The Superiority of the Judeo-Christian Worldview


Let me say upfront that I understand this article it not a proof for Christianity. Rather, I am explaining that if one cares for the weak in society, then one must adopt the Judeo-Christian worldview. Likewise, if one is a naturalist, one must not care for the weak or, at the very least, admit that one is contradicting one’s naturalism in caring for the weak.

Within Western culture a great divide has grown between the metaphysical views of materialism and supernaturalism and such a divide has slowly impacted how Western society treats its weak.[1] The vast majority of lawmakers in Western culture, regardless of religious claims, operate under a materialistic worldview. Such a worldview lacks a proper justification for absolute morality and in many cases justifies the extermination of the weak. The Judeo-Christian worldview alternatively, provides the best justification for an absolute morality that protects the weak. The Judeo-Christian worldview best fits with what humans know a priori to be right, namely that a society should take care of its weak rather than bring them harm.

The Naturalistic Metaphysic

The naturalistic metaphysic is, without question, the predominant metaphysical view of most of Western academia and government officials. In Europe, the naturalistic metaphysic is slowly becoming the metaphysical view for the majority of the populace. America stands out as a lone exception in the Western world in terms of the metaphysical view of the populace; however, even America’s academia and government leaders tend to, at the very least, function under a naturalistic worldview. With it being the predominant metaphysical view for Western leaders, it is vitally important to understand what naturalism entails.

Naturalism, or materialism, teaches that the entire world can be explained purely in natural terms. Whereas the ancients would often implore some supernatural explanation for a physical cause, the naturalist views the universe as a closed system, one where only natural explanations can be used. The metaphysical view of naturalism begot the epistemological teaching of empiricism, that is, all that can be known absolutely must be physically verified. If something cannot be physically verified, then that something is non-absolute or non-existent. Thus, the naturalist creates his own self-fulfilling epistemology so that not only does he begin with the presupposition that the physical world is all that is there, but then stacks the odds by saying one can only prove one’s case under the arbitrary guidelines of empiricism.

In explaining the origins of the universe, a naturalist must advocate that the universe, in some form or the other, has always existed. As David Mills writes,

“…the universe, in one form or another, in one density or another, always existed. There was never a time when the mass-energy comprising our universe did not exist, if only in the form of an empty oscillating vacuum or an infinitely dense theoretical point called a singularity, consisting of no volume whatsoever.”[2]

According to Mills and other materialists, the universe and all within has always existed, but just not in its current form. Explicit in such a teaching is that the foundations for life were entirely impersonal, meaning that any sense of personality is truly an illusion. Under materialism, the “personable-ness” of a creature is irrelevant and ultimately an elusive mystery as empiricism has yet to explain the immaterial nature of personhood. After all, empiricism has failed to explain emotions, rationality, transfer of knowledge, and other immaterial acts. All of these are considered vital to being a person, but under empiricism, such acts are, at best, illusionary. Naturalism is left without an explanation for what makes humans human.

Judeo-Christian Metaphysic

Although the Judeo-Christian worldview metaphysic relies on the principle of Genesis 1, specifically that there was a personal creator behind all of creation, it is not limited to a literal reading of the passage. Naturally, the Judeo-Christian metaphysic teaches that there are two “metaphysical realms,” that which has been created and that which is uncreated. Whereas naturalism only has one metaphysical realm – material – Christianity divides metaphysics into “created” and “uncreated”. Under the “created” category fall the two substances of material and immaterial. The Judeo-Christian worldview teaches that some creations are purely immaterial while others are purely material, with humanity being a combination of the two substances.[3]

The second metaphysical plane is the uncreated, which is solely inhabited by God. This means that God is above and wholly other to His creation. By being above His creation, He is not subject to the laws of the creation unless He subjects Himself to those laws. Such a physical order is considered “natural law” in Christian circles. Traditional Christian philosophy has taught that just as God created a physical order to the universe, He also created an immaterial order to the universe via ethics. This view is considered “natural moral law.” The Judeo-Christian worldview teaches that all humans are subject to the natural moral law by virtue of being human. God, being above His creation, is able to establish the moral law without the moral law being above Him.

Metaphysics Impact on Morality

Some people might like to act as though the above competing worldviews are simply for one’s own benefit, that there is no real impact that either worldview has upon the individual adherents, but such a view is wrong; metaphysics ground a foundation for our morality and how we justifies our morality. If John were to tell George, “George, it is wrong for you to steal from me,” George could ask “Why is it wrong for me to steal from you?” No matter how John replies, at the end of the day he has to provide a metaphysical defense. Whether that be theft doesn’t aid in the survival of the species or that God established a law for all humans to follow, John’s statement, “It is wrong to steal” must have some metaphysical backing, otherwise he is merely expressing a desire that doesn’t necessarily have to be followed.

