This is the last post in our Road to Reason series: a collection of blog posts dedicated to exploring the role of reason within some of the today’s dominant global worldviews. Here are our earlier posts in the Series (Introduction, I, II, III, IV, and V):
Today’s Yellow Brick Road (Introduction to the Series)
First, we will review how we got here, having used The Wizard of Oz as narrative.
The Yellow Brick Road
In this VI-part Series, we started down the Yellow Brick Road to Reason to show how the debates over God, truth, logic, and reason are central to issues dividing us today. Our main point is that our worldview determines our positions here, and that all should honestly reflect to make good decisions with helpful results. We believe the foundations of Western Civilization lie largely in those four words (God, truth, logic, and reason . . . love and the virtues not being openly controversial) and that these foundations today are under an all out assault.
We chose to focus the Series on reason because it’s the least controversial of the four words (again, God, truth, logic, and reason) and because all people use reason (whatever “it” is) everyday to live and get along. Clearly, humans have more of it than any other beings yet detected—other than God—in the universe. Finally, as Eric Metaxas suggests in his most recent book (Is Atheism Dead? (2021), page 272), reason is the word many strident atheists stand on to distract theists from the inescapable fact that they themselves are being unreasonable and illogical.
What we have tried to do in Road to Reason is walk through the basic ways worldviews across the globe handle reason using interview clips from a broad spectrum of Praxis Circle Contributors who represent or describe each perspective. We started with the Scarecrow (who has no brain) to outline the basics of Western reason that, since the days of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle (the Greek trinity), remain fully operational today: deduction and induction, the four causes, and the three laws of logic—particularly the powerful Law of Non-Contradiction (LNC).
(After all, while, yes, we know now that the earth revolves around the sun instead of vice versa, many of the basics of the Greek trinity remain more relevant than ever in theology, philosophy, ethics, politics, biology, etc. They were extremely smart and observant, and people haven’t really changed much. So, we need to forgive Aristotle, one of history’s staggering geniuses, for any mistakes in astronomy and move on for our own good.)
With that in mind, rather than wait to reach the City of Oz and the Wizard, we decided to go ahead and kill the Wicked Witch immediately in Series II of VI using a version of the LNC known as Self-Referential Contradiction (SRC). (Praxis Circle’s staff is not great at deferred gratification. How ’bout a little bucket of water, Sweetheart?)
Please see the links on SRCs with “how-to” tips to dispense with enemies of truth here and here. The hope is that you’ll be able to kill Wicked Witches now anytime they get in your way using SRCs even in the privacy of your own home.
And, please, have at it; they’re all around us in our current postmodern and deeply subversive nightmare.
So, with the Witch dead and the world safe for a few moments more, we then proceeded farther down the Yellow Brick Road and picked up the Tin Man, when we addressed how Eastern worldviews like Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism emphasize the heart and go beyond this world’s human reason into spirituality; then farther along we found the Lion, when we described the purely materialist worldviews —secular humanism, Marxism, postmodernism, and nihilism—that emphasize, if anything good (which some versions do), virtue in pursuit of justice; and lastly, we examined the purely spiritual New Age or idealist worldviews where, unlike the Eastern views, all existence is spiritual or consciousness—in other words, materiality does not exist.
For the life of us, again, we don’t see anyone anywhere not using reason for their own purposes. It’s just what humans do, even though clearly each of us can see the world very differently. Materialists cannot explain the mind, idealists think all is Mind, and dualists use the human mind to get to the Divine Mind.
In sum, we wish we could claim God, truth, logic, and reason for those of us who were unfortunate enough to be born white folks, but all of that truth and reason stuff seems to be universal. Furthermore, stupidity doesn’t discriminate either based on race, sex, class, ethnicity, or nationality anymore than reason. Go figure: Humans have countless similarities worldwide.
For whatever reason, human beings worship things, and we need to make sure whatever we worship is worthy of worship. As mentioned in Series IV, the fundamental divide in all of this is the Creator God Story (CGS) versus the Man God Story (MGS). We believe God is true and unimaginably good and beautiful, and that this is possible with life here being often extremely difficult.
Christianity as All of the Above
Now that we’ve reached the end of the Yellow Brick Road just before Christmas, we would like to end this year’s discussion of reason with just a few points. We want to offer some themes about Christian reason and also some key differences it presents versus the other versions already discussed.
First, Christianity offers a complete set of worldview presuppositions that seems to have absorbed the “greatest hits” of every other worldview the faith has ever encountered. Christianity’s theology and philosophy are extremely diverse and comprehensive and have been tempered for strength in the furnace of debate over literally thousands of years. The worldviews around now existed thousands of years ago in different forms.
Christianity’s strength is in reflecting reality extremely well in the most useful and meaningful ways. (Of course, this is what one would expect from Truth.) In other words, nothing Christianity encounters in the so-called modern world today hasn’t been encountered and, in a sense, “defeated” via human free thinking numerous times down through the ages. It’s thinking removes all glass ceilings. It’s momentum increases everyday.
