One of the most important foundations for a person's life, and many times, one of the most neglected, it their worldview. I invite you to join me in an examination of my perspective on worldview. This can also be referred to as your life paradigm, the filter through which you interpret reality.
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This is a compilation of some of my writings over the years, many of which I have produced as eBooks on Bookrix.com and made for free on various eBook sites, such as Google Books, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and several others. The other writings come mostly from my Facebook Blog.
I offer my perspective on various issues, but more importantly, I challenge the reader to think, and not just accept blindly many of the packaged solutions and preconceived patterns of thought our society offers.
As the reader will notice very quickly, the foundation for many of my observations and conclusions have, as their framework, the opening chapters of the book of Genesis. I would like to challenge you to think through some of the things you have been taught and have taken for granted. It is my contention that there are many wrong ideologies that have influenced our interpretation of life in this day. Through time these have captured the minds of men and prevented many people from being able to think rightly on important matters.
You may not agree with some of what I say, but if I have challenged you to think outside the box, and think independently, I will feel that I have accomplished my objective.
You will also notice that the writings in the first part of the book are longer, more drawn out presentations of my worldview, based mostly on the Biblical account of Creation. This is really the foundation for a right understanding of reality, and it is important to get it right. I probably get a little too redundant on some themes, admittedly.
The second part of the book is shorter observations, life lessons from my observations in Scripture, and my own experiences.
I do not try to answer all of the questions that Scripture poses. That would take a whole world of books. But, it is my hope, that in reading this, some would be challenged, and learn to love the Word of God, and as a result, grow richly in their relationship with Him. Let His holy name be praised!
I hope you enjoy. Feel free to communicate any feedback to [email protected] Please note that when I am writing, and refer to the human race, or man, I mostly use the male gender. This is simply for the sake of making writing easier, and in no way reflects an idea that male is superior to female. I also frequently use “man” meaning “mankind” or “the human race” for the same reason. It just makes writing easier than constantly differentiating between male and female.
A common phrase that I often hear people use goes something like this: “That may be true for you, but it is not true for me.” Or, “That is your truth, but it is not my truth.” This seems to imply that we can all just believe whatever we want to, and because we believe it, it then becomes true for us. Truth becomes a personal matter. Rather than putting that phraseology in terms of truth, it would make more sense to put it into terms of belief. It would make more sense to say, “That is what you believe, but it is not what I believe.” People believe many things, but just believing something does not make it true. In order for anything to be true, it has to correspond to reality. In order for humans to be able to have reasonable communication, there has to be a consensus of how we interpret reality. Right now, I am typing this on a Dell Laptop. I do not know of any sane person who might witness me typing on this Dell Laptop and ever come to the conclusion that the device I am using is anything else. If a person walked up to me and said, “That is a nice purple elephant you are using to type on” I would not say, “Well, saying it is a purple elephant is your truth, but it is not mine. My truth is that it is a Dell Laptop.” Instead, I would probably think, “This person is a nut case.”
It seems very reasonable and straight forward using that exaggerated example. But, if you think about it, it seems like people who throw out those terms about truth being a personal matter don’t really take that line of reasoning to its logical conclusion. That is the fallacy of Relativism. It makes the interpretation of reality a very subjective matter. This breaks down all sane communication. It eventually leads to a form of communication in which words mean nothing. If our ideology does not conform to reality, it is meaningless. In all practicality, we do not live our lives this way, despite what might come out of our mouths.
Some of the definitions of relativism are as follows:
“a view that ethical truths depend on the individuals or groups holding them”, “the theory that value judgements, as of truth, beauty, or morality, have no universal validity but are valid only for the persons or groups holding them”, “the belief that there is no absolute truth, only the truths that a particular individual or culture happen to believe.”
If there is no such thing as ultimate truth, truth that exists in and of itself, apart from what individuals or groups of people do or do not think or believe, then there is no basis for individuals or groups of people to judge the actions of others as either right or wrong. Saying that we do not judge the actions or beliefs of others sounds very enlightened and tolerant in theory, but it is not what we put into practice in our behavior, so the theory or idea of relativism has no basis in reality. Let me give you a few examples of what I mean by this:
Any sane person who knows anything about world history understands what a horrible nightmare unfolded in Germany from 1933 to 1945 under the reign of Adolf Hitler. Millions of Jews and other minority groups deemed undesirable by the Nazi party were tortured and exterminated. Many other examples throughout world history could be used to illustrate this, I just chose to use this one to make a point.
The irony of this is that, even though we understand this as a horrible tragedy, to the people of Germany at the time of severe economic hardship, this seemed like the answer to their problems, and seemed reasonable to a large portion of the population at the time. Many people in Germany probably just bought into the propaganda initially because it offered the promise of a more secure life. In the end it turned out to be nothing but a hellish nightmare.
