A “Christian” or “Biblical” Worldview?

It’s fairly common in evangelical circles, especially in discussing apologetics, to hear that we really need to have a “Christian worldview.” The idea is that one’s “worldview” is like a lens that we see everything through (a set of values, assumptions, authoritative ideas, etc.) and that we need the right lens: Christianity. Now, I want to say that I agree with this general idea in the following ways:

  • Agreed: We should strive to make Christ Lord of every area of our lives.
  • Agreed: Christianity should be the centre of any Christian’s worldview.
  • Agreed: There is no part of our thinking which should not acknowledge God where applicable.
    • (To those who say “where would God not be applicable?!”, all I mean to say is that there are some thoughts, such as “1+1=2,” or the thoughts involved with cleaning one’s bathroom, etc. that do not need to explicitly acknowledge God in order to be successful.)
  • Agreed: It is an important part of intellectual discipleship to try, as much as possible, to align our approach to life with Scripture.
    • For example, while a Christian might enjoy watching various incarnations of Star Trek, as I do, it should be quite clear the the philosophy of that show is at many points entirely at odds with Christianity: the Prime Directive to not interfere with other cultures is contrary to the Great Commission.
      • (But shouldn’t I also try to find whatever wisdom there might be in the attitude of non-interference? We still need to spread the gospel, but shouldn’t we try to avoid “preaching our culture” alongside it – or worse, instead of it?)

I would caution, however, that there is a danger is saying that one already has achieved a “biblical” or “Christian” worldview: I think it’s pretty clear that an obedient, biblical Christian in Canada is going to have a somewhat different worldview than an obedient, biblical Christian in China.

  • The danger of saying that one has “the” Christian worldview is that we will take the parts of our worldview that are merely cultural and raise them to the level of being “the” Christian view.
  • I think that the lenses of sin, historical contingency, and self are constantly placed before our eyes, so that we see through many lenses at the same time.
    • The result is that sometimes we attribute things we see/think to our having a “Christian worldview,” when in reality, Christians have had many, many worldviews throughout history (compare St. Augustine, a Christian Neo-Platonist, with B. B. Warfield or the Apostle Paul, for example–all Christians, but definitely not exactly the same worldviews).
  • It might seem like splitting hairs, but it would be best to say that what we are seeking for is to have a biblically informed worldview as much as possible, living in a constant awareness that we always fail to see things exactly as God does.
  • I would argue that just as Christianity is expressed differently in each individual Christian (differing spiritual gifts, experiences, talents, personalities, passions, etc.), Christianity is also expressed differently in different cultures.
    • Now, I don’t mean wildly differently – I’m certainly not saying that core matters of doctrine or morality may freely vary between cultures.
    • What I mean is that the Christianity of the Middle Ages certainly had a different worldview than that of North American evangelicals today, and that both of those are certainly different from the worldview(s) in the early Church.
      • So that one’s “worldview” is actually made up of many things that are shared with one’s culture.
        • Any Christian, anywhere, is going to have a worldview that includes certain values and assumptions that are shared even by non-Christians in that culture.
          • For example, I value democracy, freedom of speech, and presently value a specific balance between right- and left-wing economics wherein I think that roads, hospitals, and schools should be publicly funded but that we should promote free trade, keep taxes low, and not penalize the rich just because they’re rich. But should I imagine that my specific balance is the right, or Christian one? Is it not entirely possible to be a Christian who is a little more to the left or right of me–maybe even a lot? Of course! It is simply fanciful for anyone to think that the Bible teaches a one-and-for-all, specific economic policy for every imaginable situation. In fact, it seems entirely reasonable that the best balance for a country (and the concerns of the gospel) might be to have one right-left balance now, and a different one in twenty years, and a different one after that…
    • So it’s just not possible to have a worldview that is entirely “Christian” because one cannot avoid including certain values and assumptions that just didn’t come from Christianity.

So that the best and most accurate thing to say is this:

worldview-goggles

This cartoon from Answers in Genesis rightly points out that atheists have a worldview (something that atheists sometimes deny), but it is just too simplistic. The creationist thinks it is possible to achieve a final “biblical” perspective, so that one can actually be “objectively biblical.” Ironically, the cartoon misses its own point: really, neither person can be wholly objective (neither person can wholly escape their own culture, finitude, and sinful desire to put himself in God’s place; neither can see things as God does). The atheist has very little excuse for not knowing that he has a bias, but the Christian should have even less of an excuse if he really believes that Bible he’s holding!

Christianity should be the most important part, or the “governing part” of our worldview, and that there are less important parts of our worldviews that may vary across Christians in different times and places. Saying that we have “the” Christian worldview is not just inaccurate, but it risks the raising of human, temporary ideas to the level of divine revelation, and that is wrong.

So, as usual, life is just more complicated than we’d like it to be.

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