Not too long ago I was having a discussion with a chemist who claimed that the only thing that is real is what he can put under his microscope. In other words, reality consists only of that which is material. This worldview is often called naturalism, which according to the Oxford Dictionary is “a philosophical viewpoint according to which everything arises from natural properties and causes, and supernatural or spiritual explanations are excluded or discounted.”
It’s not a very popular view on Valentine’s Day. If it were – you might find a Valentine card that says something like this:
Darling, my rise in serotonin level has triggered my infatuation with you. In light of this development, my blood chemistry compels me to love you. Will you be my valentine?
At the Center for Naturalism’s website in the Q & A section it states that: “Your thoughts, experiences, feelings, decisions, and behavior are all things your brain and body does.” They go on to claim that “Naturalism can help improve interpersonal relationships.”
Q. What are the implications of naturalism for my attitudes toward others and my relationships with them?
A. Many of the implications of naturalism that apply to yourself (see above) apply to others, and for the same reasons. Knowing that they are fully caused to be as they are, and couldn’t have done otherwise in the circumstances they were in, you’re going to be much less likely to assign them ultimate credit and blame. This means you’re less likely to hold onto feelings of resentment, anger, and contempt should they behave badly.
Is that a true basis for relationship – I forgive you because you weren’t at fault??? Wouldn’t that also make the converse true – anytime you did something good or kind, it wouldn’t be your choice either? In fact, naturalism, as I understand it, reduces love and relationships, because it reduces what it means to be human. On the same website a human being is described:
“What’s special about this naturalistic view ourselves, that’s quite different from the supernatural or common sense view, is that we don’t have free will, defined as the power to do something without yourself being fully caused to do it.”
Remember last week I said that Francis Collins, who mapped the human genome, said that he came to faith in God because of all that he could not explain with his naturalistic view of life. Love seems to be in that category to me. A naturalist explains love and relationships in a way that does not fit with reality, reducing it to a deterministic series of choices based on bio-chemical processes.
Biblical Christianity asserts that human beings are relational because they were created by a Trinitarian God who has always existed as three persons in relationship with each other. God’s essence is love. This is not just an ivory tower truth. Just like the naturalist sees the truths of their worldview expressed in the nature of relationships, so does the Christian. God’s nature is reflected in His creation, including man who is made in His own image.
Philosopher Peter Kreeft of Boston College says it this way:
If God is not a Trinity, God is not love. For love requires three things: a lover, a beloved, and a relationship between them.
So buy your Valentine some flowers and chocolate, because you are made in the image of a God who loves, and therefore, even if my chemist friend can’t see it under a microscope, your love is real.
~ Betsy McPeak