Friday, October 29, 2010

Who are you? Who are you... really?

Clint Eastwood star's in the movie Pale Rider which is about a cowboy who drifts mysteriously into a small mining town. In his new found home the people discover Eastwood is a man of the cloth and affectionately refer to him as, "preacher." As the movie proceeds, they discover some interesting characteristics about the preacher causing his friend, Sarah Wheeler to finally ask him, "Who are you? Who are you... really?" So, who are we as Homo Sapiens? Does the answer to the question have anything to do with how we live our lives?

Two paths can be taken concerning who man is: one is to see man as an accidental product of the universe, while the other is to see man as uniquely created in the image of God. Taking the first path is the reason given by the naturalist. A naturalist would see the entire cosmos as an accidental product by which man was created. Paul Churchland has stated, "The important point about the standard evolutionary story is that the human species and all of its features are the wholly physical outcome of a purely physical process....We are creatures of matter and we should learn to live with that fact."[1] On a naturalistic view as stated by Churchland, humans are purely pieces of matter that happened to develop a conscious life.

If humans are solely matter creatures then our evolutionary path has determined who we are. One of the characteristic features of this view is that humans are determined creatures by way of chance evolution. Researchers have recently discovered what they call the liberal gene. This liberal gene would control a person's view on how he/she sees the world. Obviously if a liberal gene exists, then a conservative gene must also direct an individual's actions and views. Philosopher Daniel Dennett takes the view that both alcoholics and child abusers are "determined to act as they do by forces outside their control."[2] On a naturalist view, humans are nothing more that robotic pieces of meat that act out their evolutionary determined direction. In fact, William Provine says, "Free will as traditionally conceived...simply does not exist. There is no way the evolutionary process as currently conceived can produce a being that is truly free to make choices."[3]

On a purely naturalistic view as defined by Provine, people cannot help themselves. If we are programed by evolution then morality does not exist. If morality does not exist then individuals should not be held accountable. For if morals do not exist, there is no right and wrong. How then are decisions made? Decisions are made by those in power. The naturalistic worldview paints a scary picture of reality if this is the way things really are. Taken literally, individuals can never be blamed for actions such as, lying, cheating, stealing, raping, or killing, for individuals are solely acting on their pre-programed information. No one can be called good or evil on this view, because there is no such thing as good and evil, or anything by which to measure such concepts. As Fyodor Dostoevsky said, "If God does not exist, everything is permissible." Ultimately, how we live our lives does not matter on a naturalistic view.

How we live our lives on a naturalistic view is truly frightening, but a different path can be presented. What if humans are the creation on a loving God who is intimately involved in the affairs of his people? On a Christian view, humans have free-will and are therefore responsible for what they do. God, as the possessor of all good becomes the measuring stick for what is right and wrong. A moral universe exist on the Christian worldview. We can know the right thing to do both intuitively and through God's revealed message to mankind. On the Christian worldview, humans are intrinsically important and have eternal worth. On the Christian worldview, God cared so much for his creation that he was willing to send his only son that whoever shall believe in him will not perish, but have eternal life.

Who we are makes a big difference on how this life can be viewed and lived. On the naturalist view, we are forced to live an irrational life while trying to make sense out of everyday struggles. "Atheism is a theoretical formulation of the discouraged life," according to Harry Emerson Fosdick. However, on the Christian worldview it makes a tremendous difference in knowing who we are. The Christian worldview provides a hope, even given the difficult struggles we daily face. The naturalist has to look at life with all the disappointments as the absolute best he will experience, where the Christian can view life with all its joys as the absolute worst he will ever experience. Who you are really matters in how you see this life.

[1] As quoted in J.P. Moreland's Kingdom Triangel, p. 47

[2] Moreland, J.P., Kingdom Triangle, p. 49

[3] As quoted in J.P. Moreland's Kingdom Triangel, p. 49

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