we expected things to suddenly, causelessly, just come into being from nothing?

The Biblical Worldview, Part 6: What Is Our Destiny?

By Joel Settecase / 6-minute read.

The biblical worldview teaches that the story of the world is linear, that it is headed somewhere, and that it is ultimately God’s story. History is neither purposeless nor is it ultimately determined by human choices. While our decisions and actions are morally significant, the ultimate flow and shape of history has been predetermined by God.

Before we begin this section, I need to include an important caveat. When it comes to the details of eschatology (the study of “last things” or the End Times), there are many conflicting views across Christianity. The eschatological details over which orthodox Christians disagree are secondary ones. That is to say, two individuals can both be Bible-believing, Jesus-loving, Holy Spirit-having believers and still disagree on when Jesus is coming back and what specific events will occur immediately before and afterward.

This cannot be said when it comes to primary doctrines, such as the Trinity, the Incarnation of Jesus, or the Gospel.

However, while the boundaries of orthodoxy (which simply means “straight teaching”) allow for broad divergence in the secondary details of eschatology, that is not to say that all of eschatology is secondary. There are some must-believes, some essential teachings, about the future taught clearly in Scripture.

We could turn to any number of passages to derive a biblical view of history and destiny. However, there is one verse in particular that is especially instructive:

Isaiah 46:10: “I declare the end from the beginning, and from long ago what is not yet done, saying: my plan will take place, and I will do all my will.”

From this single verse we learn three things about the destiny of our world. We learn that the story of the world is linear, that it is headed somewhere, and that it is ultimately God’s story.

History Is Linear

To clarify, we are using the word “history” to mean the whole story of the world, not just the events of the past.

Eastern worldviews conceive of history as circular. Just as the seasons rotate through spring, summer, autumn and winter, so all the life of humanity and the cosmos is a series of repetitions. Even human souls are reincarnated over and over in a cycle of life, death, and reincarnation (until, perhaps, they achieve release from the cycle through Moksha and become unified with the cosmic reality (Brahman in Hinduism).

Not so in the West, shaped as it has been by a long history of biblical teaching. In Western worldviews, even including Western forms of atheism, history had a beginning and will have an end.

The Bible teaches that history had a beginning when God created the heavens and the earth out of nothing by his word (Genesis 1:1; Hebrews 11:3). From that moment, in which natural time itself was created, the story of the cosmos has been progressing toward an inevitable conclusion.

History Is Heading Somewhere

Isaiah 46:10 (with Scripture as a whole) teaches that history will have an end. Things will not continue on infinitely into the future.

At the end of this age, Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead by their words and their deeds (Hebrews 9:27; Matthew 12:36-37). Those who have been rescued by Jesus during their earthly lives (there is no recourse after death) will be judged not by the record of their misdeeds but rather by the inclusion of their names in the book of life (Revelation 20:11-15).

Our current world will not last forever but are being reserved for fire (2 Peter 3:7), after which a new heavens and earth will be created (Isaiah 65:17), the dwelling of God and his redeemed people forever (Revelation 21:4).

History Is “His Story”

Our passage in Isaiah says that history is ultimately the unfolding of God’s holy will. What he wants to happen will happen. So it is appropriate to say that history is actually “his story.” Isaiah 14:24 similarly records God as saying, “As I have purposed, so it will be; as I have planned it, so it will happen.”

The theological center point of history--the most important event ever--was the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the heart of the Christian message and worldview. The Apostle Paul called this the matter of “first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3). The Gospel, then is the key to understanding history. In one sense, all the events prior to the death and resurrection of Jesus are pointing forward to it, and in some sense every event since then is pointing backward to it. In another sense, the cross points both forward and backward to all the events before and after it, giving them all meaning.

So history is neither purposeless nor is it ultimately determined by human choices. While our decisions and actions are morally significant, the ultimate flow and shape of history has been predetermined by God (Genesis 50:20). This is a great comfort to believers, because this means that we are never outside of God’s plan for us, and that he is always working our situations together for good and to make us more like his Son (Romans 8:28).

At this point we could get into a discussion of the divergent views Christians hold on the Millennium (the thousand years of Christ’s reign with his saints mentioned in Revelation 20:4) and whether Jesus will physically return before or after that reign (or whether it is currently happening now). We could discuss the Rapture, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the Beast, and the Harlot mentioned in Revelation, as well as the 70 weeks of Daniel’s prophecy (9:24-27) and the destruction of Jerusalem in the year A.D. 70. However, we will not get into these questions now, not because they are not important (all biblical teaching is important!) but because they are not essential to the biblical worldview.

