Tuesday, November 17, 2015


By Bernard James Mauser, Ph.D.

The buzzword in Christian apologetics is worldview. People spanning the theological spectrum recognize the importance of viewing the world through a proper lens. The emphasis is on making sure that everything that is thought and done is seen in light of what God has revealed.

One would think that Friedrich Nietzsche, one of the leading atheistic philosophers, would have no influence on worldview thinking. To say that he does would appear to be a sinister plot to undermine the faith and ministry of many substantial Christian leaders. This judgment would be mistaken. We can avoid the pitfalls of Nietzsche once we realize how he has affected worldview thinking, and yet still cling to all those aspects of worldview thinking that are good and true.

Nietzsche lays the foundation of an approach to knowledge that is radically relativistic. He is the father of Perspectivalism. Perspectivalism says that people are completely limited to their perspective. Note the parallel in worldview thinking. Those in various circles say that a person’s interpretation of reality is completely seen through a particular lens (this is simply defined as worldview thinking).

Here is the problem. If worldviews determine how one interprets all of reality, then the ‘notion of worldview’ is determined by one’s worldview. Consequently, the notion of worldview is relativistic. If one’s worldview does not determine the ‘notion of worldview,’ then there are aspects of reality that aren’t determined by worldview. Either worldviews determine how one interprets all of reality or it doesn’t. Therefore, the notion of worldview is determined by worldview (which is consonant with Nietzsche’s Perspectivalism and relativism) OR there are aspects of reality not determined by worldview (in which case we have to find which truths that span all worldviews we can use to judge between them).

This analysis does not rule out the positive things worldview can give us. The lens by which we decide things can certainly be helpful. However, as a starting point for knowledge, ‘worldview’ is not able to answer aspects of reality everyone recognizes (regardless of worldview). The primary focus in of our search for truth is reality. Once we discover what is real, then we can decide which worldview best corresponds to reality. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

A Christian Analysis of Halloween

A Christian analysis of Halloween

By Bernard James Mauser, Ph.D.

In pop culture Halloween is said to have connections with the occult, witchcraft, and pagan practices. Aware of this, some parents are weighing whether to allow their children to participate in Halloween. The great concern here has nothing to do with increased cavities, hyperactivity, childhood obesity, or candy laced with drugs or razors. It does have to do with a more ominous evil commonly associated with Halloween.

Those in the Judeo-Christian tradition place great importance on the historical events that mark many holy days. Christians celebrate the birth of the God-man Jesus each year during Christmas (Mt. 1). They celebrate the anniversary marking the death and resurrection of Jesus during Easter (Jn. 19-20). God has mandated that the Israelites remember the Passover each year (Ex. 13). The history of each of these marks something significant about what God has done for His people. It is the origin of each of events that accounts for the corresponding holidays (which is derived from holy days).   

Given this background for other days of celebration mentioned, what is the origin of Halloween? This question is not as simple as it may seem. The reason is only partly because of the difficulty in finding the origin documented in reliable historical sources. A greater difficulty comes from what the word Halloween means. Let me illustrate the difficulty with another example. If I ask, “What is the origin of the mouse?” You’d have to ask what do you mean by mouse (i.e., what are you referring to when you say mouse)? Do you mean the peripheral that allows me to move the cursor on my computer, or do you mean that little creature that cats like to chase? Halloween also has several meanings, such as:

1.     The origin comes from the Celtic festival Samhain (pronounced sah-win) once used to celebrate summer’s end. TO THE CELTS, this day marked the end of the harvest (which gave life), and the beginning of the time of death (of crops, vegetation, some animals, and sometimes human) due to the cold of the winter season. Some Celts also saw this as a time of increased ability for divination.
2.     It is used to signify the medieval Church’s celebration the day before All Saints Day or All Hallows Day to honor the memory of saints in heaven. November 1 is All Hallows Day and October 31 was All Hallows’ Eve.
3.     It refers to the day where, in accordance with what certain leaders planned, there are no religious overtones where community comes together to celebrate in a way to limit vandalism  (‘trick-or-treat’ is an American contribution that started in the second half of the 19th century which combined traditions of various cultures).  Community leaders did this to limit the ‘tricks’ and emphasize the ‘treats.’

So, given the various meanings, which do Christians want to avoid?

Certainly Christians ought to avoid the first meaning if they celebrate. Of course, its highly questionable that Christians are engaging in Halloween as understood in this first meaning today. What is left? The second and third ways of understanding in order to celebrate are in no way problematic.

Wait a second, isn’t there a link to the demonic in the first way that can be suggested in the other ways? This is the argument some make. If this is the case, it should be taken seriously. Why? The reason is clearly because occultism is condemned in Scripture. Whoa… wait a minute… lots of things are condemned in Scripture.