If relativism as a paradigm of reality has any validity, then the acts of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party cannot be judged by others as being wrong. To them, at the time, it seemed right. We know this is not reality. Everything inside a sane person screams out that this is wrong. Genocide, whatever the context is reprehensible.
If you are a parent, imagine that one of your children were brutally and senselessly murdered in a mass shooting, (which, as of late, has become far too commonplace.) Would you be willing to hold to the idea that there was nothing wrong with the actions of a deranged person who took your child’s life in an act of violence simply because to the murderer, his truth was that the act was justifiable and necessary, based on his interpretation of reality? I don’t think so! You would probably want to get your hands on that person and administer your own brand of justice!
So, getting back to what I said earlier, relativism sounds good in theory, but it has no basis in reality. This is not the way people, even those who hold to the dogma of relativism, live their lives in the real world. It is a self-contradicting interpretation of life.
So, the next time you hear someone mouth a phrase that goes something along these lines, “That is your truth, but it is not my truth”, ask yourself the question, “Is it possible that truth does exist?” I believe that it does, and it is not based at all on our private, subjective interpretations. This being case, the discovery of absolute truth should be the highest aspiration that any of us have. Reality, ultimate reality exists regardless of our culturally influenced opinions.
People use a common expression, "You think too much." I think all the time. I am always thinking. I can't shut it off. Sometimes I wish I could. I sometimes wish my mind had an OFF switch I could flip when I get tired. It doesn't.
Some people don't think enough. They just blindly listen to all of the current chatter, and take popular, current trends for granted and blindly go with the ideologies of the crowd, whether they realize that is what they are doing or not.
There are lots of great thinkers in the world. The problem is that thinking, in and of itself, is not enough. Many people think and come to the wrong conclusions. Thinking, in and of itself, will always lead to the wrong conclusions in regards to ultimate matters, and ultimate reality. We live in a society that has been mentally and spiritually poisoned by the idea that there is no such thing as ultimate truth. With this as a guiding principle, people think, and come to the wrong conclusions.
Ultimately our understanding of truth has to start with faith. Everyone starts with a faith in something whether they realize and/or admit it. A lot of people in our society have a faith in Science's ability to answer all of our questions. This is foolish. Science is important, and I am not discrediting it. Science is the observation of the material world as we are able to perceive it with our physical senses, and then drawing conclusions and making predictions about the outcome of if/then scenarios. Experiments to prove anything have to repeatable, with the same outcome, so science helps us predict how our world behaves. It serves a good purpose. But it is not ultimate truth. That has to originate outside of ourselves.
Right thinking starts with a faith that ultimate truth does exist, it can found, and it is knowable. Wrong thinking starts with the notion that man's mental capacities are the ultimate measure, and that there is nothing outside of that. But if you think about it, that notion is also a form of faith, because the idea that the human mind is also the ultimate measure can't be proven, and if it is said that it can be proven, then you wind up with the paradox that you are starting with the very thing you are attempting to prove, and using that measure to prove it. That makes no sense. That is like me saying, "I am going to prove that what I am writing is true by comparing it to what I am writing." The previous sentence proves the absurdity of this notion. You can't compare your idea to itself to prove anything.
Children always start out asking the WHY questions. Why is the sky blue? Why don't cats like water, etc. They do ask the WHAT questions, I don't deny that, but the WHY question seems to be more predominant.
We all start out asking the why questions, and we should continue to do so throughout all our lives. But something inside us hardens as we get older. We seem to stop asking the Why questions. Science, which I simply define as the observation and manipulation of matter, and the prediction of outcomes based on repetition, can answer a lot of the What questions, and it is useful. But it cannot answer the Why question. Right theology answers the Why questions. I love good theology. Yes, it is based on faith, but so is everything else, whether people admit it and/or recognize it or not. Any system of thought, no matter what it is, has to start out with some given, some unanswerable question, some starting point, and that is faith in that one thing, no matter what it is. Faith, rightly defined, is not a religious matter at all, it is simply a fact. You have faith, or belief in something you can take for granted. You have to, otherwise you would go insane. The problem is, too many people start out with the wrong given, the wrong first thing that can be taken for granted, and disregard the right ones. An atheist has just as great a faith, or belief, as a theologian, he is just starting out with the wrong first principle and then building everything else on that foundation.
Paradoxical Paradigm is a book in concept that was born in my heart and mind a number of years ago. I have written and rewritten this work to make it as understandable as possible. It is a journey in thought, and examination of what makes us think and act the way we do. I will admit from the start that I do not claim that the thoughts and ideas expressed here are totally my own. There are numerous authors more qualified than me who have expressed similar thoughts and ideas using different terminology in other publications. My hope is that in my efforts, in my method of expression, I can capture the readers’ attention in such a way as to create a desire for each reader to examine his/her own journey of thought and self-revelation. The question I want to provoke is, “Why do we think the way we do, and interpret life the way we do?”
