Saturday, November 25, 2006

British Airways: Secularism Takes Hit in England

By Rick Pearcey

Secularists tell us that God and religion relate to private matters that have no place in public life or polite society. This is not a convincing view, but it is a commonly held view, so much so that many bright people may affirm it without really having thought it through.

It's not at all difficult to imagine the head-shaking that might be going on in some circles upon hearing that British Airways is backing down on its policy of banning employees, such as Nadia Eweida, from wearing a Christian necklace or other symbol at work, in full view of staff and customers.

But no one should be shocked. Not really. If you understand the concept of "worldview," you shouldn't be shocked. And if you understand Christianity, you shouldn't be shocked.

This suggests two sets of comments.

1. Everyone has a worldview (some have elements of many). A "worldview" is your "view" of the "world," that is, your basic philosophy of life, the set of principles and assumptions about reality that you rely on to navigate existence in all its wonder and all its challenge.

In this sense, Nadia Eweida has a worldview and so does the CEO of British Airways. As does every customer and baggage-handler. Even the scientist in the lab has a worldview and so does the village pragmatist. Having a worldview is part of what it means to be a human being.

Worldviews will not be denied. This is because people seek to externalize these their most deeply held convictions (even if they are not aware of them). People regard these convictions as reliable guides to life, as truths and principles to live by. Over time they become "common sense."

People try to live consistently with their worldview. This is understandably an attempt to avoid a schizophrenic way of life. You don't have to a saint to prefer unity and integrity in behavior instead of a kind of hypocrisy (or harm) that results when one's worldview is denied an honest expression.

2. Some religious worldviews are private, but Christianity is not one of them. It's personal, yes, but not private.

It's personal because it involves the whole person. It treats human beings holistically and does not burden individuals with one set of ideals for public life and then a different set of ideals for private life.

The God of the Bible is a public figure. The truth-claims regarding his character and existence can be rationally discussed and empirically investigated. This is the emphasis in the history of Moses, Joshua, Gideon, and then of Jesus engaging his disciples in discussion, and so on.

Jerusalem, Nazareth, and Bethlehem are points on the globe. Enemies or honest doubters could examine the empty tomb to corroborate (or try to destroy) eye-witness claims about a resurrection. Miracles can be observed by the same kinds of eyes that behold a Manhattan sunset.

Faith in this setting is primarily a matter of trust. It is the trust of the whole person on the basis of what Francis Schaeffer would call "good and sufficient reasons."

"Faith" can disclose new horizons of knowledge, "the evidence of things not see" (Heb. 11). But that faith is first grounded in knowledge. "Faith" is not an epistemological magic wand that turns something false into something true. "Faith" does not transmogrify an idol into God no matter how passionate the "believer" or how deep the "spirituality."

Given the modern defition of "faith" as belief in something for which one lacks evidence, Christianity may not even qualify as a religion.

The Christian worldview is reality-oriented. This means if the Christian truth-claims are false, they should not be believed. Thus, if Jesus of Nazareth did not really rise from the dead, says Paul in 1 Cor.15, "your faith is in vain."

But if the Christian propositions are true, they can be relied upon, and acted upon, as a solid foundation for life and culture, not only in the old days of ancient paganism but also in the flashy twilight of modern secularism.

So, you see, the surprize, the shock even, should go in the other direction. Because of the nature of Christianity as a humane worldview, our expection should be that healthy-functioning human beings will behave as though its information and principles apply beyond the closet door into the entirety of their lives.

The truncated "believer" singing hymns while sitting in a closet nailed shut should be the surprize. A secularist may be in the way. Someone needs to open that door.

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