Christian Metaphysical Realism

Christian Metaphysical Realism is a worldview that synthesizes Christian theology, old fashion common-sense and philosophical realism. Philosophically it aligns most specifically with Neo-Platonic Realism as expressed by Augustine of Hippo as modified by Aquinas in a Thomistic, neo-Augustinian slant) In one sense it is a philosophical domain, and in another, it rests firmly within pragmatic common-sense. It is material and it is spiritual. It lives in the mundane but focuses on the transcendent. It is the worldview held by most ordinary Christians for two millennia. It is my contention that this worldview forms the core of what became Western Civilization and culture.

For the ordinary person, this world view comes down to an expression of simple common-sense, what is is, the world is real, things exist, and they exist independent of us knowing about them or thinking about them. What we do not see and do not understand still exists, sometimes in the mind of God alone and at other times only partially revealed to us. Most people, in most of the West’s history, understood the world this way.

The statement above is fairly self-evident from a cursory survey of Western History. To be certain, intellectuals, philosophers and even theologians have conceptualized other ways of describing the world, but to the ordinary man, to practical politicians and those that did the work of getting things done, in the end, realism and the pragmatic shaped their worldview.

Scottish philosopher Thomas Reid (1710–1796), argued that ordinary people had access to “first principles, principles of common sense, common notions, [or] self-evident truths” and that common-sense judgment was “necessary to all men for their being and preservation, and therefore it is unconditionally given to all men by the Author of Nature” (Common-Sense pp 46-47) Thus, without studying or knowing philosophy or philosophical concepts all men, in all times, informed by the natural moral law and universal truths have access to common-sense. This common-sense informs a realistic view of the world. (Western Tradition of Common-Sense)

In philosophy, realism attempts to explain the problem of the one and the many. For example, how can two or two thousand Red 2020 Ford Explorers with the exact same option packages exist as the same and different? When we observe two such vehicles parked alongside each other do we recognize them as the same thing, e.g. a 2020 Red Ford Explorers, or as two totally separate things? Most humans recognize that fundamentally these two vehicles are the same things, they simply occupy different positions in space-time and are comprised of distinctly different physical matter. They vary in some characteristics but are fundamentally the same things- most recognize that. We recognize the essence, or idea, of what a 2020 Red Ford Explorer is as part of our reality – we see the Ford Explorer-ness for what it is. To the ordinary man of common-sense, this make plain sense without the thought exercise. It is only necessary because so dispute the reality of the universe, or seek to only see the material portions of reality. A Christian realist of common-sense sees past those fallacies.

The counter-view, taken to an extreme would deny that there is anything that can unify our collective understanding of anything – no universals.

A Christian realist must necessarily understand that universals and abstract objects exist in the mind of God and physical things, those we see and touch, are not themselves metaphysically ultimate. Reason, observation, and knowledge tell us much about the world but they can never tell us all. The Christian realist understands parts of the cosmos and the world around us are ineffable to us at present.

Providence article on Christian Realism.

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Purpose:  to clarify for simplicity, consistency, and reference the meaning of the defined terms and its use in documents related to the Fourth Turning Clash of Inter-Civilization Cultures Project