Let’s examine what I mean by the title, “Paradoxical Paradigm”.
Paradox: A statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd, but in reality, expresses a possible truth. Any person, thing, or situation exhibiting an apparently self-contradicting nature.
Paradigm: An example, serving as a pattern or model. A framework containing the basic assumptions, ways of thinking, and methodology that are commonly accepted by members of any field of study. A cognitive framework shared by members of any discipline or group.
Although I am not aware of these two terms being merged in the sense I am using, a plausible definition for paradoxical paradigm I would propose would go something like this: “Any set of assumptions constituting a way of interpreting reality that may seem self-contradictory, but which could express a possible truth.”
How do you interpret life? That is one of the most basic and fundamental questions that all of us need to ask ourselves. All of us have some basic idea or belief about what life means. All of us have beliefs about right and wrong. We may not agree about what is right and what is wrong, but we cannot deny having some perception about this. There is no such thing as “value free” anything. One trend that was popular in the public school system for a while was what is referred to as “value free education”. Just teach the facts. Don’t inject morality into anything. This concept is total nonsense as far as I am concerned. Everyone involved in the educational system has some set of beliefs about what is morally right and what is morally wrong whether these beliefs or ideas agree with their peers’ beliefs or not. To say that those values do not exist is not true. For example, many schools have implemented a “no bullying” policy. In essence, this is a statement of belief that bullying is wrong and should not be practiced or tolerated, thus implying a value, or an assumption of morality. In a truly “value free” educational environment it would be perfectly acceptable to cheat on a math test, because, to say that cheating is wrong implies a value. Academic honesty is valued. In a value free educational system, the bully has every right to take his classmates’ lunch money by force if, in his mind, it is okay. What right would the teacher have to impose his belief that the bully’s action is wrong? Value free is a theory that has no basis in reality. People do not live that way.
Another nonsense statement people make goes something like this: “Your values are not my values”. This implies that we are all free to choose what we think is right and wrong based on our own whims. If this were true, if there was no such thing as real right and real wrong, only what each individual’s perception of right and wrong is, then we have no basis for calling anyone out on their actions, because for them, it might not be wrong. This is nonsense. If someone stole your wallet, what aspect of that action would anger you? Perhaps, in their way of thinking, it was justifiable because they had a financial need that stealing your wallet would fix. Obviously, their values and not the same as yours. But you think your values are right, thus implying theirs to be wrong. So, you have passed judgement on another person’s values. Would someone stealing your wallet anger you because you are being inconvenienced? You will have to replace your driver’s license, credit and debit cards, and all the other important things in your wallet. Or, is it because there is something inside you that says stealing is morally wrong? Maybe some of the former (inconvenience), but I suspect more of the latter (the belief that stealing is morally wrong). Where does our sense of right and wrong come from? Is it a product of environment and/or upbringing, or is it something that is just hardwired into us that we have no control over? II think it makes more sense to say that it is hardwired into us. It comes from somewhere else.
Beliefs about right and wrong, along with many other things we use to interpret reality, are what constitutes our life paradigms. Our paradigms are what we use to interpret life and reality. Some people will say that they do not have a life paradigm. They will say that life does not mean anything. This is what is referred to as Nihilism. It is my contention that there is no such thing as a true Nihilist. People may think of themselves as Nihilists, but they are liars. It is not possible to live this way. We all have reasons for the things we say and do, whether we acknowledge those reasons or not.
It is also my contention that there is no such thing as a true Atheist. Most of the people I know who profess to be Atheists spend an exorbitant amount of time and energy arguing against something they say is not real. If God is not real, who cares? If you tell me that there is a purple elephant lying in my living room floor, I am not going to waste my time trying to convince you that there is not. I will just think you are nuts, and leave it at that.
I think a lot of people who profess to be Atheists are really people that are just mad at God about something that has happened to them in their lives, or some great disappointment that has occurred. I remember a time in my own life when I wanted to believe I was an Atheist. I was doing a lot of drugs, and honestly had a lot of guilty feelings about the things I was doing. So, I decided to say I did not believe in God. I was up one night, walking around. I remember saying out loud, “God, if you are real, prove it. Do one simple thing to give me a sign. Make that light on that pole over there flicker on and off”. The light did not flicker. I was mad! “Just as I thought, you are not real!” It later occurred to me that if God was not real, how could I be mad at Him? How could I be mad at a non-entity? The fact that I was mad proved to me that I really did believe in God, more so than a light flickering on and off. I saw that the problem was not with God, the problem was with me!
