Friday, February 29, 2008

Of Worldviews and the "Big Picture" of Christianity

Brothers and sisters,

A blog? A monthly column? Me write a monthly column? I wasn't sure why God stuck such an elaborate idea in my head, but it has certainly been floating around up there for the past several months. Like many of you, I pray that God will open doors for me, that He will show me ways to do more to serve Him. Was this an answer? In spite of my consistent placement of the notion on the backburner, I was finally convince that it was. I have been a sometime writer in the past; occasionally contributing an article here and there, and I must confess that I do enjoy the activity, but what could I write about that some poor, unsuspecting soul would want to read? And how could such an exercise serve to edify my fellow believers in Christ?

In pondering such questions, I kept returning to a word that I must admit I found a little distasteful. It had a sinister, Orwellian quality to it that seemed incompatible with the message of Jesus Christ. It was one of those trendy, overused terms that float about from mouth to mouth like a bad virus. Yet, I could find no other designation to adequately describe what I felt led to write about. The word was worldview.

Most of us are at least vaguely familiar with the idea, and I'm sure, if asked, we would certainly say that we indeed had a Christian worldview. I am less certain that we would actually know what that means, and why it is so important. So what exactly is a worldview and how does it apply to us?

"Worldview" is a term borrowed from the German idea of weltanschauung, literally meaning "a view of the world." It originated in nineteenth-century German Romanticism, and can be loosely defined as the "overall perspective in which we see and interpret life."

The idea of worldview found particular attraction with the Nazis in the 1930s, who eagerly applied it to represent their twin philosophies of Teutonic largesse and Aryan domination. (Incidentally, the Nazis were never the creative people that most people think they were. They didn't invent racial supremacy, or anti-semitism, or even concentration camps, but they did invent the Volkswagen.)

In more recent years, the idea has been pilfered by secular humanist forces to bunk up the unsteady pillars of moral relativism. The humanists believe that every person's own delicate experience is equally valid, no matter how depraved. Consequently, all worldviews, identified in their terminology as identity narratives, must be equally true. In such a line of thinking, for example, a person could make up whatever standard of morality he desired, and then confidently believe, ridiculous as it sounds, in its equivalence to Christianity. He believes what he believes. We believe what we believe. Everything is warm and fuzzy. But all moral absolutes, such as the big absolute, truth, go out the window.

"Not so," says the Christian, or so he should. Worldview, by its very definition, means overall perspective. It is worldview we are talking about, not point of view. It is therefore comprehensive, all encompassing. In other words, uh oh, it is absolute. It is, and spread your arms out wide when saying this, "The Big Picture." It applies not only to theology, but also to art, science, music, history, literature, ethics, law, and education. Anything you can think of can be viewed with accuracy from our perspective as Christians, because our perspective is absolute. You see, we as Christians have something that no other belief system has. We have the truth. The only way to see the world in such completeness is through the lens of Christ.

Now obviously, we are still talking about faith, which the bible defines as "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen." It is by grace through faith that we receive Christ. Yet, it is not a blind faith. It is, in fact, very reasonable. The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 1"19-20 that what "may be known of God is manifest" in us, and that "the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen." We Christians are pretty certain of what we believe through our faith. In fact, we know the who, what, when, where, and how of it. But sometimes, we're not really sure about the why.

Allow me to illustrate. I heard a story about a guy who was raised in a small town Baptist church very much like our own. He grew up learning about the great themes of the bible in Sunday school and worship service. He made a decision for Christ as a pre-teen and was soon baptized. Never the most eager among the youth of the church, he nevertheless attended regularly and was considered in all respects to be a good boy.

At age eighteen, he went off to college, participating in that convoluted rite of passage known as registration day. He quickly chose the subjects he would require for his major, and then scanned the catalog for an easy elective. There it was, something he already knew about, or so he thought. It was a course entitled Introduction to the Old Testament. He signed up.

Imagine his surprise the first day, when he was told that Moses did not write the Pentateuch, as the bible says, and that it was instead compiled and edited hundreds of years later from various sources. He spoke up, saying that the bible, which clearly identifies Moses as the author, has great validity and could not be wrong. The course instructor, a gray-bearded gentleman in a tweed jacket, chuckled at the remark, and very quickly, the young man found himself ridiculed and marginalized for his candor. What could he do? How could he respond? He knew he was right. He knew he had the truth, but he could not explain why.

As you may have already guessed, that young man was yours truly. Startled by what I was being taught in a major university, I slowly began to investigate for myself. What I found was surprising. The hard evidence for, what we were told, was modern bible scholarship, was actually paper thin, highly speculative, and quite pitiful when compared to the actual documentation of traditional bible historiography.

Yet, every autumn, our young people go off to college and run into a similar experience. In 2nd Corinthians 10:5, Paul speaks of "casting down," or destroying, "every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God." In practically any subject imaginable, these days, do we find such "high things," or worldly opinions, which are put forth as to be superior to the truth of God. Sometimes these opinions can cause us to doubt and to question. But we must never forget that all truth is God's truth. The purpose of this column is to apply God's truth to such "high things," and to help us to construct a Christian "Big Picture" by, as Paul says, "bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." It is my prayer that this will become an interactive space and that we may open a dialogue concerning the onslaught of the secular world upon that which we know to be the truth; the gospel of Jesus Christ. So please, comment and ask questions. Let's have fun with this.

Love in Christ,