I think we can all agree that if Scripture says something is bad we should avoid it. What are some things that are forbidden for Christians EVERY day of the year- and not just Halloween?

1.     Participating in divination, sorcery, witchcraft, and other occult practices (Deut. 18:9-14).
2.     Women are to dress modestly (1 Tim. 2:9)
3.     We are to avoid drunkenness and sexual immorality (Gal. 5:21).
4.     Christians are to have nothing to do with darkness (Eph. 5).

These are several of universal admonitions about things Christians should avoid every day of the year (I’m pretty sure every day includes Halloween). One can acknowledge the reality of occultism and the fact that many in our country regularly participate in occult practices. These are dangerous and should be completely avoided by Christians.

Its important to note what occultism is. The word occult (not to be confused with a cult) means ‘secret’ or ‘hidden.’ Those that practice occultism are the initiated into the ‘secret’ arts.  Often witchcraft is considered to be occultism.

In discussing Halloween, we must be careful to avoid the genetic fallacy. The genetic fallacy says that the origin of something determines its truth or falsity (or in this case, whether it is good or bad). Keep in mind that the truth of something comes from whether it corresponds to reality. In the case of whether celebrating Halloween is good, one should have in mind what exactly Halloween is. For those Christians that celebrate it, some say that Halloween is simply a day for kids to dress up and get candy. If parents allow children to wear costumes and get treats any other day of the year, why keep your children from these things on this day?

Certainly the way children or adults dress is significant (as stated in #2 above). All should keep this in mind. For example, dressing up as demons may trivialize the reality and danger of the demonic realm. Similarly, dressing as a witch – yes, even an allegedly ‘good’ witch (Scripture says ALL witchcraft is evil) – can promote the idea in our children that witchcraft is harmless fantasy. The Bible does not entertain any idea of witchcraft as innocent or fun. Christians should be wise in how they dress. They can also use Halloween as a day to educate their children about the spiritual forces of darkness that battle against the Christian. On Halloween and every other day of the year remember: the way people dress matters.

Christians should realize that ‘demonic’ forces have no extra power on Halloween. If you think this way, is there a chance that you’re not giving to God what is God’s? After all, every day and all the earth belong to the Lord (Ps. 24:1). Christians should be careful not to give to the devil what belongs to the Lord alone.

A valuable question that can be raised is whether the origin of Halloween is intrinsic to it. In other words, can you participate in Halloween without linking the ‘celebration’ to any alleged pagan origin? Is it possible to make Halloween about something else? Can it simply be a special day to get dressed up and receive candy? There are certainly lots of people that celebrate Christmas without linking it to the significant event it marks for Christians. If non-Christians can do this for Christmas, is it not equally legitimate for Christians to separate the ‘pagan’ meaning mentioned above from their participation in Halloween? Again, these questions are for each individual to weigh.

Romans 14 provides guidance about matters that fall into a complex middle ground about which Christians disagree. The acknowledgement of middle ground doesn’t mean there is no right or wrong. There are plenty of areas that are not complicated and which are absolutely forbidden (worshipping other gods, murder, etc.). On the contrary, Romans 14 acknowledges the many dimensions of reality and that certain things are left to each individual to decide. If one invokes the celebration of Halloween as an area belonging to Romans 14, then participation is best left to each person’s (or the parents’ in the case of children) conscience. We are told that there are certain debated issues between believers that are not clearly answered in Scripture to which each person must have a clear conscience before the Lord (and it is to Him that we are to ultimately give an account). One major area of guidance from Romans 14 is that we are to do nothing to cause a weaker brother to stumble.

Personally, I know of Christians that use this day for evangelism and education about the Christianity. It provides an opportunity to discuss the triumph of light over darkness, of life over death, and of the Christian worldview over the realm of the occult. Shouldn’t we seize every opportunity to share the good news of the gospel with unbelievers?

What are things in every day life that can cause people to stumble? Some may struggle with drugs, lust, gambling, idolatry, or even occultism. Thus, we must not expose our weaker brothers (or sisters) to things that cause them to sin.

One concern of our family is that we desire to protect our children from certain evils. Our kids are sensitive to scary images and easily have nightmares when they've seen something scary. Due to this, we are careful in what we expose them to in media as well as in public (some costumes are absolutely terrifying to them). The exposure to different amounts of evil is something that each family needs to decide for themselves (after all, we can't escape from all evil or we'd need to leave this world). 

At the end of the day, remember three things: do everything in love, test all things, and hold fast to what is good. (1 Cor. 16; 1 Thess. 5:21). 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015





Most people think that knowledge is pretty important. They spend their time scouring the web for news stories, reading books or journals, and paying money to go to school to learn. The underlying assumption in this pursuit is that people think that what they are assimilating is true. Notwithstanding those addicted to fiction, few would spend money or time memorizing what is entirely false.

