Is Faith Irrational?

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The truth about God is too important not to be seriously investigated and honestly and fairly discussed. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for friendly conversations about religion to escalate into shouting matches—and this helps no one. Belief and unbelief are two sides to the same coin. The debate over faith and spirituality is here to stay. However, it does no good to vilify the other side. If any real ground is to be reached, we need to change the tone of this conversation.

WHY ALL THIS HOSTILITY AGAINST RELIGION?

It wasn’t too long ago that the idea of books on atheism and apologetics becoming New York Times best-sellers would have been hard to imagine. So what happened? Why are people reading books bashing God and ridiculing the faithful, or proffering a defense of the Gospel? Of course, that’s a rather complex question.

Lower Manhattan Just After Towers Fell

First, we live in a much different world following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The events of that horrific day, when 2,996 people were murdered and more than 6,000 were injured, are burned into our collective memory. We all had front-row seats to religious fanaticism run amok. Until that day, such zealotry had always been going on “somewhere else” in the world. It is impossible to overstate how drastically the events of 9/11 changed our world.

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In the days that followed, the cultural conversation turned to the role and value of religion in the public square and throughout the globe. Such conversations are certainly legitimate and appropriate and, if conducted properly, can be quite healthy. But events like 9/11, the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15, 2013, or the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando on June 12, 2016, helped create the cultural context in which the hyper-aggressive claims of today’s militant atheists could actually be entertained by a nation founded on Judeo-Christian principles.

Second, there is a growing undercurrent of unbelief in America. A Newsweek cover story written by John Meacham, published on April 16, 2009, titles “The End of Christian America,” reported that “the number of Americans who claim no religious belief or affiliation has nearly doubled since 1990, rising from 8 to 15 percent.” Why is this? While sociologists have more than enough polling data to analyze, I think Timothy Keller offers a plausible explanation in his book The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism:

Three generations ago, most people inherited rather than chose their religious faith. The great majority of people belonged to one of the historic mainline Protestant churches or the Roman Catholic Church. Today, however, the now-dubbed “old-line” Protestant churches of cultural, inherited faith are aging and losing members rapidly. People are opting instead for a non-religious life, for non-institutional personally constructed spirituality, or for orthodox, high-commitment religious groups that expect members to have a conversion experience. Therefore the population is paradoxically growing both more religious and less religious at once.

This post 9/11 rejection of God and religion has its roots in pluralism and secularization. It seems a growing number of people—on both sides of the God question—are no longer content to “play church.” It is likely many see “religion” as a training ground for extremism, dogma, elitism, and narrow-mindedness. Either what people believe is true and they are going to attempt to live out their faith in all areas of their life, or it’s false and people shouldn’t waste their time going through the motions of their childhood faith if belief makes no difference whatever.

So these two factors have generated a cultural conversation about faith and God in the 21st century. This is both an opportunity and a challenge for those who attempt to share the Gospel. In addition, the events of 9/11 and after also created room in culture for militant atheists whose advocates tell anyone who’ll listen that if we get rid of religion, we can free ourselves from what they call childish nonsense. Atheism, of course, is not new. It’s been with us for quite a long time. The media fueled atheism, starting perhaps with the April 8, 1966 cover story of Time magazine, “Is God Dead?” Friedrich Nietzsche infamously said Gott ist tot God is dead) in his 1882 collection titled “The Joyful Pursuit of Knowledge and Understanding.”

What is new, however, is the biting and powerful rhetoric, as well as the cultural visibility, of these so-called militant atheist, the likes of which include Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Bill Nye. Naturally, their visibility has increased secondary to the explosion of the Internet, blogs, and 24/7 media coverage of every imaginable topic. The more controversial and polarizing, the better. Hoping that something hits the mark, these militant atheists tend to throw everything at people. They appeal primarily to the emotions, lacking any evidence regarding the non-existence of God. Granted, it’s impossible to prove a negative. But these individuals skillfully dodge the concept of proof and instead use sarcasm and innuendo to rattle their theist counterparts and paint religion—especially Christianity—as delusional.

