For those of us who grew up in America, Theism will typically be the easiest of the worldviews to understand. It is easy to understand because historically it forms the foundation of our entire culture. Our way of thinking, our legal system, our moral standards, and virtually everything else that goes into making up our culture are derived from a Theistic worldview. Most who have grown up in America, even those who do not profess any specifically Christian beliefs or preferences, will typically have an understanding of the basic beliefs of Theism because it forms the underlying assumptions about the structure of reality that American society was founded upon.
Of course, there are many different forms of Theism. And, since there can only be one belief system that conforms to the way that reality is actually structured, most of them do not represent the ultimate form of truth. That being said, it is within the boundaries of Theism that ultimate truth is found.
Theism, in a general sense, gives us all of the categories necessary to get a handle on truth by providing a framework for understanding both the material and the spiritual aspects of existence. It points to God as creator, gives a basis for natural and moral law, and holds out the hope that there is a reason and purpose for our existence.
The big problem with Theism, as a category, is that it is so broad. It encompasses several of the major world religions as well as dozens of smaller groups. Many, if not most, of these groups have their own authoritative book which they consider to be an actual revelation from God. Most do not, however, contemplate a God who is interested in an intimate interaction with the material world, and man in particular.
The various Theistic approaches do go in quite different directions; some which strongly contradict one other. This means that not every specific Theistic view can be viable. But it does generally point us in the right direction. After settling on Theism as the correct basic approach we should use in order to find the ultimate truth about reality, we are still left with the task of finding which specific understanding of Theism represents the ultimate truth.
Basic Premise and Implications of Theism
Let’s begin by getting a general understanding of the underlying principles of Theistic thought. Essentially, Theism asserts that there is an actual, infinite and transcendent God who created and sustains the material order. Generally speaking, Theistic groups depend on some kind of revelation to support their positions.
There are a number of implications that emerge from this understanding of reality. In its essence, Theism basically lends itself to an impact on culture that is both moral and positive, even though most forms result in a legalistic approach to living life and the development of culture. This is a result of a belief that the moral order ought to be a certain way because it is written in “the law” or put forth by “the prophet.” The way things ought to be are specifically prescribed. Some of the other implications include:
∙ Theism acknowledges both a spiritual and a physical part of reality which exists to fulfill a purpose, views life in a way that promotes meaning, and establishes a specific “right” way to view morality and technology that promotes goodness.
∙ Theism asserts that it is right to struggle against the moral wrongs in the world and change them to conform to the instructions given from God.
∙ Theism claims to receive direction from a good God who directs his followers to be likewise.
∙ Theism asserts that instructions from God come in the form of some kind of revelation.
∙ In most, but not all, forms of Theism, God tends to operate impersonally in relationship to mankind.
∙ Typically, Theistic belief systems acknowledge that God exists as creator, as all powerful, and as having given authoritative direction about how human beings should live their lives.
Belief Systems Which Come from Theism
There are numerous specific belief systems which emerge out of the Theistic worldview. Some of the more well known ones include:
∙ Christianity (Protestant, Roman Catholic, Orthodox)
∙ The Way International
∙ Children of God
∙ Jehovah’s Witnesses
How Theism Answers the 7 Worldview Questions
What is the nature of ultimate reality?
∙ There is an infinite and transcendent God who is the Creator and Sustainer of the material universe.
What is the nature of material reality?
∙ The material world was created intentionally by God.
What is a human being?
∙ Humans are a special creation of God whose essence is spirit.
What happens to a person at death?
∙ At physical death the essential life of the individual is transferred to heaven or hell.
Why is it possible to know anything at all?
∙ God created human beings with the ability to have knowledge.
How do we know right and wrong?
∙ The nature of right and wrong have been revealed by God.
What is the meaning of human history?
∙ History is a linear succession of events that began with God’s creation of the material universe and is moving toward fulfilling his purposes.
What are the Practical Implications of Theism?
Life Issues – Abortion, Euthanasia, Suicide, Genocide, Murder, “Right to die,” Terrorism, War
In general, Theistic worldviews tend to judge these life issues to be wrong based on the revelation of God. Most Theistic belief systems have a high view of life which precludes participation in these life issues.
Sexual Issues – Adultery, Bigamy, Polygamy, Exhibitionism, Fornication, Homosexuality, Pedophilia, Pornography, Bestiality, Prostitution, Rape
In general, Theistic worldviews tend to judge these specific actions to be wrong. Typically, legitimate sexual relationships are deemed to fit within specific bounds that have been revealed by God. The specific beliefs of each system are typically expressed in its authoritative revelation from God.
Personal Integrity Issues – Cheating, Fraud, Greed, Lying, Profanity, Revenge, Theft
Typically, Theistic worldviews tend to judge these issues to be wrong because God is viewed as having high standards related to integrity. Again, there are variations among the different systems. Most Theistic groups have some kind of holy book that is considered authoritative in matters of personal integrity, and to find the specifics of each group, you must consult each one to determine its viewpoint.
Physical Health Issues – Alcohol abuse, Drug abuse, Gluttony, Obesity, Smoking, Overwork, Lack of exercise
In general, Theistic worldviews tend to judge these issues to be wrong because the human person is valued highly and these activities destroy the human body. However, there are variations among the different Theistic belief systems, and each belief system must be consulted independently to get at the specifics.
Industriousness Issues – Gambling, Hedonism, Laziness, Begging, Mooching
For the most part, Theistic worldviews tend to judge these attitudes and activities to be wrong. Most understand God to approve of industriousness in individuals and promote values which affirm individual industriousness.
Relationship Issues – Bigotry, Child Exploitation, Domestic Violence, Hatred, Divorce, Prejudice, Slavery, Torture
In general, Theistic worldviews tend to judge these issues to be wrong as, once again, it degrades the value of human life. However, there are variations among the various Theistic belief systems. Most Theistic groups have some kind of holy book that needs to be consulted to determine the specific view regarding how this is applied.
Church-State Issues – Posting of Ten Commandments, Religious symbols on public property, Praying in school, Praying at public institutions, Government money to religious schools, Government money to religious charities, Religious organizations meeting on public property, Religious symbols included in public symbols, Religious words in the pledge of allegiance
Theists tend to be on the opposite side of this issue from Naturalists. They see God as real and relevant and, as such, should be visible in the public square. Different groups of Theists do have different ways that they would express it, though. Some would actually like to have a theocratic form of government where religious influence determines public policy, while others want to see religious influence without there being a government established religious order. There are also many shades of variation between these two extremes.
Without a doubt, Theism points us in the right direction as we search for the Truth about the actual structure of reality. There is much evidence that there truly is a spiritual as well as a physical world. There are solid grounds for believing that there is a transcendent God who created material reality and is interested in its operation. There are strong reasons to recognize humanity as an essentially spiritual being with a physical body.
That being said, there are many different ways that these things can be conceived of within the Theistic framework. Just because we identify the worldview model that points us in the direction of truth does not mean that we have the total truth. Still, this is the correct starting place. And by understanding the tenets of Theism we are in a position to understand God, his ways and his purposes.