Two Competing Stories to the Christian Worldview

Jeremy Bouma on January 24th, 2017. Tagged under ,,,,.

Jeremy Bouma

Jeremy Bouma (Th.M.) has pastored on Capitol Hill and with the Evangelical Covenant Church in Michigan. He founded THEOKLESIA, which connects the 21st century Church to the vintage Christian faith; holds a Master of Theology in historical theology; and makes the vintage faith relevant at jeremybouma.com.

9780310525042Last week we engaged Gregory Koukl’s new book The Story of Reality, examining what Christianity is and isn’t.

As Koukl explained, “[Christianity] is an account or a description or a depiction of the way things actually are” (23). And the way things actually are can be traced along a four-act story, familiar to many Koinonia readers: creation, fall, redemption, restoration.

Perhaps the most important part of this story is how it begins. Creation tells us how things began, where everything came from (including us), the reason for our origins, and what ultimate reality is like. Koukl explains it like this:

on the Christian view, God and the world—mind and matter—are two different kinds of things. Both are real. The first (God) is maker and sovereign over the second (everything else). (53)

Although this is how Christians understand Act One to the Story of Reality, not true of other worldviews. Koukl wants us to grasp the significance of these differences. So he outlines two competing stories to the Christian worldview, which we’ve briefly engaged below.

Matter-ism: Matter Is All There Is

According to the first alternative to the Christian story of reality, “The only things that are real are physical things in motion governed by natural law” (53). Another name for matter-ism is materialism or naturalism, for these adherents claim that in the beginning was only matter; it’s all there ever was, ever is, and ever will be.

This is where the story starts, and this is where the story ends, because there is nothing more. No God. No souls. No heaven or hell. No miracles. No transcendent morality. Just molecules in motion following the patterns of natural law. (53)

So where does this leave us, if this is the story of reality?

  1. All objective phenomena of history can be explained by pure materialism
  2. Humanity is the result of a purposeless, natural process
  3. The Universe bears nothing but blind indifference toward humanity and its plight
  4. The state of nature, as Thomas Hobbs outlined, is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”

We shouldn’t be surprised when those who take such a view on life are “eventually overcome with a gnawing sense of futility. For to take this view to its logical and proper conclusion, in the final analysis life is ultimately empty, meaningless, purposeless, cold, and void” (55).

In the end, Koukl doesn’t believe “matter-ism, taken as a whole, is an adequate picture of reality” (55).

Mind-ism: Mind Is All that Exists

This second competing worldview to the Christian one is an ancient one that’s been refashioned into a respectable modern spiritualism.

Mind-ism has gone by many names: pantheism, or pan-everythingism; monism; New Ageism; Eastern religions, such as Hinduism. At its heart is the belief there is only one, single thing that is real, “God.” But not the Chrisitan understanding of God: “God as Mind,” a universal Force that permeates everything because it’s the only thing there is. Hinduism’s “All is One” captures this view.

Koulk deftly explores the significance of this worldview, bringing clarity through two aspects:

  1. Everything is God, including us. Perhaps the bestselling book The Secret puts it best: “You are God in a physical body. You are spirit in the flesh. You are Eternal Life expressing itself as you.” You can see how appealing this is, for everyone “is God who has temporarily forgotten, but can, when properly instructed, be restored to his full experience of divinity” (57).
  2. Salvation through enlightenment. Though we’re all God, we’re ignorant of that divinity and need to find our way back by choosing among many routes to enlightenment. “Each individual is free to choose his own way, since just about any spiritual path, properly pursued, will eventually bring him to the ultimate destination—the liberation (moksha) of “you” (Atman) into immersion with the universal God (Brahman). This isn’t heaven, but a series of endless reincarnations “until the Atman finally works off its karma and disappears into the Divine the way a drop of water disappears into the ocean” (58).

It’s no surprise why Mind-ism is the ultimate “spiritual but not religious” modern option, for it “promises a kind of mystical piety at bargain prices with no inconvenient Deity looking over your shoulder spoiling the party” (60).

Yet the greatest difficulty with taking Mind-ism seriously is the same reason matter-ism is hard to swallow: “Neither can make any sense of mankind’s most pressing problem, the problem of evil” (62). For everything is an illusions—even morality—and All-that-is is perfect at every moment; “All is as it should be.”

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Lee Strobel, author of The Case for Christ, describes Koukl’s book as “A beautifully crafted description of the Christian worldview, written in an accessible, winsome, and well-reasoned manner.”

Engage his book yourself, or pass along a copy to a friend, to better understand how the world began, how it ends, and everything important that happens in between.

9780310525042Buy your copy today on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Christian Book.