Teleology is one of those weird terms one will hear if they study enough philosophy and/or Theology. Teleology refers to what would be considered a ‘final cause’ or an end result. Teleology is utilized in explaining why we act versus not acting, and it presupposes for the most part that we act for our own good, or the good of others. Since the vast majority of actions are not done in a vacuum, they have some purpose or meaning to the actor, which then motivates him to do what he does, with the idea that the action will cultivate in a predetermined outcome of his liking. Teleology presupposes an order in nature and natural law that can be manipulated and predicted so that an outcome occurs given the right amount of effort and direction of activity.
Teleology can be broken down into two final causes, that of intrinsic finality and extrinsic finality. Extrinsic finality refers to the end result of actions that lies outside of the individual. For instance, a farmer will go through a great deal of hardship to plow, plant and cultivate a crop for the end purpose of eating, and thus, sustaining his life. Without a perceived reward for the effort instilled, the farmer would not bother himself to begin such an endeavor, thus determining for himself the effort is not worth the outcome, or end of the process. Understanding the need to eat is essential for continued existence; the farmer will put in the efforts, regardless of the real or perceived level of resistance, which is seen to be less than the cost of staying alive. In this, there is a cost/benefit ratio worth the effort, and despite the work being of great output, is done without much deliberation.
Intrinsic finality refers to the end result of action that lies within the individual. This would be evident in many parents wanting their children to ‘be happy’, and thus, giving themselves satisfaction, or happiness. Intrinsic finality can also relate to a cause, such as honesty, integrity, truth telling, ect. It is in the pursuit of these matters of ‘higher good’ that motivates the individual to action, regardless of the negative consequences or outcomes. It is more important for that individual to keep the integrity of his internal well being intact than for whatever outcome may occur and it is highly motivational for him to follow through on this.
It is in this, that one most likely finds or has a ‘God experience’. In order for the individual to act on such strong conviction, this person must have a certain level of knowledge through experience that he is able to act on ‘faith’ and not sight that his actions will ultimately culminate in his obtaining his goal. In simple terms, it is similar to an individual getting into their car and fully expecting to reach their destiny without mishap. There is absolutely no guarantee a positive outcome, but it is in the action of doing that ultimately results in a completion of the action. If there was significant doubt about the outcome of the action being anything other than the intended outcome, one would not act, and nothing would become of the intention.
It is in this, that many lack ‘faith’ in acting on their beliefs, due to the fact they are not sure there will be a positive outcome. So there is hesitation, procrastination, or simply no effort put into an activity that may result in a negative outcome. This is why many Christians make statements such as: “I know what I should do, but it seems to never work out, or it will not work out for me”. Since the end result is in question, or the individual attempting to do the action is too unsure, it will result in inertia, and the status quo will remain intact. This is why Jesus is so emphatic that we “Walk by faith, and not by sight”. We cannot possibly know the outcome of events, given we are finite human beings, and we do not know the beginning from the end.
In this world of science and empiricism, if we cannot measure or predict with accuracy any event, we no longer want to engage in an activity. God requires faith, which is the opposite of science and empiricism, and it goes totally against what our modern society practices and preaches. This is why many that claim to be of great faith, do not demonstrate their faith, as they are too busy anticipating the outcome, which is truly unknowable to the mortal man. This is the arrogance of doing the opposite of what God instructs us to do, by ‘walking by sight and not by faith”.
Teleology requires we do the opposite of what the world is telling us to do. When we live by faith, we truly are in the realm of discovery and possibility, as the outcome cannot be predicted, but God does assure us that if we are in his will, that the efforts put forth will not be in vain. Simply look around at many of modern man’s efforts, and see for yourself whether most are in vain or not. Given how poorly we are doing, the answer seems self-evident.