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Worldviews in Conflict: Christian Cosmology and the Recent Doctrine of Spiritual Mapping (Part 1)

 

What is Real?

If reality is obvious, why do people everywhere view it so differently? The answer is that the family of mankind fails to agree on what is the best explanation of reality, or the area known as cosmology. Cosmology is a speculative discipline that deals with the study of origins as well as probing metaphysical questions related to the nature of creation and the cosmos. Cosmology is related to one’s “worldview.”2 People form a worldview whether or not they understand or are able to employ the methods and study of cosmology. Every person has a basic worldview that, in turn, acts as a frame of reference. It forms the lens of our perception and affects the way we see and judge all appearances.

Our understanding and perception of the world influences the way we answer primal questions. What is real? Does the real change? Are some things more real than other things? These and other questions are philosophical in nature, but the answers we adopt have very practical consequences for our daily lives. For example, a Christian Scientist practitioner breaks a leg but refuses to seek medical treatment since he is convinced that his physical body is non-real or less real than the mental powers he uses to deny the broken leg. A protesting Buddhist monk in Cambodia douses gasoline on his clothing and sets himself ablaze since he believes that pain and death are ultimate illusions, part of the world of appearances, not the real or true spiritual reality.

Our English language has permitted a number of popular expressions that reflect this common interest in reality. We say, for instance, “get real,” to criticize someone else’s view of reality, and we exclaim, “it was real!” after a heart-throbbing roller-coaster ride. Beyond the expressions and popularized slogans that are characteristic of any culture and language is the troublesome fact that few people ever question the reality they see and experience at a deeper level.

Once it is understood that there will be many interpretations of the same event, we are left with conflicting and contradictory claims. Hence, observing a Hindu sage levitate, in apparent defiance of the law of gravity, draws several competing answers. To other Hindus he has connected to core reality, to the physicist he has overthrown fundamental laws about magnetic force fields, to the world class magician he has pulled off an age-old trick, and to some devout Christians he has been empowered by the devil to perform a demonic feat. The actual truth may even support a combination of interpretations.

Our worldview, or cosmology, affects the way we perceive life and the events that make up our personal life experience. If we presuppose that there is no such thing as the supernatural, and we see an apparition, we will be led to conclude, as Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge, that we had eaten a bad bit of beef. On the other hand, if our culture raised us to see spirits in everything, we may welcome this visitation as an endeared ancestor or friend. The question is no longer about whether there will be different opinions and interpretations, but which one is right and how do we go about verifying our perception of the matter.

For this reason, we should not rely solely on testimonies and anecdotes to “prove” any particular worldview. In the study of miracles, for instance, there are two equally important aspects that need to be analyzed and assessed: (a) the phenomenon itself; namely, did the event actually occur?; and (b) the explanation, or the answer to the question, what caused the event to occur? In the world of religion, the first question is easiest to answer. For example we say, “John was able to walk at 10 a.m. on June 3rd and he never walked before.” This fact is fairly easy to substantiate. The explanation, or interpretation of the cause of the apparent miracle, is usually more difficult and complicated. What if John is a Mormon? or a professed New Age adherent? Countless conflicting testimonies over human history have been used to support Hinduism, Mormonism, Islam, Catholicism, Voodoo, and witchcraft—to name a few.

 

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Category: Fall 2001, Living the Faith, Pneuma Review

About the Author: Larry L. Taylor, M.A., D.Min., is Affiliate Faculty at Regis University in the Denver area and formerly professor of humanities at Portland Bible College. Larry Taylor founded a church in Colorado and has 17 years of pastoral experience.

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