secular humanism

This tag is associated with 4 posts

The Expanse: Episodes 6-7 – A Christian perspective

the-expanseI’ve been enjoying watching SyFy’s TV series, “The Expanse,” quite a bit. Part of that is because I’m a huge science fiction fan, but another part of it is because there is plenty of worldview discussion to go around. I’ll be posting a series on worldview in episodes from the expanse biweekly as they come out. There will be SPOILERS for the episodes discussed here, as well as possibly any earlier episodes. Please don’t post spoilers for later episodes on this post.

Home, Family, and Self

Once more we have the OPA entangled in a struggle for a sense of home. I emphasized this last time for episodes 1-5, but here we have the need for home countered by the revelation that the OPA killed Chrisjen Avasarala’s son, and it has become personal for her. Family was emphasized on her side of the plot, as she tries to play that card to get more information about the OPA. It will be interesting to see whether dynamics of family, self-service, and home continue to drive some of the main characters in the series. One question I still have: how important is it to have a place we can call “home”? So far, “The Expanse” seems to emphasize that this is a great need, and this resonates with a Christian worldview when, throughout the Bible, we have continued pointers to a promised land and sense of place.

Truth and Lies

One of the most common expressions regarding lies is that we “weave a web” of them. The more we engage in deception, the more we must tell more lies to keep up the facade. Detective Miller goes deeper and deeper into a web of lies. The question is: what does he have to ground himself? His job was terminated instantly once it was found out he was delving too close into territory that others wanted to keep quiet. What does it mean to continue to seek truth even in the face of such opposition–even threat to one’s own life?

Christianity was based upon the testimony of those who were willing to die for truth. This isn’t merely an appeal to sincerity of belief, but rather an argument that shows that some truths are worth dying for–something difficult to do if you know what you’re dying for is false. Miller–technically no longer Detective Miller–seems like he is willing to go to extraordinary lengths to discover the truth. I wonder where it will lead him.

Survival and the Secular Ethic

The conversation Burton has with the stowaway spy, Kenzo, in episode 7 is interesting, because it focuses on the notion that survival is the highest good for humanity. This reflects an understanding of reality that puts mere continued existence as “the good” as opposed to anything else. Frankly, this is the kind of grounding that secular ethics almost always end up appealing to, whether it is mere survival or some abstraction like “human flourishing.” Yet in this episode we see how hollow such an ethic is. It leads to Burton’s willingness to kill anyone–whether it is someone he just met (and has completely at his mercy) or to keep from getting captured.

Later in the same episode, Kenzo has a deep conversation, asking whether he is going to be dropped out an airlock because he is found to be “inconvenient.” Perhaps with the most moving line in the series so far, he asks to be told if they’re just going to kill him so he can make his peace, because “I am not an animal.” Yet, so far, many of the people have been acting just like animals, again, with Burton’s argument for mere survival as his motto for life.

The absurdity of this way of life was revealed by Kenzo, because his words resonate with us. Mere survival is not enough–we are not animals. Indeed, even the more popular appeals to ground ethics upon “human flourishing” is little more than putting forward prettier words for the same concept. Is mere survival, or even the move towards whatever hedonistic view of “flourishing” we’d like to put forward, the best we can do? I don’t believe so, and I have argued at length that the secular grounding for morality fails even on its own criteria. We are not merely animals, and we can do better than grounding a philosophy of life on an animalistic drive to survive.

Such an ethic makes the most sense on a theistic view of the world, and Christianity is the worldview that stands up under scrutiny. Those who wish to deny this and continue to affirm a secular ethic must embrace the very opposite of that which Kenzo states in this episode. That is, they must affirm “I am [merely] an animal” and then ground their moral action on that.

Conclusion

The Expanse continues to bring intriguing questions about worldview to the forefront, while couching it all in a pseudo-noir science fiction epic. I’m loving the series so far, and would like to know what you think as well. Let me know in the comments!

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Eclectic Theist– Check out my other blog for my writings on science fiction, history, fantasy movies, and more!

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Really Recommended Posts 12/5/14- secular humanism, theology books, RPGs, and more!

snowl-owl-post-arpingstoneYep, lots of diversity this go-round. We have a challenge for secular humanism, theology books, the atonement, Levitical Law, and a role-playing game. Think I didn’t get a good variety? Think again! Let me know what you think in the comments below, I’d love to read them! Be sure you let the others who wrote the posts know what you think.

The Secular Humanist’s Dilemma– An extremely brief but challenging post. How should secular humanists behave? Is this a compelling argument? I’d love to read your thoughts.

Why November Overwhelms Me (Books!)– A bookseller reflects on this past month and all the awesome looking books that come out in November. Lots of theology books this past month that are of interest.

Zack Hunt and Ken Ham walk into a House of Cards, on Yom Kippur– An interesting look at the doctrine of atonement and the interrelationship with sacrifice via a look at Ken Ham and Zack Hunt. Here’s a surprise- Ham and I agree largely on this point.

