One of my favorite literary characters of all time is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s infamous detective of 221B Baker Street, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, and my favorite adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories is the British Broadcasting Corporation’s “Sherlock.” This small screen redesign of the classic Sherlock Holmes mysteries certainly delivers on fulfilling it’s slogan by making Mr. Holmes into “a new sleuth for the 21st century.”
There’s an old joke, that still surfaces from time-to-time, regarding Mr. Sherlock Holmes and his faithful friend Dr. John H. Watson. The yarn takes place on a camping trip, that the legendary duo have decided to enjoy. In the middle of the night, the ever alert Mr. Holmes nudges Dr. Watson awake, and says, “Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see.” Dr. Watson, though a bit lethargic, answers him, “I see millions of stars, my dear Holmes.”
“And what do you infer from these stars?” says Sherlock. “Well,” Dr. Watson begins to answer. But sensing that his friend is in one of his philosophical moods, he decides to think a moment before answering. “A number of things,” Dr. Watson retorts as he lights his cigarette. “Astronomically, Holmes, I observe that there are millions of galaxies and billions of stars and planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three in the a.m. Meteorologically, I expect that the weather will be fine and clear. Theologically, I see that God is all-powerful and man, His creation, small and insignificant. What about you, my dear Holmes? What is it that you infer?” Without a moments pause, Sherlock snaps back in a very agitated tone, “Watson, you fool — someone has stolen our tent!”
Often the answers to life’s many questions are setting there in plain sight, yet those who delve deep into the philosophical will somehow manage to miss them, and cause others to do the same. I like to say it this way:
Philosophers are the only people I know of that can sit on a haystack full of needles, and still manage to not get the point in the end.
Humanity’s infatuation with ideology, our romance with rationality, our intimacy with intelligence can be summed up in the word philosophy. “Philosophy” is a word deriving from two Greek words. Philos, is a Greek word meaning “beloved,” or “loving,” and Sophos is Greek for “knowledge,” or “wisdom.” So literally, philosophy means “beloved knowledge,” or “the love of wisdom.” As mankind has long enjoyed a deep tenderness towards discerning thoughts, and has worshiped a variety of worldviews, we will be addressing a few of the philosophies that have (and still do) preoccupied our minds.
There are three main worldviews influencing the various philosophies in existence today. These three worldviews are:
– Theism — one deity, who made all things out of nothing.
– Pantheism — the divine is everything, and everything is the divine.
– Atheism — no deity exists, the universe simply occurred on its own.
“Theism” is made up of two main ideologies: Biblical Theism, and Monadic Monotheism. If you have a worldview that is based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, as explained in the Holy Bible, then you posses a belief system that is considered “Biblical Theism,” or Trinitarianism (one deity, but three separate personifications — God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit). This Christ-centered, theistic ideology is the philosophical foundation of the Christian faith.
It is the understanding that Yahweh and Jesus are the same God; that the Old Testament writings teach and prepare both the Hebrews of yesteryear and the reader of today for the coming Messiah, revealed in the New Testament writings. It is the awareness of the teachings that proclaim the deity of Jesus, His life as a man, His sacrificial death on the cross, and His resurrection and ascension into Heaven, as well as His return and millennial rule on earth. All of these pronouncements, plus the gift of the Holy Spirit to the believer, are essential in conveying the truths of redemption that this godly worldview seeks to convey.
“Monadic Monotheism” teaches of a singular, divine being (a.k.a.: a monad). This is the theistic belief system held mostly by Jews and Muslims. This singular, divine being is wholly separated from humanity, leaving them under the mandate that says mankind must obey the divine statutes and live a righteous life. In short, the divine is both just and vengeful; separated from humanity because this deity is perfect, and only piety and righteousness can present mankind with the chance to beg for divine forgiveness.
Occasionally a theist will also relate a philosophy that denigrates the value of mankind’s physical existence, and they’ll teach either that the spiritual side of humanity takes precedence over the physical side, or possibly the opposite. This ideology is called Dualism. Though generally associated with “Pantheism,” this Greek rooted philosophy generally depicts the physical world in a negative light and encourages mankind to neglect their physical needs for the gain of spiritual enlightenment.
“Pantheism” is made up of three main ideologies: Eastern Mysticism, Spiritism, and Occultism. If your worldview states that the ultimate expression of reality consists of a “universal divine spirit,” and that there is no singular, deity for humanity to relate to, or to reveal himself to, then you posses a pantheistic belief system that is considered “Eastern Mysticism.” Philosophically speaking, this worldview does not separate the secular and the divine, and teaches that all of reality is composed of, and reduced to, a single substance/”energy.”
“Spiritism” teaches that this world is inhabited by a variety of spirits. These spirits take on many characteristics too, as some are seen as angry, mean, comical, or kind. This pantheistic worldview, now known as Animism, states that humanity must appease evil spirits and attract good ones through rituals, liturgies, idols, or ceremonies. Voodoo is an example of a religion that is based on just such a belief system.
