Worldview, Philosophy, Faith and Ethics
“Worldview, Philosophy, Faith and Ethics” Reading
ARTICLE 1: What Is a Worldview and Why Is It Important to Me?
The first set of questions in part 1 asked you to evaluate the extent to which you seek to apply faith, values, and philosophy to your personal and business decisions. To really have a sound foundation for ethical decisions, we have to have an understanding of how our worldview influences the decisions we make and how we perceive reality.
Too often, we barely understand what our worldview is all about and how it impacts decisions. As such, our decisions in life may or may not be informed by sound principles. This is true even for Christians, who may even have unbiblical ideas influencing their worldview. The non-Christian faces a different challenge: trying to make sense of life in a meaningful way without a Biblical, theistic starting point. All of this will be discussed in the series of article for this assignment.
- A worldview is the intellectual, emotional, and perhaps even spiritual framework by which we apprehend reality and assign meaning to life.
- Everyone has a worldview; it may not be very developed, but nevertheless, everyone is approaching life based upon one.
The Worldview “House”
- To speak metaphorically, our worldview is the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual “home” in which we live all of our lives. It may change drastically, undergoing serious renovations or damage as we go through life, but it is always with us nevertheless. Furthermore, regardless of how nice the house is on the inside (furniture, upholstery, decorations, etc., etc.), if that worldview home is not built upon a solid foundation, or a strong skeletal framework, it will not be a very safe or suitable home in which to live.
- Ironically, the two most important things of any house—the foundation and the framework—are the components that most people don’t think about when they look at a house, because these two components are unseen and therefore often ignored.
- Likewise, though people are quite comfortable articulating their beliefs about politics, religion, business, relationships, the meaning of life, etc., etc., they rarely look at the crucial assumptions underneath those beliefs, because by their nature, these beliefs are assumed and therefore taken for granted.
- Presuppositions are the crucial, yet often unspoken assumptions about the origin of life, truth, individuality, and values that serve as the foundation and framework for one’s worldview.
- As we’ll see throughout the assignment, everyone has certain assumptions that they make about life. These presuppositions must be evaluated if we are going to have a sound worldview for ethical soundness, because they pertain to the foundation and framework of our worldview house.
Presuppositions and the Worldview “House”
These key presuppositions can be assigned to two categories: foundational presuppositions and framework presuppositions. Again, think of these two terms in the context of a home. Obviously, a home needs a solid foundation and skeletal framework. The same is true for one’s worldview.
First, we will discuss the importance of foundational presuppositions. The case will be made here that to have a sound worldview “home”, only a certain type of foundation can be in place. Just as an actual house couldn’t be built upon a foundation of banana pudding and expect to be sound, so a worldview cannot be based upon faulty presuppositions.
In reality, there are only two choices for foundational presuppositions, and as will be discussed below, only one of those two options can actually support the full weight of one’s worldview home through trying times.
What Is a Worldview and Why Is It Important to Me?
CHOOSING YOUR FOUNDATION
Foundational Presuppositions: An intellectual starting point or “foundation” of the worldview home. There are only two options:
- The presence of eternal, impersonal, non-living, infinite matter, (this option includes both the secular atheistic adherence to non-living matter as well as more Eastern approaches, in which some cosmic force, though eternal and spiritual, is not personal)
- A eternal, personal, living, infinite creator being
Why these two?
We have to start with the question of how life started because that is the source of all meaning. We may claim to derive our sense of right and wrong from our family upbringing, or society or culture, or the laws of the land, but all of those are not original determinants—they came into being and are determined by whatever it was that brought life and meaning into existence in the first place. We therefore have to back to the very beginning. That is why we are only focusing on the two starting points mentioned above.
We have to assume that our metaphysical starting point must be eternal in origin, or else it is not a starting point, since something else would have come before it. Therefore, the fact that both starting points are eternal is valid, and as such, the eternal requirement would negate any type of mythology in which the gods were created.
On the possibility of a sentient, personal and infinite creator being or beings, certainly this passes as a possible starting point. We cannot surmise as to whether or not it would only be one entity, or multiple entities, but we know that regardless of number, they must be eternal.
The other possibility, which is totally opposite, is that of eternal, non-living matter. Besides the fact that it is eternal, which is a prerequisite for any starting point, there is nothing else in common with the personal, infinite creator being. Following is an explanation of how these two possible starting points are both mutually exclusive and exhaustive of all possibilities.
