Even if you have never heard of naturalism, you have been deeply influenced by it. It is the unspoken (sometimes—it’s often proclaimed loudly and with authority) assumption of our modern world.
In a nutshell, naturalism teaches that our world exists within, well, a nutshell. In other words, our universe is a “closed system”—what we see and experience around is all there is, there is no outside influence acting upon our universe. To put it another way, our world operates by natural laws that are never interrupted—not by God, Providence, or any other outside intelligent force.
Carl Sagan summed up the naturalistic worldview when he declared: “the Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.”
You may or may not have heard people express their naturalism in some of these terms, but generally speaking, people in the western world are naturalists. Westerners believe that our world developed by chance as the natural forces of the world slowly, accidentally, mindlessly churned out the universe as we know it. Phenomena like illness, insanity, earthquakes, and emotions are explained purely in terms of natural forces (germs, synapses, tectonic plates, social conditioning).
To be clear, a person with a Christian worldview believes in these physical, natural forces as well, but she believes that God established these principles and that He can and often does act within the universe in ways that bend or even break the natural laws of the universe. She also believes that there are other supernatural forces working in the world around us. So insanity could be caused by malfunctions of the brain, but it could also be caused by something demonic (Luke 8:27-36)—it may well be that both factors play a role at times.
So how do we respond to naturalism? Well, it’s difficult, mostly because this way of looking at the world is so deeply ingrained in the people around us that the mere suggestion that it might be wrong causes them to look at you like you’re an idiot.
But Naturalism isn’t bulletproof. In fact, I would argue that it doesn’t hold up logically. It’s not the best way of explaining the world that we live in.
In the next two posts, I will offer two strong arguments against Naturalism that I gleaned from the late Ronald Nash’s excellent philosophy textbook, Life’s Ultimate Questions. The first argument comes from the always amazing C. S. Lewis. The second is from Richard Taylor.