SO, IS FAITH IRRATIONAL?

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A distinct feature of the rhetoric being espoused by the militant atheists today is their belief that religion is blind, irrational, and, well, just plain stupid. This is evident in the title of Richard Dawkins’ seminal work: The God Delusion. His intent is clear—those who believe in God are fools who have been brainwashed by their parents and ancestors into believing something absurd. Dawkins thinks religious people are deluded. I find myself asking, What could possibly cause Dawkins and others like him to be so adamantly against religion? Why resort to attacking fellow citizens simply because they believe in God? A major reason is because Dawkins has decided religious belief is not based in evidence. He said, “In all areas except religion, we believe what we believe as a result of evidence.”  In other words, he believes religious faith is blind but in other disciplines—especially science—we demand physical proof for what we believe. Dawkins concludes that religion is a “nonsensical enterprise” that “poisons everything.”

Dawkins’ definition of a “delusion” is “a persistent false belief in the face of strong contradictory evidence.” Now wait just a minute! Isn’t it nearly impossible to prove a negative? What is this strong contradictory evidence? Daniel Dennett—an American philosopher, writer, cognitive scientist, atheist, and secularist—claims that Christians are addicted to their blind faith. According to militant atheist Sam Harris, “Faith is generally nothing more than the permission religious people give one another to believe things strongly without evidence.” Harris said, “Tell a devout Christian that his wife is cheating on him, or that frozen yogurt can make a man invisible, and he is likely to require as much evidence as anyone else, and to be persuaded only to the extent that you give it. Tell him the book he keeps by his bed was written by an invisible deity who will punish him with fire for eternity if he fails to accept every incredible claim about the universe, and he seems to require no evidence whatsoever.”

Doubting Thomas

Dawkins often cites the story of doubting Thomas as proof that Christianity requires blind faith. When the other disciples reported that they had seen the risen Christ, Thomas refused to believe until he could see the nail marks and put his hands where the nails had been and into Jesus’ side where He had been speared. A week later, Jesus showed up and gave Thomas the evidence he demanded. Then Jesus said to Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29, NIV). True to form, Dawkins says this Scripture passage proves that Christianity opposes reason. He adds, “Thomas demanded [physical] evidence… the other apostles, whose faith was so strong that they did not need evidence, are help up to us as worthy of imitation.”

BIBLICAL FAITH

The fact that some Christians may have so-called “blind faith” is not the same as Christianity itself valuing blind faith and irrationality. Frankly, the Bible does not tell us to irrationally believe something in the face of reliable physical evidence to the contrary. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (NIV). Eugene Peterson, in his translation of Hebrews 11:1, writes, “The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see” (MSG) [Emphasis added]. To me, this wonderfully written paraphrase shows that Christianity does not require blind faith in face of scientific evidence to the contrary. Hebrews 11 (the “faith” chapter) explains trust in God.

Faith Hebrews 11

Many individuals—believers, non-believers, and agnostics alike—have a gross misunderstanding of what constitutes faith. Faith is not merely a manner by which we “fill in the gaps” in the absence of, or in the face of, real, tangible, evidence. Carl Sagan, for example, once said, “Faith is believing in something in the absence of evidence.” This is a rather narrow definition. Let’s take a closer look at the word substance. It comes from the Greek word hupostasis, meaning “a placing or setting under, a substructure or foundation.” This word can also be translated as “confidence.” The Greek word for evidence, elengchos, means “that by which a thing is proved or tested; conviction.”

Biblical faith comes from careful observation and the weighing of all available evidence. Faith, therefore, is dynamic rather than static. The militant atheists like to lump all religions together and dismiss them with sweeping generalizations. But Christianity is unique in valuing the role of the mind which includes the proper use of reasoning and argumentation. In fact 1 Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have…” (NIV). The King James Bible uses this same terminology: the substance of things hoped for. Jesus tells us to love God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind. God said to Israel, “Come now, let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18, NKJV).

