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Do You Think “Worldviewishly”?

November 13, 2009

There is a lot of discussion these days about various worldviews. A new adverb seemed necessary: thinking “worldviewishly!” I was involved for the first 45 years of my life in the theologically “orthodox” or conservative Christian world, doing counseling, teaching, etc. Even in this relatively confined “worldview,” there is a realization that numerous cultural and other factors contribute to each person’s broad view of reality, spiritual forces, morality, etc. It is recognized that this context varies greatly and colors any person’s interpretation of what they observe and experience. But, unfortunately, this awareness generally does not take the next few critical steps that would allow truly deeper understanding of and respect for the “other.” It falls short of aiding our common need to keep updating our worldviews, and the smaller paradigms (organized interpretations) that make them up.

I frankly don’t have high expectations for most people in regards to
really listening closely, seeking the other’s perspective, etc. In one sense, education (i.e., schooling) is not what is required. It certainly can and should help, especially the college level and beyond. Curiosity and openness are more critical, however.

This brings me to the trouble with “orthodoxy,” whether of the theological, scientific, or any kind. (I’ll speak of theology, my field, but have just as much concern with scientific orthodoxy, where I pay attention also.) Now, I can go light on the average lay Christian. But it frustrates and disappoints me greatly when highly educated, bright people in theology and apologetics do not do honest, open digging (or even listening) into the reasons people (like myself, now) work within malleable paradigms outside orthodoxy. Some of them are former colleagues and friends.

Orthodoxy, almost by definition, certainly by practice, is focused on keeping within set boundaries of what has prior been established as right or true. Tinkering around the edges is o.k. or even considered good, but a serious re-examination of the paradigm itself (or intertwined sub-paradigms) is too threatening, would change too much; so the true, deep reconstruction that many young Christians (or scientists, etc.) seem to be pursuing and longing for is forestalled…. I understand why, but feel it’s better to have smaller doses of pain and adjustment now than to keep resisting and risk even bigger shake-ups later (as is quite possible with the ET question that is gradually coming to the cultural foreground, as just one example). Such shake-ups WILL come eventually.

My mission is to help orthodox folks see the significant common ground still in place, shared with heretics like me, and at the least be willing to actively work together for humanitarian ends (short of making a major paradigm shift, though I certainly hope for that). 

Do you share this mission, or a similar one? How can we all cooperate more effectively to help humanity, especially in learning to cooperate, reconcile, etc.,  toward dramatically reducing armed conflict and providing basic survival needs and beyond? Am I right that we need to focus there more (myself included) than on debating whose worldview is right (or better)?

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Gabriel permalink
    November 14, 2009 3:01 am

    Hey Howard,

    I really appreciate your comment on Rachel’s blog and I also wanted to chime in on ET. On your comment first. It really causes my skin to crawl, the way many people are approaching the issues on her blog. The only further worry in my mind, is the audience they may be keeping. It seems that, and I may be wrong about this, now that many of them have had some experiential years added to their life, they are now becoming suspect of their Bible College education they received, along with their religious upbringing. I think many of them have good reason to be suspect, yet I also remember that a view can not be shown false by showing how an adherent deviates from it’s teaching. So no matter how much the “fundamentalist’s” have gotten it wrong, they having adopted other view subsequently and one of those is what they think is, postmodernism. I have not got to read the work of Kant, Heidegger, and a few others who really are the postmodernist thinkers, yet I have not been given good reason to believe that what they are calling it, is actually postmodernism. However, they have flirted with it enough, I think, that they have adopted such a bankrupt view of logic and relativism, the topics (that much of which I actually agree should be addressed), is approached so intellectually irresponsible, that the conclusion does not follow from their argument on an issue. Moreover, they don’t even realize it. But, hey, “postmodernsism” is part of their worldview; should anything else be expected?

    On ER; I am curious why you think many Christians will be surprised about this discovery, given it happens. I think you quote Davies here; “The real threat would come from the discovery of extraterrestrial intelligence, because if there are beings elsewhere in the universe, then Christians, they’re in this horrible bind. They believe that God became incarnate in the form of Jesus Christ in order to save humankind, not dolphins or chimpanzees or little green men on other planets.” Given the fact that Christians believe that Jesus came to save humankind, this presupposes why they are in need of a savior. Is it not because man has thwarted God’s moral law and therefore reaps condemnation on himself? If it were the case that animals could be morally culpable, then we would also think that they too are in need of a redeeming savior. The probability that Jesus did not show up in the flesh of an animal later or prior than he did to redeem anilmalkind (if that is a word), is simply reflective of the fact that animals are not moral agents. When a lion kills a Zebra, he does not murder the Zebra. Murder is a reference linked to human behavior in moral speculations. If it were the case that God also created a race in the Galaxy Andromeda, and they too broke God’s moral law, I see no reason to think that they would not also be in need of a savior.