Second, it is ludicrous to say that Christianity or Western reason does not strongly emphasize feelings, emotions, pleasures, desires, happiness, love—everything the body, mind, and spirit can encounter in human lives that make them beautiful. And without question, reason can rationalize bad desires for the best of us!
Of course, the real turning point in the Wizard of Oz comes near the end in the scene presented at the very top here. It is Dorothy’s love for her family at home and the love that her friends, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Lion, and, yes, the Wizard, have for her that get her home. Love motivates all at every turn in real life and in dream-like states.
Moreover, sad-to-say, it isn’t water or even SRCs that kill the Witch; it’s love and courage, with love giving courage a reason to be. Love is universal—West/East, North/South, all around—yet we can’t leave our reason behind.
Which is a good introduction to the last point:
Third, reason doesn’t work without faith. Faith of many kinds is absolutely critical just to get out of bed each morning, much less pursue our heart’s desire: one’s home. Most human beings seek to build a home they can love. It is people that make a home—not foundation, walls, and roof.
As the Catholic Church is recently most famous for recognizing, faith and reason are like two wings, both essential for flight. Faith is always based on evidence that must be true going beyond any one person’s subjectivity, though the fullness of belief often goes beyond one’s personal experience or beyond the seen or the senses. Much of what we believe in our modern world of higher education we are taught and did not experience personally.
Finally, singularities or “miracles” happen, but they, too, are just as real as toast. A broader appreciation for miracles leads to astonishment everyday: existence, the heavens, the earth, light, energy, mass, water, all life, your church, your marriage, your child, your life.
Yes, God the Creator pursues human beings in love, but the reverse must happen, too. Reason must purse faith, continuously examining revelation, to receive its life giving power. Well, Christians believe this is what they’re here for. Home is real; there’s no place like it. Which brings us to the end of the story at hand.
Some Christian Worldview Fundamentals
In the famous black and white scene below, Dorothy wakes up from her spectacularly beautiful dream and tells the audience the moral of the story: “I kept saying I wanna go home . . . And you’re all here. And I’m not going to leave ever, ever again. Because I love you all . . . There is no place like home.” At another level, Dorothy’s moral is that we should strive to love and appreciate all around us right now.
Our happiness lies in this world, as imperfect and fallen as it is; we need only open our eyes and hearts. As an aside, we doubt that a more powerful message could have been imagined as America fell into World War II.
While an American cultural classic, The Wizard of Oz presents themes that actually began to surface notably across the world during the Axial Age, the 8th to the 3rd Centuries BC. In fact, Christianity absorbed much of the best known thinking during its early centuries of accelerated growth.
Humans seem to agree that there appear to be at least two different worlds, not one: (1) the world we live in now with our current awakened consciousness called, for lack of a better term, the material world and (2) an unseen world that somehow we have access to that is often called the spiritual world.
This “dualist” construct is by far the majority view based on actual, ongoing, primary human experience, as well as recorded secondary experience. There is tremendous and growing evidence for this which we will not get into here. The Abrahamic monotheisms, New Age, the Eastern and Asian religions, and even certain philosophies agree here.
While it is unknown exactly how the two worlds relate, most believe it has something to do with an immaterial aspect of the human mind and possibly the world itself in tandem with the nature of Spirit and the spiritual world. Furthermore, most believe Divine Mind exists in the unseen world that’s likely our world’s Creator—for better or worse. Science, philosophy, and theology seem to support this.
What the spiritual world consists of and what comes before time and after our lives, of course, no one knows with any certainty. Indeed, if is there is a Creator, this could have been a built-in Design feature. However, the clues we have indicate there is something going on here from outside this world.
The extreme minority views are that the materialist world is all there is and that the spiritual world is all there is. Most in the minority here believe either human beings evolved to be spiritual, or they are fooling themselves for any number of primitive, greedy, or gutless reasons.
Of course, at this juncture in time, it seems impossible for any one view to disprove the other. This could be a function of the tentative nature of being and knowledge or, again, a built-in design feature. In any case, no one sees definitive answers coming anytime soon.
Welcome, then, friends, to our world of faith.
We will end this post with three clips from Praxis Circle stars who offer excellent comment on Christian worldview and reason issues. Charles Mathewes comments below about how St. Augustine brought much of Christian thinking together that serves as our foundation today. Augustine combined the Gospels and the Bible with the several excellent schools of pagan philosophy, probably emphasizing Plato and then later Plotinus, who lived approximately 600 years after Plato, the most.
(Living over 800 years later with Paul’s and Augustine’s foundation, St. Thomas Aquinas would thoroughly integrate the Philosopher, Aristotle, into Christian theology forever. Truth is truth no matter where or how encountered.)
With Augustine, our Will should turn in faith freely inward to go upward, where we can meet God’s grace in love. Or, in the alternative, maybe just maybe, God will come down here and smack you wherever you’re at.
Dorothy would be happy to know, as Charles says, that “God continues to love this world in an unimaginably intimate way” and that her takeaway from her dream-like journey was quite correct: “God has created the world to be present to” her. While Imago Dei means we are in this world but not wholly of this world, this life is what we are here for now; we should love it as does God with gratitude. We should run the race to the end, as best we can.
