Friday, June 27, 2014

Worldviews: Exibit A

So last week, I mentioned that I made a list of questions that I hoped would help with the documentation of various Christian worldviews. In the interest of better understanding I sent this list to various friends of mine who hale from diverse Christian traditions asking if they would be able to formulate responses to the best of their understanding and ability on behalf of their faith tradition. So far, the response has been somewhat underwhelming, but then again, it takes a lot of thought to answer questions like "What is?" or "How did we get here?" and the like, so I suppose that's alright.

In the interest of being unbiased, I shall present the responses that I receive in the order that I receive them. I am very excited to see what various people have to say, and the responses that I've received already have been insightful and thought provoking... but don't take my word for it... please take the time to read and understand and engage for yourself. 

Okay, so here goes... The first worldview I would like to submit for your appreciation comes to you courtesy of my priest Fr. Lawrence Farley (he didn't feel anonymity to be necessary). The questions are italicised.

 I Ontology: (model of being);
What is the purpose of life?
Like the Westminster Confession says, the purpose of life/ existence is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. As CS Lewis points out, the two are the same thing, since to glorify God is to enjoy Him. In classic Orthodox terms, it means that the purpose of life is to focus our hearts upon God so that we enjoy a continual flow of His life, joy, and Presence into us, and allow that life, joy, and Presence to flow through us out into all the world.
Thus, the most important things in the world are those things which reflect His Presence--which includes our neighbour, and especially our poor neighbour. It is our neighbour that we can preeminently find the presence of the Lord in the world.
The question "What is the centre of the universe? and Where is it?" can only be answered by us in moral and spiritual terms, not physical or astronomical ones. (For in outer space, where is "up"?) For us the center is the human heart, for it is in the heart that one finds God and where God comes to dwell. It is difficult to answer the questions "What is time? What is space? and How do they intersect?" because as finite human beings we have never known anything else. The angels who are less confined by these created realities might hazard a better guess, and as might the saints who have been to some degree liberated from them and who now dwell in the Kingdom. But asking us about this is like asking a fish, "How does it feel to be wet?" The fish cannot answer; it has never known anything else to compare it to.

II Futurology: (model of the future);
Where are we going? In life? After life?
Here the destination depends upon the one travelling, for each one chooses his or her own destination. If we are oriented towards the light and to God, we are going towards Him and His Kingdom. If in our secret heart we reject Him, we are travelling away from Him, into the darkness, into non-being, into hell. The destination depends upon our choice, for God's judgment sets the seal upon what we ourselves choose.
III Axiology: (theory of values);
What is good and what is evil? The Good is what is real--i.e. God, and evil is the nothingness that comes when we refuse to choose God and goodness, the deprivation of goodness and of life. Evil is essentially parasitic, for it has no life of its own, and draws its horrible phantom reality from goodness. Thus, as some have said, evil is spoiled goodness. We should there approach life by constantly choosing goodness and kindness, and choosing our earthly goals as ones that are consistent with this. The values and ethical responsibility we bear cannot be systematically catalogued, nor did Christ offer us such a system. He simply told us to love, by doing to others what we would have them do to us.
IV Praxeology: (theory of actions);
How should we act? Following from this, we should act consistently with love and goodness in our approach to the world--that is, to the concrete and specific person and opportunity that each day bestows upon us. It is no use saying we love the world in general, for the world is not experienced in general, but as a series of individual encounters, and it is in these encounters that we must be kind and loving. Approaching the Divineis something else: here we approach with trembling, trusting that our humble and loving approach to God will find a welcome in God through Christ. Any approach to God which does not involve trembling is vain and illusory. Isaiah and John point the way: Isaiah saw the Lord and said that he was undone; John saw the glorified Christ and fell at His feet as one dead.
V Epistemology: (theory of knowledge);
What is Truth? What is knowledge? What is wisdom? One could approach these questions as a philosopher (as Pilate did) and ultimately embrace cynical nihilism, or as a worshipper, and embrace Christ. It is in Him alone that all the divine treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found. Ultimately such epistemological knowledge is transcended in the Holy Spirit: we know because we have an anointing from Him, and He witnesses with our spirit that we are the children of God. Philosophers who trust in the power of discursive reasoning remain earth-bound, and cannot attain by themselves to such heights. This knowledge and anointing is gained through humble repentance and faith.
VI Etiology: (model of causation and origination);
Where do we come from? Ultimately, from God, that is, from mystery. Our own personal history represents our partial knowledge of how God brought us to Himself, and because our knowledge is partial, we can scarcely know How did we get to this place. What we can know is What is most important in life--namely, to know God and to continually walk in humility with love before His face. This is the one thing needful, the one indispensable thing as we strive to live in this world.

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