A-1 - Encouraged by What You Read?

In part 1 of this two-part series I noted that for Christians to effectively engage secularists in meaningful discussion, it is vital to understand secularists’ beliefs. I also pointed out that many people often refer to atheism (the view that no God or gods exist) as an overarching worldview, but it would be more correct to say that the worldview that encompasses atheism is called naturalism.

Philosophical naturalism, as traditionally defined, is the worldview system that regards the natural, material, and physical universe as the only reality. The world of nature is all that actually exists.It is a secular worldview because there is no God or the supernatural. In the first post, we surveyed four characteristics of secular naturalism. Here are four more “family traits” of this worldview.

5. Darwinian Evolution

Following the theory set forth by the English scientist Charles Darwin (1809–1882), naturalists assert that all life is the result of purely natural processes. Evolution2 as a biological theory holds that complex life-forms developed from more primitive life through a variety of mechanisms that include natural selection and common descent. Unfit life-forms (species poorly adapted to their environments) are eliminated in the struggle for survival, whereas life-forms better adapted to their environments survive. On naturalism, human beings occupy the highest rung of the evolutionary ladder. Thus, naturalism accounts for life on this planet without appeal to a supernatural creator.

6. Antisupernaturalism

By insisting on accepting natural causes only, naturalism by its definition dismisses the existence of the supernatural realm. Philosopher Peter A. Angeles explains this single-minded focus on the physical world: “No reality exists other than processes (events, objects, happenings, occurrences) in space and time.”Thus, on naturalism, appeals to the supernatural are considered unscientific and illegitimate. Yet, whether one can legitimately explain the physical cosmos without appeal to something beyond the natural remains a serious challenge for this secular worldview.

7. Atheism

Naturalists typically affirm an atheistic outlook, believing that no God or gods exist. Because no supernatural realm exists, a supernatural deity that affects the natural universe from the outside can’t exist. Atheism asserts that no God or gods are real entities, thereby rejecting the biblical God who (by definition) is an infinite, eternal, spiritual being. For naturalists, God is a mere human invention. Yet the overwhelming majority of human beings, including intellectuals in various fields, affirm God’s existence or a religious perspective of some kind.4

8. Secular Humanism

The philosophical viewpoint of secular humanism5 strongly embraces all seven previous family traits and also emphatically opposes belief in God, religion, and anything supernatural. Rather, it firmly endorses some form of scientism, biological evolution, and usually a materialist/physicalist ontology (state of ultimate being). Secular humanists seek to explain meaning, rationality, and morality in life without appealing to God. However, again it is difficult to ground these critical aspects in a purely natural world.

These four additional general characteristics help describe the secular worldview of naturalism. I hope that this brief series has helped to inform you of secularism’s general beliefs. Being equipped for fruitful dialogue requires a level of mutual understanding that often leads to positive outcomes.

 

Reflections: Your Turn

Of the four elements described above concerning secular naturalism, which do you find most interesting? How important is it to understand the beliefs of others? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.

Resources

I explain and critique the family traits of secular naturalism from a Christian worldview perspective in “Naturalism: A Secular Worldview Challenge” in Kenneth Richard Samples, A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test.

 

Check out more from Reasons to Believe @Reasons.org

Endnotes
  1. For a popular website that explains and defends naturalism, see www.naturalism.org.
  2. For a brief but helpful definition of “evolution,” see Peter A. Angeles, The HarperCollins Dictionary of Philosophy, 2nd ed. (New York: HarperCollins, 1992), s.v. “evolution.”
  3. Angeles, s.v. “naturalism.”
  4. For arguments in favor of God’s existence, see chapters 1 and 2 in Kenneth Richard Samples, Without a Doubt: Answering the 20 Toughest Faith Questions.
  5. For a helpful article on secular humanism, see Angeles, The HarperCollins Dictionary of Philosophy, s.v. “humanism.”

 

About The Author

Kenneth R. Samples

I believe deeply that "all truth is God’s truth." That historic affirmation means that when we discover and grasp truth in the world and in life we move closer to its divine Author. This approach relies on the Christian idea of God’s two revelatory books - the metaphorical book of nature and the literal book of Scripture. As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. My writings and lectures at RTB focus on showing how the great doctrinal truths of the faith (the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, creation ex nihilo, salvation by grace, etc.) are uniquely compatible with reason. This approach reflects the historic Christian apologetics statement - "faith seeking understanding." I work to help myself and others fulfill Peter's words in 2 Peter 3:18: "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen." As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. • Biography • Resources • Upcoming Events • Promotional Items Kenneth Richard Samples began voraciously studying Christian philosophy and theology when his thirst for purpose found relief in the Bible. He earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy and social science from Concordia University and his MA in theological studies from Talbot School of Theology. For seven years, Kenneth worked as Senior Research Consultant and Correspondence Editor at the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and regularly cohosted the popular call-in radio program, The Bible Answer Man, with Dr. Walter Martin. As a youth, Kenneth wrestled with "unsettling feelings of meaninglessness and boredom," driving him to seek answers to life's big questions. An encounter with Christian philosophy in Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis led Kenneth to examine the New Testament and "finally believe that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God, the Lord and Savior of the world." From then on, he pursued an intellectually satisfying faith. Today, as senior research scholar at Reasons to Believe (RTB), Kenneth uses what he's learned to help others find the answers to life's questions. He encourages believers to develop a logically defensible faith and challenges skeptics to engage Christianity at a philosophical level. He is the author of Without a Doubt and A World of Difference, and has contributed to numerous other books, including: Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men, The Cult of the Virgin, and Prophets of the Apocalypse. He has written articles for Christianity Today and The Christian Research Journal, and regularly participates in RTB's podcasts, including Straight Thinking, a podcast dedicated to encouraging Christians to utilize sound reasoning in their apologetics. He also writes for the ministry's daily blog, Today’s New Reason to Believe. An avid speaker and debater, Kenneth has appeared on numerous radio programs such as Voice America Radio, Newsmakers, The Frank Pastore Show, Stand to Reason, White Horse Inn, Talk New York, and Issues Etc., as well as participated in debates and dialogues on topics relating to Christian doctrine and apologetics. He currently lectures for the Master of Arts program in Christian Apologetics at Biola University. Kenneth also teaches adult classes at Christ Reformed Church in Southern California. Over the years Kenneth has held memberships in the American Philosophical Association, the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the Evangelical Theological Society, and the Evangelical Press Association. The son of a decorated World War II veteran, Kenneth is an enthusiastic student of American history, particularly the Civil War and WWII. His favorite Christian thinkers include Athanasius, Augustine, Pascal, and C. S. Lewis. He greatly enjoys the music of the Beatles and is a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan. Kenneth lives in Southern California with his wife, Joan, and their three children.

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