GLEN ROSE, TEXAS
Sunday, June 3, 2001
Heb. 11:6 / I Cor. 10:31
When we talk about Christianity, many understand it to be a collection of theological bits and pieces to be believed or debated. For those who are Christians, it is important that they see their faith as a total worldview or lifeview. What many people do not understand is that the competitors of Christianity are worldviews themselves.
A worldview is a conceptual scheme into which we place everything we believe. We use our worldview to interpret and judge reality. Just as the right pair of glasses can bring the world into clearer focus, the right worldview does much the same thing. With a wrong worldview, much of what we see in the world does not make sense or what someone thinks makes sense, will be wrong in important respects.
Francis Schaeffer was the man who made popular the worldview approach to Christianity. He was not the first to write or teach about it. He did, however, use the worldview approach to defend the Christian faith and he utilized it in developing and promoting a Christian approach to culture.
There is no way we are going to cover all we need to cover about a Christian worldview in just one sermon (or even in a 5 part series, for that matter). But we can cover some important issues, beginning with why it is important to have a Christian worldview to begin with.
Developing a worldview is no easy task. It is a necessary task. We Christians are called to “mature thinking”. That means, if we are to be serious about what God intends to do through us in this world, we must allow Him, through His Word, to set the agenda for our views and values. The process is that godly thinking leads to godly living with the result that Christians can endure the “slings and arrows” of the secular world we live in. We do that by the truth contained in God’s revealed Word. In other words, without a Christian worldview, the world is going to “get you” and you won’t be living like a Christian for very long
H.L. Mencken - “What the meaning of life may be I don’t know; I incline to suspect that it has none.”
Albert Einstein - “The man who regards his own life and that of his fellow creatures as meaningless is not merely unhappy but hardly fit for life.”
The first question we must answer in the discussion of worldviews is, “Is life worth living or is it a meaningless abusrdity?”
How you answer this question will decide how you choose to live.
Mencken’s way, in the quote above, is the easy way. A meaningless existence requires nothing from anyone. No need to justify your choices, values or goals.
People do all kinds of things in order to find meaning and purpose: join a church, leave a church, change religions, switch jobs, get married, get divorced, and on and one the list goes. This is the stuff of worldviews.
When Worldviews Collide
Everyone has a worldview. Some are well-defined and those who have them this way can articulate clearly their “life pholosophy”.
Others have a worldview that cannot be explained quite so clearly. Yet their worldview still gives direction and meaning to their lives.
This is one of the things that makes us different from the animals. Not only the spiritual part of our spirit, but the spirit of a man is constantly asking the questions, “What is life all about?” and “Why are we here?.” Even those who are not religious have a strong need to makes sense out of their life.
When a person fails to find reason for living, they experience a broad range of emotional and behavioral aberrations. Paul Hiebert said, “to lose faith that there is meaning in life and in the universe is to lose part of what it means to be human.” Bruno Bettelheim adds, “Our greatest and most difficult achievement is to find meaning in life. It is well known that many people lose their will to live because such meaning evades them.”
This explains suicide being the #2 killer of teenager-college age young people in America.
The real question is all of this is “Which worldview is the correct one”? Which one represents reality?
Christians believe that God, through his creation (the universe) and His Word (the Bible) has shown man how to make sense out of his world and his life. God explains why he made the world and where He is leading it. He created you to have fellowship with Him and He is taking the world to a kingdom which will increase and never end. He shows us the cause of suffering, the remedy of evil and the ultimate end of all things. Sin gives entrance to suffering, Right relationship with God is the remedy and the end of all things will be heaven (the kingdoms, Both of them!) or hell.
In this sermon we will attempt to describe and defend a biblical worldview. Biblical Christianity is more than just “part of life”. It is more than just a view of God and religion. Ronald Nash said, “Christianity is not simply a religion that tells human beings how they may be forgiven. It is a total world- and life-view.
Another goal of this sermon is to take the biblical worldview and apply it to the life of the individual. Hopefully we can answer the question, “If a biblical worldview is true, then what difference does it make in the way we live”?
Worldviews, How do they work?
