The Clarion Call
Understanding the world around us is a pursuit of every person capable of cognitive thinking. In fact, so ubiquitous is this inward compulsion to understand reality that people rarely give much thought to the search. People tend to focus on answering the questions rather than the inward impetus to search for the answers to the questions.
Seeking to understand reality
People's personal pursuit to understand our existence and, in the larger sense, reality, is nearly identical. When each of us come to a certain age we begin to ask questions about ourselves, the world, and the universe in which we live. At some point we begin a quest for answers to these questions. One of the steps this involves is examining the alternative views that attempt to explain truth, life, ourselves, and numerous other questions. In order to gain the understanding we seek, possibly better said, to acquire a lens through which to view reality and our world, each of us seek a creditable and authoritative source on which we build our beliefs. These alternative views come to us through multiple conduits including family, friends, television, media sources, school and education, church organizations and other sources.
These sources of information, at least the ones we choose to believe because they appear creditable, become authoritative to us. Consider a visit to the doctor as an illustration. When a doctor tells us that we are to undergo a certain medical procedure for some medical condition, his voice becomes authoritative and creditable to us. In fact, we are willing to submit to his recommendations and follow his directions regardless if it means he is cutting on us or prescribing to us medication for which we have little or no knowledge based solely on our faith in his authority and knowledge.
It may be that the medical condition is serious enough that it prompts us to seek a second opinion—a second authoritative source. And this makes sense because the more important the matter is, the more we are compelled to seek a clearly creditable and authoritative source among the offerings to base our decision. In the same manner, when we search for answers to the most important questions, we will search for creditable and authoritative sources of information that appear believable and plausible. Rest assured, there is no shortage of views, all claiming to be true, and no shortage of what we might term, clarion calls.
What exactly is a clarion call? The online Etymology Dictionary defines it in this manner:
clarion (n.) "small, high-pitched trumpet," early 14c., from Old French clarion "(high-pitched) trumpet, bugle" and directly from Medieval Latin clarionem (nominative clario) "a trumpet," from Latin clarus "clear". Clarion call in the figurative sense "call to battle" is attested from 1838 (clarion's call is from 1807).
A clarion call has two components. The first is the instrument. The historical instrument used was a trumpet or horn. No doubt a horn was used due to its loud and easily identifiable sound. The second component was the clarity of the call. No ambiguity, the sound was identifiable and the meaning was clear. Joined together, the term clarion call simply means a clear call made as a public announcement to communicate to others that action is needed.
Does this apply to our discussion? Clearly. Every authoritative source announces clearly, publicly, and with a certain amount of force that it’s views are correct. Every alternative and every source of authority will lay claim that it should be used as a lens to understand reality. Why is this important? It is important because it is critical for us to understand that just because a public voice is clear, loud, and sounds authoritative, these things alone do not make it correct.
Seeking to understand God
When we approach the matter of God, each of us also seek a creditable and authoritative source on which we build our beliefs. We hear those sources through many conduits including family, friends, television, media sources, school and education, and numerous other sources. In fact, there is such a large amount of information provided to us about God, both good and bad, that we are often unaware it is happening. Let me give you a couple of examples.
I enjoy audio equipment. I often read professional audio reviews for fun. If I am considering a piece to purchase I would never do so without extensively reading public reviews on the item. I do so because I am looking for an authoritative source of information. Recently I came across an article about a turntable I was interested in. Take a look at how the writer inserted, completed unnecessarily I might add, his opinion about God (emphasis added).
I'm endlessly fascinated with the science behind them [turntables]—at least partly because, as with theology and frankfurters, the real essence of the thing I'm trying to know is in fact unknowable. Given the subjectivity we bring to music appreciation and the fact that we can't see what's really going on in the groove during record play, theories and guesswork are all we have to go on in the world of phonography, notwithstanding some tedious and unintentionally funny claims to the contrary (taken from https://www.stereophile.com/turntables/776/index.html).
