1 John 1:1-2
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us …”
What is the origin and nature of life? What is the purpose of life? Where do we find the answers to these profound questions?
Yesterday we looked at rationalism, which is the belief that the universe is comprised only of physical laws and matter/energy. The problem with rationalism is that it is not consistent with what we see and what we experience. When we look at the world, we see design. And we long for meaning and significance; we don’t experience life as impersonal and without purpose. We know that we are more than an accidental collection of biological components.
Rationalism appeals to the mind, but it doesn’t satisfy the spirit.
Francis Schaeffer observed that since rationalism fails to provide purpose and significance, many people make a non-rational leap of faith and embrace subjectivism, which seeks the meaning of life in non-rational categories. In the subjective worldview, the reference point for something being “true” is simply that it feels like it’s true.
As such, subjectivism rejects the reality of objective truth, and it rejects rationality. It allows any person to claim that anything is true simply because they believe it. The validity of the object toward which faith is directed becomes irrelevant. It’s all about preference, popular narrative, and subjective feelings.
Because subjectivism severs the meaning of life from any connection to reason, the secular or religious existentialist is left with no categories of truth, and thus no categories of right and wrong. The rational worldview tells man that he is only a machine. Subjectivism, which is the realm of non-reason, tells people that their feelings and preferences are the ultimate authority, thereby rendering people unable to distinguish between fantasy and reality.
“Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.” (Ephesians 4.17-19)
Radical subjectivism is rampant in our political and social system, and is on full and frightful display in today’s narrative-driven culture. Because subjectivism is disconnected from facts and rationality, it is free to create and promote any narrative that advances its agenda. Subjectivism doesn’t appeal to reason; it appeals to emotion. In particular, it appeals to people’s greatest fear or strongest desire, which makes people easily manipulated.
Each of these belief systems—rationalism and subjectivism—is a distortion of life as God created it. Rationalism appeals to the logical mind, but is disconnected from meaning and purpose. It diminishes the spiritual nature of man. Subjectivism appeals to emotion and popular narrative, but is disconnected from facts and reason. It diminishes the rational nature of man. The consequence is that both belief systems produce behavior that is destructive for individuals and society.
In the end, these belief systems can stimulate, but they cannot fulfill. This is because they do not explain life as it actually exists, nor do they explain life as we experience it. Each describes a part of life, but fails to understand and embrace life as God designed it.
“Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (I Timothy 4.7-8)