“The goal in life is to survive; you gotta keep out of trouble. You know, part and have a good time, but don’t overdo it and hurt somebody.” (Harry, talking here, is a prison inmate.) “So you survive. What happens then”? “You die”. “And after that?” “Nothing. When you die, you die”. “You mean there is no God or life after death?” “Nope.” Then Harry looks away and sighs, “If there is, I’m in big trouble.”
The elements of a worldview are basically two. (1) The way you see the world and life (a perspective of reality) and (2) the resulting value system that forms the basis for your choices in life.
So a worldview is 1) an explanation and interpretation of the world and 2) an application of this view to life.
A view of God is the starting point for every worldview. Even atheists have had to confront the ‘God Question’.
When a man denies the existence of God, it usually results in a worldview that focuses more on the immediate concerns of humanity rather than “ultimate questions”. This philosophy is more about the “here and now” because there is no “out there and later.”
If you do acknowledge the existence of God, there are still questions to answer. Is He a personal God or just an impersonal force? Is He actively involved in human events? Is He a moral God who will judge His creation? Can He communicate with man? Does He desire to do so?
If you believe God is the creator of all things, you move yourself from the center of your universe and see God as the most important being. Then the questions are: Why did you make me? What do you expect from me? If He will judge me, then by what criteria? You see, what you believe about God affects everything else you believe.
Also, a worldview isn’t just about man and God, but also about nature. Our worldview has an explanation of the origin of the world and its apparent design. How are we related to the physical universe? From these and other questions, many of the myths arose in cultures to explain these things.
Culture is another part of your worldview. Suppose a friend walked up to you, smiled widely, and the spit on your chest. As an American, you might not be pleased with such a greeting. But if you lived among the Siriano of South America, you would smile and spit back, the normal manner of greeting.
In America, we shake hands, in Mexico, they embrace; in parts of Europe, they kiss one another on the cheek. None of these are “right” or “wrong”. They are culturally accepted modes of conduct within a particular group. Culture encompasses everything from our government, schools, churches, eating and sleeping patterns, rituals such as weddings, funerals, graduations and other rites of passage.
So how is culture related to worldview? For example, a pantheistic view of God is dominant in the Eastern world, whereas a theistic view prevails in the West. These views are not genetic. An Asian child can be reared in Western society and will adopt the cultural views of his social environment.
Earlier, we called a worldview a pair of glasses. Whether a person wears atheists glasses or Buddhist glasses or Christian glasses, the glasses are tinted in that direction. They all see the same world, but it is understood differently. The “glasses” do not shape reality, but they do determine a person’s explanation of life and the world.
A biblical worldview is a perspective that sees everything through the “glasses” of Scripture. Rather than allowing culture or experience to determine a worldview, it allows the Bible to make that determination.
There are challenges to that position: “Isn’t the Bible just one of many cultural attempts at piecing together a worldview? Weren’t the Bible writers merely reflecting their own cultural worldview? What allows the Bible to dictate answers to my life? Don'’ I have a say? The Bible is such a mental straight-jacket. It doesn't leave me free to sort things out for myself. How can an ancient book speak to our situation today? The Bible doesn’t address our modern technological society. Times are changing; the Bible is not.”
It is important not to sidestep these issues. And before dismissing the biblical worldview, it is equally important to answer some questions. Does a biblical worldview fit the actual world? If not, it may be discarded along with all the other misguided philosophies. If it does, then careful research is in order.
A biblical worldview starts with two basic truths. (1) God exists; (2) God has uniquely revealed His character and will in the Bible.
If both of the above are true, then we can conclude that the Bible holds the answers to man’s basic questions and longings about life.
Several years ago a public debate was held at Louisiana State University between evangelist Jimmy Swaggart and Islamic writer Ahmed Deedat. The format of the debate was an exchange of questions between the two concerning the validity of their respective religions. The most notable feature of the debate was Deedat’s consistent quotations from the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Koran. Deedat displayed an understanding of the Christian message, knew the teachings of Jesus and was will-versed in the difficult passages found in the Bible.
Swaggart, on the other hand, relied heavily on his evangelistic background and dramatics. He knew the gospel message will, but admitted he knew little about the Islamic faith. At times, he had problems explaining the basics of the Christian faith. For example, Deedat asked Swaggart to “prove “ the Bible is the word of God. The challenge is ambiguous. Swaggart’s response is even more ambiguous. He quoted John 3:16 and claimed his own “changed” life is eveidence the Bible is the word of God. That answer took an ironic twist when some months later revelation was made of Swaggart’s exploits with a prostitute.