Why Wearing Clothes of Mixed Fabrics (Leviticus 19:19) Was Wrong–  Sometimes it seems the laws in the Old Testament don’t make sense. Here’s an interesting post on critiques of the Hebrew Scriptures on these types of laws and points. I got this link from The Poached Egg, a site you should definitely follow!

Americana Dawn: Historical RPG– I don’t often share kickstarters, but when I do, you should take notice! Check out this awesome looking kickstarter for an RPG that is based on early American history. I’m pretty pumped for it!

“Interstellar”- A Christian Perspective on the Film

interstellar“Interstellar” is the latest from the acclaimed Christopher Nolan. A sprawling epic, it delves into some of the deepest questions we face. Here, I will reflect on the film from a worldview perspective. There will be SPOILERS for the movie in what follows.

A Crisis

Humanity must face the slow creep of possible starvation and suffocation on the Earth of “Interstellar.” The “blight” is impacting crops and has caused the death of 6 billion people. It is unclear as to what this “blight” is but it clearly means that humans will not survive if it continues. The question is of our mortality, and although it never becomes explicit, it seems that “blight” could be some kind of analogy for climate change and the problems we may bring upon ourselves.

But humanity’s crisis is not merely mortal; it is also moral. A few hints are offered of this, but the most poignant is when Dr. Amelia Brand spoke to Cooper about how evil does not exist in the places humans are going (at times one-by-one) to explore. She argued that nature itself is not evil; morality is a transcendent concept. The way that it is transcendent is unexplained.

Another aspect of the crisis is epistemological–as the crisis continues, people have rewritten history in order to avoid glorifying space travel. Cooper struggles to form concepts of seemingly transcendent ideas in a universe that he strongly believes is entirely explicable based upon science. The questions these ideas bring up should be clear: how do we know anything?

We’re So Tiny

I watched “Interstellar” in IMAX, and one of the most beautiful scenes was when the Endurance was shown against the backdrop of Saturn. It was a mere speck–a speck of a speck. It poignantly drove home a point that was found throughout the movie: We are tiny. But this message was not found alone; instead, it was juxtaposed against the continued focus on humanity and our struggles to survive in the universe. In a way, though we’re tiny, in “Interstellar,” we’re what is important. Humanity is what it’s all about. Or is it? It seems that the question is ultimately left open; perhaps there is transcendence beyond us. Our (minuscule) place in the universe may point beyond it.

Who Helps Us?

The question is another which is found through the film. Where did the wormhole come from? Cooper assumes that it is from a future humanity–we save ourselves!–but reflection seems to show this cannot be the case. After all, if the wormhole were not there, humans would have had no way of surviving; no future. Perhaps Dr. Brand is closer to the truth, because she argues that love is a transcendent concept which goes beyond space and time. It cannot be fully explained by our calculations.

The film never goes beyond this kind of stirring question, and Cooper’s assumptions are offered as one possible explanation for many questions: perhaps humans do rule all, and perhaps they are the end-all. But realistically, the ultimate questions of morality, the origin and power of love, and some others remain unanswered. I think that’s certainly intentional–it allows viewers to form their own conclusions–but the reality of the situation is that Cooper’s purely scientistic worldview (his notion that science is ultimately the only possible explanation) find itself inadequate to explain reality.

Conclusion

Some have argued that “Interstellar” is merely a secular humanist manifesto, but it seems to me the story is much deeper than that. I have argued above it leaves open several questions about the nature of humanity, our crisis, and the transcendent. Whatever else is said about the film, it is one that will start conversations and one with which, I would argue, Christians need to be conversant. It’s a fabulous space epic that is a must-see.

What are your thoughts? Share your own perspectives in the comments.

The image used in this post is from an official movie poster. I claim no rights to it and use it under fair use.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Movies– Read other posts on this site about movies written from a worldview perspective. (Scroll down for more.)

Like sci-fi movies? Read about another one I really enjoyed in my look at “Edge of Tomorrow.”

SDG.

The image used in this post was a movie poster and used under fair use. I make no claims to the rights for the image.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Why are Christians politically atheistic?

Of note: Atheist Austin Cline has recently linked to my post with his own. He caricatures my argument as saying “Christians should reject secular government.” In fact, I explicitly deny this in my post, as anyone who reads it could see.

I take issue with 3 parts of Cline’s critique. First, he attacks my view that the government can have authority to restrict unrepentant sin. Yet the authority for that restriction is based upon  my assumption granted for the sake of this post; that the government gets its authority from God (Romans 13:1). Cline, being an atheist, obviously will reject that basis for authority. He did not outline his own position on the authority of government, so I cannot comment upon it, but it begs the question to assume that government should be secular, and then use that to critique a theo-centric government I explicate below. Second, he caricatures my argument as being a theocracy, which I deny explicitly, see below. Finally, he frames his post in a way that is clearly meant to induce panic, by calling it “J.W. Wartick: Christians should reject secular government.” There is nowhere that I have advocated that extreme position. In fact, that is also something I deny explicitly, agreeing with the apostle Paul in Romans, who said “Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor” (Romans 13:5-7).