Godly Christians disagree on these matters, but we all agree on the important issues. Jesus is Lord, Jesus is coming back, and the story of the cosmos is ultimately about him.

The Biblical Worldview, Part 5: What Is the Meaning of Life?

By Joel Settecase / 4-minute read.

Is there a point to all this? Does God have a purpose and how do we discover it?

“What is the meaning of life?” has almost become a rhetorical question nowadays. It is often asked flippantly, as though the person asking doesn’t really expect to get an answer, or that there even is an answer.

Another way of asking this question--maybe one that seems easier for us to answer, is “What is the good life?” Certainly, the prevailing view at the popular level of our society today seems to be that there is no meaning to life--at least no objective one--and therefore that each of us ought to do our best to define the “good life” for ourselves, to make our own meaning.

Many answers are given from the various worldviews, including (but certainly not limited to),

MEANING OF LIFE GRAPHIC.png
  • To be good.

  • To follow your heart.

  • To love and be loved.

  • Seeking pleasure now.

  • Self-improvement.

  • The pursuit of self-interest.

  • Making authentic decisions.

  • To be oneself (or to be true to oneself).

  • Establishing or carrying on a family legacy.

  • To do the most good for the most people.

While all of the answers reflected in this graphic may very well be good, there is a question we must answer before we can answer the question of life’s meaning, and that is this: “Who are we to say?”

In Romans 9:19-24, human beings are compared to pots, and God to a potter. The upshot of the passage is summarized in verse 20: “But who are you, a mere man, to talk back to God? Will what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” God is the Author of creation, and as such he has authority (author-ity) to define the meaning of our lives.

If God has defined the meaning of life, then, it is his definition alone that matters. As it turns out, he has defined it, and the definition is found in Scripture.

First, mankind shares its meaning with all creation, which exists to glorify our Creator (Psalm 19:1; 100:3). Beyond that, human beings are specially created to bear God’s image in the world, exercising dominion and creativity in like fashion to his own (Genesis 1:28). As God’s image bearers, all human beings are responsible to worship God and obey his commands with reverence (Ecclesiastes 12:13). In fact, when mankind fails to do this a sorry state of affairs results, in which our thinking becomes futile and we spin out into moral relativism and wickedness (Romans 1:18-24).

Yet there is another level of meaning to human life, beyond showing God’s glory as creatures and even beyond bare obedience. This level of meaning is only available to followers of Jesus Christ. This is true, not because Christians are inherently “better” than anyone else. Rather it is only possible for Christians because of what it means to be a Christian.

The highest level of meaning for a human life is found in deep communion with God, when we experience God as Father, the Son of God as Lord and Friend, and the Spirit of God as Counselor and Helper, living within us. This situation, which is definitional of the Christian life, is enjoyed only by God’s chosen people, those he has redeemed by grace through their faith (Ephesians 1:3-14; 2:8-9). Salvation and reconciliation to God is only a reality in the lives of Christ’s people, those whom he saves (Matthew 1:21), and there is no other means by which we may attain those blessings (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).

What is truly awesome, is that restored status with God is not the finale of the “good life” for Christians but rather the beginning. Every follower of Jesus is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), (re)created in the image of Christ (Ephesians 4:24), intended by God for the accomplishment of good works--works of significance and value that God himself has prepared for us in advance (Ephesians 2:10)!

So while the culture at large may not be able to objectively answer the question, “What is the meaning of life?” (and how could they, unless they recognize the authority of God himself to answer that question!), God has answered it for us in his word.

We might distill the answer to something like this:

“The meaning of life is to know, glorify and enjoy God, through Jesus Christ, and to live for him by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Note:

For the various answers to the question of life’s meaning, I drew from this info graphic, by Anna Vital, available at the article by DrNicoRose, “The Meaning of Life according to different philosophers [Infographic) [sic], January 23, 2016, mappalicious.com, accessed June 20, 2019, https://mappalicious.com/2016/01/23/the-meaning-of-life-according-to-different-philosophers-infographic/.

The Biblical Worldview, Part 4: What Is Man?

By Joel Settecase / 8-minute read.

Man’s nature is best described as fundamentally broken. While having been initially created good, mankind has gone astray and is in desperate need of restoration, forgiveness and redemption.

Why This Question Matters

We start this section by asking why we need to ask this question at all. That is, why do we need a definition of man at all? After all, we are human beings. Shouldn’t it be obvious to us what we are?

