Who God Is

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We can’t exhaustively define God, of course, but this description cited by Dallas Willard is edifying.

God is “the eternal, independent, and self-existent Being; the Being whose purposes and actions spring from Himself, without foreign motive or influence; he who is absolute in dominion; the most pure, the most simple, the most spiritual of all essences; infinitely perfect; and eternally self-sufficient, needing nothing that he has made; illimitable in his immensity, inconceivable in his mode of existence, and indescribable in his essence; known fully only by himself, because an infinite mind can only be fully comprehended by itself.  In a word, a Being who, from his infinite wisdom, cannot err or be deceived, and from his infinite goodness, can do nothing but what is eternally just, and right, and kind.”

— Adam Clarke in Cyclopaedia, vol. 3 (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1894), 903-4, quoted by Dallas Willard in Knowing Christ Today, chapter 4, n. 1.

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Dallas Willard on Worldviews

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“You cannot ‘opt out’ of having a worldview.  You can only try to have one that most accords with reality, including the whole realm of facts concerning what is genuinely good.  What is true of individuals in this respect is also true of social groups and even whole societies or nations.

“One’s worldview need not be recognized as such to have its effects.  Much of it lies outside our consciousness in the moment of action, embedded in our body and its social environment, including our history, language, and culture.  It radiates throughout our life as background assumptions, in thoughts too deep for words.  But any thoughtful observer can discern the essential outlines of what it is.

“What we assume to be real and what we assume to be valuable will govern our attitudes and our actions.  Period.  And usually without thinking.  But most people do not recognize that they have a worldview, and usually it is one that is borrowed, in bits and pieces, from the social environment in which we are reared.  It may not even be self-consistent.

“. . . [B]ecause worldview is so influential, it is also dangerous.  Worldview is where we most need to have knowledge, that is, secured truth.  Perhaps we cannot have knowledge of our worldview as a whole, and some parts of it will then always consist of mere belief or commitment.  But for some parts we can have knowledge if we put forth appropriate efforts, and some parts of some worldviews can certainly be known to be false.”

— from Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge (HarperOne, 2009), 44, 45.

* For numerous resources by Dallas Willard, see his website.

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Dallas Willard on Outrageous Claims Made in the Name of Science

Philosopher Dallas Willard writes, “[I]ndividuals with standing in a particular professional field sometimes feel free, or even obligated, to cloak themselves in the authority of their area of expertise and make grandiose statements such as this by a professor of biological sciences [Willard quotes William B. Provine of Cornell University]:

Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear. . . . There are no gods, no purposes, no goal-directed forces of any kind.  There is no life after death.  When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead.  That’s the end for me.  There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning to life, and no free will for humans, either.

“Logically viewed, this statement is simply laughable.  Nowhere within the published, peer-reviewed literature of biology—even evolutionary biology—do any of the statements of which the professor is “absolutely certain” appear as valid conclusions of sound research.  One trembles to think that an expert in the field would not know this or else would feel free to disregard it.  Biology as a field of research and knowledge is not even about such issues.  It simply does not deal with them.  They do not fall within the province of its responsibilities.  Yet it is very common to hear such declamations about the state of the universe offered up in lectures and writing by specialists in certain areas who have a missionary zeal for their personal causes.”

Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge (HarperOne, 2009), 5.

Well said.  I do admire Provine, however, for following his naturalism to its logical conclusions, and being willing to state those conclusions openly:  there are no purposes, no life after death, no objective right and wrong, no meaning to life, and no free will.  I absolutely agree with Provine that these are the logical implications of metaphysical naturalism.  They are the stark realities that atheists of previous generations (such as Nietzsche and Sartre) embraced—and lamented.  But most popularizers of atheism today want to have their atheism and eat their cake, too.

They want to proclaim a universe without deity, but also make moral pronouncements (as if they were something more than mere opinion), live as if the will is free (do they embrace atheism because it’s rational or because they couldn’t choose otherwise?), and maintain an unjustified optimism about human life and progress through science (why bother doing science if life has no meaning?  Why even get out of bed every day?  And how do we explain the great evil human beings are prone to do?).

Provine is right.  But why anyone wouldn’t fall into the deepest depression if they held such beliefs is incomprehensible.  Such propositions can live freely in the ivory tower of abstract academic thought, but they’re unlivable in concrete human experience.  Thus, I can only conclude that those who hold such views don’t actually take them very seriously.  If they did, we would witness their lives spiraling into chaos in a very short time.

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