We all have reasons for the things we say and do. Let me give you an example of this: When my alarm clock goes off in the morning, I get up and get ready for work. Why? Why not just sleep in? Do I get up and go to work just because some other people I know are going to be there, and I am just going along for the ride? I don’t think so. (My job is not that great!) I get out of bed and go to work with a basic set of assumptions that go something like this: If I go to work, I will get paid. If I get paid, and use that money to pay my bills, my mortgage will not go into foreclosure. My car won’t be repossessed. My power, gas, water, and internet services will not be cut off. That is my work paradigm. I am not just going along for the ride. Sure, there can be other factors that comprise our work paradigm, such as personal fulfillment in the work we do, a desire to perform well and be a benefit to others, etc. There is a reason for going to work. It is not meaningless. We all operate under some paradigm, or paradigms whether we recognize and acknowledge them or not.
Along those same lines, it must be understood that we all operate under a basic set of assumptions. We all have things that we take for granted. Some people will say, “Don’t take anything for granted. Question everything!” This sounds good in theory, but in reality, no one can live this way. If I really lived this way, I could never do anything very simple, like just sitting down in a chair. I would have to wonder, each time, if the chair would hold my weight, or whether it would collapse. I would have to test it each time. The chair worked last time, but I can’t assume it will hold me this time, because it may have become weakened. This is nonsense. I am not going to torture myself with this mentally every time I sit down, or I would drive myself insane. I am just going to sit down in the chair. (There is a name for this kind of behavior: It is called Obsessive Compulsion Disorder, and it is mentally crippling.) This is not to say that our assumptions can’t be proven wrong and changed. They certainly can, and often should as we mature. Many of the things you thought you understood as a child are proven wrong, or partially wrong, or you gain a better understanding of them as you mature. Sometimes getting older does not necessarily meaning maturing, but it should.
We can compare these assumptions, these givens, to what we refer to in mathematical terminology as constants. An algebraic equation can’t be solved without constants. You can’t have an equation consisting only of variables. That type of equation could never be solved. The best that could be done with that type of equation would be to propose lots of theoretical possibilities. You can’t prove anything without constants. Constants, beliefs, assumptions, whatever terminology you choose to use, are where our paradigms begin. You can’t start with nothing. Every story, every theory, every philosophy, every set of religious beliefs has to start with something. Every story has to have a beginning, an implied “Once upon a time”.
It can also be said that our paradigm is our life’s framework. Every structure has to have a foundation and a framework. If it did not, it could not stand. Our paradigm is what holds our life together, and gives it stability. Our own personal lives, and the world in which we live, can seem very chaotic and confusing at times. Our paradigm must serve as our anchor, our connection to reality.
There can be many aspects to this paradigm. The first aspect is how we interpret things on a personal level. Why am I the way I am? Who am I? Why am I here? How do I interpret things that happen to me, or things I experience? Do I tend to feel victimized, or do I face life as an exciting challenge? Do the things I experience in life mean anything, or do I see them as just random chance? (This is a very significant issue.)
Another aspect of our paradigm is how we interpret other people and our interactions with them. Do we attribute value and significance to others, even to those with whom we disagree? Do we respect others and try to listen to them and understand them, or are we just interested in stating our own opinions and proving ourselves right?
How do we interpret the world we live in? How do we interpret the Cosmos in which our own planet is situated? What does it mean?
Another way of saying all this is that our beliefs form our paradigms. Let’s not get hung up on the use of the word “beliefs”. By beliefs, I simply mean those things we take for granted. Some people may say, “I do not have a system of beliefs”. This can never be true. If you say that you do not believe in God, that means that you “believe” there is no God, so you still have a belief system. You cannot prove that there is no God, and I cannot prove that there is, if we look at proving something in the sense of scientific experiments. So each of us exercises faith in what we believe. So called Atheism is just as much of a faith, a belief in something that cannot be scientifically proven, as is Christianity, or any other world religion. At the core of everyone’s interpretation of reality, however they choose to define it, is a set of beliefs, or assumptions about something, or someone.
Another word that is often used in our vernacular in the way I am using paradigm is worldview. Worldview is a concept fundamental to German philosophy and epistemology and refers to a wide world perception. It refers to a framework of ideas and beliefs forming a global description through which an individual, group, or culture watches and interprets the world and interacts with it
For my purposes I would like to differentiate worldview from paradigm in that our worldview can be a part of what forms our paradigm, but our life paradigm is broader than the portion of it that constitutes our worldview. Our worldview may have more to do with how we know history, and our perception of the world and the Cosmos. Our paradigm gives meaning to those things. It is one thing to know the facts of history, it is another matter entirely to understand their meaning. It is one thing to know the facts about the Universe, or what we can know of it, based on current knowledge. It is another thing to understand the meaning of the Universe. There is a big difference. So people from one period in time may understand the world from a different perspective than those of another period in time, yet share the same fundamental paradigm about the meaning.
