The Worldview of Naturalism

In Western culture, one popular worldview is that of naturalism.  Naturalism is the worldview that believes, in a word, that nature is all there is.  This worldview “regards the natural, material, and physical universe as the only reality.”  Naturalists say the cosmos is a closed system of cause and effect; nothing is beyond nature, there is no supernatural.  Quite obviously, this worldview is diametrically opposed to the historic Christian worldview.

Kenneth Samples has an outstanding chapter on naturalism in his book, A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test.  In this chapter, Samples lists some typical distinctive features of naturalism.  In the form of a question, what are some beliefs a naturalist holds?

1) Monism. Monism is the metaphysical view that all reality is one thing or stuff.  By rejecting the supernatural, naturalists affirm that ‘everything is composed of natural entities.’  Naturalists agree that the physical universe – with its constituents of matter, energy, time, and space – is the one fundamental reality from which all things are derived.

2) Materialism.  Materialism is a particular type of monism.  This metaphysical view considers everything in the universe to be matter (that is, composed of material objects).  Nonmaterial entities or substances – souls, spirits, and angels – simply do not exist.  And, because the God of the Bible is an immaterial nonphysical being, materialists dismiss God as nonexistent and illusory.

3) Physicalism. Physicalism asserts that what actually exists is ultimately constituted of physical realities.  This theory entails the idea that all realities can be described an explained using only the vocabulary of chemistry and science.  Physicalism outright rejects all forms of mind-body dualism.

4) Scientism.  Scientism asserts that science is either the only reliable method (strong scientism) or the best, most dependable method (weak scientism) for obtaining genuine knowledge.  Naturalists who embrace scientism are convinced that the natural sciences are the only path that lead that lead to knowledge and truth.

5) Darwinian Evolution.  Naturalists assert that all life is the result of purely natural processes.  Evolution as a biological theory asserts that complex life-forms developed from more primitive life through a variety of mechanisms….  Naturalists staunchly defend some form of evolutionary theory because biological evolution is the only naturalistic explanation for life and the appearance of ‘homo sapiens.’

6) Antisupernaturalism. By insisting on natural causes, naturalism by its very definition dismisses the existence of the supernatural realm.   …All events, objects, and phenomena in the world must have purely natural explanations.  As one naturalist put it, ‘Naturalism, in essence, is simply the idea that human beings are completely included in the natural world: there’s nothing supernatural about us.”

7)  Atheism/Agnosticism.  Naturalists are typically atheistic in outlook, believing that no God or gods exist.  Because no supernatural realm exists, there can’t be a supernatural deity to affect the natural universe from the outside.  Atheists believe rather that the human mind invented God and, therefore, he is illusory.

8) Secular humanism.  The philosophical viewpoint of secular humanism strongly embraces all seven previous points that reflect the subcategories or family traits of the naturalist worldview.  This position emphatically opposes belief in God, religion, and anything supernatural.  Some would say therefore that secular humanism can be summed up in the statement: ‘Man is the measure of all things.’”

Though I’ve edited Samples’ points for the sake of length, this is a good summary of the worldview of naturalism.  In the rest of this chapter, Samples goes on to evaluate it by worldview standards: is it logical? coherent? does it have explanatory power? does it address the needs of humanity? (etc.).  You’ll have to read the chapter to see how Samples takes naturalism apart and says it is not a valid worldview and that it cannot stand up to Christianity.  Again, here’s the book: A World of Difference (the above quotes were taken from chapter 12).

rev shane lems

1 thought on “The Worldview of Naturalism”

Comments are closed.