I wrote a while back about my entertainment center. In that post I discussed the difficulty we have in defining reality. The entertainment center idea is like this:
Sitting in my living room is an entertainment armoire. It is golden pine. It takes up a certain amount of space. But wait. It’s partially pine, but a lot of it is particle board. On top of that, it has quite a bit of plastic, and metal screws. On top of that, at the atomic level, it is mostly empty space. At second thought, it’s a cabinet, so it is mostly empty space anyway. And really, it’s not so much golden, as it is multiple shades of yellow. There are also reds and browns. And when you get right down to it, it’s only an entertainment armoire because I put a TV in it. If I put it in my basement and filled it with junk it’d just be a storage cabinet. And while we’re at it, this room is only my living room because it’s where I hang out and watch TV. It could just as easily be a bedroom. And it’s “my” because I signed some papers and send the bank some money every month. It’s more like the bank owns it, and I’m renting to own.
What it boils down to is that we can all agree that there is something there. It takes up a certain amount of space. It has certain properties. But when we really start to discuss exactly what is there, things get a little bit wonky.
Now, we all have a worldview. Each of us live our life with certain presuppositions about what life is about, why we are here, and what we should do with ourselves. Much like the entertainment center, we all seem to agree that there is something there, but we have a very difficult time discussing what exactly that thing is. Some hold to the view that since we each have our own perspective, none of them is any more accurate than the next. Others hold to the idea that their own perspective is the only possible solution to the question and that there is no truth at all in anything anyone else has to say. And often the folks who say that no one’s perspective is any better than any other miss out on the fact that that in itself is a statement about reality that they think is more true than the view of those who disagree.
I know, right? It’s all very confusing…
To the first group, the group who says no-one’s perspective is any truer than the next, I have to disagree. When we talk about the entertainment center, we each offer certain unique perspectives. However, some observations about the thing are closer to the reality (or the is-ness) of the thing than others. If I called it a “storage cabinet” and put it in the basement and filled it with junk, then I would fail to notice the things that make it uniquely designed to be an entertainment center. I would have to ignore the pocket doors, the pull-out swivel, the shelves for components, and the built-in power strip. I would not be completely wrong to say that it is a cabinet made to hold stuff. But I would have missed out on a fuller reality of what it was made to do.
I also have to part ways with the group who thinks there is no truth to be found outside of their own worldview. We are all somewhere along a continuum with our interaction with reality. All of us have some ways in which our view is distorted. What we are to do is to claim truth when we find it. All truth is God’s truth. This is not to say that we get to pick and choose what we claim as truth, however. 2+2=4 no matter how we feel about it. To put it into logic terms; A is A. A is not non-A. If there is a thesis, there is an antithesis. If there is a yin, there is a yang. But to claim that we understand the entire truth is also to miss the bigger picture. If I refuse to acknowledge that the entertainment center can also be used as a storage chest, then I miss the fuller reality because I am dead-set on what I define the object to be.
The same goes for life. Some perspectives on life are closer to the “is-ness” of what life is about than others. Certain worldviews necessitate a leap of faith in order to not end in despair. Some worldviews necessitate a closed mind and a barren heart in order to allow us to maintain our status quo (also a sort of leap of faith).
If life is the result of chance plus time, and all that is real is existential experience, then this worldview logically leads somewhere. Is there any difference between cruelty and mercy? Is there any reason, other than social norms, to love instead of hate? Is there any objective reality to love or hate? I would argue that to follow the logic of a “chance plus time” source of life leads directly to a meaningless existence. This does not mean that anyone who holds this view is leading a meaningless life. This is not to imply that the atheist is any more “evil” than the Christian. I do say this to say that there is a break-down in the logic of this worldview if at any point the one who holds to it begins to hold certain values above others. If at any point this person begins to love, fights for justice, or values mercy, then they have taken a leap of blind faith. The actions are good, and I believe they are based on an intuitive knowledge that there is an objective “right and wrong”, but the actions constitute a break down of the logic of the worldview.
So, how about my own worldview? How does this apply to me as a Christian? Obviously I believe that it is in Jesus that we find the ultimate truth of all of reality. As Christians we can debate about how God created the world, but we agree that God did it. We can debate how God created humanity, but we agree that God did it. We can debate what it means to be made in the image of God, but we agree that we are made in God’s image.
The story of Christianity is one of Love overflowing into Love. The Christian worldview states that God is three-in-one. There was a relationship of Love from all eternity that exploded into the Universe we see here as an outpouring of that Love. For love to be love it must be free to take it or leave it. So we have the choice. Every one of us in one way or another reject it every chance we get. So God had a plan in place from the beginning to offer the solution. And the solution is to offer us a part in a new-perfected heavens and earth. And we still have the choice to keep on living in the self-centered way we so often choose (a way whose trajectory into eternity is damnation).
So, if we believe that we are created in God’s image. If we believe that love is better than hate. If we believe that mercy is better than condemnation. If we believe that helping is better than hurting. Where does our logic break down? See, I believe that these things are true. I believe that it is closer to the reality of the “is-ness” of life to say that we should love each other. But often I take a backward leap of faith and I don’t do it. I act in small selfish ways. I take the resources I’ve been blessed with and I squander them and refuse to share with people around me who are hurting. I believe that it is my job to help bring heaven to earth, but then I ignore all the hells on earth (and all too often I help create them).
So I encourage anyone who believes in the chance plus time version of life to continue to look at the logic of the position, but to continue to make that leap of faith to work towards love and justice. Even if you don’t believe in God, when you work for love, you are working for God. And I encourage Christians to follow the logic of your faith. If we believe what we claim to believe then it will change the way we act towards those around us. Christianity can’t just be a social club for people who “get it.” If the Gospel is good news, then it has to be good news for everyone. It should be good news to the person you’ve been hateful to that you are being changed by the Spirit. It should be good news to the downtrodden, the poor, the orphans, the immigrants, that you are being made new.
If Christianity is just about you getting right with God, then you are missing the point. Re-birth is the starting line, not the finish line. Let your light shine.