Worldview Inconsistency

One of my first blog posts was titled “Educational Needs” and it talked about what topics should be required courses for all high schoolers in order to graduate.  I would like to add another required course to that list.  The required course would be on worldviews and how to construct and critique them.

I have found that many people are very poor at recognizing what their worldview is and also poor at actually living out their worldview once they do settle on one.  This flaw is not limited to just one worldview; every person is guilty of not living out one’s worldview at some point in time, myself included.  But I have found that many people who excuse themselves from critiquing their own worldview rigorously, rigorously attack the worldview of others.

My blog often touches on the topic of Naturalism.  I would like to again address this topic because I have found that many Naturalists fail to live out their worldview … and nobody ever calls them out on it.  If you are a Naturalist, please know that I am not attacking you.  I am, however, sending you a friendly intellectual challenge.  I have genially faced several challenges to my worldview, I hope you can do the same.

Definitions

Before I continue, I have to give you a few definitions.

Worldview is defined by Webster as “a comprehensive conception or apprehension of the world especially from a specific standpoint”.

Worldviews can be grouped together under one name and yet still be very different.  For instance, both Christianity and Islam are Theistic worldviews.  However, the Christian worldview is very different from the Islamic worldview.  Some examples of worldviews are Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Naturalism, Post-modernism, and the list goes on.  Of course even these worldviews can be broken down further.  For instance, Christianity could be broken down to Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, and many others.  Even though the worldview can be broken down further, their are fundamental tenants in each worldview.  For example, a worldview cannot consider itself Christian yet deny that there is a God.  If someone claims to be an atheist Christian, then that person is simply confused about what Christianity is – that person has absolutely no intellectual right to claim the title “Christian”.

Naturalism is defined as “a philosophical viewpoint according to which everything arises from natural properties and causes, and supernatural or spiritual explanations are excluded or discounted.”  In other words, nothing exists outside the physical world and all effects are from physical causes.

I have found that a great many Naturalists do not critique their own worldview.  Let us investigate this further.

Inconsistency

I saw a post from somebody who leans towards Naturalism.  I am going to recreate it here.

“I am not anxious.  I am merely having anxious thoughts.  Those thoughts do not control me.  Just breathe and remember that I can choose to start my day calmly instead of frantically.”

Let me say that I can completely agree with that quote.  However, I can agree with that because I have a Christian worldview.  Someone who has a Naturalistic worldview cannot say the above quote and remain consistent in one’s worldview.  The inconsistency lies in the first sentence.  Since Naturalism claims that all thoughts are a direct result of one’s brain activity, one cannot be separate from one’s thoughts.  That means that if one’s thoughts are anxious, then the individual is anxious because the anxious thoughts come directly from the brain of the individual.  A Naturalist does not afford himself the ability to separate his thoughts from his self.

The interesting thing is once I brought this up to the person who leans towards Naturalism, the individual’s reply was to choose not to think about it, to ignore the inconsistency.  This ignoring of inconsistency is what I see among Naturalist quite often.  (Granted, it is possible that this individual simply did not want to get into a debate, but the point still stands.)

A Christian can consistently agree with the whole quote because in the Christian worldview, thoughts are not only derived from the human brain, but also from the soul or spirit.  That means “I” is at least in part distinct from “thoughts”.  The Christian worldview states that one’s soul or spirit can influence, impact, and change one’s thoughts.  But the Naturalist worldview does not allow one to separate “I” from “thoughts”.  In the Naturalist worldview, you are your thoughts, and therefore the quote above cannot be reproduced in its entirety and still remain consistent to Naturalistic beliefs.

I have found many Naturalists give quotes that talk about life in grandiose terms and make statements that make life seem much more supernatural than natural.  Every time I hear a Naturalist make such a statement I have the urge to jump in and say, “Wait a minute.  You cannot consistently state that.  Please stop denying the supernatural and then make statements that ignore the true nature of Naturalism.”  It is the same urge I have when I see a self-proclaimed Christian do something that is contradictory to the Christian worldview, but I will talk more about that later.

A natural miracle

I have heard Naturalists poetically and somewhat deceitfully describe things as “miracles”.  Technically they have no right to use that word.  A common one is birth.  I have heard Naturalists talk about the miracle of birth.  But really of course there is no miracle.  It is a natural process practically as old as time itself (assuming time even had a beginning).  From a Naturalistic point of view, birth is simply the natural byproduct of sexual actions.  There is nothing miraculous about it at all.  One does not need love to start the birthing process, all one needs is good old fashioned, natural lust (or, as some Naturalists would like us to believe, the desire to pass on one’s seed, i.e., genes).

