Wednesday, February 26, 2020

A Christian Worldview: How Did We Get Here? Part II

As established in Part 1, seeing life through Jesus eyes entails seeing the world and the life in it as created by God. None of us is an accident of chance (not even the lowly amoeba is); instead, all life is the result of God actively creating life at some point in the past and then ceasing thereafter from creating life. Furthermore, this perspective is one that actually comports with reality, whereas any viewpoint excluding the existence of a creator and relying upon random chance and processes that could be active today does not.

That, however, leaves us with the questions of why life is what it is and why humans are what they are. What of suffering, and death, and evil? What kind of Creator must we have when there is such misery in the creation that creator has made? The texts of Genesis 3:14-24 and Romans 1:18-32 yield an answer, which is really quite robust and needs to be braided into any Christian worldview.

Simply put, the reason that conditions are what they are is that God is angry. The word used to describe God’s attitude toward life, particularly human life (Romans 1) is wrath [Koine: orge]. Literally, the word refers to a swelling up, figuratively it refers to the state of being teeming in opposition. In other words, the wrath (orge) God feels towards humanity moves him to stand up and fight against them. That might seem a quaint idea to modern sensibilities, but it is biblical and it lines up with reality!

But why is God so wrathful? According to Romans 1, it is because mankind has endeavored, from the beginning, to marginalize and dismiss God in order to do whatever they have wanted to do. Whether we look at the story of Adam and Eve, or at the generations leading up to Noah, or at those who built a tower in opposition to God’s right to rule over and judge us, or anything since, the biblical history of mankind is played on one note: resistance to God. His counterpoint is wrath.

In this day and age, is that an idea that has any merit, any truth value to it? Look for yourself. Are people willful while they put their Creator on a bookshelf or ignore that Creator altogether? Does dismissing or neglecting the Creator allow them to pursue whatever course of action they see fit? Do they project upon God what they want him to be or what conveniences their willful agenda? That certainly jibes with my observations.

Even good people, the very best people, don’t take God seriously.

If they're not projecting their wishes and excuses upon God in one way, then they're dismissing and neglecting him on another. No one in the natural is truly unselfish or unwillful or God-seeking, and it has always been so.

God’s reaction to such was to pull the plug. Pull the plug on perfection, pull the plug on life, pull the plug on health, pull the plug on relationship, and leave us to our own devices since that’s what we wanted. The plug pulled, God removed himself from our realtime perception of him and left humankind to themselves, given over to a mind without God in it. As a result humankind lives flawed lives in a flawed world until death comes and each faces ultimate judgment.

Philosophers worry about theodicy, the justification of a perfectly good God given all the suffering and death here on earth. It’s not a thing a person looking at the world through Jesus eyes needs to worry about, for the fault lies not in God, but in humankind. The question is not how can God be all-good in the midst of so much evil, but why, since God is only good, it’s not a whole lot worse! At some point in time, given God's perfections, it will have to be.

So we wonder, “How did we get here?” and we see the Bible has an answer. In the beginning, God made everything, including life, and then he rested. He made humans in his image with divine-like powers of will, choice, creativity, etc. and placed them in a perfectly made world. But humans, in their god-like abilities, opted to trust their own judgment and do their own will rather than God’s. They rebelled and triggered the judgment of a perfectly just God.

Death and all the misery, weakness and suffering that comes with it is the price humans pay in the here and now for wanting God as he truly is out of the picture. Not only in themselves was the penalty inflicted but also upon the world around them God made for them. As it was for Adam and Eve, so it is for the rest of us. We have been given over to ourselves, separated from God, and the result is a depraved mind in a world broken beyond repair, leading to death.

But there is an antidote. God has a plan for fallen humankind, lost in isolation, brokenness and death--a redemptive plan. If we turn from our rebellion, from our rejection of God, and embrace him in our lives and living, he will welcome us into fellowship with himself and give us his very own breath so we can live in soundness of mind and fellowship with him now and forever. This is the message of Christ, this is what his death and resurrection secured for all who repent and accept the gospel.

