The Urgent Need for a Biblical Worldview

The various battles we find ourselves continuously embroiled in – be they political, ideological, cultural or social – all finally come down to one chief conflict: a war of worldviews. Behind the many skirmishes and battles lies a war of worldviews. Only when we understand the underlying clash of worldviews will we be able to make sense of the various conflicts being waged around us.

In order to make the case for the importance of worldview thinking, I will be drawing upon the insights of others. Thus what follows is more a string of quotations than a major thesis on the topic. Many great minds have gone before, describing what the worldview battles are all about. Their collective wisdom thus will comprise much of this discussion.

What is a worldview?

It is best to begin by asking just what a worldview is. Very simply, it is the way we view the world. Just as a person with corrective glasses has a very different view of the world than when those glasses are off, so too we all have quite differing views of the world, based on the worldview that we hold to.

Now admittedly most people do not have a well-thought out worldview. Indeed, most people simply have inherited their worldview from their parents or their culture of birth. Thus a person born in India is likely to have an Eastern worldview, particularly that of Hinduism.

Likewise, a person born in Europe is likely to have a secularist/naturalist worldview, while a person born in Pakistan is likely to hold to an Islamic worldview. Worldviews, therefore, are most often a matter of accident, not of conscious choice.

As Francis Schaeffer used to put it, most people catch their worldviews (or presuppositions) much as they do German measles – that is, quite by accident. But some people, especially as they get older, may not only become clearly aware of the worldview they are holding, but may in fact abandon it or exchange it for another.

A properly thought through worldview will deal with all the big questions of life: Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? What is my purpose or meaning? Why is there suffering in the world? How can things be made right in the world?

And a good worldview should exhibit at least two features: internal consistency (it should be coherent and not contradictory) and experiential relevance (it should correspond with the world we live in, or fit reality).  Not all worldviews pass these two tests. I would argue that Biblical Christianity in fact best meets these two criteria (but that is the subject of another article).

So a worldview is the framework by which we make sense of the world. Or as Ronald Nash has put it, a worldview is “a set of beliefs about the most important issues in life”. And the various ways we deal with the big issues of life is what causes the main fault lines in our world today. As Charles Colson says: “The world is divided not so much by geographic boundaries as by religious and cultural traditions, by people’s most deeply held beliefs – by worldviews.”

The importance of a biblical worldview

Given that the world is divided into various worldview camps, it is imperative that the Christian not only understand his own biblical worldview, but also understand the worldviews of others, in order to more effectively reach them.

As Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias puts it, “I am convinced that the most effective defense of the faith and offense against falsehood must be based on an examination of worldviews.” He continues, “Every questioner has a worldview. If you do not appeal to the legitimacy or the illegitimacy of the worldview, you will never give satisfactory answers to the skeptic. In short, apologetics may begin in specifics but inevitably moves to the general, which then explains the specifics.”

We not only need biblical worldview thinking to deal with those outside of the church, but we need it for those within as well. We need to develop a biblical worldview to inform ourselves as to what our calling and purpose is; to help us see our mission as God sees it. And we need to develop a biblical worldview in order to see Christ’s reign spread throughout the world.

Because we have not been thinking in terms of an overarching biblical worldview, we have not seen the big picture, and we have often lost our way. As Schaeffer once remarked, “The basic problem of the Christians in this country in the last eighty years or so is that they have seen things in bits and pieces instead of totals.”

In 1940 T.S. Eliot spoke of the need for Christians to think in worldview terms:  “The purpose of a Christian education would not be merely to make men and women pious Christians. A Christian education would primarily train people to think in Christian categories.” Or as Charles Colson has said, “The church’s singular failure in recent decades has been the failure to see Christianity as a life system, or worldview, that governs every area of existence.”

Also back in 1940, Dorothy Sayers recognised the importance of worldview thinking. She spoke of how the “rival philosophies of humanism, enlightened self-interest, and mechanical progress” had badly broken down. She continued, “The thing that is in danger is the whole structure of society, and it is necessary to persuade thinking men and women of the vital and intimate connection between the structure of society and the theological doctrines of Christianity.”

Extending the lordship of Christ

The biblical worldview deals with every aspect of life. Unfortunately many Christians have had a rather narrow focus as to what Christ has accomplished on our behalf. But the lordship of Christ is meant to extend to every area of life. As Paul reminds us in Colossians 1:20, Christ seeks to “reconcile to himself all things”. All of creation is affected by the Fall, and all of creation is meant to be reclaimed in Christ.

As Marianne Meye Thompson notes in her commentary on Colossians: “Through the cross God does not simply deal with the situation of the individual, but undertakes to bring wholeness to the whole world. The predicament of humanity and that of the cosmos are intertwined: both are in need of being rightly reordered by God, and neither will be so in isolation from each other.”

