Part 2 of 2
In Richard Dawkins’ book ‘The Blind Watchmaker’ he writes that “In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference” (133). We are the products of “pitiless indifference,” Dawkins says, with an almost worshipful reverence and that there is no “justice…no evil, no good” which apparently is a good thing. This is fatalism and it the celebratory hub of Dawkins’ Weltenschauung. Dawkins is a worshipper. He worships fatalism.
The German word Weltenschauung conveys the idea of a comprehensive worldview. It is a step up from a list of opinions about life, culture and politics we may have. Everyone has a worldview. The difference is some of us may be more aware of the foundations and implications of our system, than others. Basically, we can discern a Weltenschauung or grow in our own by observing what we/they place after words like ‘can,’ ‘should’ or ‘must.’
What is immediately discernable to most people is that in a given Weltenschauung (comprehensive worldview) there is at least one core principle, a controlling axiom at its center, a creed. Most of us know what ours is or what we think it should be. This core principle or axiom is usually quite transparent (even if other matters in one’s worldview may not be fully defined yet) because it is the main thing we celebrate. For Richard Dawkins that main thing which he celebrates and will not negotiate is that this universe began with and perpetuates “pitiless indifference.” That is at the center of his Weltenschauung. For him that is sovereign.
In light of the fact that Atheism has a comprehensive worldview, a premise and story that they intend to speak to everything, a non-negotiable principle, then what should we give the atheist to convince him otherwise? A frequent answer to this question is “more evidence.” The atheist says, “You have no evidence for god” and so Christians come back with more evidence, “Here is more evidence. See, God exists.” Does the atheist truly lack evidence for the existence of God? What if we could provide the atheist with rolling hills and mountains of evidence? Would he finally see this growing stack of facts and data and analysis as the ultimate bridge to bring him back to God? What if physicists – as the LHC in Europe set out to do – finally found the “god particle”? Would they, in the face of a plethora of incontrovertible cosmological data in God’s favor, willingly capitulate disbelief in the one Creator and Sovereign over all things?
The biblical answer is, “No.” We have enough evidence already. The atheist denies God, not for lack of evidence. They deny Him, mock Scripture, reject Christ for a visceral reason.
Earlier I mentioned a few apologetic methods. Here is a good place to note another – the Pre-suppositional method. John Frame when describing both Pre-suppositionalism and one of its deepest thinkers, Cornelius Van Till, explains that “the foundation of Van Til’s system and its most persuasive principle” unwinds human autonomy since we are “…subject to God’s lordship” (‘Van Til and the Ligonier Apologetic.’ 282). Stated positively, divine sovereignty exhausts everything else. The beauty of the Pre-suppositional method is not only that it is well grounded theologically and biblically. It is common sense. We and our Universe are finite and ultimacy does not reside in the finite. You cannot find ultimacy in matter nor in the mirror.
Thus, the Pre-suppositional method says there is no such thing as an “open system” or a “neutral basis.” Of course, the concept of open or closed systems in the fields of computers or social science or biological models, etc is developmentally pertinent to human flourishing. However, in the worldview or macro-philosophical category there is no such thing as an “open worldview.” There is no neutral starting point. Supposed “open system” worldviews either unlearnedly or willfully ignore ultimacy. All worldviews are ordered according to, as Frame puts it, a “persuasive principle” or as noted earlier a “controlling axiom.” The Pre-suppositional apologetic says to other worldviews, “You have at least one controlling axiom. Do you know what yours is? Here is ours. Examine the evidence alongside the controlling axiom(s).”
The Apostle Paul employed this approach over and over in his efforts to persuade others of the lordship of Christ. In Romans 1, for example, we see universally that since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them (v19). The God haters, Paul says, already have enough evidence because God has made it plain to them. In fact, the evidence is so concomitant to life itself – plain – that they should discern not only that God exists, but also should discern what He is like for since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen (v20). Thus, the other key factor in Pre-suppositional Apologetics is that while each other worldview has its own closely cherished presuppositions they all have no excuse for being unaware and unadoring of the key presupposition (ie., controlling axiom) in your system, namely “God’s lordship” – to quote Frame again. This motto is not original with Van Til or Frame for Yahweh himself affirms His lordship and that it should be most plain to us in the Messiah, Jesus Christ. In a sense, for our sake, Yahweh’s own Weltenschauung is Christo-centric.
Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against Yahweh and against his Anointed [the Christ].
Serve [Heb: give obeisance to] Yahweh with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling.
Kiss [sign of allegiance] his Son or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.
(see Psalm 2:1-2, 11-12)
Furthermore, this leads us to a third factor in Pre-suppositional Apologetics. We see Paul also notes that those who reject Yahweh’s lordship (absolute divine sovereignty) do so with the conscious choice to worship created things rather than the Creator (v25). Richard Dawkins does not have an evidence problem. He has a worship problem. That is the visceral reason Dawkins and all atheists reject god and in particular Yahweh God. Peter Kreeft, notable philosopher of Boston College, nails it with a recent post on his Twitter feed. “The 2 Principles of Atheism: 1. There is no God. 2. I hate Him.” Truth be told, this worship problem is not confined to Atheism. The world is immersed in worship against the LORD and his Anointed. Theisms of all kinds oppose Yahweh “God’s lordship” through alternate worship.
Being As Communion
I like to read a lot so I have books in various places all through the house. There are books on shelves and then there books that move with me about the house. Those are the ones I am working through at the time. When I need to shift to another task I lay the book I am reading on the nearest spot, a lamp table, kitchen table, stairs, piano bench, hearth, etc. My wife noticing the cover of one remarked that the title was awkward and asked why so. ‘Being As Communion’ is the book. Yes, the title may be awkward, but still quite fitting.