The fact is, the answer to “What is Man?” is not obvious. Or at the very least, there is no shared definition of humanity across all worldviews. Therefore, if we want our thinking to be shaped by the Bible, we must ask this question and see how the Bible answers it. (It is also important to note here that we are using the term “man” in an inclusive way to refer not just to adult males but to male and female human persons of all ages. This usage is biblical and theologically significant in ways which we won’t expound on here, but which will perhaps become clear as we go on).

Some Alternative Views

worldview views o f man.png

We mentioned above that there is no unified way that all worldviews answer the question of mankind or human nature. Here are a few samples of the various answers out there:

  • Materialism: Man is a complex machine or evolved animal, the product of an unguided process of evolution by natural selection over millions of years.

  • Mormonism: Man is a spirit child of Elohim, the Heavenly Father, who himself is an exalted or deified man. As man now is, God once was. As God now is, man may become.

  • Hinduism & New Age: In Hinduism, “Atman” (man) is “Brahman” (ultimate reality or the cosmic soul). Man is one with the universe, though he may not be aware of this. New Age thought is similar, in that the self is god.

  • Postmodernism & Intersectionality: Man’s nature is debated, but generally seen as being without any objective definition or essential nature (a Postmodernist would likely object to my use of “man” to describe humanity!). Neil Shenvi says, “As a non-theistic worldview, critical theory believes that our identity is not primarily found in our vertical relationship to God but in our horizontal relationships to other people and other groups.” On this view, individuals define themselves and relate to one another and society according to an intersecting network of sub-groups, each with various levels of “privilege” and “oppression.”

Then there is the question of the moral status of human nature: is man basically good, basically bad, more good than bad, more bad than good, or fundamentally broken? There are diverse answers to this question as well.

The Biblical Teaching

So what does the Bible teach? What does man’s Creator have to say about his creation? According to the Bible, man is:

  • Persons bearing God’s own image (Genesis 1:27).

  • Designed as an expression of unity-in-diversity, male and female each with their own roles and both equal in value and personhood (Genesis 2:18; 5:2).

  • Created to procreate and exercise dominion over the animals and the natural world (Genesis 1:26).

  • Valuable and possessing of dignity from the moment of conception (Psalm 51:5; 139:13; cf. Exodus 21:22-25; Jeremiah 1:5; Luke 1:41).

The first humans were a married couple, specially created by God (the husband from the soil and the wife from the side of her husband) (Genesis 2:7, 21-22). All humans since that time are descended from the same married couple (Genesis 3:20; Acts 17:26) and so are rightly considered a single race.

Man is the only “animal” given personality, and as such people are more like God than anything else in nature and enjoy a status infinitely higher than animals, plants and machines. However, unlike God, who is infinite, man is finite. As such, he is infinitely lower than God and is dependent on him (Matthew 4:4).

Adam, our first father, sinned, an event we refer to as the Fall, recorded in Genesis 3:1-7. As the father of all mankind, Adam was also our representative. As a result of his Fall, sin and its consequences (death and hardship) spread to all mankind, who all became sinners (Genesis 3:16-19; Romans 5:12).

So man’s nature is best described as fundamentally broken. That brokenness is both given to us (by virtue of our shared ancestry, according to Psalm 51:5) and chosen by us (by virtue of our own individual sins). We should not think of ourselves as victims but rather as villains. In man’s natural state he is utterly sinful (“totally depraved,” as the Reformers put it) and enters this world under God’s judgment. Ephesians 2:3 describes our state apart from God’s grace as living “in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts,” and being “by nature children under wrath.”

Sin broke all human relationships--to God, to society and the world, and even to oneself. Although man was originally created to exist in perfect relational harmony (similar to how the Father, Son and Holy Spirit relate to one another), since the Fall man’s default is interpersonal strife and jealousy (action that the Apostle Paul calls “merely human” in 1 Corinthians 3:3). Left to our own devices, we would become more and more sinful, and earn more and more of God’s wrath and judgment. The final state of an unrepentant, sinful person is everlasting punishment in Hell (Matthew 10:28; Revelation 21:8).

Yet while man’s nature is broken, his dignity as being God’s image bearer has not been completely destroyed. Human life is still valuable and dignified (Genesis 9:6; James 3:9-10). Furthermore, mankind is not a lost cause. It is possible for sinners to be reconciled to God and reborn, given new life and adopted into God’s family as his children (John 1:12; 3:7).

So we see that man, while having been initially created good, has gone astray and is in desperate need of restoration, forgiveness and redemption.

There has only ever been one human being who did not sin, namely Jesus Christ, who is both fully human and fully God (Philippians 2:6; Hebrews 4:15). Therefore, Jesus both flawlessly exemplifies what it means to be human, and perfectly provides the means by which broken and sinful humanity may be “fixed” and forgiven.