- One is living, the other is non-living. These two attributes are totally opposite of one another; as an entity cannot be both, or partial of these two extremes. No other possibilities exist.
- One is personal, and the other is non-personal. Again, there is no room for an intermediary position here. One cannot have both personality and non-personality.
- It follows that creation deriving from the former is predetermined, whereas creation from the latter is a chance happenstance. Non-living matter cannot plan to initiate a new development in itself; all processes must be random. On the other hand, it is appropriate to conceive of an intelligent creator being planning creation.
Simply stated, there really are no other possibilities other than these two, which is to say that they are mutually exclusive. They embody the full range of possibilities. A major theme of these articles is that only the God of the Bible—and no other religious starting point—will suffice, but that argument will be made later. For now, it is important to note that whoever this God is, he/she/it must be eternal, personal, and sentient, or else this “god” starting point will be no different from the impersonal, eternal starting point.
Some might argue that they do not make any decisions—or at least very few—while thinking about what they believe about God or random chance. They would claim that they make decisions based upon circumstances, past experiences, legal ramifications and other types of consequences, and in the end, what works best for them. These same people might even claim to believe in some type of God. But when people make this argument, they are in reality being influenced by their views of God in ways of which they are not quite aware, and as the case will be made in subsequent articles, the foundation of their worldview home may very well be something akin to banana pudding—which tastes great with vanilla wafers, but is less than satisfying for a sure foundation.
What Is a Worldview and Why Is It Important to Me?
ARTICLE 2: Adding the Framework—Ontology, Epistemology, & Axiology
What are the implications for having a foundation based solidly upon a belief in an intelligent Creator being versus a foundation based upon a non-theistic, random chance starting point? This article will provide an answer to that question by looking at our framework presuppositions—those key assumptions about who we are as humans (ontology) and whether or not there is absolute truth (epistemology) and values (axiology).
These framework presuppositions, like the skeletal framework of a house, are built directly upon the foundation of the home. If the foundation is bad, the framework will be flawed, and the entire structure will be damaged. So it is with our worldview homes. If our framework presuppositions are based upon an unbiblical theistic foundation, our beliefs about ontology, epistemology, and axiology will be flawed and therefore, our decision-making will in turn be flawed.
In each of these framework categories, we will discuss the implications that exist for building one’s worldview “home” on a foundation other than the God of the Bible. To do so, we will start with ontology, since individuality (and the responsibility that comes with it) is the basis for how we perceive truth and values.
Ontology—who are we? Are we individuals or are we totally a product of our environment?
- Determinism: the environment and its processes determine the actions and reactions of every organism found therein.
- Free Will: Organisms have some measure of free will, sentience, and individuality, even if they are to some degree determined by their environment and/or Creator.
If our starting point is the God of the Bible, we will see that because we are made in his image, there is the opportunity for free will, as well as the ability to think and communicate with others in meaningful ways. The basis for ethics is the ability to think and reason. In a world ordered by random chance and/or an impersonal “mystical” force, there is no personality at all—human beings are solely caught up in the impersonal forces that rule the universe—chaos, randomness, feedback-stimulus-response. This is one of the reasons why, as mentioned in article 1, we are focusing on the God of the Bible as are starting point and not another type of god.
There can be no basis for ethics or moral responsibility if there is no individual responsibility. Without individual responsibility, the motivations for doing anything are viewed as being based upon circumstantial (environmental, socio-economic exploitation, etc.) factors, or hormonal, biological urges. In that sense, the attitude that says, “I’ve got to do what is best for me” is more motivated by the “survival of the fittest” notion that comes with a Darwinist worldview or a worldview that embraces ultimate meaningless than the promises of God’s Word, which says that God is faithful to preserve those who obey him and put their hope in the promises and commandments of his Word.
Epistemology—how do we know what is truth, if there even is truth?
If our foundation is a non-theistic starting point based upon random chance or a mysterious, impersonal cosmic force, the logical outcome will be a belief in moral relativism, because there is no God communicating what is true and what is right and wrong. Everything is just the product of random chance or cyclical forces in the universe (the interplay of ying and yang, for instance).