New Testament scholar N.T. Wright argues the same thing in his recent book on biblical eschatology: “The work of ‘salvation’ in its full sense, is (1) about whole human beings, not merely ‘souls’; (2) about the present, not merely the future; and (3) about what God does through us, not merely what God does in and for us.”

And Charles Colson takes a very similar approach: “God cares not only about redeeming souls but also about restoring his creation. He calls us to be agents not only of his saving grace but also of his common grace. Our job is not only to build up the church but also to build a society to the glory of God.”

D.A. Carson rightly remarks, “Christianity does not claim to convey merely religious truth, but truth about all reality. . . . “[The biblical] vision of reality is radically different from a secularist vision that wants Christianity to scuttle into the corner of the hearth by the coal shovel, conveniently out of the way of anything but private religious concerns.”

The battle against the secular humanist worldview is undoubtedly one of the major battles we face today. Thus we must know what we believe, and why, and we must know what the competing worldviews are about as well. But knowledge alone will not save the day. The biblical worldview must be both believed in, as well as lived out, on a daily basis.

As Schaeffer reminds us, “As Christians we are not only to know the right worldview, the worldview that tells us the truth of what is, but consciously to act upon that worldview so as to influence society in all its parts and facets across the whole spectrum of life, as much as we can.”

With the battles raging all around us, we need more than ever to both understand and defend the biblical worldview, but to see it lived out in its fullness to the glory of God. After all, our purpose as believers is to seek to fulfil what Jesus prayed for in Matthew 6:10: “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.

[1428 words]

5 Replies to “The Urgent Need for a Biblical Worldview”

  1. Your post reminded me of a “clash of worldviews” encounter between New Age guru, Deepak Chopra and Christian apologist Greg Koukl of “Stand to Reason.” It was originally broadcast on T.V. back in 2005. After viewing the entire show, I wrote:

    This broadcast was absolutely fabulous! Greg Koukl pointed out the fact that people can have differing beliefs regarding faith, but that it is logically impossible for them all to be true at the same time.

    His trust in Jesus Christ and God’s Word stood in direct contrast to Deepak Chopra who admitted “embracing his uncertainty.” Koukl’s view demonstrates a steadfast and true faith where Chopra’s view can only lead to theological oblivion.

    The following is a brief synopsis of what occurred:

    One commenter (identified as “KP”) wrote:

    Messengers of an Impersonal God?

    I watched Greg Koukl and Deepak Chopra discuss the future of faith on Lee Strobel’s Faith Under Fire last night (Jan. 2005). Dr. Chopra has written numerous books on New Age spirituality that have sold millions of copies. Greg did a superb job of representing the gospel in content and character, modeling the qualities of an ambassador that he and the folks at Stand to Reason seek to instill in others. He repeatedly demonstrated the problems with religious relativism and exposed the fact that, contrary to his denial that he is dogmatic, Dr. Chopra adheres to a theological position of which he seeks to persuade others.

    As a sign of respect for Jesus, Dr. Chopra said that his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount is among his favorites and that he carries a copy of it with him. However, he considers Jesus only one among a number of God’s messengers. Not only is this a contradiction of the biblical witness to Jesus’ uniqueness, it’s also unintelligible given Dr. Chopra’s own concept of the nature of God. You see, Dr. Chopra emphatically denies that God is a personal being.

    The concept of messenger presupposes two activities, both of which can only be performed by persons. The first is that of sending or commissioning. The summer before I went to college I worked as a messenger for a law firm in Manhattan. They sent me and my co-workers on various assignments to deliver important documents to other firms and businesses. I didn’t decide what my destination was to be. Nor did I decide at what times I would go on these errands. All of that was dictated to me by my employer. A messenger is one who is sent by someone not something.

    The second activity presupposed by the concept of messenger is communication. A messenger is one who conveys a what? That’s right – a message. The task of a messenger is to convey some kind of communication from the one who sent him or her to the recipient. If I were to tell you that my toaster wanted me to tell you something, you’d think that I was either joking or something was seriously wrong with me. That’s because we know that toasters and other impersonal entities don’t communicate. So, how Dr. Chopra explains the concept of an impersonal God having messengers, I don’t know. I don’t think he can.

    I thought the writer made an excellent point!

    Christine Watson

  2. Bill, I am now just two chapters from finishing Moreland and Craig’s Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview which you previously recommended to me … its been a big project to read (600+ pages), but very satisfying! For those like me who have more than just a superficial level of interest in philosophy, its a very useful training tool. It has shown me areas where my knowledge has been deficient, but also has revealed areas where the arguments of opponents are likewise lacking.
    Stephen Frost, Melbourne

  3. As the world becomes technologically more and more sophisticated many of us, especially those of the older generation, feel more and more helpless in being able to understand and cope with modern life. These feelings of inadequacy are engendered not only by those around us living the technologically smart life but by their smart Hegelian philosophy and lifestyle. But let us not forget that nothing is new. Ecclesiastes written perhaps three thousand years ago describes precisely a modern world view with man at its centre – and its futility.