EVERYONE HAS FAITH!

When people hear the word faith, they typically think of religion. No doubt religious people have faith in God. Christians have faith in the Word and many unseen things such as heaven, angels, and the spirit. The point that’s often passed over is that Christians are not the only ones who have faith—everyone does. Everyone has faith in something, including Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins. If you don’t have faith, you wouldn’t eat, leave your house, get in an airplane, or go to the fiftieth floor of a skyscraper in an elevator car.

The philosophical revolution over the past few decades has lead to the strengthening of the traditional arguments for God’s existence with new insights and evidence. In their writings, militant atheists hardly interact with these arguments, and, until recently, they have refused to engage leading Christian thinkers in public. As part of my class on World Views at Colorado Christian University, I watched a debate between Dinesh D’Souza and the late Christopher Hitchens. I was shocked by Hitchens’ vilification of Christianity and the vitriolic and mean-spirited comments he threw at D’Souza in an attempt to throw his opponent off his game.

CONCLUDING REMARKS

Faulty views of Christianity and its followers are not countered solely by good arguments, but also through relationships. The apostle Paul spoke of imparting not only the truth of the Gospel, but also his very own life. We typically refer to this as our “witness.” Perhaps Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens simply haven’t gotten to know thoughtful and intelligent Christians who value the role of evidence and reason. In other words, believers who grasp the importance of 1 Peter 3:15.

If the human condition limits our ability to know what is true, how do we determine what to believe? It’s been said that we have no criterion for truth—only the means to recognize error. In other words, our knowledge is finite but our ignorance is infinite. Philosophy has long recognized this fact and uses dialectics to assist in our quest to understand what is true. This process involves repeated and thorough criticism of our assumptions. After all, our Christian worldview is more inherited than undertaken by us. Of course, most atheists are fond of stating that faith is defined as believing without evidence. This is actually a faith that mirrors Hebrews 11:1. Even the most atheistic scientist accepts as an act of faith the existence of law-like order in nature and throughout the universe that is at least comprehensible to Christians.

 

String Theory, Origin of the Universe and God

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Exactly What is String Theory?

String theory attempts to unify the four forces in the universe – electromagnetic, strong nuclear, weak nuclear, and gravity – together into one unified theory. When it was originally developed in the 1970s, the filaments of energy in string theory were considered to be one-dimensional objects: strings. (One-dimensional indicates that a string has only one dimension, length, as opposed to say a square, which has both length and height dimensions.) These strings come in two forms – closed and open. An open string has ends that don’t touch each other, while a closed string is a loop with no open end. It was eventually found that these early strings, called Type I, could go through five basic types of interactions.

The interactions are based on a string’s ability to have ends join and split apart. Because the ends of open strings can join together to form closed strings, you can’t construct a string theory without closed strings.  This proved to be important, because closed strings have properties that might help define gravity. Instead of just being a theory of particles of matter, physicists began to realize that string theory might explain the behavior of particles relative to gravity. Gravity, in its most basic definition, is a force that tries to pull two objects toward each other. Simple enough, right? Anything that has mass also has gravitational pull. The more massive an object is, the stronger its gravitational pull. Earth’s gravity, for example, is what keeps us on the ground, and what causes objects to fall. It is true, by the way, that the Moon’s gravitational pull on the Earth affects tidal cycles of Earth’s oceans.

A Thought or Two About the Intelligence Behind Our Universe

The force of gravity is so universal that every particle feels it based upon its mass or energy. Gravity is the weakest of the four forces by a long shot; it is so weak that we would not notice it at all were it not for two special properties that it has: it can act over large distances, and it is always attractive. This means that the very weak gravitational forces between individual particles in two large bodies, such as the earth and the sun, can all add up to produce a significant force. It makes the earth revolve around the sun!

