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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Wordview Definitions: Theism

Yesterday, I discussed the importance of understanding what a worldview is and the fact that everyone has one. There are many diverse worldviews that exist today, and we can see that even within the different ideas about how the world works, there are common threads that run through each.

All worldviews start with what philosophers call a "meta-narrative" or "Grand Story". These are beliefs or ideas about God and truth. Meta-narratives are the foundation and basis of what shapes one's worldview, they inform and color all our other beliefs. They deal with how we got here, why we're here, and how to discover truth about the world around us. I want to spend some time looking at four of the most widely accepted meta-narratives by people throughout history. To be sure, all of these worldviews exist today and studying them a bit will give us a better grasp of how others ground their concept of truth.

"We Need God to Understand His Creation"

Traditional theism is the position taken by most people historically. Theism holds that there is a God (or perhaps gods) who is responsible for creating the world. It further implies that the world was created with some type of order to it; there are laws that govern how the world works. Judaism and Christianity especially hold to the idea that God has created the universe with certain features or laws that are orderly and reliable. If one were to create the same set of circumstances today (such as dropping a cannon ball off the Tower of Pisa) that he had set up a year ago, he should be able to achieve the same result.

This idea of purpose shows up everywhere. A seed that is planted and watered should grow into a tree. Introduce a fungus or virus into that tree and it can die. The traditional view holds that God created the world in a rational, predictable way. It therefore means the world is predictable and laws of physics we discover today will allow us to predict outcomes tomorrow or millennia from now.

Theism and Human Exceptionalism

Of course, physical laws like gravity are not the only things that are predictable. When God created human beings, He created them with some unique differences from all other creatures on earth. For example, animals are aware of their environment, but only humans are aware of ourselves. No matter how smart a chip or a dolphin may be, they will never wonder when they will die, or what it would be like to be another species. They are not self-aware.

People have the capability to be aware of more than just themselves, though. We can take that awareness and apply it to others. We can sympathize with another person who's suffered a loss or tragedy. We can project what it would be like if we were in the same situation and perhaps try to prevent such a situation from occurring. We can also gain awareness of God and comprehend the concept of a divine being who would have us relate to Him and to others in particular ways.

All this means that we can have moral awareness. We have the ability to understand that there are certain things we should or shouldn't do. And if God creates with an order to things, then it follows that there is an order to the way beings with awareness of God and each other should act. Certain moral laws exist that are always true just as certain physical laws exist that are always true. If the circumstances are the same, then God expects us to behave in a specific way. Ultimately, it means that anyone who holds to traditional theism believes there are certain moral precepts that are absolutely true—true at all times for all people in all locations.

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