The term mindset is also used in a manner similar to paradigm Mindset is not so much the grid through which you interpret reality in the way in which I am using paradigm. Mindset has more to do with your attitude, disposition or mood. It can also be used to identify your intention, or inclination. Your mindset can be influenced by your paradigm, and vice-versa, but they should be recognized as two distinct things for the sake of my assertions here. Having said that, it may be noted that your worldview is probably more easily changed than your paradigm.
I would like to ask you to stop reading for a few minutes and conduct a thought experiment. Take out a sheet of paper, and a pen, or use your laptop or tablet, whatever works for you. Write down ten things that you believe to be true. Write them in their order of importance to you. Then, beside, or under each one, write why you believe it is true. Once you are finished doing this, put it away for later, and continue reading.
Now, let’s get back to the issue of paradoxical paradigm. The phrase, “paradigm shift” became a buzz in psychology, politics, and the academia in the 1980’s and 1990’s. It seemed to me that I was hearing that phrase thrown around more than the words, “rich in antioxidants” on food labels! The phrase, “paradigm shift” is used to represent a change in the perception or understanding of a given subject matter. The idea of paradigm shifts was defined and popularized by Thomas Kuhn in his 1962 work entitled “The Structure of Scientific Revolution”.
A classic example of the paradigm shift that is often used to illustrate the concept is the flat earth verses the round earth view of the world. It is claimed that up to a certain point in history, people thought of the Earth as existing as a flat surface. It does seem that way to the naked eye, because we could not see the entirety of the earth up to a certain point in time when the technology we now have for viewing the world from an outside perspective did not exist. We experience it as we move about more like a flat surface than a sphere. Then, at some point in history, as we began to explore, we came to the conclusion that the Earth is not a flat surface, but a sphere. A paradigm shift occurred in our understanding of the world. The flat earth paradigm was proven faulty, and the round earth paradigm emerged.
Another shift that occurred is known as the Ptolemaic system. This theory went something like this: the earth is the stationary center of the Universe, and all the other celestial bodies, including the sun, revolve around the earth in nice, symmetrical orbits. The theory is a little more complex than that, but that is the gist of it. All this sounded good in theory, and made for tidy, symmetrical drawings. It looked good on paper. As our ability to observe the Cosmos improved, this theory was proven inaccurate, and wrong. This theory was eventually abandoned. As our use of telescopes advanced, we discovered that the earth is only orbited by the moon. We also discovered that the planets in this solar system do not orbit around the sun in circular patterns, but elliptical patterns.
The Ptolemaic system was replaced by the Copernican system. The essence of this theory was the idea that the Sun is the motionless center of the Solar System. This theory was a better explanation than the Ptolemaic system, but it was also flawed. Up until that time, we did not realize that there is much more to the Cosmos than our own solar system. We later discovered that our own Solar System is part of one of many complex Galaxies which make up what we now refer to as the Universe. The Copernican system was also eventually abandoned.
In 1929, Edwin Hubble proposed the Expanding Universe theory. This theory states that the Universe is neither fixed and finite, or infinite, but rather, it is growing, or expanding. This fits in with the premise of the Big Band theory, (the theory that everything in the universe originated with one mass.) This theory states that the Universe continues to expand outward from the original starting point.
These are examples of paradigm shifts that have occurred in astronomy over the course of time. This is by no means a comprehensive list. I do not claim to be an expert in any of these matters, and my explanations may contain inaccuracies. These are examples I am using to lead up to a bigger point I wish to make later in my conclusion.
Other paradigms have existed. Theories explaining the origin of the Universe, the origin of life on planet Earth, have been written, revised, abandoned and/or changed over the course of time. Examples of these include Darwinism, Panspermia (the idea that life, as a force, is eternal, possibly being transported to Earth from other places in the Universe,) Neo vitalism (the doctrine or opinion that the distinctive activities of living beings cannot completely be accounted for as the resultants of the physical and chemical constitution of their bodies and of their movements, according to the principles of mechanics.) Then there is the Oparin - Haldane hypothesis (primordial soup.) These are just a few. For a more thorough explanation of these theories I recommend the reader to The Origins of Life, by Fazale Rana and Hugh Ross, NavPress, 2004.
History is replete with examples of paradigm shifts that have occurred in Man’s system of thought. Our understanding of ourselves, and the world in which we live, is continuously being changed, expanded, and rewritten. Stay tuned for “Life, the Revised Edition”!
We all have certain paradigms, or grids, through which we interpret life. Your paradigm is your filter through which you process information and draw conclusions. There are many things that factor into the formation of a person’s life paradigm. Some of these things we have no control over, others we do. Some of the things over which we have no control are things that were in place even before we were born. For example, I was born a male, in the state of Tennessee, in the United States of America in 1960. My parent’s thoughts and opinions influenced me even before I was old enough to begin thinking my own thoughts. Things that helped to shape my paradigm are much different from, say, a female born in Hong Kong, China in 1996. Many of our cultural influenced are so ingrained in us that we just take them for granted, and do not question them. Many of us don’t take the time to examine our paradigms and question them. We can be controlled by them, and continue on with life without attempting to figure out why we think the way we do. But I think we should.