The electromagnetic attraction between negatively charged electrons and positively charged protons in the nucleus causes the electrons to orbit the nucleus of the atom, just as gravitational attraction causes the earth to orbit the sun. Even though it is very difficult to observe spontaneous proton decay, it may be that our very existence is a consequence of the reverse process, the production of protons, or more simply, of quarks, from an initial situation in which there were no more quarks than anti-quarks, which is the most natural way to imagine the universe starting out. Matter on earth is made up of protons and neutrons, which in turn are made up of quarks. This is true of bone, hair, the blood running through our veins, the veins themselves, the skin that contains everything that makes us a living organism; it’s true of the sidewalk we walk on, the footwear we walk in, the air we breath, and the lungs that turn that air into the exact mixture of oxygen needed to live. And so on.

There are no anti-protons or anti-neutrons, made up from anti-quarks, except for a few that physicists produce on purpose in large particle accelerators. In his seminal work A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking says we have evidence from cosmic rays that the same is true for all the matter in our galaxy; there are no anti-protons or anti-neutrons apart from a small number that are produced as particle/anti-particle pairs in high-energy collisions. If there were large regions of anti-matter in our galaxy, we would expect to observe large quantities of radiation from the borders between the regions of matter and anti-matter, where many particles would be colliding with their anti-particles, annihilating each other and giving off high-energy radiation.

As much as this is difficult to comprehend, it is important to note the fantastic picture it paints of intelligent design. Why should there be so many more quarks than anti-quarks? Why are there not equal numbers of each? Hawking puts it this way: “It is certainly fortunate for us that the numbers are unequal because, if they had been the same, nearly all the quarks and anti-quarks would have annihilated each other in the early universe and left a universe filled with radiation but hardly any matter.” (pg. 76) The result would have been no galaxies, stars or planets on which human life could have developed. I must mention that early in his career Hawking left the door open for the possibility of the existence of God. However, in an interview with Spain’s El Mundo in 2014, Hawking said, “Before we understood science, it [was] natural to believe that God created the universe. But now science offers a more convincing explanation.”

So What about these stringy thingys?

Theories of supergravity have developed from attempts to construct a unified field that describes all of the four basic forces. One of the essential features of quantum field theory is its prediction of “force-carrier” particles that are exchanged between interacting particles of matter. General relativity, which relates gravitational force to the curvature of space-time, provides a respectable theory of gravity on a larger scale. Supergravity theories permit extra dimensions in space-time, beyond the familiar three dimensions. Whoa! In essence, string theory states that there is a dimension beyond that of quarks. A quark is a subatomic or fundamental particle which possesses both an electric charge and a “strong” charge. They combine in groups of two or three to form composite objects held together by the strong force. Protons and neutrons are familiar examples of such composite objects – both are made up of three quarks.

According to Hawking, “Up to about twenty years ago, it was thought that protons and neutrons were ‘elementary’ particles, but experiments in which protons were collided with other protons or electrons at high speeds indicated that they were in fact made up of smaller particles.” (pg. 65) Quantum mechanics tells us that all particles are in fact waves, and that the higher the energy of a particle, the smaller the wavelength of the corresponding wave.

These “strings” vibrate in different patterns, thereby creating the different particles that make up the world around us. Literally, these vibrations define the very substance of the physical world. Everything is made up of tiny filaments of vibrating energy. Many physicists see string theory as the perfect solution for unifying the gravitational mechanics of astronomy with the quantum mechanics of electrons and other subatomic particles – one of the great unsolved problems in physics – because their differing mathematics resolve into one. The implication from string theory is that the underlying unity of matter is energetic “vibration.” At the root of all things is oscillation. The difference between the subatomic particles – between quarks, electrons, and neutrinos, for example – is simply the frequency at which they vibrate. Protons and neutrons in an atomic nucleus are simply composites of those subatomic particles.

