In today’s lecture, we want to: (1) summarize the fundamental elements of a Christian worldview – i.e., the four-fold theological theme of Creation-Fall-Redemption-Glorification/Vocation; (2) define what a worldview is; and (3) list a number of non-Christian worldviews. Let’s begin with (2).
Defining a worldview
A worldview is one’s set of ABCs: affections, beliefs, and commitments. We come to the world with particular affections (in our hearts) that arise out of and also shape, various beliefs (in our heads) – both of which lead to certain commitments (which move our hands). Over time our commitments, in turn, shape and color our beliefs and affections, forming in us a certain character – out of which further affections, beliefs, and commitments arise. One’s worldview colors and conditions the way we think, act, hope, and pray. In other words, a worldview both describes and guides the way one interacts with the world, others, and oneself.
In analogical terms, a worldview is perhaps not so much like a pair of eyeglasses but a pair of eyes (cf. Ryken, 8); not what we see through but what we see with. It’s the ABCs of our soul. As Lewis writes: “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” (C. S. Lewis, “Is Theology Poetry” in The Weight of Glory).
The foundational elements of a Christian worldview
A Christian worldview, then, provides a set of framing themes (the four-fold doctrine of CFRG) through which to view the world and by which we live our lives. As Ryken puts it, the Christian worldview helps us “gain God’s perspective on why any particular thing was made in the first place (Creation), what has gone wrong with it (Fall), how we can begin to find its recovery in Jesus Christ (Grace), and what it will be like in the end (Glory)” (Ryken, 10). A Christian worldview provides a framing answer to the questions: Why is there something rather than nothing? What is the human condition? What is the answer to the problem of evil (not so much why is there evil – although perhaps this too – but how do we deal with the evil and sin found in the human condition)? And how will it all end?
Worldview – the Key that Unlocks the Door to Everything?
Many Christian (and other) thinkers and theologians seem to suggest that worldviews are the silver bullet, the solution to all of the problems of humanity and most especially for Christians the problem of hypocrisy. On this point, is there anything we would add to Ryken’s diagnosis, his critique, of the problem of Christians’ not living up to their identity in Christ? (See pp. 10-11.)
Worldviews plus world-setting
I used to think that whenever followers of Christ failed to live up to the name of Christ it was because of a lack of a robust enough worldview. “If they just thought correctly about God and his world and his ways, they would live rightly; they would close the hypocritical gap between what we believe (doctrine) and how we live (life).” But what I failed to see is that there are conditions we find in this world – our world-setting – which must be accounted for when evaluating the doctrine-life gap (cf. 1 Tim. 4.16). These conditions are not used as an excuse for the hypocrisy we see; yet should be considered as real parts of the analyzing the doctrine-life gap. For example: divorce rates and …
Ex of world-setting affecting worldview.
Five cult members kill a women with a baby at McDonald’s in a province in south China. How does theology matter? I’m not interested in censoring cults per se. (There is a deep and important tradition of religious freedom within Christian history.) But in illustrating how world-settings inform worldviews, and why academic analysis matters with regard to theological integrity, we can – indeed must – consider how social movements such as cults begin and end, and accordingly utilize such analysis to combat cults both sociologically as well as doctrinally.
The Virtues of a Worldview
That said, there are very specific implications which follow from the fact that worldviews impact on our way of life: for example, the Christian doctrine of Creation informs our worldview in such a way that we know how to view and therefore interact with the created world. To spell this example out, consider the question: What is the Christian’s stance toward created goods such as the God-ordained institution of marriage? What about baseball games and BBQs? Or mission trips versus music concerts? Or friendships for their own sake (rather than for the sake of eventually evangelizing them)? Or making money?
Yes, enjoyment is Christian so long as it is enjoyment in Christ. St Augustine in his On Christian Doctrine makes a helpful distinction between use of a good versus enjoyment of a good. Augustine argues that we can enjoy created goods (including persons in friendships or marriage) insofar as we enjoy them in God. I used to argue: (romantic) love is for marriage and marriage is for the kingdom; but …
Secondly, such enjoyment is a way to worship. One way to glorify God is to enjoy him as Creator – to thank him for all the good he has made. And to enjoy our Creator God involves enjoying (not worshiping, of course) what he has created. Ryken lists some created goods: marriage, family, communities and cultures, work (Gen. 2.15), rest and recreation (18-22). We also enjoy creation, and its Creator, by exploring it: so science, music (which involves discovering the musical laws inherent in nature), the arts (which imitates the realities found in nature) – all these exploration glorify our creator God.
A list of non-Christian worldviews
Finally, regarding your CWA assignment: see Ryken pp. 11-18 and 40 for a smattering of worldviews: deism (11), naturalism (11, 40), secular humanism (12), Buddhism (12), Hinduism (12, 40), Native American spirituality (12), New Age paganism (16), pantheism (16, 40), atheistic materialism (16), existentialism (18). The point of this assignment is for you to become sufficiently familiar with a particular non-Christian worldview that you could detect it when found in culture and critique (plurivocally) from the perspective of a Christian worldview.