Saturday, November 7, 2015

Introducing the worldview of theism

Acts 17:23-27 "For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore whatyou worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; 26 and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determinedtheir appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, 27 that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us."

Introduction: Understanding the significance of worldview discussions (i.e how you view the world and why?) 
Anytime we discuss matters worldview, we are in effect explaining how we view the world, and why we view it as such. Worldview discussions aim to answer major questions like: 

1). Where did we come from? 
2). Why are we here? 
3). How did the moral conditions of our world arise? and 
4). Where is our world heading? Such types of questions undergird practical everyday life. 

Whenever we talk to different types of people, it is very clear in our discussions with non-Christians, the approach to such issues as truth, morality, the nature of reality and art is driven by one's worldview. Christian Apologist Doug Powell's book "Holman Quick Source Guide to Christian Apologetics" lists eight different worldviews that describe every belief system on our planet. I'll briefly define each and then zero in on the last one - which is the focus of today's post:

1). Atheism = there is no God
2). Agnosticism = we can't know there is a God or not
3). Pantheism = everything, including the universe, is Divine
4). Panentheism = All the universe is contained in the Divine (as a soul in a body), and hence the Divine and the universe are indistinguishable
5). Finite Godism = The is a god, however He is limited either in power or in goodness
6). Polytheism = belief in many gods
7). Deism = God wound up the creation, like a clock, and then left it to run on its own.
8). Monotheism (or Theism) = belief in One Personal, Eternal, Immaterial, Creator God that created all things, sustains all things and interacts with his creatures. 

The final worldview in Powell's listing, "Monotheism", will remain the focal point of today's study. Monotheism ("mono" = "one" and "theism" meaning "God") will be from hereon described as "Theism", since in theological and philosophical discussion, to be a "theist" is in most cases refering to "monotheism" and vice-versa. 

Why "theism" in general, and "Christian theism" in particular are relevant to the Christian?
Today's post aims to understand what is meant when we talk about "Thiesm" and more specifically, "Christian Theism". The reason why this is so important for the Christian is due to the need to communicate the Gospel to unbelievers and to answer the objections raised by critics of Christianity - specifically the so-called "New Atheism". Christianity rests upon the New Testament's presentation and explanation of the arrival, ministry, death and ressurection of Jesus of Nazareth. New Testament passages such as John 1:14 and 1 Timothy 3:16 assert that Jesus is no less than the incarnation and revelation of the True and living God of the Old Testament. Christianity's focal point is Jesus Christ and He being truly God and truly man. Without consideration of Christian theism, the Old and New Testaments are rendered unintelligible and all that Jesus claimed to be and achieved cannot be grasped apart from this fundamental truth of Christian theism. 

Before we talk about Christian theism in particular, let's first define what we mean by "theism" in general. 

Defining Theism in general
The word "theism" derives from the Greek word translated "God", namely -"theos". Simply put - a "theist" is a person who asserts belief in God. It is interesting to note how much "theists" and "theism" are discussed among Christian and secular literature. Two examples will suffice to demonstrate this point and also to expand upon what is meant by the worldview of "theism". 

First, Christian Apologists Norman Geisler and Peter Bocchino in their book: "Unshakable Foundations", page 60, offer the following explanation of general theism: "They (theists) believe in the existence of God and see His existence as an essential component of the theistic worldview. Theists are convinced that the universe had a supernatural First Cause who is infinitely powerful and intelligent. An infinite God is both beyond and manifests Himself in the universe. This God is a personal God, separate from the world, who created the universe and sustains it. Theists believe that God can act within the universe in a supernatural way." 

Secondly, The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Volume 8, page 97, offers a similar definition of theism to that of Geisler/Bocchino (mind you, the Encyclopedia was written 30 years prior to Geisler/Bocchino): "signifies belief in one God (theos) who is (a) personal, (b) worthy of adoration, (c) separate from the world but (d) continuously active in it."

If we were to summarize these two definitions of theism, we can say the following:

1). God is the Creator. Theists in the strictist theological and philosophical definition believe there is One God that by nature is an immaterial, all intelligent mind that is infinite in His abilities, perfectly good and the Creator of the universe.

2). God, the Creator, Eternally self-sufficient and thus distinguished from the universe, His creation. This One God necessarily exists - meaning that He is His own explanation for His own existence, is uncaused and exists with or without the universe. The universe, on the other hand, requires this One God for its existence and thus had a beginning. Hence, the God of Theism is to be distinguished from the universe.

3). The One Creator God, Eternally Self-Sufficient, guides all things by His Providence. This One God of Theism who is the infinite, personal Creator can and chooses to interract with the universe He made. This same God also sustains the universe and guides it to its intended end - to make visible and plain His infinite perfection (i.e His glory). All of these activities fit under what theologians call God's "providence". In other words, "providence" refers to God's "foresight" and exercise of His power in guiding all that He has made to His intended end. This practically expresses how the universe and life itself contains meaning and has purpose. 

4). One Creator God, Eternally self-sufficient and Providential, can also intevene and reveal Himself miraculously. Since this One God of Theism is the Creator who Providentially guides the universe and all of history to their intended end, we can add that this implies the possibility of the miraculous in the universe. A miracle is an infrequent act of God whereby He enhances or alters the known physical laws in a religiously significant context to make known His specific will and identity. 

Therefore we see "general theism" or "theism in general" predicated upon four key truths about God: 

1). Creator 
2). Eternal 
3). Providential 
4). Miraculously revealing.

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