What do we use every day, while at the same time taking it for granted?
To be sure that is a loaded question. For the things that we use day-in and day-out being taken for granted is numerous indeed! Think for a moment about a trip that you’ve made to the grocery store, or market—either in a street or in a building—depending upon where you are at in the world. If you haven’t done this, then just pretend.
Depending upon the type of person you are you’ve either made a list, or if you don’t want to be restricted in anyway you just do it on the fly (i.e., no plan, no prep). That is to say, you will treat the experience of shopping as an orderly event or a chaotic one. Now the case may be that you are a little of both (chaos and orderliness all in one), but for the sake of illustrative purposes we shall stick with one or the other.
The point being we are prone to pursue a course of action that is situated to our personal bearings. Whether we prepare beforehand or take things as they come—a what will be will be, attitude—we have reasoned through the experience ahead of time. Once at the grocery or market or bizarre (whatever it is you shop at), another turn of events occurs mentaly. You begin to weigh your choices.
The Onion Shopper…
You came to buy onions, but what type shall your chose?
Suppose being the orderly individual that you are, you wrote ahead of time “Red onions.” However, when you begin looking at the produce you notice that the red variety is not as robust looking as the “yellow onions.” What do you do? Which choice shall you make? You will be governed…there is no way around it.
On the other hand, if you’re chaos in motion, untied and unhinged by any foolish notion of boundaries, you realize that onions are something you eat regularly and you are out of them. The last one, which happens to be “red” as well, was used for an egg salad that you prepared for your family the day before. Now remember, you didn’t write a list. You don’t like conformity, and you reject uniformity. Going with the flow is just your way of doing things. And yet, oddly enough not only do you eat opinions regularly—so much for chaos!—but you will make a decision on whether to purchase them or not based on uniformity.
Naturally Creatures of Habit…
“Oh, but I could just walk away,” you say. Really? I doubt that very much. Even if you walked away at that moment, if onions were something you enjoyed, eventually they would end up in your pantry again.
“Well, then I will make a decision that is not according to my usual habit” you adamantly declare.
Okay then what will you do? Which shall you choose? Do you go with the bag of red onions, or the white, or the sweet yellow? Do you close your eyes before picking them up? Will you ask a fellow shopper to do the picking for you? Do you allow your kids to influence your decision? You prefer red, but they enjoy yellow. Rejecting order, you are faced with a dilemma. To decide either way shows that you too are a creature of habit, as is the entire human race.
Surrounding Evidence Reveals…
All around us is evidence of “order in motion” not chaos, contrary to public opinion. Which by the way has an order of its own! Again, this smacks in the face of the very thing we are taught in public life at an early age.
We are told that things came about by accident, rather than on purpose. We are told that truth is a relative notion, an expression of abstract ideas that is fluid—like waves on the ocean. That the means to the end are pointless, since the end is nothingness. That even if we see design and order in this world, we are just fooled by old notions that need to die.
Which is a bit ironic I think since “need” is an unnecessary expression if nothingness reigns. If chaos rules. If accident is king. Then why “need?”
Surprise! It’s a Worldview…!
Worldviews to me are most amazing. Most people give little thought to them. Some believing that they are not affected by one, because they don’t have one. And yet, every person on the planet—past, present, future—is ruled by the view of the world in which they hold.
What we see in both experiences is the use of reason. A mental tool that enables us to weigh our options. Even if a person attempts to live unhinged, closer observation reveals a tendency of habit. Human beings are methodical creatures. And though we might cling to the notion of chaos in an effort to do away with that which entraps us putting us in a box, we all live in a box of our own choosing as we seek to make sense of the world around us.
I once had a conversation with a teenager from a local high school that told me the following, “Everything is just an illusion?” When I asked her to explain she said, “it just is.” Such profundity boggles the mind. But it is an honest expression of thought that has been ingrained in the minds of the surrounding populace.
That’s not the problem, though. The problem is that we have been robbed of our ability to think. We have been taught to reject faith in the unseen foolishness that religion brings, all the while being encouraged to embrace faith in unseen, unknown, unanswerable “possibilities.”
A Popular Scapegoat…
Religion is often viewed as the scapegoat. Either people believe practicing religion is an emotional escape for the person who practices it. Or people will use religion as the scapegoat to blame for all the wrong in the world. But humans are by nature creatures of habit. Therefore, we should not be surprised to see that all people are “very religious” (Acts 17.22) even if they adamantly claim that they are not.
What often happens is that religion grows (or springs up) from sources that we do not give much consideration to. You see religion seeks to answer the question of “How?”, of “Why?”, of “Where?”, of “When?”, of “What?”
How did we get here? Why are we here? What is our purpose? Where are we headed in the end? When will this happen?
In the West we have managed to deify science. We turn to science to answer the above questions. In a sense, I can see the reasoning behind this. Our word science comes from the Latin word “Scientia” meaning knowledge. Certainly, we use science to study “material things and events.” In this way, science works as a conceptual tool—i.e., something that aids the thinking process. As I said a moment ago, we use “science” in an attempt to reason through life’s most fundamental questions.
In the words of Del Ratzsch, “Physical reality seems to embody a characteristic web of material structures, patterns, and systems of behaviors that define what nature is.”[i] What people attempt to use science for, explains Ratzsch is “seek[ing] to see the deep contours of that web, and to the extent possible, to understand the things and events within it in their own terms, discovering natural explanations.”[ii] Pay attention to that last little phrase “discovering natural explanations,” because it is of paramount importance.
Science as a conceptual tool (a reasoning process) is limited to physical realities. For “Genuinely scientific explanations must in some sense be subject to empirical constraints.”[iii] That is, science is restricted in its field of usefulness.
