Existentialism arose in Europe after WWII, after the time of optimistic humanism. While the philosophy was being developed by various men prior to this point in time, it didn’t really catch on until after the devastation of WWII.
The calamity of two world wars and the excessive death exacted by Hitler & Stalin’s concentration camps made many rethink how humanistic thought had served mankind. Adding to the turn against optimistic humanism was the trouble caused by the Great Depression of the 1930’s.
Given all these tragedies—which overtly demonstrated the failure of humanistic thought— and the growing prevalence of the naturalistic/materialistic worldview, people entered an “intellectual pothole.” The despairing attitudes of those in Europe & America were perfect breeding grounds for “a philosophy of despair.”
A few notable existential philosophers include: Jean Paul Sarte, Camus, Martin Heideger, Rudolph Bultmon
Existentialism, as already noted, is a pessimistic philosophy. It is sometimes called “the philosophy of despair” or “the philosophy of the absurd.” This can be seen by the following quotes:
Existentialism is an offshoot of naturalism, just like secular humanism. Because this is so, it holds many things in common with humanism. Unlike humanism though, existentialism focuses on the despair, angst, and absurdity of life. To put it another way, humanism takes the high road, believing that man is great and can become greater. Existentialism takes the low road: man is a meaningless lump of dirt that has no ultimate purpose.
“Man is absurd, but he must act as if he is not.” –Sarte
As noted above, man is nothing more than ooze. You are a “cosmic accident,” an “overgrown germ,” and “a clog in the wheel.” As such, you have no purpose and you live in a world that has no purpose. Thus you must deal with the angst that this produces.
Angst can be thought of as the anxiety or anguish that accompanies the realization that you and this universe have no purpose. It is the combination of fear and dread that expresses how sick you are with life.
Existentialism also stresses the freedom of man to choose as he wills. You are defined by these choices. You are the sum of your choices.
Against the facts, and despite the meaninglessness of life, you must choose to be (existentialism is the worldview of being!). If there is meaning, it is defined by what you make of it.
Truth is not something that is revealed or gained by rational investigation. Reason cannot be successful in finding the meaning to life because everything is ultimately meaningless. Instead, truth is primarily gained through experience.
For the Existentialist, experience is everything. Your main goal is to create meaning out of your personal experience. Sometimes you will hear it said that “being is more important than knowing.”
According to this worldview, it is not so much what you know as what you do and what you make of yourself. You may hear that “life is a journey.” That is, your life is a road trip where you must make yourself into what you are.
In the end, one must “follow his heart,” even if it is illogical and means committing to something against all evidence.
When it comes to ethics Existentialism admits that there is no absolute that guides what is right and wrong (after all, everything is meaningless). Instead it stresses one’s personal freedom and free choice.
The existential worldview emphasizes the need to make a choice, and that choice must be free from all outside influences. No one can tell you what to do and you must not let anything govern you or influence you. In sum, all forms of oppression are to be tossed off, for that is the only thing that is ultimately wrong.
Again, it is choice and freedom that are predominant. Jean Paul Sarte once said regarding the “old woman crossing the road” that “It doesn’t matter if you help her cross the road or run her down, what matters is that you choose.”
Ultimately, suicide may be considered good. “The greatest question man must face is not so much if he should commit suicide, but when.”--Albert Camus
Perhaps the best way to summarize existentialism’s view on ethics would be in saying: “Be true to yourself.”
Today I taught sixth, seventh, and eighth graders the doctrine of predestination. Not an easy task by any means. During my prep work I searched the net, but didn't find many helps out there. So I thought I would share my lesson plan here. Perhaps someone in a similar position might be assisted.
Terms we use to talk about God’s having planned everything in advance. You may note that most of them are used in Scripture.
What does this doctrine mean for me?
Did God cause the school shootings that happened in Connecticut?
Depends on what you mean by "caused." Yes, he willed it to happen and permitted the evil man to shoot those children. But he did not cause it in that he made the man pull the trigger. We may not understand how it all plays out, but we do know this: 1. God can never cause anyone to sin because He is too holy. 2. Man does have a free will where he can make choices. So, therefore, we understand that this evil man did this terrible thing by his own free will yet all the time was doing all according to God's decree.
Read Acts 2:22-23. The most heinous act of all time, the crucifixion of Jesus. These men were guilty for having killed him of their own volition. Yet, at the very same time, Jesus was delivered up according to the direct plan of God.
Does God care about the “little things” of life?
He sure does! Some people say that God is in charge of the big things, but doens't care about the little things. This isn't true. Every big thing is connected to many little things. They say that world history was changed by a grain of sand that was caught in Oliver Cromwell's system and a mosquito that bit Alexander the Great. Another way of looking at it might be like this...
For lack of a nail, the shoe was lost.
For lack of a shoe, the horse was lost.
For lack of a horse, the commander was lost
For lack of a commander, the battle was lost.
If God has already planned everything that will happen, why should we pray?
It is sometimes said that prayer doesn't change God, it changes us. That is true. Prayer is designed to be a "means of grace," that is, a way of growing in faith and grace. As we pray we express our dependence upon God and grow to be more dependent upon Him.