    In summation, I guess I am having a hard time following why this would be a major upset to Christian speculation. I think it could be argued that anyone who has ruled the possibility of God creating other planets than earth out, has no sound grounds to stand on in Christian biblical text. I would only ask them why is it not possible for God to do so, or where does the scripture exclude the possibility?

    Thank you kindly for your time Howard!

    Sincerely,
    Gabriel

    • naturalspirituality permalink
      November 14, 2009 7:16 pm

      Thanks for the comment, Gabriel. As to the the core issue about “discovery” of intelligent non-human life (and/or very ancient human ancestors inhabiting various parts of the solar system in times past, beyond biblical description), in the Davies quote and my point, it seems to revolve around Jewish/Christian revelation (the Bible, basically) being centered on relatively recent history, and on humanity as the pinnacle and focus of God’s creation.

      In addition, the Bible’s focus is on God’s redemption of humanity, and specifically (now leaving Judaism into Christianity) via the “incarnation” and atoning work of Christ. It is central to Christian theology (since the 4th century) that Christ was uncreated, a co-equal “person” of the Godhead. While the Bible may not state this next point specifically, it has been a central (deduced) belief that this incarnation, sacrifice, and redemption could only happen once and is final for all the cosmos (read Ephesians, for example, and Revelation). So the problem exists on at least 2 levels, which may escape many lay people, but you can bet it does not escape most Christian leaders, whether well-educated pastors or Christian college and seminary teachers, authors, etc.

      Those are 1) the biblical texts themselves (leaving little, if any room for additional intelligent or morally responsible “races” besides humanity in Gods cosmic plan) and 2) systematic theology (everybody has one, whether very systematic or complete or not). In the latter, it might be possible to leave room for God dealing separately with other created beings beyond the angels/demons of the Bible and us. But it is very problematic, especially if it is believed by some or shown convincingly to all, that one or more other intelligent races have interacted with humans, perhaps mingled DNA, either in the distant past or recently; or are our direct ancestors who may have had very long civilizations on Mars, the moon or other locations into the millions of years ago. (BTW, substantial photographic and other evidence does exist that makes this last area, at the least, one that will be studied much more in the near future, maybe even with a more open, honest NASA — can/will most Christians face that openly? I sure hope so.)

  2. Gabriel permalink
    November 14, 2009 11:06 pm

    Yeah, you still have not shown how the possibility of other intelligent life would be a conflict with scripture. The the Genesis account ch. 1:1-2 the context is set up pretty straight forward, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” (NIV) Here we have an account of the beginning of the universe and the earth. In v.2 it drastically narrow into a revelation about earth. So, God created other intelligent races and they interacted with earth. I do not see where the bible accounts for this, but I also do not see how it rules our the possibility. “Jewish/Christian revelation (the Bible, basically) being centered on relatively recent history, and on humanity as the pinnacle and focus of God’s creation.” Again, the context in the Christian bible is with regard to revelation to the earth. So, lets go a step further. We might say that the earth if the pinnacle and focus of God’s creation. It still may be the case that God had other creation projects other than earth and we don’t have an account of that. I think I am going to have to read something into the text here to rule out the possibility of other intelligent life.

    “In addition, the Bible’s focus is on God’s redemption of humanity,” ON EARTH “and specifically (now leaving Judaism into Christianity) via the “incarnation” and atoning work of Christ. It is central to Christian theology (since the 4th century) that Christ was uncreated, a co-equal “person” of the Godhead.” I don’t see how this is an argument against the possibility of God creating other morally culpable agents. “While the Bible may not state this next point specifically, it has been a central (deduced) belief that this incarnation, sacrifice, and redemption could only happen once and is final for all the cosmos (read Ephesians, for example, and Revelation).” Again, it is clear that or biblical revelation is about earth and it’s moral agents. Where is this ” for all the cosmos?”

    “(BTW, substantial photographic and other evidence does exist that makes this last area, at the least, one that will be studied much more in the near future, maybe even with a more open, honest NASA — can/will most Christians face that openly? I sure hope so.) I still cant see why this will be hard. The only reason why it might be is for what I would call the intellectual neutral in America. But more narrowly, some might think it’s a problem, but they probably having thought about it enough to realize that biblical revelation is regarding earth.

    I am having a hard time following. I don’t think these conclusions are with warrant.

    Hey, are you going to ETS in New Orleans next week? I’ll be there! Thank you again for your time.

    Sincerely,
    Gabriel

  3. November 15, 2009 3:54 am

    Hi, Howard.

    Just had time to check out your blogs, read the latest one thoroughly and skim the others. Excellent!

    We seem to be on a similar journey (radical change rather late in life): I’m probably within a few months of your age; and just 2-1/2 years ago, a challenge to me by a Denver activist (who heard me comment at an open forum on the Middle East conflict) to research reincarnation turned my life upside down. I came at it from every angle: biblically, scientifically and personally (through past-life regressions).