    Some say that the word repent is derived from to re-think but in order to do this something far more visceral has to take place. If to repent is merely an intellectual operation then half wits like myself and children are excluded. The key element that is lacking from modern philosophies and much of present day, so-called Christian teaching, is a deep sense of our sinfulness and the need for forgiveness.

    And here we come to a crucial point of the Christian’s dilemma. For the Christian to talk about the sinfulness or the essential evil nature of man, from birth – and his accountability to a higher, more pure authority in the universe – will invoke the rage of the evolutionary humanist who can see no higher authority than man and who is supposedly continually evolving into something unheard of before – of being absolutely new. So new, that former moral codes are totally unfit for the purpose of a modern, 21st century, diverse, society. They believe that If only human reason were emancipated from the superstition of religion, civilisation would make progress in leaps and bounds

    What we have to do is to have the courage to upset people and invoke their rage. Our Christian worldview, though infinitely superior to all others, must never for those who grasp it become a cause for intellectual arrogance. Instead it should be an offence, a stench in the nostrils of its hearers. Only then can God’s forgiveness and healing begin to work.

    David Skinner, UK

  4. Knowing and living out a biblical Christian world view is important. Speaking persuasively about such and contending that partial, twisted, or contrary positions have dehumanizing and destructive elements is also part of the mix. In a relatively reasonable society sharing the gospel and this construct is THE most effectual posture as Ravi Z says.

    In an society increasingly ostensibly longing for totalitarian controls and in a society where human dignity is openly resisted one can be brought face to face with the revolutionary’s dilemma, e.g. being forced in order to exist or to defend existence to consider more physical aspects of self defense. Such thinking can be intense and significantly intimidating.

    It would seem on a continuum of world view knowledge with silence, moving left to right on the continuum to knowledge with a public voice, to knowledge with voice and constructive cultural engagement, to the former with persuasive critique and cultural observations and contrasts, to full-on debate and counter cultural empirical examples . . . that somewhere you run into a powerful cultural elitist mindset that stumps you.

    It says in effect that if Christ and the Christian faith in broad strokes is true and were the last, best, and only hope, they would choose to reject it, try to force you to reject it in various ways, and would gladly prefer to go headlong into perdition, pain, etc rather than remotely consider Jesus as anything other than the sort of language Dawkins uses to describe the God revealed in the Bible. We have a hard time comprehending the incredulity and imagine/hope such could be mere rhetorical hyperbole. But in the face of such encroaching at your home, business, place of worship, even encroaching on you or your family’s existence the prospect of spiritual warfare having physically threatened dimensions comes into focus.

    Issues of willing, cost-counted, strategic martyrdom or paying the price of publicly holding Christian convictions (martyrdom not as per the Jihadists, but dying or being imprisoned and dying unjustly at the hands of others for holding viewpoints in private or in the public square deemed out of sync and dangerous or a threat to the powerful and manipulative elite) is an option where flight is not possible. Or where there is no place for reasonable sanctuary.

    This broaches another continuum of last resort. That is the endorsement and promotion of inward defiance without a voice, to mildly vocal passive or more vocal active civil disobedience, to underground existence and resistance, to the more horrible open revolution. It is challenging to think of such a full continuum but with the thought-police, big brother, economic connections, and the breakdown of meaningful conversations coupled with the apparent lost ability to agree to disagree agreeably, we seem to face such. In the face of being coerced through fines, no access, legality, prison, to not believe, not think, not teach, not express or debate, with no place to live-out one’s reasonable convictions… The continuum exists.

    I think it is time to consider such ahead of the storm rather than in the midst of such. An out of print book I read awhile back on a similar theme was called “China; Christian students facing the Revolution” by David Adney, I believe. We need wide angle lens discernment rather than assuming belief and living out loud publicly is not only the best, but falsely assuming a diverse and open marketplace of ideas (what Os Guiness calls ‘principled pluralistm’) will in fact necessarily continue.

    And what will Christian faith and practice, cultural engagement, witness, and concern for humanity look like during the kinds of enormous cultural shifts and destructive cultural trajectories where we find ourselves today. Seeking to persuade the nominal to find a voice they do not possess as they appease and accommodate may well be to fail to discern the need for supernatural intervention via the gospel, conversion, filling with the Spirit of God and holy boldness and chutzpah. Even such in the Spirit’s fruit directed toward those who seem most openly and actively hateful of both love and truth in Jesus, counting the cost.

    Joe Whitchurch, Indiana

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *