Reality-Oriented Worldview Not Lived in a Closet
Secularism Takes Hit at British Airways
By Rick Pearcey
Dec. 6, 2006 -- Secularists tell us that God and religion are private matters that have no place in public life or polite society. This is not a convincing view, but it is a commonly held view, so much so that many otherwise bright people may affirm it without really having thought it through.
It's not at all difficult to imagine the head-shaking going on at media outlets, university offices, public policy centers, and perhaps even some churches, upon hearing that a major airline, British Airways, is reconsidering its policy of banning employees, such as Nadia Eweida, from wearing a cross necklace or other such Christian symbol at work, in full view of staff and customers.
But this concern, if not disdain, betrays a failure to understand that there are people like Nadia everywhere. There are billions of them. If you understand the concept of "worldview," you will not be caught off guard by this. And if you understand what Christianity is, you’ll be better prepared for what comes next.
Let’s talk about worldview, since everyone has one (in fact, some people have elements of many, which can lead to a rather confused life).
Your "worldview" is your "view" of the "world." It’s your basic philosophy of life, the set of principles and assumptions about reality that you rely on to navigate existence in all its wonder and all its challenge.
Nadia Eweida has a worldview and so does the chief executive of British Airways. So does every customer and baggage-handler at every airline, not to mention terrorists on a mission from Allah. The scientist in the lab has a worldview and so does the village pragmatist. Having a worldview is part of what it means to be a human being.
Worldviews will not be denied. This is because people seek to externalize their most deeply held convictions. It’s one of the reasons we have art. Even if a biologist, politician, musician, or educator is not aware of his worldview, nevertheless, each one acts upon his basic convictions as if they can be trusted as reliable guides to life, as truths and principles by which to live. Over time they become "common sense" and the building blocks of culture. Culture is downstream from worldview.
People try to live consistently with their worldview. In this manner, one avoids falling into a divided, if not schizophrenic, way of life. You don't have to be a saint to prefer unity and integrity in behavior instead of the kind of hypocrisy (and harm) that results when one's worldview is denied honest and open expression. Saints and sinners, philosophers and mechanics, fisherman and physicists -- all sit, rest, and live upon their “mental furniture.”
Personal, But Not Private
Some worldviews may be private in theory, but Christianity is not one of them. It's personal, but not private.
Activist atheists may prefer that Nadia Eweida reserve the expression of her worldview to the closed environs of church walls and prayer closets.
But this is not an option. The Judeo-Christian worldview involves the entire person. It treats human beings holistically and does not burden individuals with one set of ideals for public life and then a different, and perhaps contradictory, set of ideals for private life. In its realism, the Biblical information challenges and encourages imperfect human beings to greater depth and growth precisely because it does not give in to double standards and hypocrisy.
In the Judeo-Christian worldview, the mother who raises her children lovingly and ethically is also called to love her neighbor as she loves herself. This includes those “neighbors” who arrive as hurried customers at the check-in counter. We’ve all been in line at the airport and appreciate not being treated like pieces of meat to be temporarily warehoused for a price in tubular containers that fly.
In contrast to the privatizing push of secularism in the courts and other sectors of society, the God of the Bible is a public figure. Jesus of Nazareth was a carpenter and was not less spiritual because his hands got dirty or because he worked in and out of doors in the natural commerce of life. If the incarnation had been delayed a while, say, a couple of thousand years, perhaps before formally entering his ministry, Jesus would have worked in airport construction. He might have had a 15-year-employee badge from El-Al before changing the focus of his ministry. That kind of work would have been less strategic but not less spiritual than the next task at hand.
The truth-claims regarding the character and existence of Jesus can be rationally discussed and empirically investigated, which compares favorably to the clampdown on campus regarding discussion of the evidence for or against Darwin and Intelligent Design. In the Biblical framework, the emphasis is on empirically available history in the geographically located careers of known figures such as Moses, Joshua, Gideon, and so on. This is a framework in which investigative journalists would have something objective to write about.
The same emphasis is apparent in the New Testament era, where a virgin naturally wonders how it’s possible to become pregnant while yet remaining a virgin. We also see Jesus challenge pat religious answers and trick political questions. In contrast to secular faiths, religious cults, group think, and the escape into feelings and “my truth,” Jesus demonstrates that his kind of discipleship includes engaging rational minds in discussion.
Jerusalem, Nazareth, and Bethlehem are points on the globe. Enemies or honest doubters could examine the empty tomb to corroborate (or try to destroy) eye-witness claims about a resurrection. Miracles could be observed by the same kinds of eyes that behold a Manhattan sunset or read data on dials in cockpits.
In view here is a cosmic order of tremendous grandeur, rooted in the character of a personal God, instead of an impersonal universe that arrives inexplicably from an utterly empty void or from an eternal, meaningless flow of chance, matter, and necessity. The more humane view allows for the significance of God and man, including every individual reading this article, to act into history. God and man transcend the natural material order in their personality, but this supernaturalness does not mean the universe is a house of magic or irrational fantasy.
An open system of cause and effect maintains the wonder of man without destroying the order of the cosmos. A cosmos with this kind of supernatural order can be studied and investigated. This kind of cosmos is a science-encourager. In this kind of universe, human beings can choose to build aerial modes of transportation, and there’s lift-off. In this kind of environment, it makes sense for an airline worker to wear jewelry that demonstrates her affinity for the Creator whose ordered universe makes real the possibility of flight in the first place.
What Is Faith?
“Faith” in the Biblical framework is primarily a matter of trust. It’s like having enough evidence to conclude that a piece of furniture is stable and then sitting on it. "Faith" can disclose new horizons of knowledge, "the evidence of things not seen" (Heb. 11). But while trust moves forward sometimes apart from sight, this not to say it is an escape from rational or evidential considerations. It is to say that faith as trust is first grounded in knowledge.
"Faith" is not an epistemological magic wand that turns something false into something true. "Faith" does not transmogrify an idol into God, or an inadequate worldview into an adequate one, no matter how passionate the "believer” or how deep the "spirituality.”
Given the modern definition of "faith" as belief in something for which one lacks evidence, Christianity may not even qualify as a religion. In a real sense, Christians are not “believers,” if by “believer” the idea is to assert a private commitment rooted in feelings, passion, the group, and so on. A resurrected carpenter empirically available to doubters is not a feeling.
The Christian worldview is reality-oriented. If the Christian truth-claims are false, they should not be believed. If Jesus of Nazareth did not really rise from the dead, says Paul in 1 Cor.15, "your faith is in vain."
But if the historical data are true, they can be relied upon, and acted upon, as a solid foundation for a life and a culture, not only in the old days of ancient paganism but also in the flashy twilight of modern secularism.
Out to Play
Because of what worldviews are, because of what the Christian worldview is, no one should wonder why an individual such as Nadia Eweida would seek a personal unity in her private and public life.
People are imperfect beings, but Christianity is a humane worldview. Pilots sometimes drink too much, and preachers sometimes pray with bad intentions. But the information in the Bible reminds us that people have an identity beyond their brokenness. The Creator looked at what he had made and said, “It is good.” Man as sinner remains ontologically good even though morally corrupted, which is a higher and nobler order of being than that set forth by Darwin and other liberated secularists. A broken man returns to God and finds life, while materialist man returns to matter and finds indifferent primordial soup.
The fundamental value of the individual as made in the image of God gives a basis for hope, first as human beings inhabiting a now-spoiled but not meaningless planet. And then there is hope as citizens with “certain inalienable rights,” with self-government under God, as opposed to total government under the secular state.
Our proper expectation should be that healthy-functioning human beings will behave in the realization that the information and principles given by the Creator apply holistically, beyond the closet door into the entirety of our lives. To live in harmony with our true Creator, and to express that community publicly, should not be thought a contradiction to what we do at work.
The truncated "believer" content to sing hymns while sitting in a closet nailed shut by secularism is what should scandalize. Yes, a lot of people and groups with agendas are leaning against the closet door. But there are human beings in there. Profound creatures. They were made to play outside.More by Rick Pearcey:
O'Reilly, Letterman, and the Culture War
Virginia Public Schools OK With Nativity Story
Dawkins: Nazi Eugenics "May Not Be Bad"?
Rick Pearcey is editor and publisher of The Pearcey Report.