The question of what it means to exist or what ‘being’ is philosophers and theologians have wrestled with for a long time. What does it mean to ‘be’? Who am I? As important as the question is for our human identity a persistent irony is that Science has kept ‘being’ on a lower priority level…except when the discussion may overlap corporeal topics. Since the Enlightenment physics and meta-physics have not been on friendly terms. In fact, Stephen Hawking recently prophesied that “philosophy is dead” which, ironically is a philosophical claim itself. Another irony is that theology has shown interest in ‘being’ with fits and starts, but most often folds ‘being’ into Anthropology. Yet, in his book ‘Being As Communion’ John Zizioulas locates his discourse on ‘being’ in the Doctrine of the Trinity. Fascinating.
Ok, what’s the point you may ask? Christian apologists have en masse tended to focus on “more evidence” for universal design or orchestrated complexity or young vs. old earth debate. Suppose we could convince a skeptic from our body of evidence for design, purpose, supreme intelligence and so forth that God exists. Great, right? No, that skeptic would only arrive at the threshold of Theism which still would place him a long way from home.
For example, Atony Flew, a life long British apologist for Atheism in the last decade of his life finally capitulated his disbelief in god, but as far as we know he never confessed Christ as Lord and Savior. He gave up his Atheism and crossed the threshold of Theism or Deism which still left him a long way from home. He arrived there by the path many Christian apologists have paved for their skeptic audience – evidences, evidences for universal design and evidences for irreducible complexity. Atheism and Theism (of whatever variety and there are many) without Christ are cousins once or twice removed.
The Triune God
So, someone may still ask that by re-focusing our research and discussions toward ‘being’ while cause us to ignore evidences and design. Actually, what I am speaking of is not an all or nothing choice like that, not a false dichotomy. However, I am saying that if we want to honor a Christo-centric view of Origins we need to see the primary importance of ‘being as communion’ – God in himself, personal and triune – over evidences and design.
Here is why. If we really believe that this Universe was begun by a personal god, namely Yahweh God, then to focus mainly on impersonal evidences and abstract design is to miss the strongest and most engaging starting point in Origins – the triune God. Christ in particular shows us the One triune God – Father, Son, Spirit – dwelling in perfect fellowship, self-knowing and shared joy as a tri-personal being, one in each other, from each other and with each other.
In Christ, as with no other we can finally see what that fellowship looks like, what it is like to authentically ‘be’ in, from and with. Christ, Son of God in our midst shows us what ‘being in communion’ is like to perfection. He does not float abstractly above reality as with those who talk of “Nature” or “Nature’s God.” Talk of natural design and complexity is at best a very indirect way to point to God and can be just as easily a way to ignore Him. On the other hand, talk of being as communion is a very direct way to “see” God even while we consider cosmology or DNA or geology or disease theory or ecosystems or whatever for in him we live and move and have our being (see Acts 17:28, Paul quoting philosopher Epimenides). That is WHO the Universe is pointing at – Yahweh in perfect relation to himself and all things.
Why? Because when our thoughts are anchored in ‘being as communion’ – the reality of Trinitarian fellowship – what we are arguing for and where we are arguing from is not an ultimate axiom or principle, but an ultimate personal Being, esp. as visible through Christ.
The assertion that we should commit to a Christo-centric study of Origins is not a brute claim appreciable only if one is on the inside of the Christian Weltenschauung. Our commitment to a Christo-centric study of Origins is, in fact, located within the universal reality of enjoyment of ‘being.’ Bottom line: I cannot ‘be’ without others and we cannot ‘be’ without the Other. In fact, it is undesirable. If “pitiless indifference” were the via perfecta, then the ultimate man would be an apathetic, careless man, even despondent.
But that it not exactly what we see (people striving not to ‘be’), is it? Because ‘being’ is self-knowing through communion, AND this ‘being’ is grounded in the Trinity, the universe is not run by “pitiless indifference.” That could not produce all the beauty and life and joy we see. Gratefully, to ‘be’ is communal, amo ergo sum (I love, therefore I am). Enjoyment is fullest in reflection with others. No wonder social media is all the rage. You do not want to exist without others because you cannot exist without others and ultimately we cannot exist without the ultimate Other. This Other, Christ comes near to us in a series of divine acts of “social media.”
Thus, ‘being as communion’ is the true identity of God in himself. That is our long lost starting point, our home – to be in perfect shalom with Him. Consider DNA again. DNA may not point directly to God, but most certainly it will not point us away from God. See how DNA strives toward identity and shalom. The very fact that its components coalesce over and over for beauty and toward life is the opposite of “pitiless indifference.” Instead, DNA is proof that human identity is rooted in giveness. There is much talk of identity these days, but few want to admit that identity is given, that identity is basically the packaging of our giveness. In fact, it is transcendent giveness from Another whose identity is to give to others, ergo the trinity.
In the Dawkins and Darwin worldview there is no ultimate man, no pure identity. In their world best you can do is make up your own. That there is ultimacy in identity presents another line of thought Christian intellectuals would do well to pursue. Of course, Christ’s own identity claim was and is that He represents ultimate identity even as He sets out to repair our own. This is not a limiting option for humanity, but the opposite. In Christ our identity becomes fuller, richer and longer lasting than in any other way. If Christ as the Son of God is the lovely Creator Sovereign of all things, what greater argument can we present than Him, what more alluring body of evidences can we present than Him?