This is an online book club discussion of Greg Koukl’s latest book “The Story of Reality: How the world began, how it ends, and everything important that happens in between.”
Start at the beginning to catch up.
“There are reasons for the way things are.”
We know this, which is why we ask “why”.
“As we get older, asking “Why?” goes deeper into the heart of things. We begin asking the question not of any individual think, but of the whole thing. What is the reason for everything? Why am I here? Why is anything here? Why is anything important or good or beautiful? Why?”, p. 17
Or as we have recently lost a dear family member, we ask “Why was his life cut short?”
The nihilist* says that there is no “real” purpose, and the answer to the “why question” is “why not?” A popular book by John Green The Fault in Our Stars gives a nihilist perspective throughout. The youth in his story are dying of cancer and try to reject nihilism by making up their own purpose for life, which consists of close friendships and cathartic emotional release. If you saw the movie, they are left with merely being “OK” with it all. If you’ve read Green’s book, you’ll enjoy this.
*Definition of nihilism: 1.a: a viewpoint that traditional values and beliefs are unfounded and that existence is senseless and useless – “Nihilism.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 21 Dec. 2016.
Chapter 1 – Confusion
Is Christianity any better? Is nihilism the truth and religion merely a very elaborate plan to deceive ourselves with a made-up purpose? Greg outlines this modern (but false) approach to religion on page 22.
“Find the club you like – the one that meets your personal needs, that gives you rules to live by that are respectable but not too demanding, that warms your heart with a feeling of spirituality. That’s the point of religion. Do not, however, confuse religious stories with reality. They don’t give you that kind of information about the world that, say, science does. Yes, believing in God is useful to a point, but religion taken too seriously is, in some ways, like believing in Santa Claus – quaint if you’re a child but unbecoming of an adult.” p. 22
This view is essentially Marx’s dictum that “religion is the opiate of the people”. It is very common even if not stated explicitly by neighbors and colleagues. And it is stated explicitly by many debaters and authors. For example, Philip Kitcher writes in Living with Darwin,
“There is truth in Marx’s dictum that religion, more precisely supernaturalist and providentialist religion, is the opium of the people, but the consumption should be seen as medical rather than recreational. The most ardent apostles of science and reason recommend immediate withdrawal of the drug – but they do not acknowledge the pain that would be left unpalliated, pain too intense for their stark atheism to be a viable solution.” (Kindle Location 1626 of 1862), OUP 2007.
Kitcher wants religion to flourish as a community-building useful fiction, but he wants to rid it of any claim to reality.
Greg disagrees, and in his book, makes the bold claim that,
“Christianity is a picture of reality.”, p. 23
Christianity is an all-encompassing worldview among many others. And in this book Greg is walking us through the process of evaluating how the “many puzzle pieces of life” fit together if Christianity is the “picture on the front of the puzzle box”. Likewise, fewer of life’s puzzle pieces fit together if a different worldview is used as the picture on the front of the box. That’s where we are headed in Chapter 2. Next time.
Give me your thoughts in the comments. Buy your copy of Greg’s book so we can have substantive discussions. (Again, I get nothing from his book sales.) And if I get behind, start your own blog post on the topic so we can get into dialog. It’s easy. – DLW