Notes:

For a comparison of different worldviews’ answers to the question of humanity, cf. the “Theory Comparison Chart (Santrock Chapter 2)” Christinao.wordpress.com, accessed on June 18, 2019, https://cristinao.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/sire-cristinao.pdf.

See also: James Sire, The Universe Next Door: A Basic World View Catalog (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 156-209, especially page 200.

On the issue of ethnicities and race: although the Bible recognizes many ethnicities, it presents only one “race.” That is, human beings of every ethnicity share the same primeval parents, Adam and Eve. However, biblically speaking there are really two “races,” the race of Adam (unregenerate sinners still under Adam’s headship) and the race of Christ--those who have been reborn and brought into God’s family (John 1:13; 1 Peter 2:9), who have Christ as their representative or head.

The Biblical Worldview, Part 3: What Is True?

By Joel Settecase / 9-minute read.

Reason, science and intuition are invaluable truth-seeking faculties, but each one is insufficient on its own. We need a unifying principle tying them all together and giving us epistemological warrant for using all three. Moreover, we need a basis for trusting them in the first place. Scripture provides that unity and basis.

The question, “What is true?” is one of the seven questions we have identified as being essential to every worldview. This question is best addressed in two parts. I’ve already discussed the nature of truth here, so this article will focus exclusively on knowledge.

The Study of Knowledge

The study of knowing, or the theory of knowledge, is called epistemology. Epistemology deals with the questions above. While we take the fact that we know things for granted, we really should not. After all, why should we think that we can know anything? Why should we think that we can have knowledge? Come to think of it, what is knowledge?

Knowledge is classically defined as “justified, true belief.” The word “justified” has led to much debate, and in recent years philosopher Alvin Plantinga has offered the definition “warranted, true belief.” We may say that Bob has knowledge when he believes a true proposition to be true, and his truth-seeking faculties (his mind, his reason, his five senses, etc.) are functioning properly and in a favorable environment. In this case there is alignment between the truth of the proposition, the belief that Bob has, and the warrant that Bob has for believing it.

Three Views of How We Come to Know Things

So how do we arrive at knowledge? How do we come to know? And how do we know that we know?  

Philosophers (and others who spend their days pondering such questions) have developed many epistemologies, but these can be roughly divided into three categories.

  1. Empiricism: knowledge is based on the five senses. True knowledge begins with the scientific process of collecting data from the world, analyzing it, and drawing conclusions based on those observations. Man’s reason can be deceived, but cold, hard facts don’t lie. Example: William Clifford said, “It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.”

  2. Rationalism: knowledge is based on certain principles, which we know apart from what we experience through our senses. These rules govern our thinking. Laws of logic are examples of these rules. When we know these rules, we can reason our way to all true knowledge. This view places high value in human reasoning and distrusts sense data, because after all, our eyes may deceive us! Example: René Descartes started with the maxim, “I think, therefore I am,” and developed a system of knowledge from there.

  3. Subjectivism: knowledge of any absolute truth is impossible. All we can know is what is true “for ourselves.” We come to know these truths through processes that are completely internal and not necessarily verifiable by reason or science. Reason can be muddled, and our senses can deceive us, but there are some things, perhaps the most important things, that we “just know.” Example: Walt Whitman said, “Whatever satisfies the soul is truth.” Intuition relies heavily on experience. One example of intuition is when we assume that the future will be like the past. This is not a conclusion based on reason (there’s no logical requirement that the future be like the past) nor sense experience (we have no sense data of the future!), but it “makes sense to us” to believe it.

False Epistemologies.png

Philosopher and theologian John Frame has pointed out that no one has really been able to consistently hold completely to any of these three perspectives. Instead, the very best philosophers and thinkers have rather tried to combine these three approaches. This is because, at the end of the day, it is obvious that each one has merit.

As Christians we can affirm aspects of all three. We agree with the Empiricists that science is a valid way of gaining knowledge (in fact the first scientists were all Christians!). We further affirm with the Rationalists the importance of logic and sound reasoning. And we join with the Subjectivists in saying that, by golly, there are some facts that we just know to be true, even if we can’t verify them scientifically or account for them logically (though they do not contradict science or reason.

Each of these three epistemologies focuses on its preferred truth-seeking faculty to the (unsuccessful) exclusion of the other two. While each one fails on its own, if there were a way of unifying them, we could approach a holistic view of how we really arrive at knowledge. As it turns out, God’s revelation is the key to that unification. In fact, as believers we can look at all three of these epistemologies as perspectives on the truth.