Maybe a Naturalist will like to point out the many biological steps needed to produce an offspring and call the accomplishment of these steps “amazing”.  Well, even that is not being honest from a Naturalistic perspective.  Since nature adheres to certain laws, nothing else could have happened but what did happen in that instance.  No natural/physical laws were broken, bent, or even stretched when a baby is born.  A great number of steps to an act does not make it more amazing.  Is 2+2+2+2+2+2+2+2+2+2=20 more amazing than 2+2=4?  I do not believe so.  Our limited intellect may find a great number of steps more amazing, but if you were to ask Mother Nature, she would just look at the finished result and say, “Well, yeah, duh.  Of course it happened.”  (Wait, can a Naturalist talk about Mother Nature and still be consistent with one’s worldview?  I do not think so because that is at least somewhat misleading.  That is suggesting some kind of benevolent intellect behind nature.)

Someone may say, “But the fact that some births do not happen make the actual births amazing.”  The problem with that is from a Naturalistic perspective even the births that never panned out still obeyed natural laws.  The birth did not happen because something did not operate correctly, it operated the exact way it was destined to.  (A Naturalist can use the word “destined” because according to Naturalism every event is causal, i.e., determined.)  To say something did not work correctly is to claim a plan, a blueprint.  But there is no plan or blueprint to existence in the Naturalistic worldview.  So nothing can work incorrectly.  Everything will simply work the way it does.  Entropy is a natural law.  It is not a bad law, it simply is a law from a Naturalistic perspective.

Ladies and gentlemen … C. S. Lewis

I’m going to type here a lengthy quote. You’re going to have to forgive me, but it is essential to better understanding my point. This quote comes from C. S. Lewis in his book, Miracles.

“The Naturalist is ready to explain how the illusion [of morality] arose. Chemical conditions produce life. Life, under the influence of natural selection, produces consciousness. Conscious organisms which behave in one way live longer than those which behave in another. Living longer, they are more likely to have offspring. Inheritance, and sometimes teaching as well, pass on their mode of behavior to their young. Thus in every species a pattern of behavior is built up. In the human species conscious teaching plays a larger part in building it up, and the tribe further strengthens it by killing individuals who don’t conform. They also invent gods who are said to punish departures from it. Thus, in time, there comes to exist a strong human impulse to conform. But since this impulse is often at variance with the other impulses, a mental conflict arises, and the man expresses it by saying, ‘I want to do A but I ought to do B.’

“This account may (or may not) explain why men do in fact make moral judgments. It does not explain how they could be right in making them. It excludes, indeed, the very possibility of there being right. For when men say ‘I ought’ they certainly think they are saying something, and something true, about the nature of the proposed action, and not merely about their own feelings. But if Naturalism is true, ‘I ought’ is the same sort of statement as ‘I itch’ or ‘I’m going to be sick.’ In real life when a man says ‘I ought’ we may reply, ‘Yes. You’re right. That is what you ought to do,’ or else, ‘No. I think you’re mistaken.’ But in the world of Naturalists (if Naturalists really remembered their philosophy out of school) the only sensible reply would be, ‘Oh, are you?’ All moral judgments would be statements about the speaker’s feelings, mistaken by him for statements about something else (the real moral quality of actions) which does not exist.

“Such a doctrine, I have admitted, is not flatly self-contradictory.  The Naturalist can, if he chooses, brazen it out.  He can say, ‘Yes.  I quite agree that there is no such thing as wrong and right.  I admit that no moral judgment can be “true” or “correct” and, consequently, that no one system of morality can be better or worse than another.  All ideas of good and evil are hallucinations – shadows cast on the outer world by the impulses which we have been conditioned to feel.’  Indeed many Naturalists are delighted to say this.

“But they must stick to it; and fortunately (though inconsistently) most real Naturalists do not.  A moment after they have admitted that good and evil are illusions, you will find them exhorting us to work for posterity, to educate, revolutionize, liquidate, live and die for the good of the human race.”

I very much wish I could type out this whole chapter of C. S. Lewis’s remarkable book, but I have to end somewhere.  You really ought to read at least chapter 5 of Miracles.  Lewis’s point is well made.  But the point I am trying to make in this post, and Lewis agrees with me, is that many Naturalists simply do not consistently live out their own worldview.  They live in denial often times when discussing life.

Something I have noticed is that if I ever go on the offensive and critique the worldview of Naturalism, most Naturalists simply ignore the critique of their worldview and go on to attack my worldview (Christianity).  So if you are a Naturalist, I challenge you not to defend your worldview by simply attacking my worldview.  That is not a defense of your worldview, that is ignoring the problems of your own worldview.

