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“IT SHOULD GIVE LIFE MEANING”
by ProfDave, ©2020
(Oct. 25, 2020) — Is “so what” a worldview? It might be in the sense that neutral is a gear. A worldview is a general framework for life. What is real? What do you look for and what do you look out for? Where are you coming from? Where are you going? What is the meaning and purpose of life? What do you assume? What do you guess at? What do you love? What do you use? Is life a maze or a kaleidoscope? Is there cheese at the end of the maze or an electric shock? Is there a story line or is it a reality show? Is life a lottery? How much is the “house” margin? Who is the “house?”
So what? Most of the time, we do not even think about it. We live by a fractured naïve realism, sometimes using cause and effect, sometimes chance, sometimes hoping for supernatural intervention. We think we can count on what we see and hear and touch, but what about TV? Sometimes you press a button on the remote and it works (how?), sometimes you can’t find the remote. How do you know what is fact and what is fiction – even in the news. Do you believe in the omniscience of the weather man? Who chooses the pictures and words you see? Who chooses where to point the camera or what stories to air? Why is it chosen? Does the camera or the microphone record what is really there? Do your eyes and ears record what is really there? Why should they? Why should there be a should?
Sometimes we believe in things we cannot see (like electricity or fairness or Honolulu), sometimes we do not (like leprechauns or free lunch or Utopia). Do you believe in peace in the Middle East or affordable health care (apologies to Biden and Obama)? Some other things move in and out depending on where we are, the church or the casino or the science class. What is the difference between Nova and the animated movie Ice Age? Both depend on creative graphics. Do we live in a world of creative graphics?
What is reality, anyway? Is it things? Is it persons? Is it ideas? Is it all three? Are values real? You do not have to do deep philosophy to see that your answers to these questions make a difference. Are persons just things? Am I a thing? That is what scientific naturalism says. Or am I a person but all others are things? That would be existentialism, I think. Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am” – but I don’t know about you. Instinctively we say, “That’s wrong!”- even though we have a powerful tendency to operate that way. It is selfish and anti-social.
It makes a difference how you answer these questions. Where does reality come from? Is it rational, ordered, or random, chaotic? Where do things come from? Where do persons come from? Where do ideas come from? Do they come from a thing, a person, or an idea? Do they come from cause and effect, chance, intelligent design or some combination?
A decent worldview has to make sense: be consistent with itself and with the way we actually live. Carl Sagan can believe in extraterrestrials, but he is not allowed to believe in ghosts. Scientific materialism reduces reality to things. A ghost would be a person without thing-ness. But we cannot conceive of ourselves as things – as purely random accumulations of electro-chemical reactions. The scientist himself, at least, is intentional. Ooops! Intention is non-material! It is non-thing! Sorry, Carl. Hypocrisy is when your real worldview is not the one you profess.
A decent worldview has to work. It has to be livable. If your version of reality, or something outside it, is biting you in the behind on a daily basis, putting you in conflict with everyone around you, and making you miserable, morose, or even suicidal – something might be wrong with it. Sorry, Nietzsche. On the contrary, it should be helping you through the hard times and making sense of your life in general. It should give life meaning and purpose, even if – like most of us – you don’t win every day. It shouldn’t just congratulate you when you are at the top of your game (like Tiger Woods) but pick you up when you have fallen from the heights of power (like John Rowland or the late Chuck Colson). It should be good for the untouchables as well as the Brahmins, publicans and sinners as well as scribes and Pharisees. The acid test is decline and death. Sooner or later, no matter how creative our denial, it happens. How does your worldview work for you when it rains?
David W. Heughins (“ProfDave”) is Adjunct Professor of History at Nazarene Bible College. He holds a BA from Eastern Nazarene College and a PhD in history from the University of Minnesota. He is the author of Holiness in 12 Steps (2020). He is a Vietnam veteran and is retired, living with his daughter and three grandchildren in Connecticut.”