John Alan Turner

Writer, Theologian, Consultant, Speaker, Teacher

Between a Rock and Several Hard Places

Standing with both feet firmly planted in the 21st Century now, we find ourselves at a philosophical crossroads. The modern experiment of the past 500 years has failed to produce a workable worldview upon which we can all agree. So, our choice is between an extreme relativism (which is practically indistinguishable from total despair, chaos and nihilism) or to start over again. Going back simply isn't an option (that would be the "rock" from the title of this post).

Now...since you've bothered to read this far, I'm going to guess you're unwilling to accept the despair. That will be my assumption as we move forward in this discussion -- that you don't really want to embrace the radical relativism of true postmodernism.

Furthermore, I will assume that many of the folks who read this blog are actually in a position to shape the thinking of many others. That means you have the huge responsibility to offer those others a philosophy that actually works.

See, the people with whom you associate -- whether they're people in your church or your family or your small group or your classroom or your breakroom -- they need a worldview that can answer meaninglessness and suffering and despair. They have to have a set of beliefs that can become the foundation for a society in which people can look for and find purpose, value, love and truth.

This leads us to another fork in the road (these forks are the "hard places" from the title of this post -- see how clever I am?). We can either endeavor to create a brand new worldview that everyone can accept, or we can re-establish and re-authenticate the Christian worldview. In theory, this worldview already serves as the foundation of our society. Also in theory, this worldview already is accepted by one-third of the world's population.

If it seems a ridiculously difficult challenge to take the fork to the left (the creation of a brand new worldview), the fork to the right ain't no picnic, either! As Peter Hicks says, "If we believe that a God-centered worldview can provide a basis for life in the twenty-first century, we need to show how making God the basis for meaning and truth and value answers the questions and needs of women and men in the twenty-first century."

But, in order to do that, we may need to look at the various ways in which people have attempted to answer those questions and needs in the past. We may need to work through the differences between a philosophy that has God as its starting point and a philosophy that has human beings as its starting point.

We need to know why, after more than 2,000 years, when just about every other philosophy gave God a starring role, people in the last couple hundred years or so have started trying to produce worldviews that exclude him. And we need to honestly look at the damage these attempts have caused.

To do this, we need to study the story of philosophy. What follows may be a long journey, but I'm committed to seeing how far I can guide you through this. We'll start with two major worldviews that were in existence prior to the rise of Greek thought: the Hebrew and the Hindu.

Before we do that, however, I have a question (I usually do, right?): Until fairly recently, it was normally assumed that early beliefs and worldviews were automatically false. At the very least, they were considered inferior to the way we see things now. People use words like "primitive" to give the impression that people back then were crude and illogical and not as sophisticated as we are today.

I wonder if this tells us more about ourselves than it tells us about them.

Why do you think people are so quick to dismiss early belief systems? Do we really believe that the latest ideas are necessarily better than the earlier ones?