Thursday, March 17, 2016

Viewing the Paranormal through a Biblical Worldview, Pt.1

By Reverend Mark Hunnemann

Is it possible to access the mind of God? The beautifully staggering truth is "yes, we can"--that is precisely what the bible is...God revealing some of His mind to us. I wonder, as bible-believing Christians, if we sufficiently appreciate the astonishing wonderment of God speaking to us...revealing His mind to us? As we shall see, this self-disclosure of God provides the foundation for everything--certainly everything pertaining to our worldview.

Before we apply this worldview thinking to the paranormal, we need to lay the foundation of what a worldview is and does.

This is a longish and not easiest of blogs to read, but love/compassion is often hard, isn't it? Why are there so many professing Christians but such little impact on culture? I believe that a big part of that is due to the fact that we are not discerning enough...not equipped to discern evil and error. This takes hard work--learning how to think with a biblical worldview, but love (for God and man) dictates we do the hard work necessary. Anyway, the whole premise of my blog is to equip to think/analyze issues from a worldview perspective. This is already way too long...enjoy! :)

A provisional definition of a worldview is best conveyed like this: to see with a biblical worldview is to see all of reality through God's see it as He does. Or we could put it like this: a worldview is how we view God and the universe, and our relationship to both. I suppose if there is one thing unique about my book, it is that it teaches about the nature and importance of worldviews. Worldviews are like spectacles through which we view the world, and it effects how we think, feel, and behave. We almost always hold them unconsciously, unless we systematically discuss them as we are now. This is not secret knowledge, like gnosticism/occult, but it is rare, even among pastors, to know how to think with a full-orbed biblical worldview

In my book I list what I consider the seven components of any worldview...

1. What is the nature of God or ultimate reality?

2. What is your purpose in life?

3. What is the nature of reality?

4. Is history going anywhere?

5. What is the basis for morality?

6. What does it mean to be human (essential traits of being human)?

7. What happens to us after we die?

Let me ask three questions: do you see how utterly basic these questions divergent the answers would be depending upon whom we asked...and how seriously impoverished and "lost" one's life would be if they lacked certitude regarding them? Sometimes stating a thing negatively can have some shock value which is conducive to this. "I have no clue as to what God is idea why I should get out of bed because I have no clear purpose...I think reality is all in my head...morality is whatever feels right to me....humans are just apes with little hair...we are annihilated when we die...I think..."  Get my point??!!

Before I proceed any further, I believe that one of the best ways we learn is just by doing. So, the next time you read a novel, go to an art gallery, watch a TV program or movie, and so on, please ask yourself how they/it are "answering" each of the above seven questions. Obviously, the movie director is not going to have one of his cast say, "Hey, this is the worldview of this film...god is energy, pleasure is our purpose...and so on...!" It takes listening carefully to dialogue, and other factors, to pick up the explicit or implicit expressions of the seven worldview components. That is, put into practice the habit of viewing everything through a biblical worldview.  But that involves being able to spot the distortions in one's worldview spectacles,as they are presented on the silver screen or in the novel, ect...After awhile it becomes second nature. We need to develop a distinctively Christian mind if wish to have a substantive impact on our culture (Rom 12:1-2)

I want to introduce a philosophical term--epistemology--a branch of philosophy which deals with the validity, nature, and extent of human knowledge. Put another way--it deals with how we know, and how we know we know..Christians should know this term because it lies at the heart of what ails our country We are not experiencing a generation gap, but instead we are experiencing an epistemological gap (which at root is spiritual in nature). Which has led to what some call "culture wars"Let me explain.

One-hundred years ago there was a basically Christian ethos in our country.. If you were to ask the average person off the street any/all of the seven questions above, most would have given an answer that was roughly based on the bible. If someone disagreed with them in conversation, it was understood that one of them was wrong...or both were. Today the responses to the above questions would be all over the map, leaning heavily toward New Age/neo-gnostic beliefs. And to even gently assert that someone is wrong is taken as an offense...absolute truth lies bleeding in the street. Yes, it is an epistemological gap. How we acquire knowledge regarding basic issues has radically changed.