A Christian worldview perceives that we are not accidents of chance but the creations of purpose--the purpose of God. A Christian worldview sees everything as a creation made by God but broken by sin, wrecked by death, and thankfully, redeemed in Christ. A Christian worldview sees that God has put us in this broken place so we would see the folly of our rebellion, repent, and put our trust in him.

A Christian worldview sees God in the face of Christ and realizes he is the only way out of the here we've gotten to.

Friday, February 21, 2020

A Christian Worldview: How Did We Get Here? Part I

Earth is a very friendly environment for life, even in places that seem completely inhospitable. Virtually anywhere one goes on or near the surface of the planet, life is teeming. In the biosphere of this planet the chemical processes of life find a safe haven for their action and interaction. And yet, whereas biogenesis is rampant on the planet, abiogenesis is non-existent, not even in experiments designed in its favor. Is that a problem?

It isn't for me, but then I'm a believer in biblical creationism. For the atheistic evolutionist, however,  it is an insurmountable wall. If the evolutionist does not have a plausible, credible, demonstrable theory for how chemicals progressed from soup to life, they have nothing but a realization that species adapt because of breeding and mutation. They do not have an explanation for the origin of life, therefore no explanation for the origin of species, nowhere near an explanation of where we came from, and certainly no reason to pitch concerns about a Creator over us out the window.

There are really only two possibilities to explain the origin of life on earth: it arose by chance chemical reactions or it arose as the result of purpose. Those who favor atheistic or naturalistic explanations favor chance, folks of a more spiritual bent prefer purpose. The promoters of chance must embrace an existential nightmare springing from the meaninglessness of life, the promoters of purpose are faced with the weighty matter of whose or what purpose brought life into being. It seems to me the chance promoters have a bigger challenge that requires a greater faith!

The basic building block of life as we know it is protein, a polymer made up of varying units of some 22 different amino acids. Nucleic acids, enzymes, sugars, lipids, as well as liquid water, are essential, but everything truly alive is made of protein. The precursor molecules of these organic materials have been shown to self-assemble in both natural environments and experimentally, so it seems a simple matter to serendipitously get the right zap, and presto chango, life sparks into existence. But that didn't happen, it couldn't have happened, it will never happen because it's impossible. Why?

Probabilities for one thing. Life, even in its simplest forms, is actually very complex. It's not just the order of elements in biochemical compounds that matters, it's also the shape of the molecule. Chirality, as much as anything else, is what allows the proper shape to be possible: in living things amino acids are left-handed, sugars right-handed. To function in the processes of life, compounds must be made of the right stuff in the right order and in the right shape. If not, processes go wrong or don't function at all.

That said, what of the probabilities I mentioned? Given a rich chemical soup containing an infinite supply of amino acid residues, the odds of a single, specific, small (150 residues long) functioning protein self-assembling is more than astronomical--1 in 10 to the 1064th power (my thanks to Dr. Meyer). To get a sense of that magnitude, there may be no more than 10 to 86th atoms in the entire universe! Even if there were natural, chemical ways in which these odds could be lessened they still would not become anywhere near probable, and we're only talking about one, small protein. Life requires multiple proteins, generally much longer.

The likelihood of one small, specific, functioning protein self-assembling in a chemical soup is, for all intents and purposes, impossible.

RNA-world theories hardly fare any better. Order in sequence is still necessary for function, particularly since protein synthesis is ultimately required to produce life as we know it. Even if the can is kicked down the ally a way, it still has to be picked up to clean up the situation. From my layman's perspective, the specificity of functioning proteins is still the hurdle (biologically and probabilistically) that a naturalistic origin of life must get over, even if starting with RNA. Self-assembling the thing that could code the assembling of a functioning protein is, if anything, more improbable than a functioning protein assembling itself.

