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And He Himself gave some to be....evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ...
- Ephesians 4:11-12

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Location: The Hill Country of Texas

Pastor - Providence Reformed Baptist Church
Director - TIME in the Word Ministries

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Defining Worldviews - Nihilism

TIME in the Word - Daily Devotional
Together for Inspiration, Motivation, and Encouragement

Verse of the Day - Ecclesiastes 12:13-14
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.

Daily Scripture Reading - Ecclesiastes 1

Puritan Catechism
Question #14 - What is sin?
Answer - Sin is any want of conformity to, or transgression of the law of God (1 Jn. 3:4).

Devotional Thoughts
A worldview is “a set of fundamental assumptions about the most important issues in life.” - Ligon Duncan.

As we continue to evaluate worldviews in light of the Scripture, we have studied Deism, which sets up a grid through which reality is viewed that presents us with an impersonal God and reduces truth to the scientifically observable, and we have looked at Naturalism, which took Deism and removed the impersonal God, leaving only matter. As we discussed yesterday, Naturalism defines truth as scientific fact and differentiates between right and wrong based on a system of meanigless subjectivity. If it is right to you, it is right, and if it is wrong to you, then it is wrong. There is no standard though for determining right and wrong other than believing that the end justified the means. However, who says the end is good or bad? How do we know?

There we find the truly fatal flaw in Naturalism. There is no way to make a determination about right and wrong. Given that the system also places us within a meaningless system of cause and effect based on chance, it is no wonder that Naturalism has been abandoned. Its effects are still visible today in many areas, but as an overall worldview, it has been found lacking and discarded.

The truth is that Naturalism cannot answer the questions that a worldview is supposed to answer! In collapses on itself. Well the system that replaced Naturalism basically presents the Naturalist with this encouragement - take your worldview to its logical conclusion. If the universe is a closed system, right and wrong is subjective, and there is no purpose or goal for us being here, then that means, logically, that there is no such thing as right or wrong or meaning or purpose.

Nihilism

This worldview is known as Nihilism. The Latin nihil means nothing. That is the Nihilistic worldview - it all amounts to nothing! It makes no sense to ask why we are here or what the purpose is. Because the answer is nothing.

So we see then that Nihilism proclaims that matter exists, but God doesn’t. This universe is a closed system. Everything is determined. Human beings don’t have real choices, we’re just cogs in a wheel, and the system is going and we’re part of it, and our choices don’t matter, and what we think doesn’t matter. Nothing matters. We’re machines that are part of a bigger and more complex machine so forth and so on. The idea of true knowledge — it is meaningless. Ethics are impossible. There is no meaning in life. Nothing matters!

So we have moved beyond even needing to define right and wrong. There is no such thing as right or wrong no matter what you think! Charles Darwin identified what was wrong with Naturalism, in fact, and stated the obvious in conclusion:

You know, if it’s true that we’ve evolved from a primitive protein by an inexorable sequence of cause and effect through natural selection, then how can we know that anything in our brains is not just something that is part of a natural process and has no validity in terms of its description of external reality? What if even our understanding of the inexorable sequence of evolutionary process is just a figment of our imagination?

So the answer then, without God, is meaninglessness. It is nothing. It is Nihilism. For without God, and without purpose, and without design, and without truth, and without right and wrong, we are just products of the system. Meaningless, purposeless products. We are the answer to a question no one is asking!

Nihilism rose to the forefront in the mid nineteenth century but really took root in the 1960s and 70s. Nihilism is still around, and most of those who drank most deeply from this poisoned well are now entrenched in the highest levels of the academic world. And the lense through which they view everything says that nothing matters.

One example of a Nihilist creed states:

I fear no man,
I fear no God,
I seek no heaven,
I fear no hell,
I have no heroes,
I have no faith,
I bow before no one.
I am a Nihilist.

Death to Philosophy
Death to God
Death to Government
Death to Ideology
Death to Money
Death to Love
Death to Morality

Beyond right and left,
beyond right and wrong,
Nihilism.

Dr. Duncan discusses one example from a former Nihilist. Dr. Budziszewski, who right out of graduate school applied for a faculty position at the University of Texas. He was interviewed and asked why he should be hired to serve as a professor of philosophy and government. His reply?