Next, Anne Bradley below makes the critical point that while we are in God’s image with divine characteristics, we are not God and are, therefore, limited and very much in need of God and each other. She zooms into an area that distinguishes orthodox Christianity from much of Eastern/Asian religion: Orthodox Western Christianity does not view man or the world as God (rocks are not God), but as made good by God in creation.
It is a fine point, but it makes a big difference.
Of course, Praxis Circle’s staff recognizes that there are many versions of Christianity today, and many venture into that territory (pantheism or panentheism). As Christians, we fully respect those who have adopted such views, and we believe God has given us the freedom to adopt beliefs for ourselves.
Billions across the world have consciously chosen non-Christian views. Even so, other religions like Hinduism see some of the same issues and split fine differences to address them. (E.g., versions of Hinduism and Buddhism do with such concepts as reincarnation, samsara, karma, and Nirvana.) If you believe God is real and want to worship He/She/Both/Neither/It/Them, you have to think about it (See: reason) and do it some way.
In contrast, Western Christian theology has developed for two thousand years (building on the prior two to three thousand years of recorded history) with a vision of two books that God created, the Bible and the Book of Nature (brought together under the categories, “Natural Law” or “Natural Law Theology“). Angry atheists ridicule this longstanding body of Western thinking, but only make themselves look foolish.
We know God works on us via both of these Books every second of everyday in secondary ways. However, the primary ways God has and does enter the world, having never left us via Grace, are through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. As Western Christians operating within the middle of worldwide Christianity’s bell curve, we should seek both, but we also recognize we command neither.
Grace is wholly God’s purview.
If God has placed us here, we are here for Divine reasons. The One has produced the many, and each self is vital to all the other selves. Doing the right thing with love in this life, while maintaining a virtuous and healthy self, is vital to the well being of everyone else; again, in this life. Orthodox Christians embrace the self from conception throughout life, whereas various Eastern views seek to lose it entirely.
We submit that the LNC says we can’t have it both ways.
Treating this life as an accident, devoid of meaning and purpose, or an illusion are not Classical Judeo-Christian options. Unlike other religions, philosophies, or ideologies, being contrary to the Creator’s intent, losing the self in this world is also not an option as well—except in service to others, when necessary or when the Spirit or the conscience moves one to do so.
The Bible promises us another life in the next world, and, through Christ, we’ve witnessed death defeated. While in the next world we might all be of one mind or consciousness (as some have experienced), right now God wants everyone to pitch in here. This is the only way to cure poverty and otherwise make the world a better place, and in this world we are actually doing it now.
In other words, God wants us to go the distance for others with the common good in mind; our Christian duties go to the Creator, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, through love for our fellow man and His creation. While this is our faith, we can’t leave our divine-like reason behind. This is the road to failure, if not catastrophe, and this is what America is bumping up against today.
With the Gospel of John’s first verse being, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” and in well-known immediately subsequent lines, the Apostle is telling us that we can expect to see the Divine Mind literally everywhere we look in this world.
“The Word” Itself “became flesh and made his dwelling among us . . . full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) Such inspiration led Christian scientists to place their full faith in reason in an effort to discover the Mind of God. Indeed, to attempt to use human reason to defeat God’s reason is at least stupid and certainly circular—the height of arrogance. We know human knowledge and reason are extremely limited; logos can and does exist in plenty alongside paradox.
Though we are one with nature, we understand that differences exist in nature by design, and reason is probably impossible without even the simplest narrative. As a true and metaphorical narrative, the Bible easily presents “The Greatest Story Ever Told;” yes, even greater than The Wizard of Oz, in any case, but especially because it’s real. (Thank you, Dorothy, for making it home!)
The Old Testament presented the kind of story people want to be a part of, and Jesus, Paul, and subsequent great Christians opened it up to the people of the world. The Bible is the primary source of sacred revelation and narrative, with all human beings continuing that story today.
We must read and interpret the Bible. With that in mind, here is one man’s faithful effort, Hugh Whelchel:
There are many ways to interpret the Bible, and no one has a monopoly on its meaning. Over modern academic research time, the view that the Bible is true is gaining ground, not losing it. Even reasonable, learned skeptics recognize its worth and that the Resurrection could very well be true. It would be a microcosm of the miracle of creation itself. (The link is to Job 38.)
The duty to interpret the Word is one all Christians have. And it is a joy to fulfill because no document is more beautiful.
The thing about real history is that no wild & crazy author, other than God, could have made this stuff up. Reality is far more amazing than fiction – with our imagination offering much needed understanding and a bridge to the Divine. In fact, it is divine.
The Beginning of New Creation
So, here we are before Christmas once again, as darkness increases around us.
Just before the scene depicted in the painting below, Pilate took Jesus into his private confidence to ask him if he was king of the Jews.
In reply, as recorded by John, Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place. . . You say that I am king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
“What is truth?” retorted Pilate.
Then, after scourging and humiliation, Pilate answered his own question:
“Behold the man!” (John 18:33 – 19:5)
From Praxis Circle to you and your family & friends through December 25: peace, joy, and Shalom.