“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans 1:20
“I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me though the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all of Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, though the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.” St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians 3:7-13
God as a Worldview Pillar
Today we continue our series of Circling posts commenting on each pillar of worldview. We have described the worldview concept in many prior posts. We often describe it as the lens through which each person answers life’s biggest questions or the metaphysical assumptions each person makes to live in the world.
Everyone has a worldview, and many today move in and out of several worldviews, as desired, without giving it any thought, no matter how much such worldviews conflict.
If you were to review the literature on worldview, you would find lists of the basic elements of worldview, and they usually include anywhere from three to twelve or thirteen elements, to pick a wide range.
To keep it relatively simple in pursuit of our mission to help our Praxis Circle members discover their worldview and build better ones, if necessary, we decided some time ago to highlight Eight Worldview Pillars, described here and listed below. All eight elements are closely related and intertwined.
- Time and Space
We completed a Four-Part Series on Truth in 2022, and we continue down the list above now with a Three-Part Series on God, this post being Part I, an Introduction to the God concept. It’s worth stressing that whenever we endeavor to think about God, like it or not and regardless of one’s actual beliefs, we become philosophers. In other words, even thinking about God in any way, shape, or form makes one a “lover of wisdom,” a philosopher.
We do not need graduate degrees.
In fact, theology itself is much the story or philosophy of religion applied to particular beliefs about God, gods, or the supernatural. In the clip at top, Dr. Rodney Stark, one of America’s leading sociologists who specializes in the growth of Christianity and the state of religion worldwide, says that belief in the supernatural is the key element in defining religion in contrast to just plain ideology.
Most commonly, each person is born into a family that adheres to a particular worldview. Throughout history children have learned their parents’ worldviews, examined them during childhood and early adulthood, and often made adjustments or changes as adults. It’s not uncommon at all to see radical worldview change near the end of life.
Each person’s worldview interacts with reality’s practice or “the facts and circumstances of life,” which leads to acceptance of or change in worldview. In concert, worldviews guiding human activity often change history and the facts themselves. We human beings have a tremendous influence on the world, and we have a great responsibility to it.
In sum, praxis involves a continuous feedback loop between theory and practice that individuals experience themselves in a circle with each other and the world they inhabit.
All perceptions of history and personal life are based on the recorded or ongoing personal experience of someone. You have your own, and we will not try to tell you here much about God or convince you one way or the other. There is quite a lot of data on God out there to examine.
Instead, we will merely attempt over the course of this Series to explain how the God subject relates to the worldview concept as one of its pillars, as well as the key ways that humanity has examined the issue of God, particularly as He, She, It, or They relate to the West.
God as Pivotal Among the Eight Pillars
Every human being uses reason and emotion to think about the Eight Pillars. What has made reason so important to Western people? Dr. Stark has his own answer in this book and in this clip, as well.
Without a doubt, everyone engages with purely philosophical questions like: Is there purpose or meaning in life? Can nothing create something? Who created God, or is God a necessary, infinite being? What creates new things in general, and how does this happen? Is life determined or free? What can we know? How and why? All religions address such questions, and, again, all are philosophical.
We examined such issues carefully in a Six-Part Series on Reason in 2021. Traditional Christian, Jewish, and Muslim worldviews say we all engage with an objective, outside truth called reality. They believe they can trust their senses to perceive reality because God created a purposeful and meaningful world with humankind at the center to do just this.
If you believe in the Christian, Jewish, or Muslim God (viewed on a basis to be the same Biblical God), you believe in truth and in a Creator God who is truth and who created, through the miracle of grace: time and space, the world, man, morality, and various forms of governance (consistent with each religion over various points in history).
After experiencing the blinding light and Christ on the Road to Damascus, Paul wrote constantly about how God from the supernatural world communicates with us in our natural world. God influences all through general revelation showing His handiwork (see Romans 1:20 at top), and then directly influences particular individuals and groups through special revelation (see Ephesians 3:7-13, just below Romans).
However, today many accept that God is not necessary and that each person can have his or her own truth. Without the supernatural, humanity is left with the purely material, even though specifics vary widely from person-to-person and group-to-group. In other words, remove God and it’s easy to remove miracles, grace, morality, and even “man” as a gendered or sexed being.
“No worldview” is actually a worldview producing maximum control to the individual, though arguably utter chaos and danger to any group, society, nation, or culture. “No God” begins with subjective Man as God (god here meaning “sovereign being”)—you—and goes outward to a closed box of finite materialism. Man and his desired priorities become worthy of worship.
Since ancient times, humanity has recognized that it’s very difficult to stop sliding down a slippery slope toward nihilism if God, the source of truth, is removed from individual and group worldview. Clearly, this is what we are experiencing in the West today. Humanity needs a bedrock of belief—or we ultimately experience nihilism and anarchy.
As stated in prior posts, that God is a good idea does not make God necessarily true, although such a thought does relate to the controversial ontological proof of God.