“Occultism” is the study of things that are hidden (paranormal), such as magic, alchemy, extrasensory perception (a.k.a.: ESP), astrology, spiritualism, and divination. Many religious belief systems are rooted in this pantheistic ideology. For example Gnosticism, Hermeticism, Theosophy, Wicca, Thelema, Satanism, and Neopaganism are all rooted in occultism. The sciences have mistakenly been connected to the occult, from time-to-time, as mankind has sought to understand the unknown, both within and without. Occultism, you see, attempts to understand a deeper spiritual reality, by way of superstitious and demonic rituals, that extend beyond human logic and academic science.
“Atheism” is basically the refusal to believe that there is a spiritual side to humanity. An atheist will not accept any deity, nor will they accept that mankind has an immortal soul. “Atheism” is made up of three main ideologies: Darwinism, Secular Humanism, and Existentialism. The term “atheism” originated from the Greek word atheos, and literally means “without gods.” Most atheists believe that their worldview is an ideology of absolute truths, even more so than most theists, and therefore the burden of proof lies not on the atheist to disprove the existence of the divine, but on the theist to provide solid evidence for the divine.
“Darwinism” is the study of the origin of life, and is committed to the atheistic ideology that states that all of life is the result of natural selection and random causes. This belief system is founded on the scientific theory of evolution. Mr. Charles Darwin, the founder of “Darwinism,” had observed in his worldwide travels that the animal kingdom, within species, adapted to various conditions that made them better equipped to survive and thrive in an ever changing environment. It’s based on this scientific evidence, known as micro-evolution, that Mr. Darwin theorized that, given enough time and the right environment, a transformation of one species into another could occur. This process of successive mutations within a species, that ends in the existence of a new species, is known to Scientists as macro-evolution. Unfortunately for Charles Darwin, and all of his colleagues since, there has never been an observed macro-evolution mutation. Paleontologists can’t even find a transitional or mutated species in the fossil records. The result is that Scientists who commit themselves to the study of evolution generally refuse to understand their scientific findings, wholly, and stay committed to their atheistic ideology of “Darwinism.”
“Secular Humanism” is the study of the humanities, with the focus being on the glorification of human accomplishment. This atheistic worldview is in stark contrast to that of “Classical Humanism” which gives glory to the divine when taking notice of human accomplishments. A secular humanist will give no credit to a deity, but will wallow in the idea that mankind can rise to, and capture, the moment with his/her own greatness. People with this atheistic ideology are very much in the present, and slaves to history. This philosophy reduces humanity to being nothing more than a glorified animal which seeks to fulfill its own selfish desires, and passions, at any cost.
“Existentialism” is simply all about living in the moment. People who adhere to this atheistic philosophy generally do not bother with questioning how or why something began, or ended, they will even oppose the reasons behind why something exists. They simply choose to embracing the fact that it is. Their three core beliefs are as follows:
– Individualism (me, myself, and I)
– “Carpe diem” (a Latin phrase for “seize the day”)
– Freedom to do whatever, whenever, and however (anarchy).
Oddly enough, you can occasionally find theists who follow and live by this worldview, but primarily it is the atheists that adhere to this belief system. Why? Because such an ideology cannot have a divine entity telling it that there is an absolute right and wrong. An existentialist must be free to live life passionately and without any kind of inward or outward constraint.
I realize that when it comes to a subject as vast and as deep as “philosophy” it is hard for most of us to stay focused and retain the information that is being presented. I know that I certainly struggle with knowing and understanding them all. Comprehension, though key, can be hard to attain for some, thus the reason I have tried to present this to you in small portions; only giving you the essential information for understanding the various belief systems directly connected to the three main worldviews (Theism, Pantheism, and Atheism). Just know that for every one of these ideologies mentioned there are multiple worldviews that intersect and continue from them.
For example, where “Theism” and “Pantheism” intersect Polytheism (the belief of more than one god) and Postmodern Spirituality (the belief that no one religion will connect you to the divine; just believe what you wish) appear. Where “Pantheism” and “Atheism” cross paths Monism (the belief that humanity can become one with the “universal divine force,” and escape the illusion of this physical life) prevails, and where “Atheism” and “Theism” blend Agnosticism (the belief that mankind cannot know anything with certainty, especially the divine) and Deism (the belief that logic and the examination of nature are significant in determining the existence of the divine, as well as the rejection of religious authority and knowledge) exist. Yet, even these philosophies are only a few of the many worldviews that dwell in the minds of humanity.
So what does this all mean? What do we do with the information presented here? First, we must give a conscious effort toward knowing why it is only “Biblical Theism” that will give peace of mind to mankind (Philippians 4:7). Second, we must take note of what it is that makes God’s worldview the only ideology worth dedicating our lives to (Proverbs 8). Just as Dr. Watson was too busy waxing wise to notice the obvious fact that his, and Mr. Holmes’, tent had been stolen, so too do philosophers miss the truth of God because they are too deep in love with the pursuit of wisdom to actually receive the wisdom they are so obsessed with finding. (Proverbs 14:6, 17:24, 24:7; 1 Corinthians 1:20).
In our next post we will delve further into why the wisdom of God prevails over the philosophies of humanity, and help you understand how you can rest peacefully knowing that God’s wisdom is truth you can put your trust in.
Truth or Dare by J. Scott Harden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.
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Sherlock © 2010, 2011, 2012 BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.
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