Tuesday, May 6, 2014

War of Worldviews

“At the center of every world view is what might be called the “touchstone proposition” of that world view, a proposition that is held to be the fundamental truth about reality and that serves as a criterion to determine which other propositions may or may not count as candidates for belief.”[1] This statement touches on the core component at the center of the very idea of worldview. At bottom, every worldview has a basic commitment that supports the less basic but fundamental commitments that are designed to support its web of beliefs. When we think about a spider web, we must also think about what the web attaches to for support. It is this that is the “touchstone proposition” of a worldview.

A worldview in one sense is an interpretive scheme. It is that filter by which a person interprets all of reality, knowledge, and morality. The challenge for a worldview from the very beginning is the presence of a filter. This filter is also known as the criteria by which we determine what qualifies as justified true belief. The problem with the filter is that it does not, nor cannot be the product of a filter itself. 

How does one’s worldview account for the filter through which it interprets all of reality, human knowledge, and ethics? If a worldview is an interpretive scheme, then how does one know this? By what scheme can one account for their interpretive scheme? It would appear that one already possesses some knowledge of worldview prior to supposedly having a worldview. This is not a small problem for the concept of worldview.

When we examine the plausibility of a worldview or even when we construct a worldview, we are supposedly looking for good beliefs to include and bad beliefs that should be excluded. “What is the correct criterion, method, or standard for picking out good beliefs or bad ones? It seems as if we need such a criterion or method for sorting out our beliefs. But how will we know whether or not we have the correct criterion, unless we already know some actual instances of good beliefs or bad ones so that we can check our proposal criterion against these known cases?”[2] This creates a very serious challenge for the finite mind. How could a finite human mind ever possess the necessary information to even get started constructing a worldview? It seems that a tabula rasa could only ever produce a tabula rasa. By what standard would one settle on their standard? By what criteria could we ever settle on a specific set of criteria?

At its foundation then, a worldview possesses one basic uncompromising principle, a “touchstone proposition.” In presuppositional apologetics we call this the most basic presupposition of the worldview. When we examine Christian theism and every version of its competitor, we can readily identify the one basic difference between them: their source of knowledge. Christian theism claims that God is the necessary precondition of human experience, to include knowledge. On the contrary, the non-Christian system of thought relies, not on God, but on autonomous human reason. Christian theism claims that God is the source for all knowledge, while its detractors all rely on human reason apart from God.

The “touchstone proposition” of Christian theism then is that God is the necessary precondition for human experience. On the contrary, the non-Christian worldview claims that man is not dependent on God for his understanding of reality, his theory of knowledge, and his ethic. Man, through his own autonomous reasoning processes can make sense of experience.

The non-Christian worldview has a dilemma that appears to be insurmountable. Its task is to account for the basic raw materials necessary to begin construction on an intelligible worldview without actually having the components of a worldview from the start. This is like being asked to build a house when you can’t even recognize a hammer. In order to build a house, one has to have the idea of a house from the start and that is more than just a blueprint. One has to have something from which to create a blueprint.

But if we have never seen a house, or even know about the idea of a house, how can we ever get started? The same is true with worldviews. Man’s urge to systematize his understanding of reality, of knowledge, and of ethics is unintelligible apart from God. Try as he may, man cannot account for the raw material of rationality apart from God. This is precisely what we mean when we say that Christian theism is the necessary precondition for experience, for rationality.

[1] William H. Halverson, A Concise Introduction to Philosophy, 4th ed. (New York, NY: Random House, 1981), 414.
[2] Robert P. Amico, The Problem of the Criterion (Lanham, MD: Rowman &​ Littlefield Publishers, 1993), 1-2.

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