Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Inhumanely Cold and The Deliriously Warm

I have noticed a couple different behaviors in people. First, people who are so caught up in reality that they reduce it to a cold-hearted survivalistic, "this is reality- live with it!" world, that they forget that humanity has dignity, and the world has beauty. Second, people who are so blinded by their fantastic and utopianistic ideas of what the world could be that they forget that they live in a reality of hardship, pain, and suffering.

I've tried many times to express that there is a middle ground on this that many people don't like to hear (yet, many have also found). (Side note: I think that people like to be polarized on issues for a few reasons: Belonging to a group, having a "higher" purpose, or the shear thrill of having an emotional debate with an opponent (see Thrilled to Death). I also think that the media (and people who's careers depend on other people following them) propagates polarization on many topics, including this one, for increased attention by the same people as mentioned above- but I digress).

John Snider of In The Public Square recently put up a podcast (same name) episode entitled "Lizards and Wizards". Snider describes this whole false dichotomy so much better than I could think to. Anyone who listens to the media (any of the networks, not just news) or anyone who feels pulled in either direction (knowing that neither is correct), needs to listen to this episode. It is under an hour long, so it can be burned to CD and listened to in the car, if you can't set at your PC for the time to listen (click the title to download it).

Here it is:

What does this have to do with Christian apologetics? What Snider describes is the attitude of many people; he also provides a "middle ground" that is found in the Christian worldview. A correct worldview must be fully compatible with (if not encourage) behavior that is between two non-exclusive extremes. I would also like to posit that a correct worldview will be able to further explain why people behave in these two extreme ways. I believe that Christianity explains the noble side of both behaviors by recognizing the pain and suffering in the world; it explains the extreme, laser-focused behavior of both by appealing to the human desire to fix the pain and suffering; it explains the ridiculous opposition to the other position by appealing to human pride.

Both "Lizards" and "Wizards" are driven by hedonism (the quest for ultimate pleasure) to such a point that they disregard other concerns. The main difference is that "Lizards" take the existential road (focusing on the present); while the "Wizards" take the utopianistic road (focusing on the future).

On the Christian worldview, both "Lizards" and "Wizards" are wrong because of their common goal (hedonism). Christianity gives man a different goal that allows him to pay attention to both the present and the future without completely disregarding one or the other. This is a much more balanced way of living in the universe we are stuck in.


  1. "A correct worldview must be fully compatible with (if not encourage) behavior that is between two non-exclusive extremes."

    I think that is a piece of wisdom that ALL religious traditions could use more of. What sort of thinking and methodology led you to feel that way?

  2. This is a conclusion that I have come to based on, first, my observations over the past seven or eight years of the universe that we live in (one in which evil does exist).

    I mainly draw upon the law of non-contradiction. Many actual dichotomies exist, along with many false dichotomies. Any worldview that claims to be true must be able to accept (or even promote) the true side of actual dichotomies. Any worldview that claims to be true has the option of either saying nothing about false dichotomies or explaining how to deal with them in a balanced way.

    When a worldview doesn't address a false dichotomy, it leaves us to our own devices, which can get quite interesting and even ugly. When a worldview does address it, though, there CAN BE harmony (doesn't mean that there WILL BE harmony- once again, human pride is involved).

    The "Lizard vs Wizard" dichotomy is a false one that the Christian worldview addresses. This is one that I struggled with many years ago, and I know that many others inside and outside the Christian faith struggle with it also.

    Some people struggle with it because they are dogmatically on one side or the other and are fighting against the opposite side with little to no effect; others struggle with it because they know that there is a middle ground (just not WHAT that middle ground is). I think that the first area struggle leads to the second area of struggle (some people start with the second, which is less painful than getting bruised in starting from the first).

    My struggle started with the first- I was a dogmatic "Lizard". I took a lot of beatings, but didn't mind, until a fellow Christian (a dogmatic Wizard) started beating on me. I figured that either he was misinterpreting something or I was. In my research I realized that neither of us were actually misinterpreting, we just didn't realize that this was a false dichotomy, and that there is a balance that must be accepted in our universe.

    Just about every Engineer will understand about the balance here. Two opposing forces (each noble if maximally optimized, if it were the only force needed) must be balanced (or sub-optimized) for overall maximum optimization.


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