The beliefs and traditions of our culture, and our family of origin, our families’ socio-economic status, education level, and many other factors play a strong role in the formation of our initial life paradigms. I say “initial” because, even though these things influence us strongly, individuals, as well as societies, are capable of paradigm shifts. We can change.
In regards to traditions, there are two extremes that we tend to swing to, both of which are off balance. The first extreme is to elevate tradition to the point of being an idol. We accept what has been handed down to us in a passive way, never questioning its’ ultimate meaning, and just continue in a set pattern of behavior because “that’s the way it has always been.” When we follow tradition in this passive, non-questioning way, we do not understand what we do, or why we do it. In the Gospel books of the New Testament, we read about how Jesus Christ confronted this use of tradition. The people of Jesus’ time, particularly the Pharisees, had elevated their interpretation of tradition to a place higher than that of the revealed will of God. (An example of this is found in Matthew 15: 1-9.) Take a few minutes right now to look it up and read it.
The second extreme is to obliterate or invalidate tradition entirely. The modern society in which we live tends to swing to this extreme. There is much value and wisdom in learning from our past. Traditions are a part of how we do this. Our ancestors teach us their wisdom through tradition. Traditions instruct us with value from our past. (Please refer to Exodus 12:1-4.) Traditions help form our life paradigm in either a positive or a negative way.
We all have boundaries that we operate within, perhaps consciously or unconsciously. Sometimes these are healthy, and sometimes they are not. I will not jump out of an airplane without a parachute. I consider this a healthy boundary. (Actually, I have never parachuted, but I would like to. I am just using this as an example.) Some people operate within a rigid set of boundaries without understanding why those boundaries exist or what their purpose is. The reason my parachute boundary exists is to keep my body from hitting the ground with undue force should I decide to jump out of an airplane. People who operate within unhealthy, rigid boundaries as their default mode will reject and invalidate anything that is outside of those boundaries. If this is the case, the person’s boundaries become their prison. There is nothing wrong with questioning boundaries, but we question to understand. Our boundaries are part of what make up our life paradigm. Some people are imprisoned within a wrong perception of life.
So, as I have said, one component in the makeup of our paradigm may be tradition. The next is boundaries. There should be things that you simply will not due. If you are married, any romantic or sexual involvement with anyone other than your spouse should be off limits. This is a proper boundary. An unhealthy element of a person’s paradigm might be reaction against something. For some people, this force is anger. A person who has been wronged in some way, for example, a person who was abused as a child, be it emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, may learn at an early age to view the world through the lens of anger. This doesn’t have to be the way a wronged person perceives life, but it can be.
I might also note here that it may be a perceived, and not a legitimate wrong committed against the person. For example, in Genesis, chapter four, we read about the first recorded act of murder in human history. This murder was the result of this type of perceived, not legitimate wrong. Cain, whom we assume was the firstborn son of Adam and Eve, was jealous of his younger brother Abel. The Bible says that God looked with favor on the offering of Abel, but He did not look with favor on the offering of Cain. We learn here that it is not the content of the offering that was the issue, it was the heart attitude of the giver that displeased God. Abel probably gave with a willing and generous heart. This pleased God. There was something about Cain’s heart attitude that displeased God. Maybe he gave with a begrudging heart. All this is speculation on my part, I admit, because the Scripture doesn’t really say. Nevertheless, this made Cain mad. He stewed in his anger. God warned Cain that if he continued to let his anger get the better of him that sin would be his master, and a curse would follow him. God had not wronged Cain in any way, and He did offer help to him with His words of warning. Abel had not wronged Cain in any way. Cain’s perception of reality was distorted. He perceived a wrong that had never been committed, he held that anger in his heart, and it lead him to kill his brother.
I am not saying that all wrongs committed against a person are merely perceived wrongs. Many of them are very real, and when these types of things happen to a person, (being abused for example,) it is natural to get angry. Anger is a normal reaction in these types of situations. But a person who has been wronged has to look at how the anger is affecting him in a negative and destructive manner, even if their anger is justifiable. Sometimes we just have to let things go for our own good.
