January 7, 2015

Sophia, Part 2

Filed under: Theology — Bob Gifford @ 8:16 pm

I had a guitar teacher who told me a story once. I doubt it actually happened, but it is most certainly true. Pop songs always end on the root note, the “home” note of the key the song is played in. Think of the big pounding finish for a live rock anthem — that is the root. My teacher told me he was playing in a blues club and he stopped playing after hitting the fifth (think of that big major chord right before the big pounding finish). He set down his guitar (so he said) and took a sip of beer and proceeded to take a break. The crowd became very agitated until a woman came up to him and screamed “if you don’t play that last note I won’t be able to go to sleep tonight!”

Things unfinished have a way of making us very uncomfortable.

I haven’t blogged for a couple years now. Nothing wrong with that, but I have had this unfinished “Sophia Part 1” post in the back of my mind that whole time. I hit the fifth, but didn’t bring it home.

Time for the big finish of this two-note rock anthem.

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Political ideologies are a priori commitments to a set of beliefs that go much beyond the empirical evidence. So communism is defined by a belief in the perfectibility of humans as a collective in the absence of individualism, while libertarians believe in the perfectibility of society as individuals in the absence of a collective. In both cases, empirical facts about the nature of humans as we actually exist in the real world are not enough to overturn the ideology. The ideology comes first, and empirical facts are selected, rationalized and explained away so as to fit into the ideology. So both libertarianism and communism are forced to assume that human nature and the nature of society as a whole will fundamentally change if and only if their political system is implemented, lack of evidence be damned.

The challenge with these political ideologies is that they are impossible to refute. Communism was tried in in the 20th century and was a dismal failure, but communists still exist, people who believe all previous attempts were corrupted by outside forces. Libertarians believe in their ideology in defiance of the fact that it has never existed, ever. No amount of evidence for global warming, the need for effective financial regulations or the value of a minimum wage will convince movement conservatives. The loyalty is to the ideology, and all facts are filtered and distorted to fit within the a priori intellectual commitment.

Of course ideologies aren’t only political. Religion has them too. Hence we have something called the Christian Worldview. Christian worldviews seem to be exclusively the province of conservative evangelicals. Charismatics and mainline Protestants are more concerned with praxis, and Roman Catholics with the authority of the church. But conservative evangelicals seem to have a desire for an all-encompassing worldview that provides a fabric of belief that answers every possible question. A worldview squeezes out the empty spaces where ambiguity might creep in to our religious, and very often, political, beliefs. A Christian worldview provides the same safety and security as a political ideology. Everything makes sense, all questions are resolved, any doubts erased. It becomes the a priori commitment that pre-determines all doctrine and theology.

The only problem is that a Christian worldview leaves no room for Sophia. There is no room for God to act, for the Holy Spirit to enter into the human condition. It explicitly rules this out:

How does a biblical worldview get diluted?

Here is the big problem. Nonbiblical worldview ideas don’t just sit in a book somewhere waiting for people to examine them. They bombard us constantly from television, film, music, newspapers, magazines, books and academia.

Because we live in a selfish, fallen world, these ideas seductively appeal to the desires of our flesh, and we often end up incorporating them into our personal worldview. Sadly, we often do this without even knowing it.

The purpose of a Christian worldview is to insulate the believer from any ideas coming from outside the gatekeepers who have defined and police the borders of what is acceptable belief. And just like a political ideology, it is impossible to refute. The worldview comes first, and all facts and experiences are selectively edited to fit the worldview. Allowing any cracks in the worldview would cause the entire structure to collapse, so all intellectual energy must be expended to preserving the worldview entirely intact.

Christians are to follow Jesus. We don’t need to know where he is leading us. As soon as we presume the destination by becoming committed to a worldview, we are no longer followers, but have become something else.

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