They key role metaphysics plays in morality is that morality requires a purpose. Without a purpose for an entity, there is no reason for morality other than “survival” or personal happiness (both of which are vague terms under naturalism). Thus, our metaphysics will often construct the moral view that we hold. If we have an impersonal metaphysic, then our morality will likewise tend to be impersonal if logically consistent with our metaphysic. If we have a personal metaphysic, then our morality will tend to be personal.

Naturalism begins with an impersonal metaphysic and subsequently has an impersonal ethic. The ethics of naturalism hinge upon survival and what the majority believes helps aid in survival. Mills goes so far as to say that morality is based upon the majority consensus of a society when he writes, “Because such unethical behavior is condemned by the majority, laws exist for the protection of the ‘general welfare.’”[4] In understand Mills, he is advocating that the majority of a society will determine what aids in survival, which determines the morality of that society, and finally that will establish the laws for that society.

It follows that naturalism has no recourse for changing the morality of a society. For instance, if naturalism is followed logically, introducing pornography to underage children is not immoral because it does not affect the survival of a society and because “innocence” is illusionary.[5] Under a consistent naturalistic worldview, people such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, or William Wilberforce were ultimately “immoral” because they went against the majority consensus of their respective societies. As long as the consensus aids in survival, such a consensus is not immoral, even if it brings harm to others within that society.

Naturalism fails to provide an absolute basis for morality meaning that what is moral today could be immoral tomorrow. While rape might be immoral in 2010, especially because it degrades women and could increase an already burgeoning population, in 2015 it could be completely moral if, due to a natural disaster, the human population falls and society tends towards a more patriarchal view, thus not caring about the value of women. Nothing is set in stone and therefore is completely subjective to the will of the society.

The Judeo-Christian worldview, on the other hand, supplies an absolute morality that applies at all times and is not subject to the majority or to any human. The foundation of the Judeo-Christian morality is found in God. As Udo Middelmann explains, “God – a thinking, feeling, creating personality – engages himself with the human being whom he made in his image and who is unlike all the rest of what he created.”[6] Because God created humans, cares for humans, and knows what is best for humans, He established certain laws that protect humans while also drawing them closer to Him. The Judeo-Christian worldview teaches that humans were created to be in fellowship with God and subsequently have a morality that, if followed, creates and nurtures that fellowship with God. The Judeo-Christian morality provides a personal purpose to creation and in so doing, creates a personal ethic.

Applying Morality to the Weak

Though many examples could be given to explain the divide between naturalism and the Judeo-Christian worldview, the most notable divide within society between adherents to naturalism and adherents to the Judeo-Christian worldview stands on the issue of how the weak are to be treated.

Under naturalism, humans lack intrinsic value in that they are merely material. Just as a rock is material, a human is material and thus only different to the rock in degree and not in kind. A rock only becomes valuable when it is viewed as valuable, because it is only material. The same idea of ascribing value applies to humans. Such a view indicates that one becomes a person, that is, one obtains value by meeting a certain criteria. Jim might biologically be a human, but this does not mean Jim is a person and is therefore entitled to certain rights. Donald Green explains:

“All these problems stem from the failure to realize that judgments of ‘humanity,’ ‘personhood,’ or any similar determination of moral protected-ness are not a matter of definition, of finding the intrinsic biological property of an entity that makes it morally protectable, but are instead the outcome of complex moral choice involving many competing considerations. Sometimes these considerations have less to do with the nature of the entity than with the implications of a boundary marker itself.” [7]

What Green explains is that an entity is not merely a person by being that entity, but instead a result of how the entity acts. An example is if one looks at Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith is a thirty-year-old doctor who helps aid society in survival. Due to Mr. Smith’s actions, he is valuable as a person. However, when Mr. Smith is eighty-years-old he will be viewed with less value than he currently has. The same is true that when Mr. Smith was an infant, he lacked the value that he currently holds. Under naturalism, Mr. Smith’s value is up to what he does and what kind of person he develops into; Mr. Smith’s value as a human being is subject to fluctuation based upon what he does and is able to do.

