“Does it Matter?” is not a philosophical question, because there is a lot that is not matter and which is also vitally important.
‘Matter’ comes from two separate sources: ‘materia’ which means ‘substance’ in Latin, and ‘mater’ which means mother. But we use it almost exclusively to mean ‘substance’, so influenced we are by the rationalists. When we say, “it doesn’t matter,” we mean that it has no material substance, therefore, we conclude, no value. But there is much that does not matter, in the material sense, but is vitally important. Relationships have no matter at all, there is no human who could point to a direct sensory experience with a relationship. Relationships have no matter, and yet the whole universe of matter is relational.
One could point to a meal made with love, a very sensory experience. Or a passionate kiss, a very sensual experience. But those things are the result of relationship, they are not relationships themselves.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature.”
Emerson almost got it right. Friendship is a masterpiece ofcreation, not nature. Relationship is certainly not natural or material.
What is actually natural is what we call chaos, or entropy. The exact opposite of relationship; everything that is against relationship is natural.
Gravity is destructive by nature, it takes a lot of creation to get massive bodies close enough to attract each other yet not so close as to destroy each other, the same is true for minute bodies, and everything in-between. And the same is true for people.
Relationships have no matter, yet they are the primary building block of personality and therefore of existence.
So if I am looking for the truth, I maintain that it must first explain this relational universe. Secondly it must have been explaining universal relationally for a very long time. I should imagine that the history of a true worldview must be about as old as history itself. Or else how could it be true?
Species may or may not evolve, but truth does not, it either is or it is not.
Perhaps we should step back a moment and ask why it is we ought to be looking for truth at all. Why can we not just be on a generational or cultural road toward some kind of ultimate truth that mankind will eventually attain through diversity and mature plurality?
Well it is for a simple reason. As well as being relational, we are also individuals; which is a situation way beyond coincidence. Imagine for a moment if we were either individuals without the sensory capacity for relationship, or relational without the possibility of meeting other individuals!
It’s not enough of an answer to suggest that all ‘truths’ will eventually merge and mature into one single and complete unity, because the good of mankind as a whole may do absolutely nothing for me, individually. In fact the good of mankind may very likely harm me individually.
Both the Hindus and Buddhists answer this problem by stating that our individuality is ultimately an illusion (although I have yet to see any offer of evidence for this statement). They suggest that one day all will be resolved into one. But then they solve one problem (without offering any proof) by creating another, greater one. We are not just individuals, we are also many individuals in necessary relationship.
Resolving all individuals into one must also dissolve the existence of all individuals: I relate therefore we are. If there is no relationship, how then can there be any existence? Even if there could be the existence of one individual, what kind of existence could that be?
The only choice from that position is to either conclude with a certain and irreversible universal annihilation of personhood, or to abandon the idea and go back to the very beginning. I cannot see how one could possibly conclude a relational universe with annihilation any more than you could conclude all physics with one unifying theory which explains absolutely nothing!
I would also suggest that Kant’s word “Worldview” is too narrow a word to explain what it is that we must have. We must have a Universal view, a Cosmoview. And our cosmoview must be relational.
It is only in relationships that we can have a perfect unity of individuals.
God is three individuals, yet one in mind and purpose. Husband and wife are two yet one in flesh; the end goal of the diverse Church is “the Perfect Man” (Ephe 4:13) yet in my Christianity I am motivated also by individual, eternal rewards, part of a great, unified multitude of individuals.
But I am getting ahead of the point.
So I remain convinced that not all roads lead to the truth, and the pursuit of an ultimate truth must be legitimate. There is required, therefore, an ethical civil war – not for the sake of power, but for the sake of freedom and truth. This is not a battle against human people, flesh and blood; it is a battle between human ideas and ethos (Ephe 6:12), a battle in which no blood ought to be shed. No ethos has the right of an individual, and if an ethos is shown to be false it should be abandoned. Cosmoviews ought to be like gladiators, battling it out in the public arena, and it ought to be a battle to the death. The victorious view ought to cut the throat of its opponent.
But, quite illogically, the post-modern arena will not allow for that. We have given ideologies the same status we give to people, often they enjoy a super-human status. As if we are disease cultivators, farmers of sickness, weak and battered worldviews are carried out of the arena on stretchers, and lovingly revived and then nurtured, they live to fight again as if they deserved to, as if they have some kind of self-sustaining existence. There is something wrong with the pluralistic arena, something drastically wrong, but that does not mean that there is something wrong with every ideology fighting in it.
Fundamentally relationality instructs me that people are more important than what they believe. Let us not fall into the trap of the proud who loose them selves to save their ideas which have no existence and no value anyway.
I understand that many would see that statement as extremely offensive. I make no apology to those who are offended at the thought of being more valuable than their beliefs. Maybe this offense is exactly what you need to overcome.
So then what are the choices?
There are not many. Not nearly as many as you may imagine.
I would suggest that they fit along a continuum between Secularismon the one extreme and Animism on the other. Somewhere in the middle is what we call Theism, and every cosmoview that ever was fits somewhere in this continuum. I first saw this continuum inDarrow Millar’s wonderful book “Discipling Nations“.
The key difference in these cosmoviews is in their understanding of time. In theory animists see time as cyclic, secularists see time as chronological; and theists see time as kairological.
Now the truth is that theism is a very broad band of humans, and it is only a very narrow group of theists who are able to see time as kairos. A religious cosmoview, for example, does not see time as keiros; the Pantheist and Polytheist worldviews do not see time as keiros either, although they would accept keiros moments in time.
The continuum is actually weighted very much against the secularists, in terms of numbers, if we were to look at what we know about the cosmoview of mankind over all time.