If we believe that truth is relative—that people can basically decide what works best for them as they go—then we are doing the following things to our worldview:
- We are de facto saying that our foundation is that of random chance. Only in a world ruled by random chance would there be no basis for absolute truth.
- Moreover, we have no basis for ethics or personal understanding of life. Everything we feel or believe is subject to our own emotional whims and experiences and the emotional whims and experiences of others.
- Nothing we perceive can be trusted. To be sure, Scripture tells us that we are not to rely on our own understanding, but a belief that truth is relative basically undermines our understanding altogether.
In the business world, the question of absolute truth and right and wrong comes up all of the time. But because the current legal paradigm is based upon a non-theistic starting point, “right and wrong” is all about what the law says, and what legal loop holes can be created to get around any laws. Businesses, being motivated solely by profit, will then find whatever excuses they can do to whatever they want to do.
Individual people do the same. Instead of the absolute truth of God’s word, people are pushed by expediency, fear, and selfishness in making personal decisions.
Axiology—how do we arrive at values? Is there such a thing as absolute good and evil? There are really only two options here and they derive entirely from what one believes about God:
- Absolute values: good, evil, justice, love, etc. which are immutable and which transcend cultural and social boundaries.
- Socially constructed values: people in various cultural groups determine what is good and bad for their group
In a non-Christian worldview, there can be no true values or right and wrong, or love and justice. If one believes that we live in a physical-only universe, then all that happens is the result of random chance and stimulus-response actions. Survival is the sole criterion for doing anything, and that engenders moral relativism because people will always have differing opinions of who needs to survive and how. Likewise, if one views God as more of a mystical, impersonal force, there can be no hope of truly understanding right and wrong, and in fact, in an Eastern mystical perspective, good and evil are often viewed as two sides of the same coin.
In conclusion, all of the key assumptions about who we are as human beings and what truth, love, and justice are all about depend upon the nature of our foundational presuppositions. If we believe in the presence of a personal, intelligent Creator being, we have the possibility for things like true meaning in life because we humans will have free will. With that free will comes moral obligation, but the good news is that there are in fact real values like love and justice to pursue, to live for, and if need be, even to die for. Without the presence of this eternal, Creator-being, all we have is random chance or an impersonal cosmic force. With either of those two options (and really, they ultimately fold into one another so that there is no meaningful difference), we as humans have no free will, because we are either the product of our physical, random environment or we are caught in the cosmic trap of fate, and a view of history that is cyclical rather than linear and driven towards the ultimate victory of good over evil.
In this context what hope do we have of doing the right thing for the right reason, of experiencing true meaning, love, justice, and beauty? And if those are not options for us, than what do we have left but to do whatever we can to survive and enjoy life in a meaningless world? In this context, there is really not much reason for personal ethics, much less business ethics.
If on the other hand, there is a true eternal God who has made us in his own image and called us to an eternal plan—one that, though marked with struggles and trials, is full of eternal significance, then suddenly we have the basis for personal meaning and experience. Moreover, everything we do—including our business decisions—now has eternal significance.
What Is a Worldview and Why Is It Important to Me?
ARTICLE 3: If a God, then which God?
The case has been made that only a God-centered starting point can provide a true foundation for sound personal and business ethics. If so, what type of God is needed? This is a question that transcends personal religious preferences. We may want God to be a bit distant from us so that we can do as we like, but that same type of God would also be guilty of allowing evil to run amok in the world. We may want a God who instantly punishes all forms of evil, but if so, then we would all be smitten about a half second after we woke up on any given morning as soon as we had one less than pure thought.
The point will be made here that only the God of the Bible, and specifically, Jesus Christ, can provide the meaning that we need in life. Let us consider how Christ fulfills each of the framework presuppositions, as opposed to other religious preferences.
The Bible claims we are made in God’s image. Christ affirmed this message by taking on flesh, walking among us, caring for the downtrodden, and above all dying on the cross for our sins, so that we might be saved and finally live for eternity in all that we do. Furthermore, the notion of people fellowshipping with one another is in fact affirmed through the Trinity, where God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have prefect fellowship with one another and have done so since before the dawn of time. The God of the Bible is a joyful, personal being, and we are to be the same. In making us in his image, God intended us to enjoy fellowship and live with meaning in a similar manner. We were called to be in fellowship with God through Christ and with one another.
