The Worldview of Theism
- R. Totten - (c) '99
The theistic worldview holds that there is an infinite personal God who is the creator of the universe, and also supernaturally acts on things in it. Although the theistic worldview is also basically held by Judaism and Islam, the following discussion will most clearly represent the predominant theistic view, which is biblical Christianity.
(see the six Worldview questions on Home Page)
The Basic Propositions of the Theistic Worldview
1. God is perfectly and absolutely holy, infinite, all-powerful, all-knowing, personal (Triune) and good.
Considering the five parts of this first proposition, first of all: God is absolutely holy. This is the prime characteristic of God. Being "holy" means that God, in his character and nature, is separate from everything else; He is transcendent : above and beyond everything in all the universe, including all mankind, and all other beings ; He is totally unique and unequaled.
God is infinite. This means that he is beyond limitation by anything else ; He is eternally without beginning or ending, and has life in himself, and every living thing is dependent on him for life ; He is self-existent, and is uncaused by anything else, and thus, is called a "necessary" being. God is the prime reality, and the source of all other reality and being.
God is all-powerful. He is all-mighty, all-knowing, all-wise, and omni-present (everywhere at the same time). He is sovereign, and from eternity, has unchangeably decreed and planned whatever happens in all of history. No other thing or being can possibly challenge or diminish his power, or change his eternal plan in the slightest way.
God is personal. God is not a mere power or force, but he has the attribute of personhood, and thus has the qualities of self-awareness and self-determination ; likewise, He has intellect, emotions, a moral makeup, and a self-will. God is a "someone". In addition to this, the Bible teaches that the one indivisible being of God eternally exists in three distinct "persons" (self-distinctions): Father, Son and Holy Spirit ...each of whom possesses equally and fully all the attributes of deity ; These three personal-selves in one being is called the "triunity" of God.
God is good. Goodness and righteousness is the essence of God's character and nature. His nature is perfectly and absolutely good and righteous, and no hint of evil or wrong is in him. He truthful and cannot lie. Some great expressions of God's goodness, are his love, faithfulness, grace and mercy, as well as his hatred of sin and evil. He is perfectly just, a law unto himself, and he will ultimately judge and condemn all wickedness.
- - - Read more about "Reasoning to The Ultimate / Absolute Being"
2. God created the Universe out of nothing; it is totally subject to him and dependent on him.
The universe (including all the phenomena in it) is not eternal, nor infinite. Its existence is totally dependent and contingent upon God, both for its beginning and for its continuance.
3. Man was created in God's image, and so, is personal, but man has fallen into sin and death.
Since man is personal, he too, with limitations, has the qualities of personhood, including self-awareness and self-determination, as well as intellect, emotions, a moral makeup, and a self-will. Man too is a "someone." ...Man was created good, but in the "Fall" he rebelled and disobeyed God, and every facet of man's being became damaged and perverted by sin, so that all mankind is born guilty of sin, and is separated from God. The result of this separation is death, which begins as spiritual death, and ends as eternal death, if not remedied. Fallen man is incapable, in himself, of restoring himself to a condition of goodness, life and favor with God. Because of this, Jesus Christ came and died to pay the penalty for the sins of men who would believe and trust in his redeeming work, to save us from God's just punishment for our sins.
4. When man's body dies, his soul (spirit) continues forever, either in heaven or in punishment.
5. The basis of ethics and morality is in God's nature and character, which is reflected in man.
As mentioned, God is a moral being who is perfectly good ; He is the absolute standard of all goodness and ethical behavior. God is the essence of goodness. Sin is anything that does not conform to God's holy character or his righteous commands (as described in the Bible). Since man is made in the personal image of God, man is a moral being whom God has given a responsibility to live in a good and ethical way. But man's ability to live righteously in goodness has been ruined in "the Fall", and ruined in every facet of his being. Thus, man is totally unable to live up to the required absolute standard of moral perfection, which God is.
6. History is a linear sequence of events, reaching a meaningful goal, as God planned it.
Though many events seem very similar, none of them are exactly the same, nor do they repeat in a cyclic fashion. Also, history is not reversible or alterable (as in "time travel" fantasies). Instead, history is "teleological", proceeding on to an end, pre-determined by God, and sovereignly worked out by him. History will work out to the praise and glory of God.
