Friday, December 19, 2008

Brass tacks: I like 'em

Everybody's got a worldview.  What's yours?  What's mine?  The next time you're talking to somebody, think about how they might answer these questions:
What is the proper role of government?
What is man's basic nature?
What is good?
Are there absolutes?
Is there a God?  If so, what is His basic nature?

This year my aunt sent a Christmas card that showed a diagram from Ken Ham's ministry.  It shows two groups of people in castles blasting at each other.  Castle A's foundation is Creation.  Castle B's foundation is Evolution, and there are quite a few balloons hovering over Castle B.  These balloon are emblazoned with words like "euthanasia," "abortion," and "homosexuality."  The folks in Castle A are taking shots at these Castle B balloons, and some of them are popping.  Of course there's no audio, but Castle A folks are probably cheering as each balloon pops.  The folks in Castle B have a very different approach from that of Castle A.  They're going for the foundation of Castle A, and each Castle B cannonball is taking out a sizeable chunk from it.

I've seen this picture approximately 1,249 times in my life.  But I didn't understand it until today.  I was talking to some friends from school about the economic crisis that we're in.  They were glad that part of the billions of Bush's bailout were going to the auto industry, while I was trying to explain how little comfort it is that a debtor government has taken on a new passle of debt and handed it over to us. 

I wasn't getting through.

Somehow, they thought the government taking on debt is making the situation more stable.  I was trying to explain why this wasn't the case, and why it was wrong for our federal government to even try to step in like this.  I mentioned that the Constitution did not give the federal government the authority to step in and interfere with private industries like this.  Their statement was that the government's trying to make things more stable, and we'll worry about paying it off later.  In other words, it didn't matter what the Constitution did or not outline.

They seemed to have a sense of awe about the government, as if, now that the federal government has "taken on" the debt, everything's going to be okay.  I tried to explain my concerns about our progression toward a fascist state, but they looked at me calmly and said nothing.  I would have been happier if they had yelled at me and violently disagreed. 

They take comfort in the fact that the Feds are telling the auto industries that, because they're giving them a handout, they've got to shape up and submit a plan for restructuring themselves in a more efficient manner.  I see this as government nannyism, and they evidently see it as government being a good ol' watchdog.

Which brings me back to my original questions at the beginning of this blog.  Sometimes what a discussion like this one needs is a zoom out/zoom in approach.  My friends and I discussed a lot of details, but I wish I had zoomed out and asked them some big-picture questions, such as "What would you say is the proper role of government?"  Of course, to answer this, one has to have some idea about the smallest component of government: the individual.  And to keep proper perspective, a person must have made up their mind (or at least be functioning as if they had) whether or not there is a God.

So, you can spend an eternity of time on details.  But if you can zoom out to the universals every once in a while, you can help the person recognize and evalute the universals they've consciously or unconsciously accepted.  Then the big questions can begin rolling: do I believe there is a God?  Do I believe He's a personal God who is involved in day-to-day workings, or an aloof, impersonal God who wound up the universe is now passively listening to it tick?  If I don't believe there's a God, do I believe that man is at the top of nature, or that he simply has an overglorified view of mankind's position?  Do I believe that man is basically good or evil?  What is good and evil?  What defines them?  Are there absolutes?  How should man organize groups of people?  Is government man-made or God-given?  What role should government play in a person's life?

Once all of us have established which universals we want to operate with, the particulars flow out from it.  So often I forget this, and I only get into discussions with people on the particulars, and forget about the universals.  Then I wonder why we can't agree on something I see as "simple."  The thing I see as "simple" just means that it's closer to my foundation that other issues.  But while it might be a building block of my castle, there is absolutely no guarantee that it's a building block in theirs!  If I fail to recognize the universals that we've built our castles on, I may never understand why we disagree on a given particular.  In Ken Ham's diagram, the foundation of evolution could more generally be labeled "universals" or "first assumptions" or "presuppositions."  The castle: foundation + walls + roof + balloons = worldview.  Most of my discussions with people have been about the balloons: what do you think about abortion, government bail-outs, etc.  But if I can get them to peer down at the foundation of their castle, evaluate that foundation, and decide for themselves whether or not this is the castle they want to be in, I will be doing what God wants me to do.

Also, the image of one castle attacking another castle is disturbing on a number of levels.  One of the most disturbing is that while the folks in Castle A (the creation castle) are excited that they're taking out balloons, most of them never notice that their foundation is being obliberated.  I see this so often when I talk to Christians who accept evolution.  They do not see evolution and God as being mutually exclusive, and they wonder why I believe in 6-day creation.  The simplest way I can express my reason for believing in 6-day creation is because I've answered this question: Can I take God at His word?  Since I answer this with an avid YES, it takes away the doubt about the period of time involved in the creation week.  Thus, I do not see the question of creation vs. evolution as a question of religion vs. science; I see it as a question of believing God as the ultimate authority vs. believing man as the ultimate authority.

The next time I have a discussion with folks about the economy (or anything!), I want to help them identify and articulate their worldview and their underlying assumptions.  Of course, I've also got to peer down at my own foundation, and see what I've accepted as presuppositional! 

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