The Absurdity of Originality
The recent post « A Wise Shepherd of a Wandering Mind » begs for a sequel, or, at the least, some amount of explanation. In this post (which, come to think of it, should be read after reading « The Seas of Confusion« ) I expressed my new-found humility, as I realized that I cannot simply allow my mind to wander into just any book, or into the presence of just any teacher, for fear that it will be corrupted and lead astray by some aberrant doctrine. This may seem noble on the surface, but deeper down it gets problematic: I am my mind. How can I watch over myself? Who is the « me » who is telling the other « me » what is acceptable and what is unacceptable?
But here we have stumbled upon one of the trickiest riddles in all of philosophy. Thought is impossible without a worldview: but worldviews are made up of little thoughts all stuck together. But you cannot have any thoughts – little or big – without a worldview. Which came first? Which supports the other?
I was raised within a Christian worldview – that is, I was raised to believe in a creator God, in the sinfulness of mankind, and of the payment of Jesus, which (if we accept it) takes all our sins away and restores our relationship to God. The turbulence and difficulties which underlie the posts above arose when I came into contact with writings which were targeted at those who have my worldview, seeking to change their worldview to something quite different, something not at all Christian. This caused me all sorts of stress and difficulties in my spirit, until I stopped thinking so hard, followed my heart home, and determined to venture with more care into those works in the future.
I can see you, dear reader. You are shaking your head at me. Be patient. I am not so cowardly, nor so dim-witted as you may be thinking.
All my life I have been taught to think for myself. This is a useful lie. It is useful because people who want to convert you to their worldview often use this line (appealing to your pride!) to make you let go of your old way of thinking, to grab onto theirs. It is a lie because it is impossible. You do not believe me. I will make you believe me by proposing one simple test: have a free thought. Go ahead – try it.
You think you have done it? Well, you have not. Have you thought of a place, a person, a thing? These realities come from the world around you, they are collections of sensory data. No, this is not your own, creative imagination at work, but merely memory of what you have received. Perhaps you thought of an amusing story – something no one has ever thought of before. First of all, I doubt that you are that creative. Secondly, I doubt that you are truly original. I doubt this because I have read science fiction – even the people who try their very very hardest end up in the end describing a world which is very similar to the one we receive through sensory data (only the clouds are purple! oh wow!!), and telling stories which are very similar to exciting versions of realities we all experience on a daily basis (only the protagonist’s skin is green! so what?). But perhaps you thought of a concept – a yellow, fire-breathing tooth-fairy! Certainly this is new!! New, yes, original, no. This is only a collage of various known concepts, stuck together in a very silly way. There is nothing « new » here.
And here you are beginning to see what I am saying. You cannot really think without a system of thoughts already made up for you.The most common argument against Christianity these days is that it is not « scientific » – but this argument is itself a part of a larger worldview. Can you prove to me that science is the best way to make all important decisions in life? You cannot – it is an assumption, it is part of the naturalistic worldview. Either you believe it is the best way to learn truth or you do not.
I need a foundation, we all do. Thoughts are not possible without other thoughts, without concepts, without rules, without a worldview. But which worldview should I choose? How should I evaluate which one is the best?You can decide to leave atheism and become a Christian, or vice versa – but you cannot choose to leave either perspective to go to that mythical land called « myself. » Who are you, oh mind, but a sedimentary deposit, fragmentary relics of countless millions going on before..?
I choose Christianity, and I make the Bible my foundation.
On what basis do I make this decision? None whatsoever.
But how can I « prove » that the Bible is the best foundation? Well if I were to prove that the Bible is the best foundation – for example, I « proved » it by science, or by reason – would I not be admitting that science, or reason is the true foundation?
You are beginning, I hope, to see how a worldview works. A worldview is like a cup. It has walls, it has a bottom, and you put stuff into it. In the naturalistic/scientific worldview, the laws on nature are the bottom, scientific investigation are the walls, and anything that doesn’t fit in the cup doesn’t exist. In the Christian worldview, Jesus is the bottom, the Bible is the walls, and everything fits inside.
That’s what I choose to believe. It’s not popular, I know – most non-Christians reading this will doubtless lose much respect for my intellect. My only argument in my defense is this: I do not need Science to validate Christianity, because Christianity invented science, and it is only within the Christian worldview that true thought can ultimately exist!
This brings me back to where I started. I choose the Christian worldview, rather than Kant’s, or Schleiermacher’s. But why? I haven’t even given them a chance! Why don’t I listen to them, try to understand what they have to say? But in order to understand them, I would need to think like them. In order to think like them, I would need to temporarily adopt their worldview. In order to adopt their worldview I would need to temporarily leave mine behind.
Perhaps one day I will be a strong enough intellect to hold on to my own worldview while venturing into somebody else’s. At this point, however, I simply need to be humble. I need to admit: I must choose to believe in Christianity. This entails a certain amount of wisdom and discipline on my part. « Do not be deceived, bad company corrupts good morals. »
I will be more wise about my choice of « friends » – at least for the short-term.