The Many Dimensions of the Physical Realm

The physical realm has more dimensions than what we can see. Dimensions which are based upon finely-tuned mathematics. Equations so intricate that if off by even the slightest variation the universe would cease to exist. These “extra” dimensions have a very rich, interdependent geometry. One way in which science has been able to prove the existence of these extra dimensions is by aiming particles at each other in the Large Hadron Collider. The particles are sent round and round in a circle, near the speed of light. If the collision produces enough energy, then it may eject some of the debris from the impact, forcing it to enter into the other dimensions. This could be proven because the amount of energy present after the collision would be less than before, indicating it had drifted away. Energy cannot be created or destroyed, so it had to have gone somewhere.

The Voice of God: “Good Vibrations”

Just as different tones come out of different lengths of a string being plucked on a guitar, so different properties come from the different frequencies or tones of vibration characterizing certain subatomic particles. Even our thoughts are characterized by brainwaves of characteristic amplitude, frequency, and wavelength. Thought produces energy in our brain from the electrochemical activity between neurons. As the neural networks fire in a synchronous pattern with each other, this energy can actually be observed using an EEG.

Here’s the fascinating part. The Bible tells us God’s words are the very energy behind creation. God spoke and the entire universe and all its inhabitants came into existence. God’s thoughts were transmitted as spoken sound waves, thereby creating a physical universe which, at its most fundamental level, is governed by vibratory waves of little loops of string. If vibrations are the foundation of physical reality – remember, of course, that atomic particles are in constant motion – then it’s clear that spiritual truth transcends physical truth. Why are atoms and molecules so stable and yet so full of energy and motion? Scripture says, “For in [Christ] all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16-17, NIV) [Emphasis mine.] In this manner, Scripture illuminates science. Science does not explain Scripture.

Concluding Remarks

Hawking, in his conclusion to A Brief History of Time, said, “We find ourselves in a bewildering world. We want to make sense of what we see around us and to ask, ‘What is the nature of the universe? What is our place in it and where did it and we come from? Why is it the way it is?” To try to answer these questions, we adopt a particular “worldview.” Everyone has one. Just as an infinite tower of tortoises supporting the archaic idea of a flat earth is such a picture, so is the theory of superstrings. Both are theories of the universe, though string theory at least is much more mathematically practical than the turtle idea. Einstein once asked the question, “How much choice did God have in constructing the universe?” According to Hawking, if no boundary proposal is correct, God had no freedom at all to choose initial conditions. He would, of course, still have had the freedom to choose the laws that the universe obeyed. Hawking believes this may not really have been all that much of a choice; there may well be only one, or a small number, of complete unified theories. Hawking states, “Even if there is only one possible unified theory, it is just a set of rules and equations.”

Let’s remember, however, that the very physics and mathematics by which Hawking and others attempt to explain the universe, including its beginning, did not exist at the time of the so-called Big Bang. Fascinating, no? I like this quote from NASA Science Beta Magazine Online: “According to the theories of physics, if we were to look at the universe one second after the Big Bang, what we would see is a 10-billion degree sea of neutrons, protons, electrons, anti-electrons (positrons), photons, and neutrinos. Then, as time went on, we’d see the universe cool. It would eventually reach the temperature where electrons combined with nuclei to form neutral atoms. Before this ‘recombination’ occurred, the universe would have been opaque because the free electrons would have caused light (photons) to scatter the way sunlight scatters from the water droplets in clouds.” I believe Genesis has a word or two about what caused light to appear.

Pope Pius XII made a very curious remark in 1951: “True science to an ever-increasing degree discovers God as though God were waiting behind each door opened by science.” More than a few scientists over the decades have said that the facts of the Big Bang, as they are slowly uncovered, could at the very least suggest the work of a Creator. In my opinion, science will never be able to take us to the exact moment of creation– only up to that point where philosophy, metaphysics, and theology begin. Before publicly concluding he was an atheist, Stephen Hawking initially made a tentative foray into this uncertain area by saying, “The odds against a universe like ours emerging out of something like the Big Bang are enormous. I think there are clearly religious implications whenever you start to discuss the origins of the universe. There must be religious overtones. But I think most scientists prefer to shy away from the religious side of it.”

