Conventional wisdom tells us:
According to conventional wisdom, human beings are groups of atoms brought together by chance with enough complexity to operate as the highest life form. Improbably, most also believe, and so it is a legitimate part of conventional wisdom, that we have souls and that there is some kind of God or religious force from which we can draw aid to solve our problems. We live very pragmatically. When faced with a problem or obstacle, we rely on our ‘toolbox’ of solutions, and most of us will likely discuss it with friends before choosing which to use. If one solution does not seem to work, we try another and discuss further until we find one that works. Human autonomy means the freedom for everyone to choose to do whatever they want when they want. Personal choice is so important it is worth toppling any autocrat or oppressive system of thought that stands in the way and to consume whatever resources are required. Yet, our almost unbridled consumption is, at the same time, fast depleting our world of its limited resources. We have complete faith in science and technology to solve all of these problems, given enough time. Our society operates on the premise of the common good and beyond that no laws are universally binding, only personal preferences. Our system of constitutional law and government generally stands us in good stead, although the many interest groups and lifestyle choices have brought us to a near state of stalemate.
Conventional wisdom is so assumed and set as to be practically unquestioned and unawares.1 Yet, at the same time, particulars can change direction almost on a whim, and we, like a school of fish or flock of birds swerve to stay on board. The ‘story’ conventional wisdom tells is increasingly disconnected and distant from the stories of the original settlers and founders of our republic, particularly the biblical story.
Narrative, or the story model, has become a/the dominant way people think about, or de/construct, reality in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. The story model has some drawbacks, not the least of which is a tendency to ‘group think’ that can inhibit plausible alternative scenarios.2 Thinking people realize the story told by conventional wisdom is not perfect.
Without taking the unnecessary and dangerous step of “finding middle ground” or accommodating to postmodern worldview assumptions, is it possible, and even needful, as a communication device, given our milieu, to construct again for this [rising?] generation a credible alternative story of reality, or the way things really are, to the current conventional wisdom of naturalism or mysticism?
To consider this question, I propose forming a small, short-term, loose working group to explore construction of such a credible alternative story. And, I posit as a working subtitle for such an endeavor: “On the basis of available evidence, we suspect that God is in covenant with created reality, not in some kind of dualism.” Although this may be the starting point, I suspect that where the narrative ends is closest to where one normally would begin with someone who does not believe in Christ, although almost anywhere in the story might prove to be appropriate.
2 In the influential film “12 Angry Men,” a young Hispanic man was charged with killing his father and put on trial for his life. The authors of a subsequent law review article describe the juror decision making process as the “story model.” “Criminal trials involve a dispute about an historic event: either the defendant did it or didn’t. The juror’s task is to evaluate [the] competing narratives and decide which side’s version is correct. In the[ir] . . . analysis of the evidence [the authors] suggest that ‘the twelve angry men’ demonstrated reasoning consistent with the story model but failed to develop [and thus to consider] very plausible alternative scenarios.” (Bennett, W. Lance and Martha S. Feldman. 1981. “Reconstructing reality in the courtroom.” In “Was he guilty as charged? An alternative narrative based on the circumstantial evidence from 12 angry men.” Chicago-Kent Law Review 82:2:691-710. http://scholarship.law.duke.edu/faculty_scholarship/ 1814) [accessed 05/17/11]
Other examples of ‘credible alternatives’ include: “Mongla Port [Bangladesh]: A Credible Alternative If Expanded And Connected.” Business Monitor International Online. Mar 2011, http://store.businessmonitor.com/article/452128) [accessed 05/17/11]. And, “Over the coming months, [Shadow Chancellor Ed] Ball needs to set out an alternative story that is both credible and appealing.” (Finch, Dermott. Jan 2011. “Alan Johnson resignation: right decision, bad for Ed. M. (Hedges, Fishburne. http://fishburne-hedges.typepad.com/dermot_finch/ 2011/01/alan-johnson-resignation-right-decision-bad-for-ed-m.html) [accessed 05/17/11]