Personal Philosophy Project
What is the purpose of your existence?
Have you ever been misunderstood, desperately trying to explain themselves to someone who doesn’t want to listen? Then you’ve been Will Klumpenhower, trying to explain himself on the subject of his beliefs, only to be rebuffed by his peers. It’s frustrating, isn’t it, when you aspire to bring nothing but joy to a group of people, yet they discount you for what you believe. This story usually does not have the same ending as it does here, but that does not make this tale of any lesser importance. I am an Evangelical Christian, who believes that God created the world and everything in it, and has sent his Son to save us from everything we do wrong, and will one day bring us all to heaven where we’ll have a party for all of eternity. Even if you don’t believe in this, you’ve got to admit that’s a pretty sweet deal.
My personal philosophy comes straight out of the Westminster Catechism. The Westminster Catechism is not a religious text per se, but it is extremely useful for translating the Bible’s admittedly somewhat dense verbiage into something that can be applied to everyday life. It interprets the Bible in a question and answer format that expresses the theology of the primary scripture.The most relevant question in the Catechism is “What is the chief end of man?” The answer is, “To glorify God and enjoy him forever.” I believe that this is both a suitable and succinct answer, because it sums up in one sentence the Christian perspective to the question of the meaning of life. It means that our purpose while on Earth is to glorify God, and our purpose while not on Earth is to have a great time for eternity. The term “glorify God” can be misinterpreted, so I want to clarify. This term does not mean worship blindly, as one might speculate, but rather to act in everything you do in a manner to emulate Christ. Being a Christian does not mean your goal is to “be a good person”. If anyone is a true Christian, they know that they are a fundamentally flawed human being. In fact, we all are. We are all terribly screwed up people, and no one is better than anyone else in anything. That’s the truth of it. If you ever hear about any self-professed “Christians” saying they are better than anyone, don’t believe them. Christianity(or any other religion for that matter)is not something that you can make up the rules for. This in turn creates a previously nonexistent moral code. If everything is only good or bad as it pertains to you, morals do not exist.
All this however, is not well known. Many people, I have discovered, tend to be of the mind that anyone who calls themself a Christian thinks that they are better than everyone else. This assumption is regrettably based in reality, as all stereotypes are, but also is not representative of the majority.This is unfortunate, especially when one doesn’t adhere to the stereotype, as it is with most stereotypes, regardless of who they’re aimed towards. I feel that very few people really know what it means to be a Christian, so that’s what I intend to clarify.
The first step of this task seems rather counterintuitive: what isn’t a Christian? This question is rather simple, but answering it can help clarify what exactly we are dealing with. There are several highly regarded religious institutions who may claim to be Christian, but are rather offshoots or something else entirely. The most prominent example is the Roman Catholic Church. It seems strange to regard Catholicism as an offshoot, since it has been around for the better part of two millennia, but that is exactly what it has become. It was originally more in line with the Bible’s teachings, but has since strayed to the point where in the end, the Bible does not make the rules, an imperfect human being does, namely the Pope. Additionally, Catholicism teaches that you are justified from your sins by your good deeds, negating the need for a savior and therefore rendering Jesus unnecessary. This is a fundamentally wrong teaching for any Christian, so even if Catholics come close in what it means to be Christians, the fact still stands that they aren’t. (An important point to make here is that just about every other church denomination you’ll ever hear about are called Protestants. Protestants and Catholics, remember that for future reference.) The next highest-profile religious group that claims Christianity that isn’t are the Mormons. There is a more technical reason for this difference, however it is far more noticeable. The Bible clearly states that nothing may be added or subtracted from it, and the Book of Mormon is a direct offender that anyone that calls themselves a Christian should recognize. If you are trying to follow the Bible’s teaching, yet flagrantly break an important rule with no repentance, you are not a Christian, plain and simple.
The hardest distinction to make between who is a Christian and who is not, however, comes from within the Protestant movement itself. A relatively new movement(it began in the early 1900’s)within the church is known as Mainline or liberal Christianity. It has nothing to do with liberal politics, although its members will sometimes (but not always) align further in that direction on certain issues than your non-liberal, or Evangelical, Christians. Mainline Christians will tend to go to church every Sunday, but only to go through the motions, and most do not believe the Bible is true. This is an obvious flaw, but it comes to a head theologically in a far worse way. These Mainline Christians believe that in order to go to heaven, they must “be a good person”. This in itself is not a bad thing, in fact it is a great goal to strive for. Unfortunately, this is practically unachievable, and also creates a mental hierarchy and a general “we’re better than you” attitude that is prevalent throughout the majority of mainline church denominations. A personal example is my mom’s side of the family. They are the epitome of everything you think of when you hear “white privilege”. They have no shortage of money, they are all lawyers, Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineers, Army Rangers, CEOs, etc. They are members of the country club, and they go to these Mainline churches. They think they will get to heaven due to the mindset of “I’m a good person, and at least I’m not as bad as that guy”. This goes against the essential mindset that we are all fundamentally flawed people, and that we need saving from an all-powerful yet benevolent Savior. Without the hopelessness of existence prior to Christ and the redemption afterwards, there can be no true Christianity.
Many people think that to be a Christian is to adhere strictly to a set of rules. While this is still something I strive for, I don’t feel it necessary to force others around me too if that’s not their cup of tea. I can disagree with what people believe, but at the end of the day, the call of a Christian is to love everyone else. This is why I disagree entirely with lifestyles of certain religious groups such as the Westboro Baptist Church, whose idea of obeying God is to condemn everyone who they deem is worse than them. Perhaps they mean well, or perhaps not, but regardless of whatever they are trying to say, they are going about it in a way contradictory to the Bible. I am a firm believer of disagreeing without hatred. The two are not the same thing, and should not be treated as such. Rather, they should be two different responses to an argument. You can always disagree without creating a barrier between yourself and your perceived enemy. In any case, I have many problems of my own to deal with before I can go around criticizing other people’s issues. As Matthew 7:3-5 says, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” This, I feel, is a perfect verse to describe this sentiment.
To summarize, my personal philosophy is my interpretation of Christianity. I am not perfect by any means, but I have been saved by a benevolent Deity and I now model my life after his example. I admit I mostly don’t succeed, but when I do, I believe without fear, I love without hesitation, and I disagree without altercation. This is what it means to be a Christian, and this is what I aspire to live by.
What is life and what makes you happy?
What does it mean to live a meaningful life?
Part 1: New Insights
This project didn't really make me think that much deeper about myself, since I've been pretty solid in my beliefs for several years now. I think the most radical decision I had to make in this project was whether I wanted to actually state what I believe or come up with something about how I have looked deep into my innermost thoughts and have found my calling to the outdoors or whatever. One of these would have been received a lot better, I believe, so naturally I chose the other one. I think the most influential thought in this project for me personally was, "How am I going to say this in a way that will sound deep and personal enough for people to care?" I guess that was the largest problem with my project: it wasn't personal enough. I should have come up with a more compelling story, one that would hold an audience and make them think deeply about their innermost selves. What am I thinking to be basing my life of a text written thousands of years ago! How can I call myself an intellectual when I can't think for myself? I need to base my life on my own terms, and not rely on some archaic belief. I need to follow the example of my peers, who have in their own original and unique way made up what seems good to them. I can't do what some book tells me to do, I must follow the majority and gain their approval. What a fool I am!
Part 2: Further Questions
What is irony?
What is sarcasm?
What is satire?
What is hypocrisy?
What did I learn in this project?