“First this: God created the heavens and earth – all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a sea of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss. God spoke: ‘Light!’ and light appeared. God saw that light was good and separated light from dark. God named the light Day, He named the dark Night. It was evening, it was morning – Day One.”

(Genesis 1:1-5, MSG)

References

Boslough, J. (1985). Stephen Hawking’s Universe. New York, NY: Avon Books
Hawking, S. (1988). A Brief History of Time. New York, NY: Bantam Books
NASA Science (n.d.). “The Big Bang.” NASA Science Beta Magazine Online. Retrieved from: https://science.nasa.gov/astrophysics/focus-areas/what-powered-the-big-bang

A Fundamental Orientation of the Heart

Perhaps one of the hardest things we face is taking stock of whether our actions match what we claim to believe. Our worldview – that is, how we see the world and our place in it, or, if you prefer, our “philosophy of life” – should be obvious from our behavior. A worldview is not just a set of basic concepts but a fundamental orientation of the heart.

Since the events of 9/11, the term worldview is often used as a very general label for how people view the cultures with which their culture clashes. This is very important to note, as a worldview is a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true, or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or unconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic makeup of our world. A worldview is sometimes considered to be the fundamental perspective from which we address every issue of life.

From a Human Perspective

Imagine someone who thinks life has no true purpose. For that person, events are random. “I live, then I die.” A meaningless existence requires nothing from anyone. There is no need to check our bearings along the way to see of we’re “on track.” There is no need to justify our choices, values, or goals. There is a quiet desperation that drives humanity to think about the question, “Does life have meaning?” Even non-religious people understand that man has a burning desire to make sense of his life. Humanist Deane Starr writes, “Humans find their most complete fulfillment, whether real or imaginary, in some sort of intimacy with the Ultimate.” Our greatest and most difficult achievement is to find meaning in life. It is well known that many people lose their will to live because such meaning evades them.

What happens when someone fails to find a reason for living? Often they experience a spectrum of emotional and behavioral aberrations. Jay Asher published a book in 2007 titled Thirteen Reasons Why. Netflix has produced a mini-series based on Asher’s book, which has caused quite an uproar across the country. The story begins when Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker—his classmate and crush—who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death in the age group of 10 to 24 years. It is a critical problem in America. Educators and mental health professionals have mixed feelings about Thirteen Reasons Why. Dr. Nicole Quinlan, a pediatric psychologist at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, PA, objects to the show’s graphic, gratuitous portrayal of Hanna Baker’s suicide. I watched the mini-series, and I was shocked and upset by the final scene. I didn’t expect to see Hanna Baker drag a razor blade up both of her arms while sitting in a bathtub of warm water. It was, indeed, horrific.

Hanna Baker is a fictional character, but her plight is far from pretend. She was hounded by classmates, bullied online, and was labeled a “slut” after a football jock posted a random shot of her dress flying up when she came down a sliding board during her date with him. He intimated in his online post that Hanna was “easy.” Hanna’s problems worsened when she was raped by another member of the football team. On each side of the cassette tapes, she exposed one person (one “reason”) why she decided to end her life. Her thirteen excuses. Teenage angst is a very real and difficult emotion. Hanna, as are many teens, was trying to find meaning in what she felt was an already meaningless existence. Her worldview was that life was without purpose. The fault of the story depicted in Thirteen Reasons Why is its lack of providing meaning, hope, or the option of seeking treatment.

From a Biblical Perspective

Developing a biblical worldview involves both a mindset and a willset. First, how does the Bible explain and interpret my life and the world around me? Once this question is answered and accepted, the next aspect of a biblical worldview presents the challenge of putting this view into practice. A worldview is the framework of our most basic beliefs that shapes our view of and for the world, and is the basis for our decisions and actions. Worldview leads to values, which lead to actions. Beliefs clearly shape our behavior.