Part of the free will perspective is the notion that we have been enabled to choose to obey God—there will be no coercion. While this has sadly allowed for the presence of sin and much evil in the world, it also allows us to live noble and epic lives through the power of Christ, and for the glory of Christ, in a manner transcends the myopic ways we typically pursue when living for ourselves.
In other religious perspectives, “god” is either not very personal at all or would never deign to view humans as being made in his image, thus denying true fellowship. Remember that in Eastern mystical perspectives, the highest goal is to escape the pain and sorrow of individuality. In Buddhism and Hinduism, individuality is nothing but an illusion that must be overcome to likewise escape the personal suffering of this meaningless, cyclical life we live. In Islam, the notion of being loved like a child by God is practically blasphemous, and even the most devoted followers of Islam can never quite be sure of where they stand before their god. These differing perspectives create unease at best and meaninglessness at worst.
God spoke the universe into existence with words and meaning. In fact, Jesus Christ became the living Word of God to die for us and to communicate the truth of both God’s love and justice. The God of the Bible affirms absolute meaning, absolute destiny, and absolute purpose. The logical implications of other worldviews—be they secular or religious, ultimately deny such absolute truth. God pursued us with his truth, specifically by sending his Son to die for us. We live in a world, therefore, ordained by absolute truth and meaning.
As mentioned above, the God of the Bible is perfectly good—perfectly loving and perfectly just. The Gospel affirms these absolute values. According to the Gospel, we all deserve death because we are less than good—we are evil. Those who wish God would intervene more quickly to remove evil forget that if he were truly as swift as he could be in fulfilling justice, we all would die the first instant we were less than good. There can be no compromise, no bending of righteous laws to let unrighteous people off the hook, because the very act of bending the rules would be an act of unrighteousness and injustice.
On other hand, because God loves perfectly, he cannot not allow his creation to die and suffer eternal damnation. So how can he fulfill both his love and his justice? By taking on flesh and dying for us all, Christ fulfilled both God’s sense of justice and of love. Jesus was fully man, and so as a man he died and experienced God’s rejection of him; therefore, God’s justice was fulfilled. But since Christ was and is fully God, he never sinned and so his sacrifice was sufficient for us all (remember that even if we wanted to, none of us could die for mankind because we are guilty of our own sins). So, we see in Christ a wonderful fulfillment of love and justice fully embodied.
No other religious perspective describes a God who would pursue man—who would come to us and deign to interact with us, much less save us. In every other religious perspective, the god or gods must be appeased through sacrifice and obedience. But since we have been saved by grace—to wit, since we can do nothing to earn God’s favor, save humbly acknowledge our need for him, we are unable to be selfish in our obedience to God, even if we wanted to! Now, everything we do to worship and please God is done for selfless reasons—we are truly being good for goodness sake! That is not to say that we do not try to manipulate God into blessing us due to good behavior, but rather that such efforts, due to God’s absolute goodness and grace, and our utter failure in ever being good enough, are vain—in more ways than one!
One argument against the God of the Bible is that he is petulant and insecure—that he needs our worship of him to stroke his cosmic ego. That may true of other gods, but remember that God of the Bible—the triune God, in fact—had perfect fellowship among himself before man was ever created. He did not need to create us for his own self-satisfaction; rather his selfless love was the basis for our existence, that love further culminated in his deigning to take on flesh and dwell among us in this dreary and dusty world. Moreover, to worship God is not to debase ourselves by kissing the hand of God; rather it is about getting past our myopic ways of thinking, getting out of the squalor of our own agendas in order to experience true and intimate fellowship with absolute goodness, absolute love, and absolute beauty. A God who loves selflessly would want nothing less for his creation, which is why he wants us to worship him for eternity. If he is perfectly good, then he cannot be a prideful God. He is love, power, and humility all in one, and he is all of these things personified. What would we not give to experience this?
At this point, some may cringe at the notion of talking about religion at all in a graduate business program. Some may want to merely acknowledge in passing the importance of “Judeo-Christian values” while at the same time maintaining some separation from God. We want this because we like the notion of self-sufficiency—even those of us who have walked with the Lord all of our lives.