Christian inconsistency

Now, do not call me biased.  There are a number of Christians out there who do not live out their own worldview.  I will add a disclaimer and state that probably the majority of people who claim to be Christian in America are not actually Christians, they just accept the title because they do not know what else to call themselves and their family has a Christian heritage.  The one thing Naturalism has going for it is that if someone claims Naturalism, then they probably made a conscious choice to do so.  There are a massive amount of so-called Christians in America that have never really put forth any true effort to understand their claimed worldview.  I have had multiple people tell me that I am the only true Christian they have ever met.  If America is 70% Christian, how in the world could I have been the only true Christian they have ever met?  It is because the majority of people who claim Christianity are not really Christians (followers of Christ).

Every bit of challenge that I present to the Naturalist to be consistent with their worldview, I challenge the Christian to do so as well.  In fact, I even more so challenge the Christian because if they do not live out their worldview, then it makes the worldview that I claim look bad.  So do not think that I am being hard on the Naturalist but letting the Christian slide.  Absolutely not.  If you are a Christian, then I challenge you even more so to be consistent with your worldview.  There is nothing that grieves me more than seeing a Christian tarnish the namesake (Christ) of his/her worldview.

The thing is that Christianity fits this world much more consistently than Naturalism.  As Lewis noted above, the Naturalist has no right to make moral claims, yet precious few of them actually remain consistent with making no moral claims.  Most Naturalists still make moral claims because they feel the weight of morality.  Christianity does not have to talk out of both sides of its mouth when it comes to morality, but nearly all Naturalists do.  (I am willing to bet that there are some Naturalists reading this right now and instead of creating a defense of their worldview, they are simply going to attack the moral claims of Christianity.  Am I right?)

Conclusion

Naturalism is a worldview that greatly limits the poetry and imagination of men, yet Naturalists like to still use poetry and grandiose ideas even though they do not always fit consistently with their worldview.  I challenge Naturalists to live consistent to their worldview and stop deceitfully borrowing terminology and holding ideas that do not coincide with their own worldview.  I challenge the Naturalist to not faux defend Naturalism by actually attacking Christianity, but to actually address the criticisms I have brought up in this post.  I also challenge all people who call themselves Christians to actually investigate what the Christian worldview is and to live accordingly.

In the Christian worldview there are these wonderful concepts called repentance and forgiveness.  If you feel the weight of your sin represented by guilt and shame, then there is forgiveness offered to you by God through Christ’s sacrificial death.  If you feel that heavy weight of sin, repent of your sin and ask God to guide you through life with His vast and powerful forgiveness.  When you fall again into sin, do not fear.  God’s grace is greater than all your sin.  If you repent, God is faithful to cleanse you from all unrighteousness.

(Interestingly enough, from a Naturalistic perspective, if you feel guilt for some action, it is not because you have actually done something wrong, but only because you have a survival selected gene that causes you to conform to social norms so that you can increase your chance of survival.  So go ahead and brush your shoulders off from that guilt – you have no wrong action for which to feel guilty.  But I bet you know that guilt is actually way deeper than what the Naturalistic perspective would like you to believe.  If so, there is forgiveness and great redemption possible through God’s love.)

I would love to know your thoughts on this.  I look forward to hearing from you.

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6 comments

  1. Very well written Curtis. I particularly like how you took an introspective looking into those who may call themselves Christians not truly understanding what the Christian worldview may actually be. Keep up the hard work.

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  2. Hi, Curtis.

    I’m still trying to get a handle on this whole worldview concept. To me, a worldview is something unique and personal that develops and changes over decades of life experience. Taking a snapshot of anyone’s worldview at any particular moment would probably reveal a whole mess of inconsistencies, especially ones people are too close to see for themselves. That said, I don’t see the ones you are specifically calling out here.

    For instance, when most people talk about “the miracle of childbirth,” they’re usually not claiming that divine intervention is a necessary element of the process. The second dictionary meaning of miracle is “an extremely outstanding or unusual event, thing, or accomplishment.” The birth of a child is an awe-inspiring, life-changing event that fits that definition, regardless of your worldview.

    Similarly, executive functioning, inhibition control, and other cognitive experiences of the human brain are described by the field of neuropsychology, which so far does not require an immortal, non-material soul to drive any of the brain’s functions and processes. Maybe that will change as science cracks more of the brain’s secrets, and until then we can only guess whether our personal sense of identity is spiritual or material–but everyone is capable of enjoying soul food and soul music without contradicting their worldview.

    The Christian atheists will have to speak up for themselves, but I’d say that if Christian culture, community, practice, history, and tradition are an important part of a person’s identity, and if that person refers to him- or herself as a Christian, the acceptance or non-acceptance of any specific dogmatic belief should be irrelevant to that self-identification.