It is true that scientific inquiry, experimentation, and innovation have provided us with many material benefits. I am using one of those “benefits” right now as I type. However, there are two things that science is unable to do.
The first is to be used beyond natural realities. Why? Because the use of science (remember it is a conceptual tool—a thinking tool) is limited by its human users. In order to bring about the benefits of scientific inquiry (i.e., theory in thought and practice) the five senses must be utilized. We see, touch, smell, taste, and feel our way with science in the use of the “scientific process” as we test the world around us, in an effort to “learn” about reality as a whole.
That is a glaring weakness. For human beings are severely handicapped in mental and physical abilities. Even the brightest minds on the planet, and the most talented individual will not be able to do all things, or even know all things.
The second is offer justification for its use. This last one is rarely considered. Why? Because you are taught that “religion” is the only thing based on faith. In particular, here in the West, the denial of the Christian faith is on the rise like yeast in a lump of dough due in some part (not small) due to this assertion. Yet, scientific theory is also based on a couple “faith-based” initiatives.
“What do you mean?” you ask. The use of science functions on two strongly held presuppositions: 1) “…it has been historically assumed that nature is understandable”; 2) “…that nature is uniform, that processes and patterns that we see on only a limited scale…hold universally.”[iv]
Now I don’t plan on spending a lot of time on this right here, but I do want to offer some quick analysis. Take presupposition #1, and then think about the statement in question form: “Why is nature assumed to be understandable?” Before you answer it, take another quick moment of reflection and ask yourself, “What was I taught in school about how reality came to be?” Popular scientific “consensus” says what?
(NOTE: By the way when you see the word consensus used in relation with scientific “knowledge”–i.e., what is said to be known–you should immediately pause. Truth is never formed on the grounds of popular opinion even majority opinion, which is what is normally meant when that term is used with science.)
We are taught that science has disproven biblical truths. We are not created, we have not been designed, we are byproducts of accidental chance or chaotic happenings from nothing. If chance, accident and chaos rule—they are how life came to be—then why should we assume that the world around us is “understandable?”
Now look at assumption #2. Again, let’s write it in question form: “Why is nature uniform on a universal scale?” Once again, what we are taught in school, in the public arena by the popular science of our day is that chaos, chance and accident reign. Uniformity is impossible–irrational even–if that theory of reality is true.
At some point in the past, supposedly nothing existed, but then that “nothing” exploded in intense heat expanding throughout the known universe. Chemicals that didn’t exist spontaneously came into being. Miraculously they found each other and formed together “creating” slowly over vast amounts of time into what we see around us. Of course, this took place after everything cooled. And let us not forget that nonintelligent matter somehow transitioned into intelligent matter. Nothing was there designing it, or forming it, or speaking it into being but it came together in the greatest example of a freak accident every recorded in history…etc., etc., etc.,
So, the life that now exists, and the plane on which it exists—reality as a whole—came about on a whim. We look around us, and we then assume that everything must have an order of some kind. We prove this by our reaction when things do not go about in a uniform fashion—acting out of the ordinary. We in fact order our lives day-to-day to function on those very premises. Science, this great god-like tool is said to explain away all necessity of faith—especially faith in the Christian God; the God of the Bible, Creator of Heaven and Earth. And yet, it functions on assumptions that run contrary to popular “scientific thought,” which when examined are held by faith.
A few weeks ago, I began speaking about some aspects of my philosophy of ministry. And I revealed to you, the reader, my conviction that as a minister, my responsibility is to teach the Christian worldview in such a fashion that makes sense of our world. Showing how the Bible is not just a book of spiritual, moral or theological truth, but that which speaks to the whole of reality.
Well, we use something every day that we take for granted that can only be accounted for with the biblical worldview—science, a conceptual tool that when used correctly helps verify one solid truth—This is my Father’s world.
You say, “Well…that’s a bit of a stretch.” Okay, what about your use of science? What makes sense of the governing assumptions that make the practice, inquiry and application of science possible? If you deny the Creator God, then what is your alternative? Accident? Chance? Chaos in motion?
From the biblical worldview I have a reason for why the two foundational presuppositions of science work and are justified.
First, nature is understandable because God our Creator is Intelligent and He created intelligent beings and He created a universe that is meant to be understandable. I trust my senses and the use of my mind and the use of logic and reason because my God has given them to me. I am not a bag of chemicals shaken or stirred that by some long stretch came into being. I was lovingly and wonderfully made in the beginning (Gen 1-2).
Second, nature is uniform because of what God intended with assumption #1, and because all things are held together by Him and for Him. Therefore His meaningful promise:
“While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease” (Gen 8.22; ESV)
In short, uniformity in nature.
Closing the Freezer…
Moreover, when I put water in the freezer and it doesn’t freeze I have a reason for questioning the “why?” or the “how?” or the “what?” or the “when?” or the “where?”
Why is the water not frozen? How can I resolve this problem? Where will I need to troubleshoot? What mechanism quit working properly? When can I estimate to fix it?
These are questions that from a biblical framework have justification in being answered. I expect to be able to understand how things work and when they don’t, know something isn’t right and needs fixing. Whereas, based on other worldview assumptions (products of other faith-systems) I could just as easily say, “Oh well, don’t know why this happened… but things do! Who can really explain it?”
Now I realize that is not the normal way people think, but I also have a biblical answer for that as well. You know, intuitively even if you can’t explain it, that this world is supposed to be understandable and uniform. And when it does not behave in that fashion, you immediately begin to look for the fix. Why? Because life is not illusion, and you are made in the image of your Creator. Like it or not.
[i] Del Ratzsch, Science & its Limits: The Natural Sciences in Christian Perspective, 2nd Edition (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 12.
[ii] Ibid., 12.
[iii] Ibid., 13.
[iv] Ibid., 14.