But the fact is, there are no options for us but these: either we are totally the product of a random environment, such that every thought we have and every action we take are merely the result of past atomic and chemical reactions, rendering individuality as a mere illusion, or we are beholden to the Creator God, who while giving us every strength, gift and opportunity we currently possess, also gives us the choice on whether or not we will follow him. So here we are—we have the opportunity to follow the path of logic and fully surrender ourselves to God through Christ. In so doing, we do not empty and deny ourselves so much as we fill ourselves with the presence of Christ such that as individuals we truly live and move and have our being. And yes, in doing so, everything else in our lives—every room in our worldview home and every bit of furniture and scrap of carpeting, paint, etc. along with it—must be centered on Christ, and Christ alone.
Or, because God does allow for free will, we can choose to buy into the illusion that somehow we are sovereign, that the strengths, opportunities and gifts that we possess due to God’s kindness are our own and the result of our own volition (as if that volition were something we created for ourselves and not something that was given us!), and we can seek to live a fractured life—living for ourselves but ultimately being a slave to our own selfish and myopic desires. This is a choice we can make as well, but it would be the wrong choice, both emotionally and logically.
In making a final comment about axiology, it should be pointed out that making qualitative comparisons among various religious and non-religious ideologies is not in and of itself a mean-spirited or self-righteous thing to do. Rather, logic compels such qualitative comparisons. Some may be content and quite desirous of a so-called non-judgmental approach to life in which no comparisons are made among competing worldviews and everyone is encouraged and allowed to live as they best see fit. This is a sad way to live, because it ultimately undermines true meaning and purpose in life. If no qualitative comparisons can be made about life and various theories of what is true, then how can there be any meaning at all? In this type of world, people are, at best, guessing their way through life with little hope that anything they do will have any meaning. But if, on the other hand, there is in fact a grand narrative that involves us all and will unify any and all who allow themselves to be embraced by a loving God through Christ, there is hope of such things as justice, beauty, love, and an eternal destiny that shines brighter than any star in the universe.
The real concern regarding such discussions about worldview, religion and ideology should not be that qualitative comparisons are being made, because the ability to make such comparisons is evidence of absolute truth, and therefore absolute meaning. No, the real concern is that such discussions not be done in a self-righteous, divisive manner. It is true that would-be religious zealots would only want to convert others, not to listen, would only want to diminish other perspectives not to explore, and in doing all of that, would end up creating a way of living that is myopic, rigid, and above all, self-righteous and petty.
But what if such conversations about the meaning of life could be done in both a way that is logical and humble? In fact, doesn’t logic require humility? Remember that being logical requires an acknowledgement that personal experience and what one sees or observes is insufficient to make sense of life. True learning begins when people are willing to let go of their emotional attachment to what they believe so they can truly reason and discover.
If the above ideal is a true and good one, consider yet again the God of the Bible, who from the very beginning of creation, allowed his most prized creations to disobey him and turn away from him. Consider that he himself took on flesh to pursue us and save us, but at the same time, disavowed the use of any military or political coercion in doing so. People must come into fellowship with God via free will or not at all. Consider the implications of a God who would allow us to question everything he claims to be and discover through a process of logic and outward looking, discover who he might be. Consider, in all of this, that the most powerful entity in the universe—indeed the entity that holds the entire universe together—would gently allow us the space to choose him. Consider also the message of Scripture that while we were still enemies, God came looking for us. When we wanted nothing to do with him, the gentle persuasion of the Holy Spirit drew us to repentance, or would do the same with those of us who do not yet know him. In a worldview where God allows for free will, in a worldview which acknowledges that unless we are saved by grace, we cannot know truth or embrace true life, in a worldview where time and time again, people are asked to put aside their own narrow agendas and preconceived notions to trust a wild God who bows to no man, how can there be one shred of self-righteousness?
In reality, self-righteousness only belongs in worldviews where there is no God at all or where religion is defined in being “good enough” to earn God’s favor. The Gospel refutes that any of us were ever good enough to earn God’s favor apart from his saving grace through Christ. But in religious perspectives where God has not come to man, but man must come to God, where “good works” earns God’s blessing, then yes, self-righteousness can exist, and does exist. It is true that many so-called followers of Christ have embraced self-righteousness—indeed, that is a natural human tendency—but in doing so, they refute the very message of the Gospel and the God who ordained that Gospel message.
What Is a Worldview and Why Is It Important to Me?