Secularism is very new and not very well subscribed to as an all-encompassing cosmoview.
One can look at the continuum in a smaller context and a larger one. For example if we took 1 Cor 1:23 as a continuum we can see that it fits into an all time continuum in its own context:
If we were to think in terms of the development of cosmoview it flows pretty much from left to right, The natural state of man’s cosmoview is Animism. Animism becomes socially arranged into a national patriotism. It develops from family and tribal ‘gods’ into polytheism, and then into a mythology as the explanation for the direction of time develops and the tools to control people evolve. Polytheism and pantheism have always been allied to political control and social development beyond family and extended family (village) life. Secularism is merely a natural progression from that. Secular thought is merely the suggestion that man directs his own time.
These developments are rightly described as mere development and not as progress. Because extreme secularism is nothing more than extreme animism, it does not move us forward, it takes us back to the beginning. What looks like a continuum, is actually a cycle.
I was reading “Second Genesis” (a June 2009 article in Popular Mechanics), an article about a concentrated attempt to recreate spontaneous life – what struck me as odd was that neither the author not the scientists involved could see the obvious contradiction of their situation. If they were to succeed in creating life, they could not call it spontaneous. A monkey in a zoo would be a better candidate for creating spontaneous life. An even better one would be a bubbling pond on Venus. The development to secularism merely takes us back to animism:
In the midst of this natural cycle there was, it seems, a real Divine act; an interference into the cycle. We can rightly define it by the common term Monotheism. It is the one cosmoview which both fits into and stands apart from mankind’s normal cosmoview development:
Monotheism strikes me as being the one cosmoview that no human would have thought of. All Monotheism’s trace their roots (rightly or wrongly) to the same events in history.
Secularism is Daniel’s great prediction, and the fact that many, if not most, would pass through Monotheism as if it were merely another link in the cycle.
And so, at an acute point the world is divided into three:Monotheists, pre-monotheists and post-monotheists.
But before we dispense with Animism (the worship of little gods, be they family fiction or secular self) or with Polytheism (the religious state) we must look at one mythology in a little more detail for a few reasons. Firstly it is still very active, a large portion of the world’s population still lives by it. Secondly it is very old.
I’m talking about Hinduism – or it’s “new testament” Buddhism (I’m using the term ‘Buddhism’ very loosely to describe all the extreme Eastern secular philosophies – the trouble these days is to find a Buddhist with the courage to call himself one). They differ from eachother in the sense that Hinduism describes both a spiritual and a physical relational reality, whereas Buddhism describes only a spiritual one, with its eyes shut to the ‘illusion’ of the physical. I have already commented on the fatal flaws of this cosmoview.
Now even though Hinduism describes a spiritual relationally and a practical reality (and it is one of only two cosmoviews to do this), it cannot be the truth we are seeking:
It does not bring the harmony and success it claims it will bring nationally or individually. You cannot argue with Buddhism on these physical levels because it makes no physical claims. But Hinduism does, and it does not deliver on its promises. Ahh, but Hinduism answers this problem again with the same claim I mentioned at the beginning. Hinduism puts the essential annihilation (or resolution of all into one) very far into the distance, like a graph which keeps getting closer but never actually touched the axis except at the point of infinity, and it provides an endless number of individual redo’s to facilitate this, again with no evidence of the theory.
There are those who have the Faith to accept that, I do not. It doesn’t matter, but it also doesn’t relate; how then does it compute? On what must I have Faith? I have not the slightest recollection of a previous life, I have no relationship with my theoretical previous self; how then do I believe that my previous self ever existed?
But that is not the major fatal flaw in the Hindu cosmoview. The fatal flaw in Hinduism is in its relatedness. Instead of drawing individuals together like shoe laces draw a shoe together, it divides individuals, it disperses like an explosion. There is a theoretical unity spoken of one day in the future, but nothing unifying in the structure of the religion. Spiritual people are not called to be practical, and practical people are not called to be spiritual – the humble are not called to be bold and the bold are not called to be humble. There is no relational unity called for in Hindu society. The guru in the mountain is never required to come down and have a party with the lower cast people. The lower casts are never encouraged to become wise and accomplished, indeed to do so would be a sin. It describes a relational wish but it produces only relational disparity, not relationality.
To the extreme secularist who essentially believes essentially the same as the Buddhists, I’d quote Søren Kierkergaard, “What would be the use of discovering so-called objective truth, of working through all the systems of philosophy and of being able, if required, to review them all and show up the inconsistencies within each system; what good would it do me to be able to develop a theory of the state and combine all the details into a single whole, … what good would it do me to be able to explain the meaning of Christianity if it had no deeper significance for me and for my life; what good would it do me if truth stood before me, cold and naked, not caring whether I recognized her or not, and producing in me a shudder of fear rather than a trusting devotion?”
As Paul suggested in 1Tim. 3:15 we need a cosmoview that is both “a pillar and buttress of the Truth”. It must provide both elevation and lateral support for (or evidence of) the truth. And it is only Christianity which does that, New Testament Hebrewism. It is the other of the two religions which describes a spiritual relationally and a practical reality. But, unlike Hinduism it draws individuals together: In Christianity spiritual people are called to be practical, and practical people are called to be spiritual – the humble are called to be bold and the bold are called to be humble. The greatest of all is not transcendent on a mountain somewhere, the greatest of all is the servant of all. And the lowest, the least are encouraged to seek the greater gifts.
It is not easy to rip your cosmoview from yourself and look at it objectively – I would argue that there are many who cannot actually do it. Most people would rather kill other people, even themselves than sacrifice their cosmoview.
But I think it must be done, and we must individually have the courage to assess what matters, and what doesn’t.