Introduction to the Intellectual Basis of Christianity, LESSON PLAN 2
[Ask for a summary: Where has the logic of man’s position [without the Bible] brought him by the end of the 1st lesson?]
[Write - Man is out-of-phase with the rest of the universe]
Summary - Because man is inescapably caught in the machinery of the universe, he has been reduced to the impersonal + complexity. There can be no intrinsic [categorical] difference between man and non-man, so the loss of his humanity is inevitable. Yet he knows better because he is personal and therefore out-of-line with the impersonal nature of the universe. So, he is lost. He does not know why man has any meaning. He remains a zero. But because Christianity is true to what is there, man’s personality and uniqueness remain intact. With respect to the question of existence or being, it is the Christian answer or nothing, not only for man, but for the whole universe.
[BEGIN WITH PRAYER]
Discussion - We now come to the second fundamental area, that of man’s moral dilemma. On the positive side, he is able to rise to great heights, there is something great about man, something noble – He can be ingenious, creative, courageous, compassionate, etc. But he is also able to sink to great depths - He can be petty, intemperate, selfish, callous, and cruel. He may be gifted, skilled, intelligent, and knowledgeable in his discipline, and yet he may also be profoundly wrong.
What is the Christian explanation for this? Man was not made this way, but became a split personality, estranged from himself, other people, and the whole universe through rebellion against God. In other words, in the Christian system, cruelty is not intrinsic to what man is [the way he was made], but is a symptom of all the ripples of abnormality he himself introduced into the world.
How does this discussion of man’s moral dilemma turn out for the man who thinks he arose from the random impersonal matrix? Without the absolute authority rooted in the character of God and the norms [standards, patterns] of Scripture, there is no basis for law, and morals are an illusion because everything is relative and arbitrary – statistical averages or approximations, subjective preferences or “values.” There is no logical way to separate right from wrong or good from bad. It all merges into what is – therefore what-is has to be understood as right [the way it is supposed to be].
Our discussion has naturally brought us from a purely secular [non-religious] consideration to what is usually classed as a religious answer – Pantheism. What is Pantheism? The submersion of the particulars into the everything. Where does one’s problem finally lie [What is the bottom line?] according to the Pantheist? In the failure to accept one’s impersonality.
[Write the breakdown of pan-theism to pan-everythingism]
How is this different for man originating from the results of the randomly generated cosmos? Ultimately it is the same. Pantheism is a semantic mysticism that involves deception through a linguistic trick – theism implies some being, a God, but there is no someone there. Once we strip it of its illusion, it becomes pan-everythingism. There is no one to worship, obey, or relate to. The one we thought of as man is submerged into and becomes part of the background radiation of the universe. The modern naturalistic form of science [scientism, philosophically driven science] likewise reduces everything to energy particles.
In summary, whereas the impersonal beginning leads us to a merging of morals and metaphysics [study of essential nature, real being, what is and its form and complexity, fundamental causes and processes] leading inexorably to the conclusion that whatever is, is right. But the personal beginning depicted in the Bible provides us with the possibility of keeping them separate, of having an objective basis for morals. Once again, it is the Christian answer or nothing.
Discussion - Our last area of inquiry involves epistemology – the theory of knowledge and certainty. All people, whether they realize it or not, function in a framework of some concept of truth. Christians and materialists observe the same behavior, look at the same facts, have access to the same historical records, review the same research. But no record, fact, event, behavior, or data is without interpretation because it is in our nature to try and understand, to make sense of things. We look for patterns and changes, experiment, propose theories, and perform tests. We draw conclusions and apply what we have learned. How then does the Christian differ from the person who has accepted that the universe is governed by natural causes only? In some technical areas, such as material science [ie, development of new plastics or molding techniques], it doesn’t seem to matter. In other areas, like biology, geology, sociology, or cosmogony [dealing with the origin of the material universe], Christian and non-Christian perspectives are worlds apart because the framework of truth each has accepted controls his thinking. There is no totally objective observer because each of us feeds information through his own presuppositional grid [filter, notions one has already accepted as true or false that together form the basis for his acceptance or rejection of new information].
What is the situation for us as Christians in this area of epistemology? God has revealed truth about himself, mankind, history, and the world to men in propositional [discussible] communication which has been preserved in written form. God’s character and the norms of Scripture form the basis for understanding and differentiating not only right from wrong and good from bad [the moral categories we just discussed], but true from false, reality from fantasy, and reasonable from unreasonable. He has made a correlation between the observer and the thing observed, the subject and the object. He has spoken truly, but not exhaustively so there is much for man to explore, and He has given us a rational means to construct categories [classifications allow us to group and order information, like a filing system] for understanding what we find.
Discussion – Part of every person’s struggle is the attempt to have answers, meaning, and purpose. Man, if he starts as an autonomous finite being, has no sufficient reference point for ascertaining the dependability or certainty of knowledge. Random generation of being leaves no possibility of any rational answers to the big questions, the ones that have to do with what life means. Our plea to people to come to Christ is not some form of a leap of faith contrary to reason. We’re not inviting people to have a religious experience to help relieve the tension of living in a world they are alienated from. The Christian answer gives a reason for the universe having a form that is comprehensible, that functions non-arbitrarily, and for man’s uniqueness. The Bible is not a religious book in the modern sense because it is rooted in verifiable space-time history and speaks of the totality of reality.
[CONCLUDE WITH PRAYER]
[WRITE E-MAIL ADDRESS, SUBJECT LINE, & TRILOGY by Francis Schaeffer]
Check out this series on line at http://pop.eradman.com/. To further explore these 3 fundamental areas of life, I recommend TRILOGY by Francis Schaeffer.
E-MAIL FOLLOWING THE 2ND LESSON
I know this approach is unfamiliar and seems difficult at first. But read it through a couple times and discuss it [including the Announcement of the 2 classes, the e-mail accompanying the 1st lesson, and the 1st lesson], and you will get it. If after working through it you have questions, ask - I'll be glad to help. After all, how will we grow as Christians if we engage only in those activities that have become familiar to us and with which we are comfortable? How will we be stretched and broadened if we only tackle things that are easy or naturally enjoyable to us? Discipline is a word that applies to those things that that don't come naturally and aren't easily mastered - things that require us to apply our energies to learn and increase our skill-level. All things worth becoming competent at require discipline and that seems like a hardship at first. But disciplining oneself toward worthy goals has great rewards, not just at the end, but along the way - the process itself is of great value. There is no substitute or shortcut to working out one's own salvation. Stick with it and encourage one another. You'll find like many people before you, that that which began as a chore can become a love, even a joy. G