By S. G. Smith
On several occasions I have briefly referred to two overarching worldviews. My presentation itemizes three primary features which summarize the nature of God as Creator, man, and the universe. Naturally therefore, these worldviews are actually religious philosophies. I contend that people, who have arrived at living beyond fundamental survival, are aggressively or inadvertently moving toward one of these philosophic positions.
The first position advances that the central organizing principle governing the whole of reality is the existence and operation of an infinite, personal Creator. The alternative, diametric to the first, is what I call evolutionary, humanistic pantheism. We shall examine each contrasting feature and some of the obvious consequences.
Evolution versus Creation
Prior to the 19th century the vast majority of peoples believed that the origin for all of reality and all of life rested firmly in the hands of a transcendent God or gods. To be sure, there were, no doubt, religious philosophies that deviated or opposed such ideas; but these were clearly in a minority. Despite how this theism or polytheism was modified during the history of mankind, it was clear that by the 19th century the notion of a transcendent, supernatural Creator was being replaced by blind, naturalistic processes. Of course, the origin of any cosmic material for processing itself had to be eventually accounted for. Therefore, such supporting theories, i.e. Big Bang Theory, were incorporated into an overall worldview which we generally refer to as evolution.
Finite Man versus an Infinite Creator
As people began to learn more through the centuries, they became to rely on their knowledge, or science (Lat. scio, scire), and their more sophisticated understanding of how the world operated. As theism was essentially replaced by deism and deism progressively replaced by naturalism, our humanistic hubris seemed inevitable in development. This, of course, was not logically necessary in the historical flow of such ideas, but the fallen nature of man apparently predisposes us to such arrogance. Indeed, other ancient cultures possessed a variety of scientific, philosophic and religious mixtures, which tempered the development of a complete humanistic worldview. Yet by the time of the European Enlightenment, the new mantra of “man as the measure of all things” became the cry of the Renaissance which has progressively led us toward the humanistic idolatry we experience today.
Sadly, whether we speak with regard to the knowledge of two men or two million men, our knowledge base is always finite. Therefore, we may still be insufficiently informed and wrong despite the number of finite human contributions made to our store of knowledge.
The Personal and the Impersonal
In light of what has already been discussed, it would appear that this last feature is simply a logical extension of the evolutionary worldview. If there is no personal God which designed, created and maintains the universe, then the universe must somehow be its own god, so to speak. A self contained universe, which somehow became manifested as the material cosmos, is able to continually transform itself throughout time and even randomly produce what we know as life. All of this is the result of impersonal forces within the fabric of an impersonal universe. This is pantheism, where all or everything is god.
Admittedly, some pantheistic religions may house impersonal forces within a list of polytheistic personalities. Yet, if this is ultimately coupled with an absence of personal or moral accountability (no absolute right or wrong) then we would be free of any personal judgment from an infinite, personal Creator.
Analysis and Comparisons
The Bible clearly presents the eternal reality of an infinite, personal Creator. Man was made in (or modeled after) the image of God and assigned to honor God and subdue the earth. It was evident to early natural philosophers of Europe, during their initial scientific stirrings, that a rational God had created a rational universe which could be understood by a rational creature such as man. This principle was foundational for the scientific revolution. Even Islamic science and society, well before the European enlightenment, was being moved in the direction of cultural sophistication as long as its primary focus was in honoring an infinite, personal Creator.
Consequently evolution, humanism, and pantheism merely represent half truths at best. Alfred Russell Wallace differed from Charles Darwin in the power of natural selection to provide a self sufficient history for every feature of organic life. Humanism, at least, recognizes the profundity of humanity consistent with man’s Biblical origins. However, in its exaltation of man’s god like propensities, it fails to grasp the significance and meaning regarding the fact that man dies. Finally, although pantheism suggests a universe governed by amoral or impersonal forces, what kind of principles or forces account for the obvious existence of personality or moral preferences. These certainly seem to be beyond the laws of chemistry or physics. Perhaps this is why we have a word for such existence: metaphysics.
A Side Note
I should probably take a brief moment to comment on a contributing perspective which has had an impact on modern thought. I don’t have space to discuss existentialism (which is probably more familiar to many), but I cannot pass over positivism. Positivism has had a quiet, yet powerful, impact in science and law, although it has less public visibility. The positivists wanted to dismiss metaphysical philosophy as well as religion. One of the internet dictionaries gave the following two definitions for positivism.
- A philosophical system that holds that every rational justifiable assertion can be scientifically verified or is capable of logical or mathematical proof and that therefore rejects metaphysics and theism.
- The theory that laws are to be understood as social rules, valid because they are enacted by authority or derive logically from existing decisions, and that ideal or moral considerations should not limit the scope or operation of the law.
As emphasized above, I briefly ask “Verified by whose philosophy of science?” or “Exacted by whose authority and whose decisions?” If you do not see the fallacy here then I’ll have to leave the reader to review the thoughts and comments of apologetic celebrities such as the late R. C. Sproul or Ravi Zacharias for deeper understanding.
Apparently, a number of things have happened on our way to utopia. I’m not thinking of the pre-Adamic state or the Adamic Fall of man here. I’m speaking about our secular understanding and humanistic efforts in attempting to solve various problems we encounter in order to arrive at some glorious future.
The humanistic hubris which began to assert itself during the Renessaiance, as well as the jihadist terrorism eventually infecting the Islamic world, somehow missed the mark in understanding and conveying the most seminal principle of all religious truths. These same mistakes can be seen in other religions or cultures as well.
True spiritual conversion is exclusively an act of God. It cannot be achieved or arrived at through superior education or emotional religious fervor, by legal decree or at the point of the sword. True spiritual conversion is an act of divine re-creation. Without an understanding and acceptance that only Jesus Christ conquered death, we will not find the door to eternal life. He alone is the infinite, personal Creator, who has become our infinite, personal Savior.
Submitted by S. G. Smith, Lubbock, TX