I cannot see where experiments that demonstrate RNA's capacity for "natural selection" demonstrate anything other than RNA's replicative capacity. Has that not been understood since we've known about RNA? Those capabilities do not mitigate the probabilities involved. They certainly don't address the twin peaks of specificity and function. The truth is that the only thing we know for sure about the generation of life is that it takes life to make life. 

Given the extreme complexity in the chemistry of the cell and the time available for random sampling in any chemical soup (whether for proteins or RNA) the odds of useful, functioning, biochemicals self-assembling by chance are so insignificant as to be impossible. If all the universe were nothing but the chemicals needed, put into the most advantageous environment imaginable, the odds for self-assembly by chance would not be reduced significantly enough to change the impossibility. Life was undoubtedly created on purpose.

And even if one does not buy into purpose, the fact that life isn't coming into existence naturalistically on Earth now still has to be dealt with. The environment is very friendly now given the ubiquity of life now, and yet new life isn't spontaneously developing so far as anyone can tell. Whatever was happening to start life on Earth isn't happening now, despite how life-welcoming Earth is. We only see the unbending rule that life arises from life.

Naturalistic explanations for life's likely singular origin reach for scenarios that properly belong in the realm of imagination. The Bible, on the other hand, sets forth the scenario we see in reality--life was started at some point in the past and then ceased coming into existence--and it did so long before anyone ever did a scientifically sound abiogenesis experiment or knew just how ubiquitous life was. According Genesis 1:31-2:3, God exerted creative force in putting all creation into place, with all of its life, and then he ceased from his creative work. No more energy or mass and no more life was created afterwards.

Truth comports with reality.

Therefore, a Christian worldview perceives everything, including life, as arising from the hand of God on purpose. That is how here got here and that is how we got here. We all are creations purposefully made by God and our existence is lived in the light of our Creator who is over us. Are you ready to live life knowing there is a God who purposefully made you and to whom you must answer? Are you ready for truth?

Part II...

Saturday, February 15, 2020

A Christian Worldview: What Is Truth?

Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”

In a world where truth is asserted on the basis of consensus, or conversely, to be hyper-individualized, is there actually such a thing as truth? The contemporary search to uncover truth includes immense computing power sifting massive amounts of data and modeling at levels not possible just a couple of decades ago. Has it brought anyone closer to the truth? Who knows? Regardless, it seems to me that each person does have a conception that certain things are true, and that truth conception influences their lives, that is their decisions, direction, interactions, relations, and values.

This series is about the development of a Christian worldview, and in that matter the basis for one's conception of truth is foundational. In the above snippet from the Gospel of John the word used for truth [Koine: aletheia] communicates a basis for understanding truth objectively, namely, that truth aligns with reality. Whereas Pilate demonstrated a relativistic view on the subject, Jesus had a very definite position on the existence of truth, and that truth had to correspond to reality. Jesus came to tell the truth; the thing that was actually so, the thing that was perseveringly so, the thing that cut across that which wasn't so.

If a Christian worldview is about seeing life through Jesus eyes, then Christians who have such will also have a robust concept of truth, just like Jesus. According to that kind of view, whatever a person may say, or believe, or promulgate may not actually align with reality. It is possible to be right or wrong, for something to be true or false, justified or unfounded, even in matters of morality, religion, and ideas. Christianity itself rises or falls on the reality of a single truth claim, that Jesus Christ rose bodily from the dead. If that event did not actually comport with reality, then Christianity is false and claims that it makes concerning morality and metaphysics would be called into question.

If truth doesn't have to comport with reality we devolve into a wonderland where the difference between fact and fiction is indiscernible. Imagination would rule the day, until a two pound hammer fell on the imaginer's head from a scaffold and ended the dream. Consciousness may be a weird, subjective thing but it cannot shrug off reality or the environment in which it arises will end up turning on that consciousness and biting it on the rear. We don’t get to make up the world we want and call it truth, we’re stuck with the world as it actually is.