The Role of Revelation in Epistemology

The world does not interpret itself. God, the Creator of the world and everything in it, is the Creator who speaks. He has spoken to us in an authoritative way, and by that speech he has revealed to us the truth about himself, the cosmos, and ourselves. He has not given us exhaustive knowledge, but the knowledge he has given us is true. True knowledge begins with a proper attitude toward God and a willingness to hear what he has to say. As Scripture says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7).

God reveals himself in two ways: by his works and by his word. We call the former “General Revelation” and the latter “Special Revelation.”

General Revelation is accessible to all men, through observing the “outer world” of the cosmos and analyzing the “inner world” of the self (Romans 1:18-20). For example, both the law of gravity governing the movement of physical objects, as well as the laws of logic governing our thoughts, point to the existence of God.

Special Revelation is God’s supernaturally revealing truth to us, which today is recorded in Scripture, the Bible. The Bible is “breathed out by God,” and was written by men who “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21).

The Bible provides the basis for certain knowledge, and validates the three ways of knowing we referenced earlier. When we think biblically, we see that Rationalism is a false view, but the use of reason is good (Isaiah 1:18; 1 Peter 3:15). Empiricism is false, but empirical science (based on sense data analysis) is good (Psalm 111:2; Isaiah 40:26; Psalm 94:9). Subjectivism is also false, but God has given us intuition, and truth is very personal (Job 38:36; Romans 2:14-15).

Epistemology united by Scripture.png

When unified by God’s revelation, the core truth-seeking faculties of each of the three epistemologies are not in conflict but work together. We have a basis for using all three—reason, senses and intuition. This article examined three perspectives on knowledge, but it would equally apply to any others that could hypothetically be brought up. So we have seen that knowledge is possible and uniquely accessible to those who hold to the biblical worldview, because of our faith in the Bible, which unifies our truth-seeking faculties and provides the basis for trusting them as reliable, when used appropriately.

Of course, the same Bible that validates these three methods of gaining knowledge also warns us about the effects of sin on our ability to know. We will discuss this in a future article, when we talk about the nature of man.

Notes:

Francis Schaeffer poses the question, “How do we know that we know?” and discusses its implications in Chapter 3 of his book, He Is There and He Is Not Silent (Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1972), 37-60.

For the three approaches to epistemology I’m drawing heavily on the work on John Frame and specifically from his article, “Epistemological Perspectives and Evangelical Apologetics,” Frame-Poythress.org, May 17, 2012, Accessed June 12, 2019, https://frame-poythress.org/epistemological-perspectives-and-evangelical-apologetics/. In this article he also points out that no one has been able to hold consistently to any one of the three epistemological positions discussed here, i.e. Rationalism, Empiricism and Subjectivism.

John Frame has written extensively about “Triperspectivalism,” the concept that three ideas seemingly in conflict are actually perspectives on the same reality. For more see, Frame, John, “John Frame on the Trinity,” Frame-Poythress.org, November 21, 2016, Accessed June 14, 2019, https://frame-poythress.org/john-frame-on-the-trinity/.

To the point that God has given us true—yet not exhaustive—knowledge, James Sire describes Francis Schaeffer as having made this point. Cf. James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door (Wheaton: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 130.
I credit Dr. Jason Lisle with the insight that intuition relies on experience. He makes this point in The Physics of Einstein: Black holes, time travel, distant starlight, E=mc² (Aledo, TX: Biblical Science Institute, 2018), 61-62.

The Biblical Worldview, Part 2: What Is Good?

By Joel Settecase / 5-minute read.

The Bible, and the God who has revealed himself in its pages, provides the only adequate basis for morality.

In Part 1, I explained that there are only three possible answers to the most basic question any worldview must answer, “What is real?” We saw that God is both ultimate (or infinite, a world which I might like even better) as well as personal, and that in relation to his creation he exercises the “Lordship Attributes” of Authority, Control and Presence.

Now we are close to having a basis for answering the second question every worldview must answer, “What is good?” I say we are close, but not quite there yet, because there is one further attribute of God’s nature that we must consider, the attribute of being relational, about which more in a minute.

There are various fields of study bound up with this question, from morality (right and wrong thought and action), to axiology (values), to aesthetics (judgments of beauty). These are all concerned with the question of absolute goodness (if such a thing as absolute goodness does in fact exist).

When we have answered the ultimate question of goodness, we will know if it is possible to also ask, “What are our moral duties and how do we know?” as well as, “What does it mean to violate the absolute standard of goodness?” Is beauty objective or merely in the eye of the beholder?” If there is an absolute standard by which we may make sense of morality, then we may also make sense of related fields of study.