A sad fact of the world that we live in is that there are whole societies of people whose life paradigm seems to be based on anger and hatred. Some societies seem to be in a constant conflict over social and border conflicts. A good example is the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine. Modern history is replete with peace treaties that have been drafted, signed, and then almost immediately broken between Israel and Palestine to the point of absurdity. Another example is the emergence of Al-Qaeda, (and more recently ISIS.) Al-Qaeda is a fundamentalist Sunni movement founded by Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri around 1988. The most notable characteristic of this movement, as we have been too painfully made aware, since the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, is Al-Qaeda’s call for global jihad. While it may be noted that there is more to the Islamic concept of jihad than this militant aspect, it can’t be rightfully argued that there is ever any justification for these types of acts of violence against innocent people, no matter what the ideological basis.
These are extreme examples of life paradigms formed on the basis of anger and hatred. As I have stated in the examples of people who have been hurt in some way, theirs’ is subtle, but just as wrongly a motivated paradigm of life.
We may be motivated, or driven by anger, and not even realize that this is the force that is driving us. We don’t take the time to analyze it, we just react. This reactionary drive is still based on a set of wrong assumptions. The reason many people are angry is because they have been hurt or disappointed in some way. There is something that wells up inside of us when we are wronged that shouts, “What they did to me was wrong!” Our default tendency is to react, and strike back. I believe that we are hardwired with an inherent sense of justice. This is not explained by evolution. It is part of our being created in the image of God, because God is just.
I have been speaking about both our individual paradigms, and in a broader sense, paradigms as they shape the way people in any given society, at different periods in time, interpret the world around them.
One interesting thing about our paradigms is that we always think ours is the right one. We have a tendency to look back with arrogant pride at the paradigms of previous generations, paradigms that have since been proven erroneous, and yet we don’t realize that, because our knowledge is finite as well, our current paradigms may also, at some point in the future, be proven flawed and become obsolete.
Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren, in How to Read a Book, make the following statements, which I find to be very enlightening:
“Facts are to some extent, conventional. Facts change, we say. We mean that some propositions that are considered to be facts in one epoch are no longer considered to be facts in another. Insofar as facts are “true” and represent reality, they cannot change, of course, because truth, strictly speaking, does not change, nor does reality. But not all propositions that we take to be true are really true; and we must concede that almost any given proposition that we take to be true can be falsified by more patient or more accurate observation and investigation. This applies particularly to the facts of science.”
Paradigms have a way of becoming obsolete over time. Doctors used to think that bleeding people was a legitimate means of ridding people of diseases. It was thought that since diseases are contained within the blood, if you let out enough of a person’s blood in increments, the blood cells would replenish, and this would eventually regenerate new, disease free blood cells. We now know that idea was ludicrous. It was once thought that antibiotics were the cure all for bacterial infections. We are beginning to realize how the overuse of antibiotics to fight bacterial infections may have long term adverse effects. The paradigm that sees antibiotics as a cure all for bacterial infections is being challenged. The same is true for the overuse of pesticides. Not only do pesticides harm the environment, because pesticides have been so overused, many species of insects have built up immunities to the pesticides, and they are no longer effective. The pesticides have to be made stronger or changed. Much has been written lately about the overuse of antibiotics in the mass production of meat. Chickens, hogs, cows, and many other animals we eat regularly are being bred and contained within confined quarters. This subjects the animals to more threat of disease. To offset this, antibiotics are given to the animals, and this makes them also more harmful for our consumption.
Malaria, a disease caused by a parasite carried by mosquitos, is one of the greatest killers on the planet right now. With all our medical advances and new technologies, malaria deaths are on a rapid increase in some areas of the world. The malaria parasite has become resistant to many anti-malaria drugs. Paradigm shifts need to occur in our approach to many of these issues.
Another area where we are in dire need of a paradigm shift in our age is in the field of transportation. I recommend reading Hot, Flat, and Crowded by Thomas L. Friedman, FSG Books, 2008, for a thorough explanation of the challenges we face. Much of the economy of the developed world is dependent on oil for fueling the internal combustion engines that power most of our methods of transportation. We also use it for the production of power. We have to stop burning oil. This is a train wreck waiting to happen, and we have known it for years. A paradigm shift here is overdue.
Our paradigms always change, eventually. Within the last one hundred years we have seen the theories, or paradigms of anthropologists and astronomers revised and rewritten literally hundreds of times. Theories that, at one time, seemed to be “the answer” or correct interpretation of archeological data are later proven faulty as new information emerges. It seems that every time another extinct primate bone fragment is unearthed, all the anthropology textbooks have to be rewritten. I can’t possibly begin to count the number of times I have received new editions of Time and National Geographic magazines that have covered stories about some new anthropological find that has rocked the anthropological community and challenged all of the previous theories.
History seems to prove that our paradigms will always change and eventually become obsolete. With that in mind, I pose a question: “Is there a true, legitimate paradigm that exists, on which we can base our lives, that is not based on the theories or ideologies of any given generation within the history of mankind?” (This would have to be a paradigm that is not subject to change. With what we know of paradigms, this would seem to be a huge paradox.) Is there such a thing as “ultimate reality”, a way of interpreting life that is not based on the shifting sands of contemporary thought? Is there such a thing as absolute truth?
