A bridge over the moat…

 

As an 18-year-old I traveled to the Swiss L’Abri looking for answers.  I had grown up hearing the truths of the Bible preached several times a week.  But those answers only seemed true  inside my “church-world,” if you know what I mean.  There was a huge disconnect in my mind between the truths of the Bible and the real world.  It was as though I was in a beautiful castle that was totally surrounded by a moat.  There was no connection between the castle and the world beyond the water of the moat.

One answer that I found while at L’Abri has proven to be foundational to my faith. I have gone back to it many times over the years.   In a quaint Swiss chalet hanging off of a Swiss Alp,  I heard Francis Schaeffer say that only a Biblical worldview makes a full circle.

Jean-François Lyotard wrote in his report, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, his now famous words: “I define postmodern as incredulity towards metanarratives.”  A meta-narrative is a big story.   Lyotard meant that it is a bizarre claim that there is one story, one big, overarching story to explain reality for all people. This has become a common thought in our culture, that no one religion or philosophy can speak for all people.  You can probably see the self-contradiction in this claim.  The claim is that there can be no history, no account of the world that works for everyone ~ yet they are making that very claim as a universal truth for everyone.

What does it mean that only Christianity makes a full circle? What Schaeffer meant is that Christianity is the only worldview that sufficiently explains the real world….the world beyond the moat.

This shared story can be summed up in the flow of history portrayed in the Bible as:  Creation, Fall, and Redemption.  This overarching story is that the infinite, personal, Trinitarian God created man in His own image, that man sinned, thereby causing all of creation to be subjected to separation and death, and that God moved through the course of history to fulfill His redemptive plan in Christ to restore relationships and life.

The basic questions ~ Who am I? Why am I here? What is the meaning of life? What is the purpose in history? ~ can all be answered in the Biblical worldview.

Now this doesn’t mean that every question we can possibly come up with is answered by a Biblical worldview.   There is one type of question, in particular, that we can not answer.  It is the type of question that we would have to “stand behind God” to answer.  What I mean is if there are questions that would require us to know God’s motivation or reasoning, when He has not revealed it, we can not always answer those questions.  Why did God make plants green instead of purple?  Why is suffering the chosen way to learn obedience?  Why is a zebra striped instead of checkered? Why is the life in the blood?  I am not making a universal claim about every possible question.

But I am saying that the Christian worldview has a lot of “explaining power.” We can explain love, relationship, pain, death, personality, purpose, and history.

C.S. Lewis said it like this: ” I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

In other words, by Christianity, Lewis could understand the world.

Let me give you an example of another worldview for contrast.

Naturalism is the view of the world most succinctly described by Carl Sagan when he said that “The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.”  For a naturalist, the cosmos is only made up of one substance: matter.  Man is made of matter, and does not exist beyond death of the matter called the human body.  The Humanist Manifesto II says, “As far as we know, the total personality is a function of the biological organism transacting in a social and cultural context.  There is no credible evidence that life survives the death of the body.”  A person’s existence ends at death.  History is a linear flow of cause and effect without a goal or purpose.  Natural selection is embraced by many naturalists, but it still offers no overarching purpose or meaning to the universe. As Richard Dawkins says, “Natural selection is the blind watchmaker,  blind because it does not see ahead, does not plan consequences, has no purpose in view.”

Now the Naturalist worldview is very attractive in some ways.  It dismisses the idea that we are accountable to a greater being.  We can determine our own purpose.  If we are made of matter, and matter is eternal,  even though our individual bodies (the organization of matter that was us) expire, we are (or at least were)  somehow part of the eternal universe.  We can explain everything “scientifically,” since matter is observable.

Try to think of other strengths to this worldview.  It is always most helpful as a Christian to look at the strengths of another worldview, not just its weakness.  But we also have to look honestly at the answers that  naturalism provides, and see if they fit the facts, square with reality, and follow the law of non-contradiction.  We have to see if naturalism can explain the world as we know it to be.

Let’s ask a few questions of the naturalist and the Christian, and compare the answers.

Question: What is the meaning of life?

Naturalist: We make our own meaning.  There is no overarching meaning of all living things or of history.

Christian: We are here because an infinite, personal God created us.

Question: Why do I want to love and be loved?

Naturalist: Love can be explained in terms of biological processes in the brain.

Christian: We were created by a Trinitarian God who loved within the Godhead before the beginning of the world.  The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit each loved each other.  Therefore, because God has always existed, love and relationships have always existed.  Love is part of the fabric of the universe.  And because we are made in the image of God, we have the same capacity and desire to give and receive love.

Question: What happens to you when you die?

Naturalist: I end.

Christian: After the death of my body, my soul lives on.

I realize I have made a huge claim ~ that Christianity is the only worldview that answers all of our basic questions about life.  I did not embrace this claim the first time I heard it.  I thought about it and “tried it out” on a lot of other worldviews.  But over time, I came to believe that it is very true indeed.  And in the dark hours of doubt in the 35 years since I heard it for the first time, this truth is what usually brings me back.  Yes, you will continue to have doubts as a Christian.  This is normal.  Situations will arise in life that will make you ask the same questions all over again.  But I can tell you that I firmly believe, with all of my heart, soul, and mind, that there is a bridge over the moat.  The Biblical worldview alone is able to answer all of our deepest questions about ourselves and the world in which we live.

Betsy McPeak

 

 

2 comments to A bridge over the moat…

  • Jennifer Ritter

    When I find myself questioning, “Is Christianity THE truth?” I am always left hearing Simon Peter answering Jesus on behalf of the 12, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
    I especially like the use of the word ‘know’. I have tried to live based on other philosophies but they always had an end. I, too, have come to know that Jesus has the ‘words of eternal life.’

  • Betsy McPeak

    So true, Jennifer. I like the way you put that!

    When I wrote this post I hoped it didn’t sound impersonal ~ because foundational to a worldview that explains reality is a God who has spoken. I love the title of Schaeffer’s book, He is There, and He is not Silent. God Himself is the ultimate reality and communicator of true truth.

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