Man’s attempts to explain his existence are just that: man’s attempts. Within the world, man’s experience and perceptions of the infinite universe are limited and inadequate. We need help from the “outside.” This is what a biblical worldview is. Help from the outside. More fundamental than any worldview that can be delineated by ideas and propositions is the religious or faith orientation of the heart. There are only two basic commitments, leading to two basic conditions of life: “man converted to God,” and “man averted from God.” The commitment one makes is decisive for all life and thoughts. From a Christian perspective,  worldview is not so much a matter of theoretical thought expressed in propositions, but is a deeply rooted commitment of the heart. Theory and practice are a product of the will, not the intellect; of the heart, not the head.

How Would My Life be Different if I Lived Out my Convictions?

I have spent most of my life manipulating others. For reasons best understood by reading my testimony, https://theaccidentalpoet.net/about/, I felt the need to hide, run away, or escape. I had a difficult time telling the truth, and, because of a victim mentality, I was able to rationalize my behavior. I became a born-again Christian at age 13, but never fully developed a relationship with, nor the mind of, Christ. When I began escaping through drugs and alcohol, I set off down a road that ultimately took me until August of last year to get off of and head in the right direction.

How could I act in such a callous and selfish manner if I was a Christian? I now understand the reason. One of my sponsors in Alcoholics Anonymous kept saying, “I hope you get God out of your head and into your heart.” Each time I heard that, I became defensive. Who are you to tell me I don’t have God in my heart? My former pastor said the same thing when he commented, “You don’t seem to have a heart for God.” What? I continued becoming defensive.  Several things happened over the past year that finally got through to me

First, I returned to the church of my youth where I accepted Christ. Within a few months, our church got a new pastor from New Jersey. Pastor Mike is exactly what I needed. He has a wealth of experience counseling Christians struggling with addiction. In our several one-on-one meetings, he has been able to help me restructure how I see my addiction and the many excuses I was holding on to as justification. He has also helped me take a different approach to my chronic back pain. He made an amazing statement: “Have you ever considered that your chronic pain gives you the opportunity to share in the sufferings of Christ?” Whoa!

Last August I made the ridiculous decision to “help myself” to some of my mother’s oxycodone. Unfortunately, this was not the first (or second, or third) time I’ve done so. The result was serious damage to my relationship with her and the rest of my family. Interestingly, this is something I feared would happen if I did not stop using drugs. Especially using mom’s medication! I remain estranged from the family, and can only continue on my road to recovery, turning my relationship with the family over to Christ. I know I am delivered from the bondage of addiction. I have to live that freedom all over again each day. One day at a time.

Luke 6:45 is a Scripture I meditate on daily. It is very convincing, and seems to confirm what my former pastor and a former sponsor said regarding my lack of having God in my heart. The verse states, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.” Proverbs 23:7 says, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” God is concerned about the hidden man of the heart, which is our inner life. Our inner life is what we think about. And like the Scriptures above indicate, how we live and who we are.

A Change of Behavior Requires a Change of Heart

It says in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Why do we sin, do bad things, and make mistakes? Because of our heart, which the Bible says is desperately wicked. Why do so many people struggle with drugs and pornography, returning again and again to these sins and vices even though they know their lives are being ruined by them? Because our heart often leads us astray. We cannot live perfect lives, and we cannot save ourselves from the punishment that we deserve. Moreover, it is impossible to deny the flesh, resist temptation, and stop living a self-centered and sinful life without a true change of heart.

Can this explain my constant relapsing over nearly forty years? Can it account for my selfishness? The disrespect and dishonor I’ve shown toward my parents and siblings? Does it help explain how I can “believe” and “speak” about Christ and recovery while secretly using drugs? Worldview, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, is how we think about the world and our place in it. This basic belief establishes our values, which directly control our actions.

O Lord, how heartily sorry I am for failing to establish the proper Christian worldview, and to hide your Word in my heart that I might not sin against Thee.

It is only through my embracing a true Christian perspective and asking Christ to take away my heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh that I can hope to act from a position of love and respect.