The reason that I have written this is because I would like to challenge you, the reader, to examine how you think, and how you interpret life. Why do you think the way that you do? What is your foundation for interpreting life? What influences have come into play in your life to form your paradigm? Have you ever stopped to think about this? Personally, it took me a long time in my own life to realize that I struggled with feelings of rejection. These feelings originated in me at an early age and influenced the way I interpreted my interactions with others, and things that happened to me. My perception was flawed, and had to change. Our basic paradigms affect all aspects of our lives, our feelings and emotions, our psychological makeup, our interaction with others, and the challenges of life that we face.
Societal paradigms are imposed on us as individuals and affect our own paradigms, or the way we interpret life. We have all been influenced by many societal paradigms that we have not taken the time, or put forth the effort to examine and question. Some of the ideologies (societal paradigms) that have helped to shape the paradigms of our generation include: Evolution, Relativism, Freudian Psychology, Theology, and Secular Humanism, to name a few. These systems of thought have shaped the paradigms that are taught in our education systems.
The Relativist will say that there is no such thing as ultimate reality. The Greek sophist Protagoras has said: “Man is the measure of all things.” This is the pinnacle of arrogance. Another popular way of saying this is that what is morally right is whatever brings the most good (meaning, in this context, temporary happiness) to the greatest number of people. The problem here is, who defines this? Who sets the criteria and measures the results? It is all too subjective. Adolf Hitler, Idi Amin, and Joseph Stalin all thought they knew what was best for the mass of humanity under their rule. History tells of the incomprehensible amount of misery brought on mankind by these men. Communists think they know what is best for the mass of humanity under their control. We don’t think that Communism has the answer, so obviously that ideology is wrong.
I have heard people make statements that go something like this: “Whatever works for you, (meaning your beliefs or ideologies,) may not be what works for me.” Or “We all have to find our own reality.” I see this as a frustrated and futile way of interpreting life. What if my version of reality clashes with your version of reality? Who wins and determines how things are done? The reason that this can’t be a reliable paradigm for life is because people’s ideas about what they think they need to make them happy or fulfilled are fickle and subject to change frequently. When I was ten years old, my ideas about what would make my life happy and fulfilled were much different from what they are now. If I live long enough, I am sure those ideas will continue to change.
The Relativist’s view of life says that there is no such thing as ultimate truth, but truth as we understand it at any given point of time is defined in terms of whatever is occurring right then. Moral Relativism is a system of thought that has poisoned the thinking of our generation. It is a self-contradicting philosophy. If a person thinks that there is no such thing as ultimate truth, then the statement, “There is no such thing as ultimate truth” cannot ultimately be true. It would only be true within the context that they are using it, which makes no sense. So, if the statement: “There is no such thing as ultimate truth” cannot be ultimately true, then the opposite statement: “There is such a thing as ultimate truth” has to be ultimately true, because it can’t be both. You can’t say that something is and is not at the same time. That makes no sense, and does not correspond to reality. If you say that neither statement can be true, then language doesn’t mean anything. Language has to mean something. Language cannot be meaningless, so the Relativist’s assertion that there is no such thing as ultimate truth is also meaningless. Do you see the problem with this ridiculous form of circular logic?
It is impossible for language to be meaningless. Our need for language to make sense is as great as our need for water for survival. You are reading these words right now, and your brain is comprehending them in some capacity. Because that is so, you have to come to the conclusion that the language we are using to communicate is not subjective. It is objective. We don’t determine in a private manner what each word means. That is nonsense. It is my contention that language did not evolve. That is not to say that language is not fluid, because it is. The meaning of words changes over time, because the way we, as a society use them changes. Language must have had a supernatural (metaphysical) origin. Language did not evolve as a result of pre-human primates figuring out each other’s grunts. The Genesis account of Creation explains this in that God made man with the ability to talk the very second he was created, because God spoke to Adam immediately.
Since language must have meaning, the relativist’s conclusion about reality cannot be correct, so, consequently Ultimate Truth must exist.
Truth is not subjective, it is objective. “Subjective truth”, which is what the relativist promotes, is an oxymoron. Ultimate reality, or ultimate truth if you want to use that term, must originate outside our own realm of understanding or interpretation. There has to be an objective, permanent paradigm for life that is not based on the whims of contemporary thought.
Getting back to my question: “Is there a true, legitimate paradigm that exists, on which we can base our understanding of life, that is not based on the theories, or ideologies of any given generation within the history of mankind?” It is my contention that the answer to that question is “Yes, such a paradigm does exist!” There is such a thing as Ultimate Reality, and there is such a thing as truth that does not change. With that in mind, the next question I ask is: “How do we determine what that paradigm is?”
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