When asking professionals, most philosophers in the university today, what knowledge is, they’ll explain that knowledge is justified true belief.  This is allegedly given them by Plato from his book Theaetetus. Keep in mind that in this explanation there are three parts to knowledge.

  1. The first is the justification.  Justification is the reason or account given for the belief.
  2. The second is truth. Truth here is correspondence to reality.
  3. The third is belief. Belief is simply the view or judgment that is held.

Overlooked in this explanation of knowledge is Socrates’ critique of this ‘definition’ in Theaetetus.  The relevant parts from the text are found at the end of Socrates dialogue with Theaetetus (209e-210a):

Socrates: Well, if ‘adding an account’ means that we are required to get to know the differentness, not merely judge it, this most splendid of our accounts of knowledge turns out to be a very amusing affair. For getting to know of course is acquiring knowledge, isn’t it?

               Theaetetus: Yes.

Socrates: So, it seems, the answer to the question ‘What is knowledge?’ will be ‘Correct judgment accompanied by knowledge of the differentness’- for this is what we are asked to understand by the addition of an account.’

Theaetetus: Apparently so.

Socrates: And it is surely just silly to tell us, when we are trying to discover what knowledge is, that it is correct judgment accompanied by knowledge, whether of differentness or of anything else? And so, Theaetetus, knowledge is neither perception, nor true judgment, nor an account added to true judgment. [emphasis mine]

Theaetetus: It seems not.  

The problem that Socrates points out is that justified true belief as knowledge sneaks in justification as a kind of knowledge to shore up knowledge. This is surely circular.

Another problem, which is not mentioned, is that if justification is knowledge, then that justification also needs a justification, which needs a justification, all the way to an infinite number of justifications for the justifications. This infinite regress shows no hope of hitting a foundation for knowledge. Without any foundation, the infinite regress shows that justified true belief is not an adequate definition for knowledge.

In sum, there are two problems with using justified true belief as the definition for knowledge. The first is that it smuggles knowledge into the definition as justification (which is circular). The second is that it leads to an infinite regress (which is the same as not having any explanation at all).

Although this is where Plato left it, let me suggest the Thomistic solution. Knowledge is the unity between the knower and the known. If there is no unity between you and what you know, then you don’t know it, but something else. Of course the full details of how this occurs must be left to another time.

Thursday, May 7, 2015


By Bernard James Mauser, Ph.D.

Humanity is inundated with a flood of fads and fascinations. At our fingertips in seconds we can find the latest movie clips, how to survive the zombie apocalypse, along with a host of other obsessions both good and evil. In this melee of entertainment one can find serious news stories as well. One that has recently gained popularity concerns the state of Indiana’s new law promoting religious tolerance. We should recognize the overlap between the serious and the entertaining. C.S. Lewis can be a guide to help to this end.  


Now one may have only known Lewis from his Chronicles of Narnia. He also has a more serious work that is about the role of education in shaping morality. This book is called The Abolition of Man. In it he takes to task English teachers who, in the guise of teaching English, actually teach moral lessons. How can The Abolition throw some light on the overlap between the serious and less-than-serious?

Lewis points out and defends the truth that Paul expresses in Romans 2. What is known to everyone is that there is a moral law written on the heart by which people recognize good and evil. This view is opposed in our society by those identifying as relativists. The creed of the relativist is that there is no right or wrong. This allegedly frees them to pursue any pleasure they choose without a guilty conscience. However, this relativistic credo betrays them.  No person is a full-blown relativist. While they may say there is no right or wrong, the relativist thinks when you do something to hurt them in any way it is wrong.


This moral law is the basis for virtue and for judging anything to be good or evil. This is why we can judge any law to be good or bad. The moral law, sometimes referred to as the natural law, stands over all laws mankind makes. This is why all people can chime in about the morality of certain laws like those allowing religious freedom.

People always talk about the goodness or badness of movies, laws, and the like. When they do so they are saying that people can recognize these qualities. If morality is nothing more than preference, like tastes, then all these statements are meaningless. However, we recognize by our reactions to clear examples of immorality that there is a reality to the moral realm. Our moral judgments about right and wrong actually refer to reality and we all know it.

Those that deny this truth will have to bite the bullet. Lewis posits an argument that shows the implication of rejecting the universal moral law. “In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”[i] The denial of natural law leads to immorality, irrationality, and true intolerance as all these concepts are meaningless without it. Embracing the truth of the existence of this universal moral law frees us to be coherent when we judge between virtue and vice, good and evil.



[i] C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man, New York, MacMillan Publishing, 1947: p. 35