Both of these men were viewed a national spokesmen for their religions. However, Swaggart’s inability to articulate a biblical worldview and his lack of understanding of an Islamic worldview made Deedat’s convictions appear thoughtful and well-rounded. The Islamic community agrees: a videotape of the debate is available as a Muslim evangelistic tool from the Islamic Teaching Center.
A World of Worldviews
A group of experts in a university lounge were discussing the meaning of life. The conversation eventually turned to a single question, “What is ultimate reality?”
The Hindu teacher spoke up, “All is one. The universe is but part of the organic fabric of all reality. All that exists sways to the movement of the goddess Shiva; it dances with Kali, the Divine Mother of Hindu mythology.”
The American physicist grimaced. “But the universe is governed by the irrevocable laws of nature. The forces within the universe are the cause for all motion and life. Even the subatomic world can be described by the laws of quantum physics and superluminal influences.”
The Hindu teacher half-closed his eyes and smiled. “That’s what I said”.
There is a crisis in worldview thinking. Many try to dissolve all worldviews into one scheme that suits everyone. This approach takes 2 forms: (1) the pantheistic and (2) the scientific.
For the pantheistic, books like The Tao of Physics, The Dancing of Wu Li Masters and Taking the Quantum Leap have taken modern science and merged them with Eastern pantheism.
For the scientific, Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking and others of the “scientific” community view any religious thinking as outdated superstition that must be replaced by the certainty of scientific discovery.
The goal for BOTH of these is to rid the world of culturally based worldviews and produce a view that can be embraced by everyone.
All worldviews can be divided into 3 major groups: 1) Naturalism 2) Transcendentalism, and 3) Theism.
NATURALISM TRANSCENDENTALISM THEISM
Naturalism, whether atheist or agnostic, sets forth a worldview where God is unnecessary.
For them, humanity is just part of the mechanistic universe.
Thoughts and personality are just impulses of the brain.
Man is merely a machine that works for a while, eventually runs down and quits.
Morality is the result of social convention
A sense of right and wrong is a result of conditioning
Kai Nelson, in his book, Ethics Without God, concludes, “happiness, self-consciousness and self-identity are essential to give significance to human living. Whatever promotes happiness, self-consciousness and self-identity in my life and the lives of others is “good” and whatever hinders them is “bad”.
Bottom line: Life without meaning.
Hedonism: pleasure is the goal of life.
Humanism: making the world a better place to live.
Jose Martinez, a taxi driver, when asked about the meaning of life, “We’re here to die, just live and die. I drive a cab, I do some fishing, take my girl out, pay taxes, do a little reading, then get ready to drop dead. Life is a big fake.” (Ain’t naturalism grand?)
To the transcendentals, God and the universe cannot be seperated.
The transcendental God is not a personal God. He is an impersonal force or principle.
To them, man’s problem is manifested by the suffering and injustices in the world.
These come about for two reasons: 1) We see life in fragments and ignore our connection with the universe. And 2) the cause of suffering and injustice is man’s ignorance of his own divine nature. They say man looks for answers outside himself, in the world of shadows and illusions, and as a result, ignores the spark of divine nature within, and becomes overwhelmed by the false perceptions of the world.
They (transc.’s) say that man’s solutions to his problems cannot be found outside of himself. Truth, salvation, peace and enlightenment are all found within. Man must move beyond his individualism and “become one” with ultimate reality. This is done through meditation for some, good works for others, denial of desires, intellectual achievement.
The theme here is two-fold (always): 1. The need to see the unity of all things and 2. The need to actualize the divinity within each person.
Naturalism is clearly seen in its dominance by watching government’s attempts to secularize all aspects of public life.
The idea is to appear to be “God-neutral” and “nonsectarian” in public education, government programs, judicial decisions, etc.
This agenda has caused debate over issues like sex education, religious symbols on public property, prayers before high school football games or any other “public” event, etc.
This is what judge William Overton did when he ruled in “Scopes II” trial in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1981, overturning the teaching of creation science in public school classrooms. The approach is not “God neutral” but “Godless”.
There is a hope left for the world. It is found in Jesus. Next week we will look at the proofs that a biblical world view is the only worldview that works.