Such justification is found in that value is based upon the characteristics of the individual rather than on the species of the individual. Peter Singer writes, “[A human being has] characteristics like rationality, autonomy, and self-consciousness that make a difference. Infants lack these characteristics. Killing them, therefore, cannot be equated with killing normal human beings, or any other self-conscious beings.”[8] Since certain humans lack traits like rationality, autonomy, and self-consciousness, such humans are expendable and can be killed for the good of society. He goes so far as to say that disabled infants or senile elderly can be killed because they do not fit the criteria for personhood.[9]

Such a view is allowable because the anthropological view of a naturalist is that what a person does makes the person valuable, rather than being valuable by nature of being human. The atheistic existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre summed up the naturalistic understanding of man quite nicely when he stated, “Being precedes essence.” Thus, being a human is merely a biological state of being and from there, we define our essence. We exist as humans, but we define what it means to be human and what, if any, value is to be placed on being a human person. Since the weak lack the ability to define their essence, add no contribution to the survival of the species since they are generally helpless, and have inferior DNA (in the case of the disabled due to genetic disorders), they are viewed as expendable. Under naturalism, the weak in a society have no protection if naturalism is logically followed to its end.

The Judeo-Christian worldview stands as a complete contradiction to naturalism in terms of how the weak are treated. Under the Judeo-Christian worldview, all humans are made in the image of God. As Francis Schaeffer explains, “And finally, these [liberal] theologians have obviously forgotten God’s view of the worth of every human being as made in the image of God.”[10] Even if weak or currently unconscious or able to make choices, by nature of being a human being a person is viewed as valuable. Under the Judeo-Christian worldview, no one “becomes” a person, but rather is a person by nature of being human and is intrinsically valuable because to be a human is to be in God’s image.

The Judeo-Christian worldview offers protection to the weak in society because it views all humans as having the capacity for rationality and self-consciousness, even if they currently lack the ability to actualize such capacities. The Judeo-Christian worldview offers further protection because it views the moral fiber of society as hinging upon how humans treat other humans.[11] Thus, if the Judeo-Christian worldview were followed to its logical end, one would never dream to harm a disabled infant or a senile elderly person because such people, though currently suffering or currently underdeveloped, are still in the image of God.

Conclusion

The Judeo-Christian worldview stands as a superior counterpart to naturalism. Naturalism does not protect humanity, even those who are conscious and self-aware, because naturalism can always shift what it means to be a “human person.” If the majority decides that having white skin constitutes an element of being a human person, then logically the majority is justified and the minority has no recourse to challenge the majority view (other than overpowering or tricking the majority into changing their views). The Judeo-Christian worldview, alternatively, views all humans as being made in the image of God and therefore has an established explanation. When the Judeo-Christian worldview is followed to its logical end and practiced perfectly, it only results in all humans being treated with dignity and increasing the development of the human species.[12]

Humans simply know a priori that the weak are to be protected. Though the logical conclusion of naturalism is that the weak have no business living with the strong, adherents of naturalism are still human and therefore cannot fully practice their beliefs. They live as if there is a purpose to the existence of weak humans.[13] The naturalist is forced to live in an inconsistent world; he knows one thing, but acts another way, with his actions fully contradicting what he “knows” to be true. He would never dare live naturalism to its logical end and rather will make any defense to remain moral, no matter how illogical such a defense might be. Only the Judeo-Christian worldview can explain why humans can act in a way that contradicts their beliefs. Humans are made in the image of God and therefore will act in a moral way in some cases, even when their beliefs tell them not to.

For a society to prosper and grow, it must adhere to the superior worldview, which is the Judeo-Christian worldview. Naturalism only provides harm for the weak and is arbitrary. Likewise, naturalism goes against the human experience and what humans know to be right. The Judeo-Christian worldview, however, teaches that all humans are in the image of God and are therefore valuable, regardless of disabilities, abilities, beliefs, or degree of consciousness. For a society to survive and provide the common good for all, it must adhere to the Judeo-Christian worldview.


[1] By “weak” I mean those who are unable to defend themselves or voice a defense, such as the unborn, the infants, those with severe physical and/or mental disabilities, the elderly, and those in non-life ending vegetative states.

[2] David Mills, Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (Berkeley: Ulysses Press, 2006), p. 74

[3] Though there are some debates among Christians on anthropological dualism, most Christian philosophers tend to accept a Thomistic dualism of man, where man is a combination of both the material and immaterial substance and that both substances are equally present in man. Such a view is contrary to a Cartesian view of man, which teaches that man is mostly immaterial (mind) and that the physicality of man is almost an afterthought to what constitutes man. For a better handling of the subject, see Body-Self Dualism in Contemporary Ethics and Politics by Patrick Lee and Robert P. George, Cambridge University Press, 2009 as well as the article “Aquinas’ Alternative to Cartesian Dualism” by Joshua M. Brown.