Even metaphysical and moral "truth" has to comport with reality, the ultimate reality that is... God. The metaphysics and morality of Judeo/Christianity arose from that ultimate reality speaking for itself. The unseen creating God told people what his supernatural power did and what his omniscient wisdom knew was right. Jesus Christ represents the most direct sample of this occurring, so to have truth in one's morality or metaphysical concepts those have to align with Christ and what he said.

Because truth comports with reality, it also will function within reality, it must. If something is true, it will work. Nicolas Copernicus (1733-1543 CE) famously dealt with this certainty in dealing with retrograde motion of the planets. Geocentrism didn't work, and couldn't possibly comport with reality. I deal with claims, similarly non-functioning, all the time, especially in the charismatic circles I run in. Doctrine that comports with reality, particularly the reality of Christ and his word, will work in reality. Doctrine that doesn't comport won't work and is bad doctrine.

Inevitably, bad doctrine leads to bad practice.

Understanding the truth and looking at life on the basis of it is the heart and soul of a Christian worldview. Living by that perspective keeps followers of Christ from going off the rails; it keeps them from being deceived; it keeps us from being lost in the dark. It helps us to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus. Show me a claimant to Christianity that doesn’t have this robust concept of truth and I’ll show you someone, undoubtedly, not living according to Christ. So dear reader, how are you living?

"Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth."

"...you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

The next part...

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

A Christian Worldview: How Is It Adopted?

The concept of worldview deals with the way a person or a group of people look at life and living. It can be applied to the impact of language, or culture, or ideology, or at the level of the individual which focuses it upon a very personal and unique space. For purposes of this series, it is that last consideration I will be addressing--the context of the individual. Together, we will explore what it means for the individual follower of Christ to have a thoroughly Christian worldview.

Worldview is really about the glasses one looks at life through. Glasses, because we are not speaking about seeing objectively through the native or natural lens that's part of the eye, but of something that is adopted by the seer or instilled by the environment, and through which one sees their all-compassing perspective of life. Belief in Christ is one such viewpoint, which when adopted is meant to impact the believer sufficiently to change, develop and instill an all-encompassing way of looking at life and living. The gospel is meant to cause us to see life, not through blue eyes or brown eyes, but through Jesus eyes.

So, it’s important to understand the means by which one adopts such a Christian worldview. Using a phrase like this may lead one to think that a believer merely accepts a series of propositions and endeavors, as best he or she can, to apply those precepts to their living. That is not at all the case, though I think sometimes Christians think that way and that teachers of the faith sometimes teach like that is the case. Whereas that certainly is the case in other ideologies, it is not at all the case in true faith in Christ.

Belief in Christ is about a quantum change in our nature. A metamorphosis so fundamental that the Christian, upon coming to sincere trust in Christ, becomes a new being--a creature different in its nature than it was before. That is not to say that the Christian decides this, or adopts this by choice and thereby makes it so, even if by remarkable effort. This change is the result of the introduction and infusion of a catalyst, a change agent, in this case a change person, namely, the Holy Spirit.

The simple truth is that no one can even come to Christ and believe in him unless that one is drawn by the Father (through auspices of the Holy Spirit, it seems to me). The conviction of heart and mind in regard to Christ which undergirds repentance, in my mind, comes through the Holy Spirit as well. It is the Holy Spirit interacting with humans that empowers them to have a faith which allows Christ to dwell in their hearts at all. It is that presence, power and action of the Holy Spirit which is the foundation of a Christian worldview.

The Holy Spirit is our lens. 

Christians do not see life in a Christian manner by mere choice, but through a lens actualized and activated by the Holy Spirit. The faith that responds to and partners with the Holy Spirit becomes an all-encompassing perspective on life for the one born again. If that is not present in one claiming the faith, there is no way that one can truly be in the faith. Actually being born again matters.

Are you born again? Do you have a Christian worldview?

The next part...