Considering the idea of a Biblical Worldview
The concept of a Christian worldview is fundamentally simple, but its implications are profound. There are a modest number of foundational assumptions necessary to view the world from a Christian perspective. Beyond that the task is to seek, as C.S. Lewis wrote, to “Think Christianly” in applying biblically grounded principles and reasoning to these foundational assumptions of the faith and their implications for how we are to function as Christians in our culture.
I wrote the above paragraph as part of an ongoing project which I have been developing for several years. The idea of a Christian worldview has been hugely important in evangelical circles for many years. There are entire ministries built around the idea. Colleges have curriculums set up to promote a Christian worldview in their students.
About fifteen years ago, the Worldview Weekend organization published a Christian worldview test that they encouraged people to take. I took the test and according to their standards I had a Strong Christian Worldview (I just found the test again. According to the test, I actually now score as a Moderate Biblical Worldview. The odd part is that I base my answers on biblical principles). The problem is that within the test there are a lot of questions which are not purely Biblical or Christian in their perspective. I would even argue that some of their “correct” answers are not the correct answers according to scripture. When I first took the test, I was teaching the teen Sunday School class at a very conservative church in Manhattan, NY. We actually spent a couple of weeks taking the test and going over it. There was a lot of good discussion. But, there was also a common refrain. I would ask, “Do you believe that because of the Bible or because you are conservative?” It is totally fine to be a conservative, but we can’t consider the two to be the same. Biblical and conservative are not necessarily identical.
Below is a sampling of questions from the test which will make my point clear. On the test, you rate whether you agree or disagree with the comment and how strongly.
- The more a government resembles a pure democracy the more disorder and confusion occur.
- All forms of government-sponsored socialism stifle economic growth and prosperity to one degree or another.
- Biological evolution (life from non-life to human beings) runs contrary to reason, science and history.
- The doctrine of concurrence teaches that the total sovereignty (total rule) of God and man’s free-will to sin is a theological contradiction. [Yes, the doctrine teaches that but I would argue that the question should be if the Bible teaches that doctrine.]
- Christians should boycott companies that do not promote righteousness within a nation because by doing so the heart of their owners and managers can be turned toward righteousness.
- When you study the Bible as a whole, it becomes clear that God is very supportive of an economic system that is based on private property, the work ethic, and personal responsibility.
- God used the process of biological evolution to create the world as we know it today.
- The federal government should fund school-based health clinics which would include safe-sex counseling.
- The federal government should require students to pass a national test before graduating from high school.
- Feminism at its foundational core is anti-family, anti-father, pro-Marxist, and promotes lesbianism and Gnosticism.
- Doctrine means teaching or instruction. [This is true but your vocabulary has nothing to do with if you have a Biblical Worldview.]
There is a lot more but that gives you a taste. There are important and valid questions on the test such as “God is the Creator of the universe.” and “Jesus Christ lived a sinless life.” But, so many of questions are rooted in particular ideologies which may or may not be reflective of an actual Biblical worldview.
I was foolish enough to contact Worldview Weekend some time later and express my concern about their test. They were having none of it. To them, social conservatism and capitalistic ideas are part and parcel with Christianity.
My concern about the idea of a Biblical worldview isn’t that we encourage people to have one. I think it is very important. My concern is that we uncritically conflate theology, economics, and politics. Certainly, they relate and influence each other. But, thoughtful Christians of good faith disagree on some of these issues… many of these issues. I’ve seen too many times where people reason through an issue and then believe that their way of thinking is the only way. I am not saying that truth does not exist. I am also not saying that truth is not apprehendible. What I am saying is that we are imperfect and we live through different experiences. The further we get away from the essentials of the faith the more likely it is that our own biases and experiences are affecting our reasoning. So, while some people, those at Worldview Weekend for example, advocate for an expansive conception of what a Biblical worldview is- it is one that covers (at least according to the categories on their test) civil government, economic, education, family, law, religion, science, and social issues. I advocate for a modest conception of a Christian worldview. Below is an adaptation from the project referenced above that explains my thinking on this issue a little more in-depth.
Christian Worldview Statement
There are certain base elements which are necessary components of a Christian worldview. The popular mode in recent years has been to propose an expansive conception of a Christian worldview. I, however, believe in a modest conception of the Christian worldview. I profess only those core elements that are truly necessary for Christian faith to be essentials of the Christian worldview.
Belief in the supernatural is an essential element of the Christian worldview. The Christian perspective is not limited to naturalistic assumptions. In fact, the base Christian assumption is that there is something beyond our naturalistic reality. There is something beyond nature.
There are many ideas about the supernatural. The Christian assumption is not that of an impersonal deity or force or of a capricious deity. The Christian assumption is of a personal deity who is engaged with and cares for His creation.
The personal deity of the Christian faith has communicated with humanity through scripture. This communication is authoritative literature from the Creator to the Creature.
The Christian worldview requires two commitments from the faithful, which are not only religious but profoundly affect the living of one’s life. The first is a holistic love for God. Believers are to love Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. In short, we are to love Him in all ways possible with all that we are. Secondly, believers are to have a selfless love for others.
Statement on Thinking Christianly
A Christian worldview addresses very few of the problems faced in life. It does, however, provide the basic framework for tackling both questions about ultimate reality and humanity’s present reality. To find these answers requires each individual to undertake what C.S. Lewis called Thinking Christianly. One must work from a modest Christian worldview through a process engaging both reason and scripture until reaching conclusions as to the great and mundane questions of life. This process means that Christians of good faith may reach varying conclusions.
As a final note, I don’t want to reader to think that it is only very conservative politically minded groups like Worldview Weekend who take an expansive approach to the idea of a Christian Worldview. I worked under a college president who took this view. I know many other college presidents, pastors, and leading evangelicals who take such a position. The idea of a modest Christian worldview is not the norm within evangelical circles. But still, I think it is the correct way to go.