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,

Brad











































14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Brad,

Very nice! The youth just got done with an apologetic series on demoloshing strongholds, a series based off of the 2 Corinthians 10:5 text. While the strongholds that we demolished as a group were regarding evolutionary thought, the introduction into establishing a consistent, Christian worldview is much needed for our youth. The idea that Christianity is a faith that involves, not only loving God with all of your heart, but also your mind shows that Christians are to be a thinking people. I think that your blog will challenge our church to rediscover their brain that is their's in Christ. I fear that some will, unlike you, be tossed "to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine" instead of seeking to demolish the stronghold of liberal anti-biblical scholarship. Students and adults must realize that just because it is packaged in a Christian package does not mean that historical Christian orthodoxy is what's inside. Keep up the good work. I can't wait for the next post.

Anonymous said...

Strangely enough in colleges today there isn't much contest between orthodox Christian doctrine and liberal Christian ideas. It would seem like in universities there would be at least two sides, those who seem to deny everything supernatual about the Bible and those who believe it was inspired by God. The discussion gets bogged down by cynical professors who only want to bash all the apostles and church fathers, and ultimately God.

What I don't understand is why so many college students at UNCW, the university I attened, did not speak up for the Christian faith. If they are like me, a middle class white kid from the suburbs, they grew up in church. Do I assume everybody goes to church? I mean this is the South where everybody goes to church right? I guess the professor's tone of voice and piercing questions were too much for my fellow UNCW classmates.

-Nate

Brad Livengood said...

Thanks so much for your comments. It is great to know that we are thinking alike on this. Please keep them coming.
In response to Nate's question, there is nothing universal about our universities today. The are among the most closed societies on earth. Nothing but secular, atheistic viewpoints are tolerated. The irony is that many of these same institutions were originally created to provide Christian educations.
So, why do Christian kids clam up when confronted with liberal doctrine? Assuming they are indeed Christians, I think the previous blogger hits it right on. We're not teaching them to think. As I said in the column, they know what they believe, but they don't know why. We need to teach our kids, and our adults for that matter, to "rediscover" their minds. We are to love God with all of our heart, soul and mind, in other words, we are to love Him with every force of our being. Some of the great thinkers of history were Christian thinkers, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Newton, Lewis. Somewhere along the way, the modern church has lost that. We have surrendered the intellect in public discourse to the secularists. But it doesn't have to be that way.
Brad

Anonymous said...

Brad,

Have you ever heard of the book Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey. It is one of my all time top three books that I have ever read. This book has been most influential on my worldview thinking. She was a student at L'abri under Francis Schaeffer. It is amazing how she writes. She is one of the greatest thinkers of our day, outside of Dr. Albert Mohler of course. I am interested to know your thoughts on it.
Evan

Brad said...

Evan,
I am familiar with Nancy Pearcey through her work with Chuck Colson, which includes a great book called "How Now Shall We Live." This is one of the more thorough apologetic works of the last several years. I have also enjoyed their columns at Christianity Today. I have not read the book which you mentioned.
Brad

Anonymous said...

"How Now Shall We Live" really influenced my view on politics. I had to read "How Now Shall We Live" and "Total Truth" for a class that I was taking. At the time I was very Democratic, on both economic and social policy. I was against abortion, same sex marriage, stem cell research, but I wasn't acurately fleshing them out in my politics. Those two books transformed my life in a number of different areas: politics, art, science, logic, etc. I really think that you would enjoy "Total Truth." I would like to go through it with the youth, but as you said about "How Now Shall We Live," it is very tough sledding. I just noticed that you said that this blog is going to be updated monthly; I've got to tell you Brad, I just don't think that I can wait a whole month in between posts. I think this blog is a very good idea, I just hope that our church really gets into it. Until next time friend.

Evan

Chelsea Marie said...

I don't really have anything philosophical to say, but I really enjoyed your post.I'm looking forward to more posts!

Brad Livengood said...

Chelsea, and Evan,
Thanks so much for your comments. We'll have to see how things go as to whether I can post more frequently.
It is nice to see, Evan, how a good apologetic work influenced your life for the better. I would look forward to reading "Total Truth."

Anonymous said...

Brad,
Great first blog.I look forward to future posts. It is time for Christians to realize that we must filter everything in our lives through a biblical worldview. Too many people claim to have a Christian worldview yet believe like the secular humanists of the world. We must filter, music, books and every choice we make through the filter of the Word of God. Your definition of worldview hits the spot. Keep up the good work.
Mike F

Brad said...

Mike,
Thanks so much for the encouragement. I think one of the biggest problems we face as Christians is that many of our fellow believers don't realize they have a choice. They have inadvertantly compartmentalized their thinking into two disparate categories; 1)How they view the Word of God, and 2)How they view everything else.
Prayerfully, I hope we can help them understand that the truth of the Bible should advise every purpose and aspiration. It should be, as you say, the filter through which everything should permeate.
Brad

Anonymous said...

Very Deep. I believe that you summarized my entire worldview curriculum.
Lindsay

brad said...

Dear Lindsay,
I'm always glad to help. Deep is good, you know. Eating deep dish pizza, diving in the deep end of the pool, drifting off into a deep sleep, grandmother's deep voice in the morning, Deep Purple. We middle children like depth because, hey, what else do we have?
Anyway, thanks for the comments. They were deeply felt.
Brad

Anonymous said...

Brad,
I really enjoyed your blog and the comments.It is good to know we are not alone in our thinking. I remember meeting opposition from my teacher years ago in High School Biology class over evolution. Keep up the good work. You are a great teacher and singer. It was so nice to hear your praise for Karen.
C Brown

Brad said...

Carol,
Thanks so much for your kind words. You mention an incident from High School Biology class. I'm certain that many Christians can point to similar events in their academic life. If we had to face it then, think what kids have to face now. What can they say? How can they deal with it? In my next post I will attempt to discuss the enormous question of science vs faith. I am a person of deep faith, yet I am also a fan of true science. Is it possible to rationalize the two? You betcha!
Brad