[4] David Mills, Atheist Universe, 172

[5] Ibid, 191-203

[6] Udo Middelmann, Christianity Versus Fatalistic Religions in the War Against Poverty (Colorado Springs: Paternoster, 2007), p. 12

[7] Donald Green, The Human Embryo Research Debates: Bioethics in the Vortex of Controversy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), p 39

[8] Peter Singer, Practical Ethics, 2nd Ed (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), p 182

[9] Ibid, 191-193

[10] Francis Schaeffer, Whatever Happened to the Human Race?, vol. 5 of The Complete Works of Francis Schaeffer, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1982), p. 327

[11] Ibid, 281

[12] Udo Middelmann, War Against Poverty, 14

[13] Francis Schaeffer, Whatever Happened to the Human Race?, 369

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4 thoughts on “The Superiority of the Judeo-Christian Worldview

  1. I think you rely too heavily on Utilitarianism in your definition of the logical conclusion of Naturalism. Laws governing Western society are heavily influenced by naturalism, and this is an outcome of the Enlightenment, but definitely aren’t strictly confined to the “rule of the majority”. The U.S. has laws protecting minorities who wouldn’t normally be able to defend themselves but these aren’t completely due to “Judeo-Christian morals”. If God and His law is eternal and unchanging, “Judeo-Christian morals” should be as well, but these are malleable as society advances. During the U.S. Civil War the South could convincingly argue, based on Old and New Testament morals and law, that slavery is normal and justified. Many Christian slave owners treated their slaves very well, but they reasoned it shouldn’t be up to the government to tell them how to treat their slaves. We all now assume it is the normal “Judeo-Christian moral” right to treat ethnic minorities as equals.
    If we based our legal system on “Judeo-Christian morals” how much would be dependent on O.T. law, and how much on the redeeming forgiveness Jesus taught us? If the 10 Commandments are a starting point, how would we determine what a graven image is? If we are created in the image of God, would photographs and sculptures be considered graven images? How would we treat the Sabbath, as a day of rest with no place of business allowed to be open? Define what the teeth to punish law-breakers would be under “Judeo-Christian morality”. Is it continually turning the other cheek to a murderer, or would it be an automatic death sentence, even for accidental death? As a Quaker I am curious, as we don’t find any excuse to call for the death of anyone, in war or peace, but that isn’t due to any adherence to a law, rather to the belief that we all have Christ within us. Quakers don’t subscribe to the static, unchanging “Judeo-Christian morality” (whatever flavor it would be) because we believe that Christ continually speaks to us, and is not limited to the pages of the Bible. Quakers may have been born of Christianity, but have definitely advanced beyond any static definition of it.

    1. Let’s define a few terms first, because I’m not sure how you can validate your arguments:

      Naturalism – the belief that nature is all there is and ever will be (a denial of the supernatural)

      Judeo-Christian Worldview – the belief that there is a God who has established a moral order for everyone to follow (Theism in the Western tradition)

      With the above two definitions, let’s look at the essay and your reply.

      First, you say that many US laws are based on naturalism and that some of these laws protect the minority. My first response would be to point out which laws are based upon naturalism. Likewise, what justification does naturalism hold in creating these laws? The logical conclusion of naturalism is that if we are to have morality, either an elite few or the majority determine what is moral and what is not moral. Either the ruling class declares “This is moral” or the majority of believe declare “This is moral.” Either way, the morality is created and not discovered.

      As the essay indicates, there’s simply no way for naturalism to create an absolute morality, so by saying, “Some of our laws are based on naturalism” begs the question. You would first need to indicate (1) how naturalistic morality works and (2) which laws are based on naturalism. Considering our Founders fell into the Judeo-Christian worldview (even though some were Deists), I fail to see how our laws are based upon naturalism when all of the Founders held viewpoints diametrically opposed to naturalism.

      Your second objection isn’t an attack against Judeo-Christian ethics, but rather against human fallibility. It’s actually a fallacious argument (that is, illogical), but is also untruthful. It’s fallacious in that it seems complexity in knowledge and therefore assumes that such knowledge must be impossible. This fallacy generally arises when people confuse metaphysics and epistemology. For instance, to say that morality is absolute is a metaphysical claim, not an epistemological claim. Were it an epistemological claim, then we’d have to find one culture that never changed its view on a moral issue. Such a society does not exist, therefore the epistemological claim is bunk. As a metaphysical claim it has merit.