In any case, most theists believe God created humankind to know Him as truth and reality as bedrock, while many atheists do not believe that belief has any bedrock or foundation at all.
Practical Experience and God
Again, practical human experience, i.e., the experiences of our individual life and collective lives, determines our philosophy and worldview(s) through praxis. Today, most atheists believe man invented God out of fear, ignorance, or a desire to control others. Atheists believe primitive man invented God to explain what he didn’t understand. They note the changing nature of how man has portrayed gods over thousands of years.
In contrast, theists believe God is real and has revealed Itself though the history of the universe, as recorded in the natural world, life, and mankind, including all of personal human experience. Indeed, theists argue religion created modern day science in a search for God and continues to reveal God’s mind as science advances. The only thing that’s changed is mankind’s understanding of an all powerful Creator through revelation.
In this manner of thinking, faith itself is based on evidence or personal experience, using reason to evaluate the evidence. There is no conflict whatsoever between God, truth, and science. While we know God is not regularly detectable on the top of mountains, within cumulonimbus clouds, or even in outer space, all of expanding science since the Renaissance seems to point to a powerful, creative Mind. We don’t expect amazing satellites with powerful cameras to find God as they move deeper into space, and we probably haven’t since Galileo.
Theists believe God is outside of time and space with presence inside these dimensions in varying ways (depending on the god-concept or type of supernatural-based religion).
This theist-atheist debate has existed throughout known history, and it continues with good points on both sides today. St. Paul’s metamorphosis from Saul, the murderer of Christians, to Paul, the Disciple who took Christianity to the Gentile world, is based solely on personal experience. If God is and reveals Itself, He does so in countless different ways to persons and groups. Perhaps like any skill set, some people are better at sensing God and the supernatural than others. Furthermore, God chooses who to engage in mysterious ways.
Arguably, materialism makes everyday mega-miracles like childbirth mundane.
We will be interviewing a leading advocate of Intelligent Design, Dr. Stephen Meyer, later this year. Dr. Meyer would agree with St. Paul’s observation in Romans quoted at top—God’s existence has always been obvious to man. He sees the details of science proclaiming this truth more loudly with every passing year. While God is not provable like a geometric proof or repeatable as a cause-effect laboratory experiment, theists see God in the world and in history through revelation as much as any generally-accepted historical figure or event.
We would argue that it’s ongoing practical experience of the living that sustains the knowledge of God, as much or more than Scripture or recorded history. Witness and testimony exists everywhere around the world. Indeed, “all of the above” are important and complementary.
Furthermore, practical experience worldwide has led to a growth in religion today, particularly the Biblical monotheisms, that’s unprecedented in history. Contrary to the situation in Europe and with the Mainline Churches and Zoomer generation in America, conventional religion is on a true growth kick. Many see a great religious Awakening worldwide.
Because of this, respected social scientists believe the secularization thesis, not God, is dead. In other words, man will never give up God. On the contrary, God made man a religious animal—a homo religiosi—as well as a sapien—or thinking animal. In fact, many believe man today is more religious on a global basis than ever.
Our own opinion at Praxis Circle is that Evangelical Christians of all kinds cannot do their duty as well in the global marketplace of ideas, that has become very local today, if they do not engage such worldview fundamentals across the board.
To Christian, Jewish, and Muslim monotheists, an All-Powerful Creator God remains outside time and space in a supernatural world from where that Super Being created and sustains all that exists in time and space. Humankind’s duty begins with God, and the challenge is to represent God well, being in His image.
(This is the basis of Erika Bachiochi’s, Mary Wollstonecraft’s, and Mary Ann Glendon’s feminism that we are featuring this month.)
To atheists, Man exists as sovereign in a closed box of materialism, operating as God and producing his or her own morality, if any.
With reference to the list of Eight Pillars at top, you can see how atheism places Man at the top and eliminates Pillars 1 (Truth), 2 (God), 3 (Miracles/Grace), and 7 (Morality). Indeed, Man as sovereign is certainly capable of worshipping anything: Himself, ideology, power, money, sex, or evil.
Granted, human secularism or existentialism has constructed morality based on pragmatism and/or human love, but the 20th Century through today is showing this morality to be unsustainable under intense ideological pressure.
Governance is the theist’s and naturalist’s public and private arena in which the “win-lose” of power struggles occur, dispensing results via force or war when necessary. Of course, how theists and atheists approach such use of power varies radically with their worldview and situation, which will be a subject of future posts.
The God versus Man divide explains why our Praxis Circle posts have often separated worldview narrative in the West into two categories: the Creator God Story and the Man God Story. Of course, all of this was recognized just as well in ancient times; the ancient Greeks and Romans referred to man-worship or overconfidence as hubris.
Next time in God Part II of III, we will present the various types of gods who have gained significant following in human history and have retained a significant presence across the world today.