The seven questions above, which comprise one's worldview, are either answered by God's revelation or man's autonomous speculation. These differing presuppositions lead to radically differing we shall see. Is it not instructive that the first temptation was epistemological in nature? Says Satan/serpent, "C'mon Eve, use your autonomous mind to determine right and wrong...and you'll also discover that YOU are the real a big girl and THINK FOR YOURSELF. Be open-minded!" How we gain knowledge is the key to everything...we either fear God and attain true knowledge of reality or we trust in ourselves and distort reality.

Where do you go to answer these questions? What is your final court of appeal in answering life's most basic questions? Do you look your intuition...your experience...what your heart says--or do you look outside of yourself to the Living God who created heaven and earth, who in His kindness and love, has spoken true-truth to us in His written Word?

Let's go to Psalm 119 to get just a glimpse into what the biblical worldview is. Our epistemic assumption is that we can access the mind of God, and this is done via His special revelation in the bible. ALL knowledge, certainly all the knowledge pertaining to the seven questions above, can only be answered by accessing the mind of God--because we are incapable of ascertaining the answers autonomously...

Please read these verses carefully, and in light of these basic questions. As a philosophy major, it was a beautifully stimulating experience to see the basic questions philosophers had been asking for millennia, and how the bible fit like hand-in-glove in answering them!

"Oh how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day." (119:97)

"I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts." (vv. 99-100)

"Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."(v. 105)

"How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to Your Word." (v.9)

"I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not Your commandments from me." (V.19)

"Righteous are You, O Lord, and right are Your rules." (v. 137)

"The sum of Your Word is truth, and every one of Your righteous rules endures forever. (v.160)

"Your hands have made me and fashioned me; give me understanding that that I may learn Your commandments." (v. 73)

"Forever, O Lord, Your Word is firmly fixed in the heavens. Your faithfulness endures to all generations; You have established the earth, and it stands fast. By Your appointment they stand this day, for all things are Your servants." (vvs. 89-91)

Please forgive my repetition, but these concepts are new to some, and they are vitally important for us to understand (for a whole slew of reasons) Epistemology accents the wonderment of having God's personal revelation to us--explaining who He is....who we are....the nature of the universe--and our relationship to both. Using just Psalm 119 let us give a brief review of a biblical worldview.

1. What is the nature of God or ultimate reality? (119: 89-91, 137) The word used for God throughout the psalm is LORD....which is Yahweh in the OT--this is the covenant Name of God. He is infinite/personal God who created the heavens and earth...all creation is His servant. Energy is not ultimate reality. The gnostic worldview denies the distinction between Creator and creation, and subverts other creational distinctions.

2. What is our purpose in life? Frankly, had Yahweh not revealed this to us, our lives would be utterly meaningless. (v.97) speaks of loving the bible of God, and the God of the bible..the Great Commandment is our noble purpose as redeemed humans. (v.73) God Himself made and fashioned us...we are not cosmic accidents or descendants of monkeys. And of course Jesus Himself declares that loving God is the greatest commandment. Think of all the alternatives we have come up with to replace loving God as our purpose (or dominant life value, as some put it) Calvin said, we are idol factories.

3. What is the nature of reality? It is not an illusion. Matter/energy is not eternal.

(v.89-91) Again, we see that there is a distinction between the Creator and His creation. There are two basic types of reality--the self existent and eternal Creator, and His creation which He created ex nihilo. The physical world is not the full circumference of reality--there is an unseen, spiritual dimension as well.

4. Where is history going? LORD...Yahweh is the faithful God of the covenants--the flow of history (including your personal history) has meaning because history is His-story. The whole psalm points to a God who will hold us accountable for our thoughts, words, and deeds. (v. 19) that we are sojourners here, means that we are preparing to go home! Eastern thought tends to see history as moving in endless, meaningless cycles..NO!

