Worldviews: What They Are and Why They Matter (Part 4)
In my previous articles I described what worldviews are and how they work, sketched out the Christian worldview, and discussed how to critique a worldview. Now I want to ask an important question: “So what?” Why does any of this matter?
It matters because all worldviews come with practical and existential commitments. Every worldview makes demands upon those who hold to it. This is because certain truths follow from the basic truths of the Christian worldview: Creation, Rebellion, and Redemption.
The Christian worldview implies a particular understanding of God and a unique view of Creation and our place in the world as God’s creatures. In other words, we hold to a Christian theory of being, rooted in the existence of God. This implies a particular way of knowing, grounded in the nature of reality. The fact of God’s existence makes demands upon those who exist because he has chosen to create them—in other words, we are obliged to God.
Allow me to list some of these obligations by drawing from philosopher David Naugle’s book Worldview: The History of a Concept.
Because reality is grounded in God:
- We don’t have the freedom to create or ascribe an independent meaning to the universe because God already has done it.
- We don’t have the right to create or ascribe an independent meaning to the universe because we are creatures, not the Creator.
- We don’t have the capability to create or ascribe an independent meaning to the universe because of our formidable limitations.
Naugle concludes, “Only the rebellious, the proud, and the deceived, that is, only a human nature that is corrupt, would attempt such a ridiculous feat. The meaning of the universe and the authority to determine it are not open questions since both are fixed in the existence and character of God. Relativism and subjectivism are thereby excluded”
This has obvious implications for our contemporary debate over the nature of marriage. In creating human beings God made the woman for the man, and the man for the woman. God is the author and designer of marriage. Marriage is not a human construct that we can redefine as two men, or two women, or more than two people, or in any other way than the Creator already has. The move to normalize homosexual behavior by legalizing gay marriage is thus not simply an attack on traditional marriage; it is an attack on Creation, one that goes to the heart of who we are as relational beings.
Those who commit themselves to a biblical view of Creation and marriage find themselves swimming upstream in Western society. So be it! Any old dead fish can float downstream. When we do this, we will be attacked but this should not surprise us. Competing worldviews always conflict with one another—and a war of ideas invariably follows.
The Christian worldview also demands that we see humanity apart from God’s grace as in Rebellion. All humans, left to themselves, resist God. The difference between the Christian and the non-Christian is thus not one of intelligence, morality, or spirituality—it is one of God’s grace and our surrender. Christians have surrendered to God and by doing so found true freedom—the freedom to be who they were created to be.
A point that cannot go unmentioned is that the Christian worldview flows out of the Jewish worldview. The Christian story is in fact the completion of the Old Testament story. Jesus was fulfilling the Old Testament promises in his own person. In the incarnation, Jesus—not the Temple—became the embodiment of the presence of God. Deliverance consisted of returning to him, rather than to the land of Israel. The New Covenant is sealed in his death. His Spirit lives in His people and thus empowers us to live as He did.
Simply put, the Christian worldview is expressed most fully in Jesus Christ and the beliefs that flow from a personal commitment to him. The Christian Story is a story of Redemption found only in Jesus. The Christian Answers are found in Christ’s story. It is not the Christian worldview if Jesus is not at its center! This means that salvation is available only through Jesus! It is a particular story, not a universal myth told in various ways by numerous groups in various places at different times.
The Christian Symbols express what Jesus has done to redeem us. And Christian Praxis, the Christian way of living in this world, is wrapped up in the Gospel of Jesus.
The heart of Jesus’ preaching was the declaration of the coming of the Kingdom of God. Simply put, through the Gospel of Jesus God is setting right what has gone wrong in this world due to human disobedience. In a very real sense, then, through the Gospel God delivers us from ourselves and from the effects of our choices.
Thinking in terms of worldview has significant implications for Christian apologetics, preaching, and evangelism. We must do more than offer people a plan of salvation, even one that draws directly upon Scripture, even one as succinct as the “Roman Road.” The message expressed therein is not false but it is not the whole story.
Simply put, the Christian worldview is more than (though not less than) an evangelistic invitation. The Gospel is not simply about saving souls, or going to heaven, it is about God rescuing his broken and fallen world, and setting it right!
Understanding how worldviews work explains why well-constructed arguments often fall flat in evangelism or apologetics even when the skeptic has no ready answer. People are not converted from one worldview to another as the result of dismantling one part of their picture of the nature of reality. This is because human beings are never satisfied with piecemeal answers—God has designed us to seek a holistic understanding of reality and all of life. As Augustine put it, “Lord, you have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless ‘til they find their rest in Thee.”
We must present an overall view of life that is more satisfying. It is only when one realizes that his view of life is insufficient overall that he will choose to change that worldview. And this is what the Christian worldview does—it makes life make sense. As C.S. Lewis put it: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
This is why Christian Praxis—living out the Christian worldview—is so important. Hypocrisy—confessing the Christian worldview with our lips but denying it by how we live—thoroughly undermines the claims of the Gospel.
How can anyone see the truthfulness and value of the Christian worldview if we don’t live it out before them in such a way that they see not only the inadequacy of their present way of life but also the beauty and sufficiency of the biblical worldview?
The realization that what I do today is what I truly believe explains why so many in the contemporary church fall so short of the biblical ideal. Simply put, they still have a pagan worldview. They may be church members but their minds have never been baptized.
A deeply committed relationship with Jesus is incredibly satisfying but a sinner’s prayer alone—apart from genuine submission to Christ—is never going to satisfy the deepest desires of the human heart. It was never intended to.
For this reason we must offer people more than the promise of a ticket to heaven, or a thrilling religious experience, or a more satisfying life. God’s Son did not die on the cross for pagan people to have one more ooh-ahh experience. He died to change history and to remake our lives individually and as a society, not simply to change our eternal address or alter our mood.
The Christian worldview is the most satisfactory view of reality available. It makes sense of human behavior and the messiness of life. It also has good answers for every issue in life. In a word, it is true!
Living out the Christian worldview is not always easy—but the Bible never tells us that following Christ is easy. Nevertheless, all things considered the Christian worldview provides one with a view of life that rings true without glossing over difficult questions and at the same time offers deep existential significance.
The Christian worldview demands all that we have but it offers us much more than we have to give. The Christian worldview, which is to say Christ, offers us an authentic and fulfilling life—the life we were made for. I highly recommend it!