First, he said that we human beings just make up the difference between good and evil. There is no difference between good and evil, we just make it up. And then he answered that we are not responsible for what we do, anyway. Then he laid out a ten year comprehensive plan to show how we could rebuild all philosophy and political theory around these two points.

And he got the job!

By God's grace he was later converted and has written extensively about Nihilism and its effect on those who hold to this worldview. He has also given guidelines for combatting the influence of Nihilism in academic institutions.

So how does Dr. Budziszewski describe the Nihilistic worldview and its consequences? He writes that there were several things that drove him into this worldview, and those are telling as to what a Nihilist really believes deep down in his heart!

His reasons for being a Nihilist, in summary:

1. He was oppossed to the Christian faith.
2. He refused to repent of certain sins he had committed.
3. He was taught Nihilism in school.
4. He was taught there is no absolute truth, facts are just opinions.
5. His disbelief was a way to get back at God.
6. He fell for the teachings of Frederich Nietzsche (more about him in the days to come).

In short, the Nihilist believes that if he cannot be God then neither can God be God! It is that root of all sin, pride. There is no God and nothing matters! There is no personal responsibility, no right or wrong, no truth just opinions, and no meaning for anything. It truly is faith in nothing.

The Bible
Striking a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick (Solomon)

Solomon was a Nihilist of sorts, before he got his thinking straightened out by the Spirit of God! He proclaimed after studying all sorts of topics that all of life was just "vanity of vanities, all is vanity." There is no profit, no reason, no meaning - all is meaningless. It is all worth nothing.

But if this is true, then why did he finish the Book of Eccelsiastes and write the Book of Proverbs? He had a change of heart. He came to see that man without God has no meaning, but man cannot deny the existence and active involvement of God in our lives. He can repress the truth about God, but ultimately, men know He is there and that He will hold us accountable!

Let us examine then the writings of Solomon and see what they tell us about answering Nihilism. In Ecclesiastes 2:17 Solomon concludes, "I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind." His worldview brought him to despair, to even hating life. So what was his response?

In chapter 3 Solomon admits that everything has a purpose and a time. He also admits that we have duties in this life given by God for particular reasons, and in fact, declares, "He has made everything beautiful in its time." Instead of meaningless and destruction Solomon begins to see that God in His timing and purpose indeed makes everything beautiful, "in its time."

He begins to see that God has given us good things to enjoy in this life, so that we might rejoice and do good. And that God will require an account of us. There is nothing like accoutability to snap us out of a pessimistic, self indulging delusional worldview!

In chapter 5, Solomon instructs us to "walk prudently" before God. To guard our steps, or to walk precisely and carefully. Paul in the New Testament says it this way, "walk worthy of the calling with which you were called" (Eph 4:1-6).

True to his writings in Proverbs, Solomon in chapter 7 begins to speak about wisdom, having a right perspective about these things. "Wisdom is good....wisdom gives a defense....wisdom gives life," he writes. And whether we prosper or lack, God is in control and is working out His purposes.

Throughout the rest of the Book of Ecclesiastes we find Solomon dealing with his own hopelessness and the thoughts that lead him to reject a worldview that tells him that all is vanity. And the foundational element of what he has to say to combat this meaninglessness is that there is a God, He is involved in our day to day lives, He cares, and He has a plan and is carrying it out.

In fact, perhaps the best remedy for a Nihilistic worldview is to take a look at God and see Him as He really is. A right view of God allows no room for a hopeless, helpless, meaningless, purposeless, life of faith in nothing! It is intersting to me then that Nihilism is nothing short of an attempt to deny the existence of God coupled with a desire to have no accountability. It is man saying "I am God and I will do whatever I want to do."

The answer to Nihilism then is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Links for Further Study
This week I will be providing links that you can use to study each daily topic in more detail if you have the desire and the time!

Dr. J. Budziszewski writes Escape from Nihilism
Doug Groothuis on Nietzsche and Postmodernist Nihilism
Dr. John MacArthur on God: Is He? Who Is He?

Bible Reading For Further Study

Recommended Songs for Worship

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