We also need to remember that God has ordained our prayers. More than that, He has ordained that our prayers be used in the outworking of His plan! Somehow our prayers are "powerful and effective" and will effect the course of events in history!
How does the Bible present the doctrine of predestination?
Romans 8:28-30 tells us that it is a...
...a doctrine that provides comfort. It reminds us that God is working all for our good and nothing--not one thing!-- can make it otherwise. No matter what ill may come to us, God is using it to further his purpose in our lives. Ultimately, we are given the assurance that we will be glorified on the last great day and nothing can keep that from happening.
Ephesians 1:5-6 tells us that it is a reason to...
...praise God. Because our salvation is so wrapped up in the Lord and not owing to our own initiative, God ought to be given all worship and adoration.
2 Timothy 2:10 that we should be encouraged to...
...evangelize! Some think that this doctrine would prevent our evangelism or stifle the desire for it. But that couldn't be further from the truth. Since we know there are some who are elect, we work diligently to bring the gospel to them! God has, after all, ordained preaching as the means of retrieving the lost!
Acts 27 and Philippians 2:12-13 give us the encouragement to ...
...work hard! Paul knew the boat was ordained to survive, but that didn't keep them from laboring to keep it so. Paul also knows that it is "God who works in us to will and to do his good pleasure." And that serves as the motivation for us "working out our salvation."
Far from giving us a lazy spirit or an attitude of a sluggard, the doctrine of predestination gets us moving!
This doctrine also has to do with the eternal destiny of men
Election means that God...
...God has chosen who will be saved. To elect someone means you chose them (like choosing teams for a game of kickball).
Matthew 24:22-24; Eph. 1:4, 11; Rom. 8:30
Reprobation means that God...
...God determines who will go to hell. God chooses to save some, but he chooses to pass over others.
Jude 4, Proverbs 16:4, 1 Peter 2:8
In all, the doctrine of God's decrees tells us that all of our life is in the hands of a sovereign God. As history unfolds, we see the workings of His hand and the wisdom of His glorious plan.
A friend once said of her son who was advancing through his teenage years, “It was a lot easier when all you had to worry about was whether or not Barney had an agenda.” Another friend of mine once said “Leave it to Beaver is perhaps the most Satanic show that ever aired.” Such may at first seem like funny comments, but they emphasize well the point of worldviews.
Does Barney have an agenda? Maybe he doesn’t intend to be a radical purple crusader, but he does send messages about life and morality to kids.
I'm not saying that parents need to ban Barney from the home. I'm simply saying, we need to be aware of worldview issues that are prevalent wherever we go or in whatever we watch.
All of this, of course, gets much more involved as you get older. Consider the following review one mother gave of the movie Gladiator:
You are probably thinking, "It's just a movie!" But remember that the powerful images in which these messages are wrapped can meet with impressionable minds. Whether or not they are conscious of it, some may walk out of the theater having absorbed the sermon in picture.
All in all, worldviews are everywhere and they shape lives! For instance, the first 150 years of America’s history children were taught from the New England Primer, which started out “A -- In Adam’s fall, sinned we all.” It continued to go through each of the letters of the alphabet in a similar manner.
B -- Heaven to find? The Bible mind!
C -- Christ crucified, For sinners died.
D -- The deluge drown'd the Earth around.
The whole of the workbook contained prayers and other items of Christian significance, such as the Westminster Shorter Catechism. When it came to the education of children the early American people were consciously centered on Christian principles.
In the 20th century the New England Primer was replaced with the McGuffey Readers. The content of which went like so:
Lesson 1: The dog ran.
Lesson 2. The cat is on the mat
The consciously Christian perspective was replaced by a more humanistic worldview. God had been erased from the picture and life was now simply about cats and dogs.
Today another seismic shift is taking place. Early elementary children are starting to read things like “Heather Has Two Mommies.”
How did we come to this? It was the evolution of ideas. Once the Christian worldview was eradicated, education could go in a new direction. It was now free to cross boundaries of morality and develop its own pedagogy.
To speak of a “Christian worldview” may sound foreign to many people who claim to be Christians. This is because they are used to thinking about Christianity solely in terms of spiritual salvation. Salvation is a distinct aspect of the Christian faith, and an exceedingly prominent one at that. But the notion of salvation does not encapsulate the whole of Christianity.
Again, many Christians have a narrow vision when it comes to Christianity. A professor of economics at a Christian college opens his class each semester by asking his students what the Bible says about money and economics. He says that he is met with blank stares. Only a few of his students recognize that the Bible talks about the issue in great depth.
When it comes to politics, many Christians choose to simply avoid the topic. Or, if they do get into it, they simply choose to follow the platform of the Republican Party or the daily expressions of Rush Limbaugh. (It should be noted that this is changing! Many evangelicals were said to vote for Barak Obama in 2008.)
The Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper expressed the sentiment of the Christian worldview when he said, “In the total expanse of human life there is not a single square inch of which the Christ, who alone is sovereign, does not declare, 'That is mine!'” This was his way of communicating the fact that Christianity is an all-encompassing worldview. He himself not only understood how the Bible touched every aspect of life (be it politics, education, economics, family, etc), but Kyper was a living expression of it. During his lifetime he served as a pastor and theologian, a politician, a journalist, and contributed significantly to the world of education.
Another way of talking about this subject may be seen in the following quote. A man once said, “The Bible is an expert in every subject with which it deals, and it deals with every subject
I've been asked by a local group called Leadership Ashland to be part of a panel discussion on home education. I thought I would post my reflections on the first question they are going to ask.
Q. Why choose home education, as opposed to public schooling?
Each family will most likely have their own reasons. For my family there are many, but I'll give you the top two.
The primary reason was because, as a Christian, my chief duty is to train my kids in the fear of God and pass on to them a distinctly Christian worldview.
The government schools have as their basis a distinctly un-Christian worldview. When I say that, you have to recognize that it is much more than teachers not being allowed to say a quick prayer with the kids before school starts. It is much more systemic than that. I'm saying that we have completely different philosophical basis. Government schools approach education from a Darwinian and atheistic viewpoint So when it come to basic questions of the nature of reality, ethics, and the nature of man, we are headed in completely different directions.
I came through the public education system, and I can honestly say that when I graduated I was a better atheist than Christian. I don't want that to happen to my children.
I could flesh that out more if you would like, but I think that it is enough to say that the main reason why we educate our children at home is that I want my kids to be nurtured in the fear of God.
The second reason why we home school is simply because we really love our children. It is hard for us to imagine being away from our kids for 7, 8, 9 hours a day. We love being around them. We learn together, we play together in the afternoons, we do almost everything with each other.
I remember that we were talking with a college age girl once. She said in an almost bewildered way, "You are with each other all day and all evening? You must really love each other!?"
She was right. We do!
A couple high school bands played in last night's Christmas parade. Marching along with them were the dance teams in their supposedly cute little Santa suits. I couldn't help but think that I had seen similar attire on the cover of a Playboy magazine in my younger, and more un-sanctified days.
My daughter, who is five, even exclaimed, "Those costumes were so short I could almost see their...(voice drifts off into awkward silence)."
As I made every attempt to turn my eyes I could not help but think that these girls are being trained to be whores. Its not just the fact that every man is visually raping the girls as they walk down Main Street. These girls are being encouraged to fornicate. Think about it: A plumber dresses like a plumber. A mailman dresses like a mailman. A virgin dresses like a virgin. A promiscuous girl dresses like a Playboy Bunny.
Any father who respects the purity of his girls says no to the dance team and watches over the clothes she wears.
The esteemed scholars of one of my previous classes.
I've been asked by a number of homeschool parents if I was going to offer any classes for home schoolers this year. The answer is YES!
I will offer one or two of the following, depending on interest:
If you would like to probe the ins and outs of each class to get a fuller idea, check the descriptions out at my site.
FYI: the basic doctrine class can also be used as a writing class if you would like your child(ren) to have some practice at composition. I will not be teaching composition per se, but I can assign them such if you would like them to have those kinds of exercises (stories, essays, poems, etc).
The classes will only be $10 per family. They will once a week for 12-14 weeks.
Number's 1 & 2 above will be both Jr. & Sr. high levels (grades 6-8 & 9-12). The worldview class will be Sr. high only.
One of the most profitable studies I've conducted during my ministry is the course on "How to Watch a Movie Like a Christian." Our study took approximately 5 weeks and the text that we used was Brian Godwa's fabulous book, Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films with Wisdom and Discernment.
Godwa does an excellent job of helping the reader understand that movies are not just entertainment. They are preachers who are out to proselytize. In other words, movies contain messages that can shape your life if you are not wise to them.
The conclusion of our study sought to apply what we learned by watching the late 80's classic Dead Poet's Society. I remember watching this movie when I was in Jr. High or High School, and I thought it was a superb movie. I still do. But, in watching it again with a better trained eye, what we found was that this movie promotes a strong existential (i.e. anti-Christian) worldview.
The following is a breif synopsis of the things that we should be aware of as we watch the film.
Theme 1. Salvation is breaking free from authorities and influences. Rules restrict creativity and suppress all potential and “the real you.”
It is funny to see the hubbub that people are making over at the Mansfield News Journal. People are all in an uproar over the local schools new lunch menu divinely ordered by the Obamas. What they probably don't know is that they are being fed a poison which is much worse than whole grain tacos.
The daily doses of teaching that lacks any regard for God and His Word is where they really ought to be concentrating their worries. I find their complaints laughable because they bark over how a top down order can be sent and affect the nutrition of our young people, but fail to consider how a top down education could have much more drastic consequences.
If your kids grow up on a diet of evolution, godlessness, prayerless-ness, unanchored & relativistic morality, how do you think that will affect them in the long run?
The food that is being served is just one more illustration that the state doesn't really know what is good for our children.
O, and by the way, our kids are not only getting thorough training in knowledge and wisdom here at the Timmons House of Higher Education, they are also eating fantastically well.
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