My point is simple. In the daily living of life, statements are often made which provide us information about God. In this case, the author's opinion is that God, summarized in the word theology (the formal study of God), is unknowable. He even adds the ridiculous comparison of theology and frankfurters—that both are unknowable. Now, on the surface this may appear to be a humorous and harmless statement. The reality is far deeper. This type of societal training through statements by people who take on the mantle of authoritative position, train people to believe in a particular fashion by the repetitious statements they make. Here, the communication is clear—God is unknowable.
One more example if I may. Consider the television that people watch many hours every day. The television is the greatest media of communication in human history, about many subjects, not the least is information about God. One of the primary communication points by the writers of television programming is that a normal life is lived without God—void of God that is. Whether people are in a high-speed car chase, welding handguns and shooting others, or portraying a humorous but dysfunctional family situation, the programming portrays life void of God. (When God is portrayed in the character’s life it is normally pernicious and abhorrent). In 1994, an extensive research project was conducted on television programming and the portrayal of people's lives regarding religion and the absence of God in the lives of the characters. Here is part of the research abstract:
A sample of 100 episodes was selected for analysis during a five-week period of 1990. Findings indicate that the religious side of characters' lives is not typically presented on television. Across 1462 characters, 5.6% had an identifiable religious affiliation. Religious activity was infrequently presented. When it was portrayed, it was rarely a central theme in the storyline and it was most often framed as a personal and private activity. This study concludes that the infrequent presentation of religion and spirituality tends to symbolically convey the message that religion is not very important because it is rarely a factor in the lives of the people on TV or the social setting in which they are portrayed. (taken from https://www.jstor.org/stable/3511892?seq=1)
But this is not a fully accurate picture of television—television programming is not neutral on the matter. The opposite is true. Though God is seldom portrayed in the lives of the characters, the number and amount of subtle negative comments and information presented about God and religion is extensive, distorted, negative, and distasteful. Television easily ranks as one of the most detrimental sources of information about God available to the general public.
Everyone forms an opinion about God
Do you know that every single person forms an opinion about God? It is true.
Ask yourself if you ever think about God. Ask your best friend. Ask anyone you know well enough and if they tell you the truth, they will admit that they think about God...often. Everyone will form an opinion and develop a view about God. This is the case for everyone. Even the atheist who is constantly saying there is no God, thinks about God and his belief that God does not exist...often.
The reason everyone thinks about God and forms an opinion of God is that God places within us a necessity and impetus to answer the question. The same way that each of us gets sleepy and becomes hungry and acquires language—it is somehow within us. God made us with this natural and pressing need to form an opinion about him. In the same way that many of our bodily functions require no consenting thought or action (referred to as the autonomic nervous system), we need not think of it, it naturally occurs. Similarly, there is a sort of autonomic mechanism within us that forces us to think about God—we need not go to the question, the question will come to us. Everyone thinks about God and everyone comes to a conclusion on what he or she thinks about God. We all share this as a member of humanity.
Enter source of authority
Whether positive or negative, everyone will search out and be influenced by sources of authority that provides information to answer the inner question about God. This may be done consciously with intent or it might be done unconsciously and passively, but no one bases his beliefs about God simply on the conclusions of his own thinking. It may seem to us that we came to our beliefs about God on our own, but the truth is we formulate our beliefs based upon external information that we deem authoritative, reliable, and acceptable. The number of pieces of information about God that we have heard during our lifetimes is staggering. And, accumulatively these voices of information form our thinking and we develop an opinion and belief about God based upon those sources (or a combination of sources).
As I mentioned before, there are a limited number of alternatives about truth, about God, and about reality in the world. We are led to believe there are as many views about life and God as the stars in the sky. The truth of the matter is there are surprisingly few. What is extensive is the number of variations of a much smaller number of views. This project is a small attempt to summarize these views and advocate for the biblical view of God, truth, and reality.
With these things said, please consider joining me as we attempt to explain several points throughout this discussion.
1. We will list seven alternative views presented about God and truth and reality and how they should be viewed. While this is a simple presentation about a rather complex matter, I believe the summary is accurate, easy to understand, and beneficial to know.
2. We will attempt to explain how these opposing viewpoints become the very stones in the road of life which people stumble over with devastating consequences.
3. We will discuss the implications of the authoritative source each of us choose.
I invite you to continue with me as we list the alternative sources for understanding truth and reality.