Should Christians Have a Cup-Half-Full or Cup-Half-Empty Worldview?

HOULD Christians be enlightened cynics who clearly understand the depravity of the world or should they be more of the happy and hopeful type? Which outlook is most in keeping with the heart of the Christian message? Which view best matches reality?

In a recent article for Philosophy Now Magazine, Sam Woolfe explores the philosophical underpinnings of pessimism. He points to a study that observers that those who are more depressive “reflect a more accurate appraisal of the world” while “non-depressives (that is, most people) appraise the world in a positively biased way. They tend to view the past, present, and future with rose-tinted glasses.” Thus, the minority group, the pessimists, are the ones whose views best match reality, the article suggests.

This binary grouping of the population into pessimists and optimists seems to fit lived experience, doesn’t it? Most people—and by most I mean people other than mecan be easily categorized. But I think most people—and by most I mean everyone including me—see themselves as more nuanced and less easily reduced to a particular option. In short, everybody other than us is either too grumpy or too happy. We have found a better balance, so we think.

Of course, I could be wrong in my broad brush description of the world. That’s happened before, sadly enough. I suppose I can only speak for myself. This actually illustrates a problem in asking which perspective is a more accurate description of reality.

Whether or not a pessimistic or optimistic outlook most resembles reality boils down to, well, the nature of reality as it truly is. In other words, we must first establish the nature of reality before we can ask if an attitude is consistent with it. Reality is not swayed by my personal view, by the consensus view of the populace, or even by the expert view of the profesisonals. As one profound thinker once said, “[Reality] is what it is.”

So, which is it? Is the world positive or negative? To know that, we need a powerful intellect who is not subject to the emotional ups and downs experienced in life, someone outside of this physical world, who can describe for us just what the nature of world truly is.

Christians of course believe we have such information, from outside of the system, making sense on what goes on inside the system. For the Christian, we have every reason to have a negative view of the effects of sin, but every reason to be hopeful because of the work of God in redemption and the promise of a new creation. If this is true, as I believe it is, then it is not an optimistic or pessimistic view of reality that is most accurate. It is a biblical view, a mixture of the two, that grieves in a fallen world, but not as those without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

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