    If their Christian atheist worldview works for them as well as your Christian theist worldview works for you, where’s the inconsistency?

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    • Greg,

      Thank you so much for replying. I was hoping to get a few intelligent responses like your own.

      You are correct that one’s worldview will adapt and change over time. However, that does not excuse current inconsistencies. Many people live their life with inconsistencies without ever questioning them. It is my goal to get them to see the inconsistencies. As you said, sometimes they are too close to see them, so I am trying to point them out.

      I am glad you gave a definition for miracle. I never did. I was not operating with a definition of miracle that included the divine. The word miracle conjures up thoughts of what you described, something as “awe-inspiring”. But a Naturalistic worldview does not allow one to look at birth as “awe-inspiring”. Naturalism holds that simple math and biological processes led to birth. As I tried to demonstrate with the mathematical equations in my post, there is nothing awe-inspiring of 10 twos equaling 20. It is only when one steps outside of the trappings of Naturalism does someone look at birth in an awe-inspiring way. This is why I say that Naturalism does not fit our life experience; we know that life is more awe-inspiring than just simple math and biological processes. We understand that something important has happened, not something that happened by coincidence. From a Naturalistic perspective, nothing that happens is important; all things that happen are simply coincidence. But of course you will not hear many Naturalists admit this because they recognize importance in their own life. However, if they were consistent in their worldview, they would never allow themselves to admit importance.

      On neuropsychology, I almost added another 1,000 words to address the point you brought up, but I decided the post was long enough. C. S. Lewis actually talks about this in the very next chapter of his book, “Miracles”. My counter point to what some neuropsychologists claim is that the Christian worldview does not state that the body is dependent on the soul for its abilities. The body is capable on its own to produce thoughts. However, the soul can impact the body’s decisions, but since the soul is physically imperceptible, one will never see its impact. One can prod and pry all one wants and one will never find a measurable soul because the soul is not physically measurable. So while the body is independent of the soul in function, the body and soul were supposed to be interdependent in an ongoing process. God created the body with the ability to be a working unit on its own, but it was not designed to go it completely alone.

      How silly would I sound if I called myself an atheist who believes in God? Very silly indeed. Well, that is what a Christian atheist sounds like to those who actually know what Christianity teaches. Someone who claims to be an atheist but still believes in God is simply confused as to what atheism is. The same is true for anyone who claims to be a Christian atheist. Like it or not, Christianity is based on a man who claimed to be the Son of God (divine) and who rose from the dead. It is simply intellectually impossible to claim Christianity without accepting those beliefs. What if I self-identified as a published author even though I never had anything published? Again, you would rightly correct my thinking about what it means to be a published author and suggest I rethink my self-identification. Do you think legal courts would allow me to claim myself as a published author even though I never published anything? Of course not.

      Lastly, it is not about whether or not Christian atheism or Christian theism “works”, but whether or not it is right or accurate. Convincing our society that killing off the unproductive elderly could help our society “work” better, but would it be right? But you asked for the inconsistency. By very definition, “Christian” and “atheist” are inconsistent.

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  3. Thanks for your thoughtful response. Socrates was supposed to have said that an unexamined life is not worth living, so you are in good company and are providing a good example for others to emulate.

    If someone could only think of a newborn baby in terms of biology and math, I’d suspect that person of being on the autistic spectrum. I’m absolutely not qualified to make such a diagnosis, but I do believe that neuro-atypical folks are part of our world and deserve all the tolerance, respect, understanding and support necessary for them to be safely integrated into our society. Unless the person is a danger to themselves. Or to babies. Otherwise, I’m not sure what a Naturalist is or whether such a person would describe their views in the same way you are describing them.

    On your second hypothetical, if someone claimed to be a published author despite all evidence to the contrary, I’d say they might be delusional or genuinely mistaken, but I’d also leave open the possibility that I’m the one who’s mistaken. It’s very possible they published under a pseudonym, or as part of an anthology, or in another country, or that their book has gone out of print.

    I’m not qualified to psychoanalyze anyone for being delusional and I’m certainly not going to call someone out for being wrong when that someone is likely to be me. So, Christian atheists? It does sound like an oxymoron, but perhaps not to people whose definitions differ from yours.

    Before ebooks came along, not too many years ago, publishing had always required ink and paper. Then we suddenly had works that were only ever published in a digital format, and the courts did have to step in to determine whether this new thing that didn’t look quite like traditional publishing actually should be considered publishing. For a while it was an open question, but the publishing industry has universally come to accept that data in a computer file is a form of publishing as legitimate as any other.

    On your recommendation, I’ve obtained a copy of C.S. Lewis’s book and will take a look at the appropriate chapters. Thanks again for helping others live a more examined life.

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