The Christian Worldview

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Seeking to know the “natures of things,” James Patrick spent a lifetime exploring the insights of the major disciplines of theology, philosophy, literature, and history in search of a comprehensive picture of God, man, and the cosmos.  In the spirit of Newman’s Idea of a University, he devoted himself to identifying the most important truths which, taken together, constitute the best, the wisest, and the most complete understanding of those things which are the most important to know in human life.  He saw that these are foundational truths which teach us about ourselves, our responsibilities, and the purpose of our lives—truths that are the intellectual foundations, the considerations, values, and principles which inform our actions and make sense of who we are and what we will become.   These are the elements which taken together constitute the world view or ultimate context according to which everything has meaning.

Dr. Patrick formulated his best judgment about these ultimate meanings in his final work, The Making of the Catholic Mind, in which he showed that no other explanatory system can challenge the logos of Christian understanding.  He showed that judgments reached through natural reason about creation, being and non-being, matter and spirit, necessary and contingent realities, causation, essence and existence, and objective values resonate with the revelation of the Judeo-Christian tradition embodied in teaching of the scriptures, the prophets, and the words of Christ on the one hand, and the meanings and themes of the human imagination conveyed through myth, poetry, and legend on the other.

No other attempt to explain why things are as they are or why they happen as they do can rival the Christian worldview.   For example, the Hegelian philosophy proposing that all being is a pantheistic  expression of an over-arching world spirit fails to account for the real differences between things and strips individual human action of ultimate meaning as Kierkegaard explained.  The Buddhist conception of the world similarly reduces reality to the status of mere appearance and denies the irreplaceable metaphysical uniqueness of each human personality.  Similarly, Hinduism proposes that the end of human striving is the emptying out of consciousness despite the fact that the human heart yearns for conscious, eternal union with the good and other persons, as Plato saw.

Existentialism opined that ultimately everything is absurd because of death and mortality, a consequence of the erroneous view that moral values are human inventions.  Islam similarly promotes an inaccurate ethical understanding sanctioning hatred, anger, and injustice if they are willed by Allah who can command anything because he is beyond good and evil.  And modern scientific materialism, arguing that everything is nothing more than matter in its various forms and machinations, denies the reality of the personal self, meaning in life, and objective goods and evils.  The worldview that emerges is a universe of meaningless “stuff” that accidently comes alive in order to causally determine the activities of human life, make us invest great feeling and meaning in how we live, and then see everything negated as pointless.

Last week we discussed Newman’s view of how—ideally–university discussions seek to integrate the best conclusions from all the fields of study to arrive at a comprehensive, systematic understanding of how all things participate in the unfolding dynamic of cosmic reality.  The work of the true university is to show how all the elements of reality play a critical role in the fulfillment of the whole.  Only when theology is represented as a discipline and its teaching included in the curriculum can an accurate understanding of the cosmic dynamic be achieved.  Only when theology is involved can humankind develop a veridical understanding of the roles, the principles, and the meanings of a true worldview, because only through the lens of Christian theology can we understand why and how we exist, the reasons for our existence, and the values and meanings which we should pursue.

As believers, the Christian worldview is the background of ideas which accounts for the fundamental phenomena of existence.  Sometimes these ideas exist in the background of consciousness; for example, the idea of matter as unliving, existing independently of the mind, possessing properties such as a center of gravity, specific density, and mass, and created by God.  But sometimes the ideas of the Christian worldview are fully present in consciousness as we are become aware of the reality of human freedom when we are required to make critical choices.  We experience an intense understanding of how the ultimate goodness of human beings is a function of virtuous willing when found in friendship, love, and fidelity and in its tragic absence in the unhappiness of moral failure and guilt.  

The Christian worldview shows the deep connection between the natural order—the realm of contingency, change, and time on the one hand, and the supernatural order—the realm of eternal necessity, the Holy Trinity, and the eternal status of human souls, angels, archangels, powers, and dominions, on the other.  It is because Christ revealed to us these the supernatural meanings that illuminate and give context to our natural understanding that the Christian worldview gives us the full “picture.”

Given the importance these natural and supernatural truths let us recall the most important that are answers to the following questions:

  1. What is the really real? In all reality, what is the most real form of being?
  2. Why does God exist?
  3. How do we know that God is all good, all powerful, and all knowing?
  4. Did God create the world? In fact, isn’t it true that matter has always existed and the universe has gone through several cycles of expansion, contraction, and sequential “big bangs”?
  5. If we say that “from nothing, nothing comes” is a necessary rational principle, isn’t the teaching of the creation of the world ex nihilo irrational?
  6. Why did God create a material world?
  7. Why did God create man?
  8. For what purpose do human beings exist?
  9. Isn’t it illogical to say that miracles can occur–like the parting of the Red Sea, the Great Flood, or Jonah being swallowed by the whale? Aren’t the laws of nature fixed and unchanging?
  10. Why is there evil in the world? If God is all powerful and all loving, why does He not intervene to alleviate human suffering?
  11. Why should we accept the Bible as the word of God? Isn’t it true that elements in the Genesis account are very similar to other Middle Eastern mythical accounts?
  12. Wasn’t God overly harsh to condemn all men to death just because of the failings of Adam and Eve?
  13. Why did Christ have to suffer such an agonizing death just to redeem the world? Was there no other way?
  14. Why did Christ teach us to turn the other cheek and to love our enemies? Isn’t this unnatural?
  15. Is gluttony really all that bad?
  16. Is it really true that faith and reason are never in conflict? Isn’t Kierkegaard correct that the epitome of faith and belief is when one accepts as true something that from the point of view of reason is irrational and absurd?

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