      Your problem is you’re looking at the epistemological ramifications of ethics and translating that back onto the metaphysical ramifications of ethics. This is an error of composition – you’re taking a part of ethics (it’s epistemological value, or how we know what is and is not ethical) and applying it to the whole of ethics (the metaphysics – do morals exist?). “Do we follow the Sabbath or not?” I don’t care. That’s irrelevant to a Judeo-Christian worldview when ethics are concerned.

      Secondly, your argument is factually in error. Many of the things that were viewed as ethical in Christianity came long after such things were declared unethical. While southern Christians might have argued from the Bible that slavery was alright with God, this came after a 1,800 year denouncement of slavery by Christians. While the early Church didn’t seek to eradicate the practice of slavery through legal means, they did seek to free slaves as slaves were often the ones they converted. Once a slave master came to Christ, it was expected of him to treat his slaves as brothers (that is, free them if possible, but such freedom was not always possible as they would just be picked up by a pagan slave owner). That was the teaching for over a thousand years until the Church began to adopt a more naturalistic and secularized view of morality.

      While some social mores can change, other morals simply remain absolute. For instance, right now in the universe, in some distant galaxy, a planet is rotating around its sun. We may not be aware of such an event, but it occurs regardless of us being aware of it. Maybe someday we’ll have the technology to see the planet and we’ll say that it looks purple. As technology advances, we’ll realize the planet is actually blue. Does this mean the planet went from being purple to blue? No. Did the planet exist before we acknowledged its existence? Yes. Morality is the same way. When our moral views change, it is either because we’re gaining a better understanding of what is absolute or we’re moving away from absolute. Morality stays the same, but our understanding of what is and is not moral (and especially our understanding of how to apply morality) is in constant flux. This doesn’t mean we can’t have knowledge of what is and is not moral or that we cannot base laws off morality, as some moral laws (such as do not murder) remain unchanged in both our knowledge and practice of these morals.

      Let’s take your thinking and apply it to an analogy:

      Peter says the Americas were first discovered by Western society by Erik the Red in 1000AD.
      Paul says the Americas were first discovered by Western society by Christopher Columbus in 1492AD.

      Both views contradict each other, but have common ground, namely that Western society discovered the Americas at some point. But let’s take John’s view, which is:

      John says the Americas were never discovered by Western society and that such a teaching is just a social construct

      Obviously, while Peter and paul have a disagreement on when or how the discovery of the Americas took place, they have common ground. John, however, holds nothing in common with Peter and Paul. Once we look at the issue of whether or not the Americas were discovered by examining facts and logic, we see that Peter and Paul have some evidence for where they differ, but both have solid evidence on where they agree. John, however, has no evidence and his position is simply not tenable. Therefore, though Peter and Paul disagree, their view is superior to John’s view.

      When we apply this to the Judeo-Christian worldview, we’re simply saying that the Judeo-Christian worldview – though there are contradictory viewpoints within the worldview by different adherents – is still superior to naturalism. While those under the Judeo-Christian worldview might disagree on what type of morals we should follow, all agree on the following:
      (1) Morals exist independent of human causation
      (2) Morals were given to us by God
      (3) There is a natural order that we should follow in our morality
      (4) Reasoning based upon the above is what leads us to what is and is not moral (and therefore what is and is not legal in some situations)

      Naturalism, however, cannot agree on the three premises prior to the fourth, thus they stand apart from the Judeo-Christian worldview.

      Now, within the Judeo-Christian worldview, there are actually multiple religions. Perhaps you missed it, but the “Judeo” in “Judeo-Christian” stands for “Jew” or “Judaism.” Thus, this viewpoint is not exclusive to Christians, rather it covers a broad spectrum of Western theists. The Founders (some of them) were Deists, yet they still ascribed to a Judeo-Christian worldview.

      The centerpiece of such a worldview is that of natural law. That which can be known by reason, without being redeemed, is something that all men should follow. That is the central message of Judeo-Christian ethics. So the Sabbath, turning the other cheek, death sentences, and so on all deal with specific religious views and not natural law. The reason we distinguish such natural law as “Judeo-Christian ethics” is that the Romans also had a view of natural law, but it was different and inferior to the view handed down by Jews and Christians (that was later adopted by Theists, Unitarians, Deists, etc). So when we speak of Judeo-Christian, we’re not talking about Christianity or even the Bible. Rather, we’re referring to a system of natural law that is based upon the belief in one God who has established a moral code for all humans to follow, whether they recognize Him or not.

      Such a belief is superior to naturalism, especially in terms of how we help the helpless, as was the point of the essay.

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