Absolute, Relationsl Moral Standards Need an Absolute, Relational Basis

Morality cannot be subjective. If it were, we would only be talking about preferences, not morality. There would only be what is, meaning there would be my preference, and your preference, and their preferences, but no bridge between them and no scale on which to weigh them, no way to judge between them.

So morality must be objective, which is to say it must be absolute. Absolute morality requires a basis in an absolute prime reality. This prime reality must be absolute as well as personal. This is because moral duties are laws, and laws require a lawgiver. A lawgiver cannot be an impersonal force (e.g. gravity) or abstract object (e.g. the number four) but must be personal, someone who can make the pronouncement, “This is how things ought to be.” Absolute, unchanging laws require an absolute and unchanging Lawgiver. Certain non-biblical worldviews, which present a concept of God that is unitarian (absolute oneness) could perhaps account for absolute, unchanging laws, if they merely applied to an individual person interacting with himself.

Yet moral principles do not just deal with individuals but also govern relationships between individuals. Much of morality covers how people ought to treat one another. In the study of morality we are concerned not merely with unity but also with diversity. We are concerned with how individuals ought to treat one another in their relationships and interactions with each other. This is a question not merely of absolute unity but of diversity too.

In order to account for the existence of absolute moral standards that govern interpersonal relationships, the prime reality in which they are grounded must also be absolute, personal and interpersonal. There must be a relational attribute to God, or else any of moral standards for interpersonal relationships would merely be arbitrary.

For example, if God were a monad, as the unitarian religions (Judaism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Islam, etc.) believe, then prior to him creating, there would have been no interpersonal relationships at all. Any moral requirements such a God would have decreed would be the creations of his mind, but would not have been rooted in God’s own relational nature, since prior to creating God would have had no relationships.

It follows that, for absolute interpersonal moral standards to be absolute, they must be rooted in a prime reality (God) who is infinite without division (unbroken oneness), personal, and yet also interpersonal or diverse in itself. God’s nature, as revealed in Scripture, is such a prime reality.

There are many worldviews, religions and philosophies in the world, yet only one worldview that has such a concept of God, and that is biblical Christianity. As Francis Schaeffer has said, the Christian answer is not merely a good answer, it is the only answer. This Venn diagram shows a sampling of the world’s religions and worldviews, and how they account for (or fail to account for) unity, diversity and personality:

Worldview Comparison Venn Diagram - Metaphysics FINAL FINAL!!! properly categorized WITH THINK INSTITUTE LOGO.png

Only biblical Christianity accounts for all three.

God’s nature is the basis for absolute morality

The God who has revealed himself in the Bible is absolute unity, absolute personality, and absolute diversity. He is one (united) in his essence and yet is three (diverse) Persons—the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

These three share a name (meaning they share authority and Lordship), and yet each one is distinct from the others. These three have known and loved one another perfectly forever in perfect, infinite oneness, so it makes sense when Scripture says that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). His very nature is love. His loving nature is the basis for how the three Persons of the Trinity relate to one another, and it forms the basis for his moral commands to his creatures.

Therefore God’s moral commands are not arbitrary, nor does he appeal to some standard beyond himself. The Greek Philosopher Plato wrestled with this, because he only knew the gods of mythology. Yet God is not like those “gods.” God’s very nature is the definition of goodness. He is magnificent, glorious and eminently praiseworthy, and he commands that his creatures live by his glorious standard (Mark 10:18). God’s goodness was reflected in his creation as he originally created it (Genesis 1:31).

Only the biblical worldview can account for absolute morality

Recall that God’s nature is personal, infinite, and diverse within himself (we might say “tri-personal”). This provides the basis for absolute morality. Because he is personal, he has a will. Because he is infinite, his will applies to all people, everywhere and at all time. And because he is tri-personal, it is in his nature to communicate; he has communicated his will to his creatures, in the Bible.

We may say confidently that the biblical worldview is totally unique in this regard, because it is the only one that can sufficiently account for unity, diversity and personality in its concept of prime reality. God, the infinite, tri-personal, relational God who is love, is perfectly moral, infinitely valuable, and gloriously beautiful. All the fields of study related to goodness find their basis and ultimate reference point in him; things are good, valuable and beautiful insofar as they are like God, who is all good, valuable and beautiful to the nth degree.