    Coming to understand the truth of reincarnation also explained a memory I’d carried with me through life (but which only my late mother knew about) of early childhood nightmares of getting ready to be hung by a Nazi SS officer (and no 4- or 5-year-old raised in a non-Jewish family in the late 50s in southern California had any knowledge of the Holocaust, much less the specific method of hanging I recently verified as having been used in the death camps for women resisters!) PLR sessions also brought powerful healing in a number of areas.

    OK. I’m on a roll, and I’d better stop. I have papers to write. 🙂

    Blessings, Carol

  4. naturalspirituality permalink
    November 17, 2009 5:54 pm

    Welcome to the blog, Carol. I hope you come back and keep posting… very fascinating story. Very sad beginning, but glad for the healing and trust the “ending” (and continuing story) is happy.

    You are probably aware, but many readers will not be, that your type of situation, including the significant healing, release from anxieties, etc. has been experienced by thousands now, in the last 20 or 30 years of past life regressions, done by trained, competent therapists, who usually began in “conventional” psychotherapy or psychiatry (my own field, with relational counseling, for 10 years, but never touching past lives). This also constitutes a type of evidence for past lives. Now that evidence, which seems to abound, is being checked and furthered scientifically, pioneered by Dr. Ian Stevenson a few decades ago. One of the researchers building on his work in fascinating ways, with further physical, “gene-like” components is Paul Von Ward. If you’re not familiar with him, check the site http://www.reincarnationexperiment.com and also his website under his name. He is actively seeking further participants in his study. It appears we are nearing a “tipping point” at which reincarnation will not only be scientifically verified, but its understanding harnessed in powerful positive ways.

  5. June 25, 2010 5:41 am

    “Do you share this mission, or a similar one? How can we all cooperate more effectively to help humanity, especially in learning to cooperate, reconcile, etc., toward dramatically reducing armed conflict and providing basic survival needs and beyond?”

    Well… this is just a sort of essay/rant directed mainly at my fellow unbelievers, but you might find it interesting. I am, basically, arguing in favor of “lukewarm”, casual, “cafeteria” religion. Why? Well, it doesn’t feel the need to oppose scientific research, and if we can remove or reduce the tribal/dogmatic/fundamentalist elements of religion, a lot of the objectionable behaviors go away.

    See what you think?

    Part I
    Part II
    Part III
    Part IV

    I actually do think that religion and science can be complementary, rather than contradictory, ways of looking at the world. I don’t know if (most) religion(s) is(/are) capable of undergoing the sort of paradigm shift required to make this work, but I hold to the hope that people can work together to achieve practical results.

  6. wmccaig permalink
    August 11, 2010 11:45 pm

    Great post. Glad I found it. You are so right when you write “Curiosity and openness are more critical.” So many have been training to be closed, suspicious, and intolerant of other views.

    When I set out with a mission to unite people of faith across race, class, and religious background. I assumed race would be the more difficult issue here in the capital of the confederacy. I was wrong. I had no idea how difficult it would be to get people to see their common ground in the midst of the theological differences.

    You stated on my blog that you have not been lonely now that you have stepped out of orthodoxy. I wish I shared your experience. I guess I am still kind of half in and half out. The longer I stay, the more I realize I simply don’t fit. The more people try to force me back into the fold, the more I realize I need to step out to stay true to what God has revealed to me or is continually revealing to me. I still don’t see a clear picture but I do know that the God I do see is way too big for Orthodox Christianity.

    Thanks again for your comments on my post. I will check out some of your other posts. Perhaps your writing will help me not feel like such an outsider to the faith. I am also hoping you can equip me with language that will lead toward unity instead of further division.

    • naturalspirituality permalink
      August 13, 2010 12:52 am

      Thanks for your comments, Wendy. I am optimistic about how you will fare as you move along in your quest. I sense the hardest parts are already behind you. You may not yet have discovered just how many people there are who have traveled the same basic path. Most, it seems, believe and feel themselves to be in a better place when not tied to the dogmas of orthodoxy. My sense is that most of them retain some vital kind of spiritual beliefs and trust, though there often is a period of months to years of putting it all basically out of mind, depending on circumstances and the person’s mental/emotional style.

      I’ll make an additional plug for Ken Wilber’s work, especially “Integral Spirituality.” It is not a light read by any means, and it helps if one has a fair academic background with some theology, history, psychology, etc. But it is not highly technical, if one can concentrate, and his bits of repetition help to reinforce key aspects. He has a more comprehensive system of accounting for many diverse questions and puzzles than anything I know of. I think getting his main points can help people like you, and most of us, who often can’t make sense of the rigidity and fearfulness of many people. It also helps show how we got where we are, as a “civilization” and a culture (or sub-culture), and where we can go from here. And for a couple more biographical and specifically Evangelical Christian-related books on understanding inconsistencies and dysfunctions in conservative religion, I also highly recommend these: “Leaving the Fold” by Marlene Winell and “Trusting Doubt” (or old title of “The Dark Side”) by Valerie Tarico, both psychologists.

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