Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Mind Over Matter

I came across an article (I can’t say that I “happened” or “chanced” upon it because I was purposefully directed there by an intelligent friend) in which the atheist author opined:  

“Worldview” is defined as one’s comprehensive framework for evaluating the world, including theories of why we are here, where we’re going, how to get there, how to behave, and so on. . . . On face [sic], then, atheism cannot be a worldview, because different atheists have different answers to those questions! . . . If atheism does not provide a single answer to these fundamental questions, it cannot be a worldview, by definition! 

According to this line of thought, not only is atheism not a worldview; neither is theism. But how is such pedantry helpful?  

Surely it is self-evident that an atheist’s view of the world—while it may be unique to his own person—is atheistic. To what purpose should we claim: Christianity is not a worldview because of all the Baptists and Lutherans of the world?  

Can we not meaningfully say that devout Baptists and Lutherans have a Christian worldview? I think we can. 

Our persnickety atheist is simply thinking himself into intelligibility. 

Perhaps we can capture the essence or heart of the debate with this one question: What constitutes the ultimate reality of our universe—Mind or matter 

Please understand, dear reader, this isn’t a conflict of science vs. religion but of atheism (naturalism) vs. theism; and these are different matters entirely. 

Quoting Colin Russell, John Lennox writes,

The common belief that . . . the actual relations between religion and science over the last few centuries have been marked by deep and enduring hostility . . . is not only historically inaccurate, but actually a caricature so grotesque that what needs to be explained is how it could possibly have achieved any degree of respectability. (God’s Undertaker, p. 28)

Thus we have a collision of worldviews—atheism/naturalism vs. theism—not a battle of disciplines—science vs. religion—which are contained within those worldviews. Hence two scientists may agree concerning their science but disagree concerning their view of ultimate reality, if one of those scientists is an atheist and the other a theist.  

The brilliant mind of Charles Darwin seemed to believe that the ultimate reality of the universe was Mind and not matter. He writes to a friend, 

Nevertheless you have expressed my inward conviction, though far more vividly and clearly than I could have done, that the Universe is not the result of chance. But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind? 

Darwin rightly and honestly concedes that the trustworthiness of our mental faculties is in doubt unless the ultimate reality of the universe is Mind and not matter. (Christian philosopher, Alvin Plantinga, develops this further in his thesis: An Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism). 

Atheist, Bertrand Russell asks, 

Is mind subject to matter . . . Has the universe any unity or purpose? Are there really laws of nature, or do we believe in them only because of our innate love of order? Is man what he seems to be to the astronomer, a tiny lump of impure carbon and water impotently crawling on a small and unimportant planet? Or is he what he appears to Hamlet? Is there a way of living that is noble and another that is base, or are all ways of living merely futile? . . . To such questions no answers can be found in the laboratory. (John Lennox, God’s Undertaker, p. 42) 

The theist understands that the universe is truly intelligible and that our mental faculties are indeed reliable because ultimate reality is Mind, not matter. He knows that “in the beginning was the Word” and thus enjoys a sure foundation or basis for rationality.  

Mind over matter makes all the difference in the world. 

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