5. What is the basis for morality...or how do we distinguish right from wrong? (v 9, 137, 160) A young person can discover right and wrong by meditating on God's word, which is entirely truthful. Because God is righteous, His laws are righteous..forever. We know that right and wrong are based on the unchanging character of God, as expressed in his written Word. If energy is ultimate reality, then there is no adequate basis for morality. Or if we base it on anything other than God's Word, then it is not a sufficient basis for morality.

6. What does it mean to be human (essential traits)?  v.73 God made us and fashioned us in the womb ( see Ps. 139--fearfully and wonderfully made!) Human beings are not self-referential...As John Calvin said, knowledge of ourselves and knowledge of God are inextricably bound together in a thousand different ways, since we are made in His image. We are certainly not animals or glorified monkeys. We are noble, but we are sinners as well.

7. What happens when we die? Again, we are called "sojourners on earth" (v. 19) We are just passing through this time/place before we enter our eternal rest. We are a body/soul composite, and when we die our soul immediately goes before the Holy Judge of heaven and earth. Death is determinitive of our eternal destiny--either eternity in heaven or hell. At the Last Judgment we will be reunited with our glorified bodies. Hence, any notion of "trapped souls" is repugnant to scripture and to God's holy character. Ed and Lorraine Warren got this issue wrong--unfortunately. Annihilation is also wrong-headed.

(89-91, 99-100,160) All of this discussion would be for naught if it were not for the truth of these verses.The infinite and personal God of the everlasting covenant is really there, and He has not remained silent. His Word is true truth (forever His Word is fixed in heaven) Every one of His righteous rules endures forever. Amen!

Have you ever heard someone say, "I have 35 years researching the paranormal."? I certainly have, and it is often (not always) used as a fact to buttress the force of their argument against what I or someone else has said that contradicted a claim of theirs. Here the psalmist states that he has more true knowledge than his teachers BECAUSE it is grounded in the granite of revealed truth, and not in the shifting sands of man's autonomous speculation.

I have mentioned this example before but it bears repeating: an unbelieving friend of mine, who specializes in getting rid of spirits who are hostile (and they stay busy all year), loudly proclaims two things: they have nearly 40 years of experience, and they have never, ever seen a demon! This is usually followed by a sarcastic, withering criticism of those who stupidly believe that all ghosts are demons. This person is my friend and it grieves me that they are so blind that they cannot even recognize demons when they are attacking or harassing them. Every classic criteria used to determine demonic presence has been met many times over, and yet they still refuse to see reality clearly...tragic, but quite common.If our worldview glasses are distorting our perception of reality, then decades of experience will only make one more foolish in their understanding of the world.

There are no answers to the seven questions above if our epistemology is not grounded in the Word of God. That is, if we do not look to God's revelation to learn what: God is like, the nature of reality, our purpose in life, what is right and wrong...and so on, then we have no adequate foundation for acquiring any knowledge. This may not be exciting, but please know that this is bedrock foundation for building a biblical worldview...reason for getting out of bed and not committing suicide. I am baffled by this optimism which is grounded in a worldview in which impersonal energy is Ultimate reality....that kind of optimism has both feet planted firmly in mid-air.

The paranormal or spirit realm was created by God, He owns it, He sustains it, and He is in absolute sovereign control of it. Hence, next week we shall examine it through a biblical worldview.

Each question is SO basic...if only one is wrong or even partially distorted, it will seriously impact ones life. Yet the majority of people in the world have all of them (seven questions above) partially or totally wrong! Why? Because their epistemology is wrong. This is not rocket science...we either humbly look to God to answer life's most basic questions, or we pridefully look to ourselves...revelation or speculation. We DO have access to the mind of God through the Holy Bible--and that is the foundation of a biblical worldview! Please do try to watch and read with these questions in mind this week...

Part 2 is here:

"Seeing Ghosts through God's Eyes" (also in a Kindle edition)...please consider purchasing my book which uses science, logic, and the bible to analyze the true source of power behind paranormal activity.

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