God has revealed mankind’s moral duties in two ways

God’s creation communicates his glory (Psalm 19), to the extent that men have enough knowledge about God to glorify him and give him thanks, and therefore we are without excuse for failing to do so (Romans 1:18-24). Failing to fulfill even this basic requirement, man goes on to sin in various ways throughout life, falling short of God’s glorious standard in every area of life (Romans 3:23). Although man was originally created good, the first man sinned, and all his children have been sinning ever since, suppressing what can be known about God from the world without and the moral sense within. However the moral sense, the conscience, does remain. The Bible says the “works of the law” are written on the heart of all people, and their, “competing thoughts either accuse or even excuse them” (Romans 2:15).

The second way God communicates his absolute moral standards to us is by the Bible. The Bible teaches that creation’s greatest purpose is to praise God (Ps. 148:1-14), and man’s highest moral duty is to love God (Mt. 22:38; Jn. 14:15), followed by the command to love one’s neighbor as oneself (Mt. 22:38-39). The Ten Commandments were a baseline summary for the nation of Israel, and Jesus Christ deepened and expanded God’s moral teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and elsewhere.

The teachings of Christ are impossible to fulfill in man’s current sinful condition, which is bleak indeed. Because God is good, he must give sin what it deserves.

Immoral man’s predicament

The “wages” of sin, the Bible teaches, is death (Romans 6:23). Man’s predicament, then, is that by living life in disobedience to God, he is choosing death. There there is such a deep disconnect between God’s perfectly good nature and law, and man’s current immoral state, that it would be completely impossible for man to be restored to a right relationship with God apart from divine intervention. He is in the predicament of having an inner moral sense which drives him to desire moral goodness, while at the same time being morally incapable in his nature of choosing the good and pleasing God (Romans 8:8).

We will get into the solution to man’s predicament later in the series. However, before we do that, we must address the question of truth. After all, we are drawing our answers to life’s biggest questions from the biblical worldview—the perspective taught by the Bible. How can we know that the Bible is the best place to get those answers?

Seven Worldview Questions

By Joel Settecase / 9-minute read

A Quick Test of Your Confidence

Quick, on a scale of one to 10, how confident do you feel, right now, in your ability to teach a non-Christian what the Bible teaches about life’s most important issues? Do you have your number? Is it less than 10? Less than 7? Less than 5? If that is the case, and you desire to improve that number, don’t feel bad. Everyone has to start somewhere.

If, however, your number was less than 10 and you simply leave it there and don’t seek to improve it, well then maybe you should feel at least a little bad. After all, doing so would indicate that you either (A) think the Bible has nothing to say about life’s big questions, or (B) don’t think it worthwhile to learn what those answers are. However, if you are a follower of Jesus, then the Bible is your book. That is, it’s God’s book for you, given to make you “complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17).

There is, of course a third option: (C) you feel as though the Bible is so complex that you could never master what it says about life’s biggest issues to the extent that you would feel fully confident to teach those answers to others. After all, the Bible is a big book, and isn’t that what pastors and church elders are for, anyway?

True, pastors and elders do need to know their stuff. And yet the fact is this: whether you can articulate them or not, you already have answers to life’s biggest questions. For example, if I asked you, “Who is Jesus?” I’ll bet you could give me an answer right now.

If you’re a Christian, your answer would probably include facts like his virgin birth, his sinless life, his miracles, death, burial, and resurrection. You might mention that he is the Jewish Messiah and the Savior of the world, or that he returned to the right hand of the Father to reign. If you wanted to get more in-depth, you might bring up the truth that Jesus is the second Person of the Trinity.

Now if I asked you any number of different worldview questions, your answers might be in agreement with Scripture, or they might be way off. To the extent that your answers were in-line with what the Bible teaches, you would be communicating the biblical worldview accurately.

So what is a worldview?

In his quintessential worldview primer, The Universe Next Door, James W. Sire calls a worldview, “a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic make-up of the world.”

Jefferey Ventrella defines a worldview as, “a network of presuppositions… through which one interprets all human experience.”

Your worldview is like a pair of sunglasses. Just as sunglasses color everything you see, so your worldview affects your interpretation of everything you learn and experience. Your worldview provides you with the filter through which you would answer any question about the world. Sire says worldviews are, “generally unquestioned by each of us; rarely, if ever, mentioned by our friends; and only brought to mind when we are challenged by a foreigner from another ideological universe.”

Why Worry About Worldview?

Now the biblical worldview, just like every worldview, must answer certain questions. And if we are going to be faithful disciples of Jesus, who commanded us to, “make disciples… teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you,” then we need to know how the biblical worldview answers those questions.