Recently, I was discussing the death of Osama bin Laden and the topic came up about whether he deserved to die, what role it played, and the like. Interestingly, the conversation opened up a discussion I’ve been contemplating. Namely, Why are so many Christians politically atheists?

Consider the death penalty. It was agreed upon that people can deserve the death penalty. Bin Laden, for example, was said to deserve such a penalty, along with serial killers and many murderers. But then the discussion turned to whether the government should deal out such punishment.

The friend offered following principle as normative for Christians:

1) If (some position such as the death penalty) cannot be justified by purely secular means, then it should not be forced onto others.

My immediate and somewhat snarky rejoinder to this argument was/is “Why?”

Why should I be a Christian in every aspect of my life, but when it comes to politics, be secular? Several answers are possible. For example, it could be asserted that “We (Christians) should not force our views onto others.” I think this is a fairly good response. But whence the principle?  Perhaps it comes from the idea of living a Christlike life. But I don’t see anything in the example of Christ which said we had to conform to secularism or take religion out of politics. It would take an interesting argument to say that Christ advocated secularism in the realm of politics.

Or take Paul, for example, who states clearly that the government is God’s servant and doesn’t carry the sword “for nothing” (Romans 13:4). Not only that, but the reason the government carries the sword is in case “you do wrong.”

And what, exactly, is wrong? I think it would have to be obvious that, for a Christian, that which is wrong is defined by that which goes against God’s nature and/or commands. But then it seems as though Paul is charging the government to follow that same standard, not some supposedly neutral standard. I’ve argued elsewhere against the plausibility of atheism as a neutral ground. I think it should be clear that atheism is not neutral in regards to religion; rather, it is against religion.

Therefore, it seems strange to me that secularism is chosen as the grounds for determining politics. Why should I, a theist, choose to be atheistic in my politics? I suppose the accusation could then fly that I advocate a theocracy. But what exactly is a theocracy? It’s a political system in which God rules and the laws are divine commands. I never argued that’s what I would like the United States to turn into. My view is simply that Christians should cast their votes for those positions which are favored by Biblical teaching and against those which are condemned. I don’t see any reason to divorce that which I hold most dear (Christian theism) as something from which I must be divorced when it comes to the ballot box.

Consider the following argument, which is admittedly somewhat consequentialist:

A) A life of unrepentant sin often leads to unbelief. (w=>y)

B) Unbelief is the only sin which condemns people to hell. (If y, then z)

C) Advocating some policy, x, permits or encourages lives of unrepentant sin. (x=>w)

D) Therefore, advocating x by extension opens the way for more unbelief and condemnation to hell. (1-3)

E) Therefore, Christians should not advocate x.

So I’m advocating a theo-centric view of politics, not a theocracy. On this view, one’s theism takes center stage. Sincere belief in everlasting life and death leads Christians to take steps within the law to prohibit behaviors which would lead to lives of unrepentant sin.

How would this cash out? Would we have to be prohibitionists or go around making lying illegal? I think that the answer to this second question is pretty clear. Within Scripture there is no prohibition of drinking alcohol (quite the opposite, in some cases). Rather, drunkenness is prohibited and/or discouraged. With the damage alcoholism has done to our society, I doubt that laws which took measures to prevent drunkenness would be a bad thing. I think the laws which would go into effect based upon the argument above would look mostly like what we have now. Now take the case of lying. While lying is clearly discouraged in the Bible, I don’t see any precedent therein for making it illegal in a broad sense. To be perfectly clear, lying already is illegal in some senses: take perjury, for example, or slander. I think these are derivative of a Christian worldview anyway, and laws against libel, slander, and perjury seem to fulfill the requirements of the above argument.

Reflecting on the ideas about bin Laden, above, it would appear there is another principle as well: that of honoring the image of God in man. Osama bin Laden did not honor that image, and for the blood he spilled, his blood was forfeit. Therefore, in addition to E), I would suggest:

2) The intrinsic value of humans (which only makes sense on theism anyway) is such that we should vote for issues which place honor of this value first.

To nuance it for Christians,

2′) The image of God in humans should be respected, and Christians should vote for issues which respect this image.

Finally, a note on Biblical ethics. It is extremely important for Christians to realize the distinctions between Law and Gospel and practice correct exegesis when it comes to these issues. I favor a Lutheran view with some theonomic tilt, but it is important to note that almost no Biblical scholars believe the Levitical and most of the other laws within the Old Testament are applicable today in any literal sense. But the question for this post is not which laws apply and which do not; rather it is a challenge to my fellow Christians.

So my question remains: Christians, why are you politically atheists?

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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