Several years back when I lived on the island of Okinawa, I took the opportunity to enjoy the ocean as much as I could. The waters around that small island are absolutely gorgeous. It is so clear with fantastic visibility, and is full of all kinds of colorful coral and tropical fish. I would swim down underwater and just cruise around looking at the beauty – sometimes for an hour or more at a time.
No, of course I cannot hold my breath for that long. And I do not have gills that allow me to swim underwater like a fish. But I did have some equipment that allowed me to breathe underwater. Even though I was not a fish, my scuba gear allowed me to operate for extended periods of time in an underwater environment “as if” I were one. At this point, you may be wondering what this has to do with living life. Well, it is actually quite a good analogy of how we operate daily. Our worldview is the expression of our understanding of the nature of reality, and we live our lives in the world as if the universe functions according to the way we conceive it. There is a strange thing, though. Our belief may or may not be accurate. Every worldview literally contradicts every other worldview. And since there are numerous worldviews, that means that many people are living life based on untrue assumptions about how the universe is organized.
This may seem strange at first thought, but people are able to do this because they have established a mental reality that lets them function in the world, even with wrong beliefs. It is like having spiritual scuba equipment that compensates for the parts of our beliefs which don’t match up well with the way things are actually structured. There is something that is true concerning the way reality is structured and our lives will operate more smoothly and meaningfully if we figure it out and live by it. But it is certainly possible to construct an alternate set of beliefs and live our lives in the world, from beginning to end, “as if” that one is true.
Let’s look at how this actually plays out starting with our Christian worldview. We believe that there is a single transcendent Creator God who created the material universe in a way that would support life on planet earth. He then created mankind as a special creature in his own image and capable of personally interacting with him. Each individual makes a free will decision whether or not he or she will enter into that personal relationship. Those who do will spend eternity in relationship with God. Those who don’t will be eternally separated from God.
Now, let’s take a quick look at Naturalism. A Naturalist believes that physical reality is all that exists. There is no God. Indeed there is no supernatural existence whatsoever. Matter is seen to be somehow eternal, and everything that exists is a function of the eternal operation of natural forces. As a result, there is no transcendent meaning in anything. Creatures who have evolved to the level of having self-consciousness (only human beings) must create their own meaning for life. At death, the life form simply ceases to exist.
Let’s look at one more belief system simply to help us with some comparisons. Animism understands reality to be divided into two parts – physical and spiritual. It is believed that these two parts exist in a symbiotic relationship. When humans in the physical world do the right acts and ceremonies to take care of the gods in the spiritual world, the gods take care of their needs on earth. When people don’t do the right things, the lives of the gods are disrupted and they cause bad things to happen to the humans on earth. When bad things happen, it is up to the humans to figure out what god has been offended and to make it right. When a person dies, they enter the spiritual world and become one of the gods themselves.
We could continue on and talk about the Far Eastern Worldview and about the Theistic worldview in general. But the ones we have already dealt with will allow us to make our point.
Looking at the worldviews above, it is obvious that they each contradict one another. One cannot believe that there is one God, no God and many gods all at the same time. One cannot believe that at death a person goes to either heaven or hell, ceases to exist, or enters a singular spiritual reality all at the same time. Each worldview literally excludes all others. One of the worldviews above may be the actual expression of Truth, but all of them cannot be. Of course, we believe that the worldview that is revealed in the Bible is that truth. But right now our purpose is to make the point stated above. There are many people in the world who are living life based on an understanding of reality that is simply not true.
There are some pretty profound implications to this. Some of the implications relate to life as we live it daily on this planet. For instance, if I believe that there is no God and have to make up my own moral rules, why wouldn’t I establish standards which please me no matter what harm it does to others? Or, what if I believe that the struggles I am having in my personal life are because I have offended some god? What do you think am I going to spend my time doing? There are real life implications to the beliefs we hold.
There are also some potential eternal consequences. If it is really true that there is a God who has established a specific way to know him and get to heaven, what does that mean for those who choose not to believe in God? We could spend hours writing and talking about the specific implications of living life by the various worldviews. But here is the bottom line. Something is Truth, and when an individual is able to figure out what that is and align with it, life is able to be consistent and meaningful in a way that is not possible when trying to live by an incorrect understanding of the way reality operates.
The difficult thing about worldview is that it is a faith position. This does not mean that it is not real. It is very real. But none of them can be empirically demonstrated. There is evidence that indicates one may be real or unreal, but there are no scientific experiments that we can do to prove one or the other. We have to evaluate which one matches up most closely with the way reality seems to operate, then take a faith step and align our lives with the beliefs that go with it.
Naturalism can’t account for the existence of matter, life and consciousness. Animism can’t account for purposefulness and industriousness in life. Far Eastern Thought can’t account for the human need for meaning. And most forms of Theism can’t account for the depth of meaning in relationships.
Every human being lives their life “as if” the worldview that they believe is true. Only most of them are not. It is only our Christian worldview that accounts for all of the elements of material reality, human existence, and spiritual reality in a way that matches up with the way humans actually experience it all.
This is not to say that all Christians get it right. There are many Christians who claim the Christian faith, yet live “as if” parts of other worldviews were right. There are Christians who commit adultery “as if” God didn’t care. There are those who don’t take care of their bodies “as if” the Holy Spirit did not dwell within. There are plenty who never pray and read their Bibles “as if” God were not interested in personally communicating with them. All of this in spite of the assertion that they really are Christians.
There is something that is True and we all live “as if” that is the case. Too many are living as if that “something” were not the revelation God gave in the Bible. Perhaps it is time we did some serious investigation about what the truth really is and begin living “as if” that were true.
© 2006 Freddy Davis