Dead-Enders: Worldviews and Their Logical Conclusions
In the early stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dismissed a rash of deadly attacks on U.S. troops as the last throes of a small group of “dead-enders.” Early tactical victories during the war led some to believe that these dead-enders, comprised of members of Saddam’s former Baath Party, Fedayeen paramilitary, and other loyalists, would be quickly rooted out, captured, or killed. Planners assumed that once the dead-enders found their end, peace and stability would become a possibility for the region.
Eleven years later, Iraq is again devolving into turmoil. Many Iraqi insurgents were indeed dead, but we are far from the end of Iraq’s struggle to overcome centuries of regional conflict. The Butcher of Baghdad is gone, but the floodgates he controlled with his violence and intimidation burst open, and a new river of unimaginable evil is now rising.
Fighters in Iraq in opposition to the U.S. vision for Iraq turned out to be anything but dead enders. They were more like “alternate-routers.” This should not come as a surprise. Does a fleeing criminal give up when he runs into a cul-de-sac? No. He jumps a fence, cuts through a backyard and escapes into the night.
While it is unwise to label military opponents as dead-enders, perhaps the term more adequately describes worldviews which fail to answer life’s biggest questions with logical consistency, empirical adequacy, and experiential relevance. These worldviews can take you for an exciting ride, but sooner of later you’ll end up staring at a wall, wondering where you made the wrong turn. A worldview is defined by Ronald Nash in Worldviews in Conflict: Choosing Christianity in a World of Ideas:
“A worldview, then is a conceptual scheme by which we consciously or unconsciously place or fit everything we believe and by which we interpret and judge reality.”1
Author and apologist Ravi Zacharias notes that all spiritual questions ultimately seek to answer questions in four arenas:
Any worldview worth keeping must answer these questions with consistency and coherence. Some worldviews will lead to a dead end, and some philosophical fences cannot be jumped.
Naturalism is a worldview. It seeks to explain everything about life and the universe while assuming the natural world is all there is, ever was, or ever will be. Naturalism has a popular explanation for origins hinging on Darwin’s theory of evolution. Naturalism has a plausible (albeit depressing) theory for destiny with the extinction of man and the extinguishing of the universe. But Naturalism has no way to explain meaning or morality in life. They must dismiss the human perception of meaning and objective morality as merely an illusion with survival value.
The logical conclusion for Naturalism: there is no meaning or purpose in life. As a worldview contender, Naturalism is a dead ender.
New Age Thought
New Age thought is a worldview. Birthed from the woo-ish womb of Russian occultist and con-artist Madame Helena P. Blavatsky and popularized by charismatic spiritual teachers in the late 19th century, the term New Age is used to describe a plethora of spiritual beliefs or practices. However, a few common principles permeate the Aquarian adventure. Highly personal, subjective, and mystical experiences are common to New Age thought as well as models based on healing and holistic health. If you have ever had trouble understanding New Age teaching, it is because as Nash states, “Clarity and consistency of thought are two qualities that do not characterize New Age advocates.”
New Age thought is dreadfully inadequate in answering any four of the important arenas of spiritual inquiry; however, it is particularly corrosive to concept of marriage. Author Brad Scott “escaped” the movement and wrote about his experiences in Embraced by the Darkness. He predicts life in a future state of planetary evolution and consciousness:
“More and more people would never marry because they would see no spiritual advantage in it. They would leap into and out of relationships to find their ‘soul mates’ or burn up their karma with one insignificant other after another, all in the name of their single-minded effort to liberate themselves from the clutches of maya.”2
On New Age thought, there is no answer for origins, morality is relative, and the prediction on destiny–a global awakening and transformation of consciousness–raises more questions than it answers.
The logical conclusion of New Age thought: morality is optional and the elevation of the self above all else. As a worldview contender, New Age thought is a dead ender.
Christianity is a worldview. The Christian worldview:
- explains our origins in the mind of a loving and benevolent God
- affirms meaning in life by the existence of meaning in eternity
- acknowledges God as the ultimate standard of good in which to ground objective morality
- provides hope in an eternal destiny where ultimate justice prevails
The logical conclusion of Christianity:
- You were designed out of an act of love and infused with a purpose.
- Your acts and thoughts are meaningful.
- You have moral obligations to do what is right and good.
- There is hope for the future in the promise of eternity in his presence.
As a worldview option, Christianity is more than a contender. But only if you are pursuing more than a pragmatic solution to the problem of the human condition. Christ is not simply an answer; he is the answer to a question Pontius Pilate rhetorically asked in the presence of the living God, and one we will all ask at some point in our lives: what is truth?
1 Ronald Nash, Worldviews in Conflict: Choosing Christianity in a World of Ideas (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 16.
2 Brad Scott, Embraced by the Darkness (Wheaton: Crossway, 1996), 164.
Photo Credit: Menendj / CC BY SA / http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Iraqi_insurgents_with_guns.JPG
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About Jason B. Ladd
Jason is an author, speaker, Marine, and father of seven. He has flown the F/A-18 Hornet as a Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1) Instructor Pilot and the F-16 as an Instructor Pilot. His award-winning book One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview has been optioned for film adaptation. He is represented by Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Agency.