Evaluation of the Theistic Worldview
Positives of Theism:
Theism (in general) is attractive because it offers what the majority of mankind consider to be satisfying answers to the questions answered by developed worldviews. Theism offers an answer to the question of the ultimate first cause of everything. In addition, there is a good basis for morality in living, and for meaning in human existence ----giving life value.
Criticisms of Theism ---With Theistic Responses:
Atheists, pantheists and others, however, have questioned theism with various objections. The three main ones are:
1.) The universe doesn't need a first cause ...it might be eternal.
Theists reply that all finite things must have a beginning, and everything that begins to exist has a cause. This is self-evidently true, because every finite thing exists in time, and you can always go back in time to the beginning point of any finite thing. In addition, every finite thing is "dependent", meaning that it exists because it is the result and effect from some something(s) that produced the finite thing at its beginning. --Real things cannot possibly come into being from absolutely nothing. (...in other words: no dimensions, no forces, no matter, no time, no vacuum, no quantum energy, no physics, no alternate universes or "strings", and no God. ...Nothing.)
--So, finite things must have a beginning to their existence. The universe is such a "dependent" and finite thing, which must be the resultant effect from something prior. There cannot possibly be an infinite series of finite things (allowing the universe to be infinitely old), because no matter how many finite individual things there are (such as galaxies), it is always possible to number them, confirming that an infinite number of finite things (beings) is not possible. -- So, again, every finite thing (including the universe) must have a beginning, and everything that begins to exist has an adequate cause for its existence.
Beyond these points, the theistic view is strongly coroborated in the facts of the universe that actually exists, because the origination of the universe (including its matter, forces, dimensions and time) is something which cosmologists say arose out of an event called the "Big Bang" some 15 billion years ago. --So, the best science as it is now understood, says that the universe did have a beginning. The Big Bang is understood to have begun from a "singularity," which is a "point" with zero dimensions, matter or time. This "singularity" was at the "beginning" of (and "before") the existence of time, space, matter and any forces connected to matter (such as gravity, nuclear forces, or electromagnetism). Before the Big Bang there was no space, time or matter. These facts as cosmology scientists understand them confirm that the finite universe did have a beginning and had to have an adequate cause ---and that cause had to be outside of, prior and above all space, time and matter. The cause of the universe is something that transcends all these things. That being which caused it all, is something called the "first cause."
-- In light of this, the biblical theist then goes on to quite reasonably assert that the ultimate "first cause" of the universe, was God. The biblical God --as the transcendent creator-- very strongly accords with the facts of the universe as we know them.
The theist identifies the transcendent first cause as "God," and the Bible informs us in addition that God is also infinite, personal, loving and holy. All of this is not much of a leap when you consider the size and forces and the age of the universe. --The theist does not make the irrational assertion that the universe came from nothing, but that it came from a prior being: God.
Cosmology and Physics
In the following video, Dr. William Lane Craig and several scientists discuss the cosmological evidence:
The Evidence of Cosmology
2.) If God made the universe, then what made God?
Theists answer that at the beginning of all dependent finite things (beings) there must ultimately be an independent, non-contingent being which is uncaused ...and that uncaused being is God. God is not self-caused, but uncaused. This being must be the cause of time and must be above time, and thus, is the eternal cause of all things. Ultimately, something must be uncaused, and is also called a "necessary being" ...and God is that necessary "first cause."
3.) The universe, and then life, do not need to be made by a designer, but can be explained by natural processes apart from an intelligent designer.
Theists reply that this is only an unproven assertion. It is not supported by most of the evidence. In point 1, just above, we've already considered the inadequacy of natural causes for the beginning of the universe. In addition, the chance processes of nature do not adequately explain the origin or complexity of life. The levels or organizationally specified complexity and "information" in the universe is far too high to be reasonably probable through any chance processes. Several articles in this web-site point out the illogic, and disharmony with the facts, of the assertion that the chance processes in nature are adequate to explain such phenomena as the fine-tuning of the universe for life, and the existence of large amounts of complex information in the DNA of living things.
Therefore, in comparison to other worldviews, the theist has the clear advantage of the coroborating facts and the universe as it exists, and can be very confident and comfortable in the discussion.
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