Five Strategic Principles
Principle #1: Identify the Idol
- The text says that every nonbiblical religion or worldview starts with an idol. It must locate an eternal, uncaused cause within the created order. Explain why, and list some examples. Can you think of any exceptions to this principle?
In a course pack on Historical Perspectives on Science and Religion, Keas and Magruder point out:
Following the clear discussion in Roy Clouser, The Myth of Religious Neutrality (Notre Dame, 2005), we may define “faith” or “religious belief” as a heart-deep response to what a person takes to hold the status of divinity. By “divine” we mean, “that which is able to exist on its own without depending on anything else” (this definition is consistent with traditional Western usage from Aristotle to Aquinas and thereafter… even William James agrees with us here, and it appears to be implicit within the Bible). In this sense one’s divinity could be Yahweh, matter/energy, Number, form, self, or almost anything else.
On this view, all worldviews have something that is of ultimate concern. Nonbiblical worldviews have a god-substitute, or an idol. For the materialist, the universe will be the idol. It is simply a brute reality. For the pantheist, the created order is identical with the creator. They ascribe divine attributes to the universe. Rather than explain the origin of material reality, they deny its existence. As Sire writes, “If anything that is not God appears to exist, it is maya, illusion, and does not truly exist.”
Exceptions to this principle might include Islam, Mormonism, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Islam worships a god that created the universe, but is transcendent, to the point that nothing about Allah is revealed except his will. Jehovah’s Witnesses affirm a God like the biblical God, but who apparently could not preserve his word or his church for about 1800 years. Mormonism holds to a multitude of gods, and make no claims on the origin of the universe.
“When was there a beginning? There never was one; if there was, there will be an end; but there never was a beginning, and hence there will never be an end; that looks like eternity. When we talk about the beginning of eternity, it is rather simple conversation, and goes far beyond the capacity of man.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 47.)
Despite the fact that Mormonism, Islam, and the Watchtower all have a divinity that transcends creation, we will see how their views still lead to the reductionism to be discussed in Principle 2.
 Biola University, 2014
 James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog, 3rd ed. (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, ©1997), 122.