Doing this, and doing it faithfully to Scripture, is a way of honoring God with our minds (Luke 10:27), and, because the heart of the biblical worldview is the Gospel that saves (Luke 24:27; Romans 1:16), it is a way of loving our neighbors as ourself.

If we desire to effectively communicate the Gospel and the biblical worldview, we need to prepare. One way to do that is to prep biblical answers, in advance, to the questions every worldview answers.

Questions for Worldviews

This Spring, I have been writing a curriculum to equip Christians in what we might call Biblical Worldview Competency. A major part of building that curriculum has been to determine just what are the questions that every worldview must answer. You might think this list would be fairly easy to determine. However, if you researched the subject, what you would quickly find (as I have) is that the major authors and thinkers who teach on worldview competency all have their own lists:

Ravi Zacharias

  • Origin

  • Meaning

  • Morality

  • Destiny

    Ravi is the president of RZIM.

Albert Mohler

  • Where do we come from?

  • What’s wrong with us?

  • Is there any hope?

  • Where are we going?

    (I heard him list these on his daily podcast, “The Briefing,” during the week of May 13, 2019. I remembered them because I have used the exact same list in my own teachings. However, I did not remember hearing them from Dr. Mohler; I thought I made them up myself. That being said, it’s a lot more likely that I stole them from him than the other way around.)

James Sire:

  • What is prime reality?

  • What is the nature of external reality, that is, the world around us?

  • What is a human being?

  • What happens to a person at death?

  • Why is it possible to know anything at all?

  • How do we know what is right and wrong?

  • What is the meaning of human history?

Barry A. Warren

  • The nature of God?

  • The meaning and purpose of life?

  • Human nature?

  • Jesus is?

  • Source of spiritual truth?

    Warren is the creator of the Perspective Cards.

As you can see, there are various questions we could use, and no two authors completely agree. So then, I feel as though I am at liberty to draw from what I perceive to be the best of each of the aforementioned, combining and rewording as needed, in order to create a comprehensive list of seven questions that every worldview must answer (each one followed by a couple or three clarifying questions). They are:

  1. What is real?
    What is the nature of prime reality?
    What is ultimately real?
    What is God like?

  2. What is good?
    What is good and how do we know?
    What does it mean to sin or contravene the standard of goodness?
    What is beauty?

  3. What is true?
    What is truth and how do we come to know it?
    Is truth universal or subjective?

  4. What is man?
    What does it mean to be human?
    What’s wrong with humanity?
    How do we fix what’s wrong with us?

  5. What is the meaning?
    Is there a point to all this?
    Does God have a purpose and how do we discover it?

  6. What is our destiny?
    Where are all things headed?
    Will justice finally prevail?
    Is history more like a Greek comedy or a tragedy?

  7. Who is Jesus?
    Is Jesus merely a man, a created, divine being, or God?
    What did Jesus claim about himself and are those claims true?

How to Answer the Seven Questions

I contend that every Christian ought to be able to articulate at least a modest response to each one of those seven questions, and to do so in accordance with what the whole Bible teaches. I am not going to answer them right now. However, I want to leave you with two things to think about.

First of all, as Christians our final authority is holy Scripture. This means that our worldview thinking must progress in a biblical loop. It has to begin with a biblical foundation, progressing outward into the world (all the while maintaining biblical categories and filtering our observations and reasoning through Scripture), and culminate back upon the Bible, as we test our conclusions by what the Bible says.

In order to think in this robustly biblical way, it is necessary to know Scripture thoroughly. We have to be committed to studying what the Bible says about life’s most important subjects and to submitting our reasoning to God’s own reasoning, revealed in the Bible.

A fantastic website to help you learn what the Bible says about any given subject is the Bible verse aggregator, OpenBible. Go there, type in the subject you want to research, and it will pull up a list of all the verses that people say are relevant to that subject.

The second thing to think about is this: maybe it is time to pursue training in this area for you or your congregation. If you are leaning in that direction, there are many solid ministries who can help you and your church think biblically and develop Biblical Worldview Competency.

Humbly, the Think Institute is one such ministry. We are here to equip believers with knowledge, encourage believers to share and defend their faith, and engage believers together in meaningful conversation. Contact me if you would like to know more about partnering with the Think Institute or would like access to any of Cru Church Movement’s vast library of resources. To come to one of our trainings in your area, keep an eye on the Get Engaged section of this website.

You might not be fully confident to articulate the biblical worldview today, and you might not get all the way there tomorrow. However, by learning a little more about what the Bible says about the seven most important questions of life, you can strengthen your Biblical Worldview Competency and become that much more prepared to make disciples for Jesus Christ.