A couple of days ago I responded briefly to an article that appeared in Scientific American (link). I did not attempt a thorough defense of creationism that would convince a person who was committed to evolutionism. I sought primarily to show that the argumentation used was, at best, high school level, and that the arguments were easily answered. This article, though, triggered other thoughts and I wanted to discuss something I’ve written about before: the fact that naturalism is a religion all its own. As a long-time Christian – one who never experienced adulthood without knowing God and who had the privilege of being raised in a Christian home – it is often difficult to understand what people raised with a secular mindset think and believe and why they think and believe those things. Said tersely, it has proven difficult to truly understand the postmodern mindset. Through my studies, however, I have made some observations that I believe accurately represent this mindset. It is to one of those that I wish to turn today.
There is a realization that has dawned on me slowly that concerns Naturalism which I will treat as being near-synonymous with Darwinism. In short, Naturalism is the belief that the natural world as we know and experience it is all that exists. To put this in religious terms, we could say that Naturalism teaches that ultimate truth does not depend on supernatural experiences, supernatural beings or divine revelation; instead it can be derived from the natural world. Perhaps Carl Sagan expressed this most clearly in his Cosmos series which he prefaced with the statement “The universe is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” Naturalism is a belief that is firmly embedded in our society. The field of science wants nothing to do with a Creator or a universe that has been intelligently designed. Naturalism is taught as law in the school systems and is held as being objective truth. Religious beliefs, values and morals are thought to exist on a separate, subjective level that should not be held us universally true. Science is objective truth and exists in a public realm; values are subjective beliefs that exist in a private realm. The late Christopher Reeve, in discussing groundbreaking research techniques that were condemned by some religious leaders as being amoral, said that religious beliefs can have no place at the table when discussing science, thus indicating his belief that science is more objective and more universally true than religion. Again, science is public fact whereas values are private beliefs. Those beliefs may be important to the individual, but they are not grounded in nature and hence should not extend beyond the individual. This bifurcated system (a fact/value dichotomy) is inseparable from the postmodern mindset.
What dawned on me a year or two ago is that Naturalism, as it is ingrained in the postmodern mindset and in the educational system, is far more than an explanation as to the origins of the world. Naturalism is a full-blown worldview, and in reality, is a religious system that stands in direct opposition to Christianity. One does not need to look far today to find Naturalists that make this admission. Michael Ruse, a well-known evolutionist says “evolution came into being as a kind of secular ideology, an explicit substitute for Christianity…Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and is true of evolution still today.” (Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth, page 172)
Perhaps at this time it would be helpful to define the term “worldview.” Nancy Pearcey, in Total Truth says “[E]ach of us carries a model of the universe inside our heads that tells us what the world is like and how we should live in it. We all seek to make sense of life. Some convictions are conscious, while others are unconscious, but together they form a more or less consistent picture of reality.” This is a worldview. Lifeway, a company that develops Christian curricula, says a worldview is “The composite set of presuppositions, beliefs, and values a person possesses that shape how he or she sees reality and determines how he or she will act. It refers to the collective set of fundamental convictions people hold and on which they base their actions.” Using these definitions, we can understand that there are varying worldviews available to us. We can see also that a person’s worldview begins to be shaped from the moment he is born, as presuppositions and unconscious convictions combine with conscious beliefs and values to form a worldview that form a “more of less consistent picture of reality.” Thus a person experiences reality through his worldview which serves as a lens to interpret and understand life. We must conclude that a worldview shaped by Naturalism, where nature is all that is, was or ever will be, must be diametrically opposed to a worldview shaped by Christian principles which teach that God is the eternal, self-existent One who created and sustains the universe.
I work in the field of computers and we often use the hyphenated suffix “killer” to describe new software or hardware. For example, the operating system Linux was considered by some to be a Windows-killer in that it provided a better but incompatible alternative to Microsoft’s Windows operating system and many believed that it would soon relegate Windows to the trash heap of history. Recently Mozilla’s Firefox has been deemed an Internet Explorer-killer because it provides a better alternative to the competing browser. This provides an apt metaphor for Naturalism, as it has become for many people a Christianity-killer. The theories of evolution, which are simply poor science, have been extended to frame an entire worldview that is directly opposed to the worldview of the Bible. Consider just two examples.
Marriage, according to the Bible, is a divinely-mandated institution and forms the very building block of society. It is not an institution God created in response to the corruption of men, but was embedded even in a perfect world. In a perfect world which God had declared to be very good, He said that it is “not good for man to be alone.” Thus He created woman to complete man and joined them in the marriage bond. A Naturalistic belief system stands in stark contrast to this. After all, if marriage is not mandated by God, it must exist only as a human institution and one that survived the process of natural selection. In other words, it exists because we have invented it and found that it worked well for us in the past. As we continue to evolve and develop we are learning that it may no longer be in our best interests to emphasize marriage relationships. Thus when we view marriage merely as a human institution we are free to enter into it, reject it, or adapt it however we see fit.
Let’s look at sexuality in the light of Scripture and Naturalism. The Bible teaches that sexuality is a gift from God, and once more, something that existed in perfection, before sin entered the world. The Scriptures further teach that sexuality is a gift that must be used in a certain manner; it is appropriate only for a man and woman within the covenant bonds of a marriage relationship. Sex is a beautiful expression of love and oneness – a gift from God to build and strengthen marriage relationships. Naturalism sees sex in an entirely different light. Sexual relationships are derived from human origins and sexual normalcy is associated with a specific culture and time. Normalcy is what works for a specific group at a specific time and is not rooted in any type of divine law. Thus when homosexuality becomes celebrated in our society, it is an expression of Naturalism.
Those who argue against homosexuality or other expressions of deviant sexuality, generally do so from the grounds of values, but Naturalists have already relegated values to a secondary realm of the subjective, where Naturalism is an expression of objective fact. Those who stand for traditional views of marriage where the institution is reserved for a man and a woman, similarly speak of values, but again, values have no objective meaning to those fully absorbed in a Naturalist worldview.
The fact is, naturalism is a complete worldview and a religion unto itself. To attempt to reconcile Darwinism, naturalism and evolution with Christianity is akin to reconciling Christianity and Islam. It simply cannot be done. As I wrote in the first article, The true conflict, the conflict between evolution and creationism, is a conflict of truth and error, a conflict of God and man. Creationism embraces God as the Creator and Sustainer of the world; evolutionism rejects God replaces Him with time, chance and opportunity. The debate between creationism and evolutionism is by no means senseless, for it is a defense of the truth and a defense of the One who is Truth.