When recently challenged by a conservative Christian to describe my worldview, I responded that it was one of attempting to face the facts, which had led me to be a theist and to try to be a follower of Jesus, but which had also led me to reject many of the claims of orthodoxy.
Brother Michael, my worldview is basically that of attempting to face the facts and trying to conduct myself accordingly. There are some foundational facts we all have to face. I submit that the following propositions are not only well-established, they're well-nigh indisputable.
1. Human knowledge is limited. We don't know everything. We're constantly being reminded that even as to things we think we know, our understanding may well prove to be incomplete or flat-out wrong.
2. Change is a constant. Things never have and never will stay the way they are. Life has never been a parking lot where all the cars stay neatly ordered in their places. Life is a busy freeway interchange where traffic can come at you from virtually any direction. (So far as we can tell, this seems to be physically inevitable, because it appears that since the beginning of time, every single atom and subatomic particle in the universe has been in motion.)
3. We still must make judgment calls. Like drivers in the busy freeway interchange, we do not have the luxury of immobility or inaction. We must constantly make judgments about what to do, or not do, in our lives. Imperfect knowledge doesn't give us an excuse to avoid making these judgments. At any given time, we have to make our best guess about the appropriate thing to do, and proceed accordingly -- conscious that our best guess might be wrong.
4. We're going to make bad calls on occasion, but we have the ability to learn. Points 1 through 3 mean that mishaps are going to happen. None of us is infallible. But we have been blessed with the ability to learn. Humanity's experience gives us reason to hope that over time, individually and collectively, we will continue to improve our ability to navigate the traffic patterns in the freeway interchange.
Some Possible Theological Implications
This face-the-facts worldview, I submit, is consistent with theism, and also with what Jesus preached. Let's conjecture that the theistic view is correct: that there is a God who created the universe, and that he may well actively participate in the universe on an on-going basis. See my essay, How Do We Know There's a God, for a defense of this conjecture.
Facing the facts puts God first. When we face the facts, we deal with what God has actually done in the universe, as best we can discern it. We thus avoid enthrallment to wishful thinking about how we would have done things if we had been in God's shoes. This helps us to place God first in our lives, as the First Commandment calls us to do. Physicist-theologian the Rev. Dr. John Polkinghorne comments, "I have great sympathy with David Pailin when he says that 'Attempts to defend theism by ignoring the question of truth . . . are fundamentally atheistic. They worship human wishes rather than ultimate reality.'" (The Faith of a Physicist, Fortress Press paperback ed., ch. 2, p. 30.)
Facing the facts goes hand in hand with putting our trust in God. Someone who trusts in God can accept and deal with whatever comes along, confident that in the end, things will work out all right.
Facing the facts means accepting that all beliefs are provisional. We are not in a position to declare categorically that a particular body of knowledge, or a given set of beliefs, constitutes Immutable Truth. Humanity has too much hard experience to the contrary.
Facing the facts leads to metanoia. The facts we face include those we can discern from our own experiences and from the experiences of others, present and past. When we use these experiences to learn, to improve our "navigational ability" in life's busy freeway interchange, we engage in the metanoia, the change of mind and of life -- that is, the repentance -- that Jesus preached.