|The Christian World View|
|Written by Choolwe Mwetwa|
A world view is simply a view of life and the world, or a perspective on existence. Some prefer to see it as a life system. For a view to truly have a global perspective three essential relations would have to be reckoned with. These are the source of existence (God), the kingpin of earthly existence (man) and the arena of such existence (the natural world).
A Christian world view naturally distinguishes itself from other world views, foremost of which are Paganism, Modernism and Islamism. All other contemporary isms, notwithstanding their high-sounding technical labels, are in my judgement phases in the evolutionary chain of either Paganism or Modernism.
The Pagan world view, being pantheistic, swings from adoration of lower creation to subjugation of certain castes of the kingpin of creation, man. Modernism is essentially humanistic, hence it exalts man as autonomous while ignoring or erasing God. It relates to nature materialistically or from a self-aggrandising view point. Islam firmly brings back God, but only to divorce him completely from nature and man. Obsessed with its version of paradise, this world is denigrated, women are treated as inferior.
What about the Christian world view? What is the Christian relation to God, man and nature? A biblical view of God is generally held by true and well taught Christian people. Equally, man is given his proper place, biblically, in relation to God, to himself and, to some extent, to individual fellow man. The obscurity and apathy among Christians is in establishing a world view offering a sound relation between man and the institutions he must exist in and through, and between man and nature.
Foundations of a Christian world view
Every healthily nurtured child learns early to pray “Our Father in heaven… thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” All Christians still offer this prayer. Not many, however, seriously expect this aspect of the Lord’s Prayer to be answered. At least they frankly have no clear conception of the forms its answer will take. Beyond being a goodwill wish, it means little else.
And yet in this prayer lies a profound invocation of divine intervention in world affairs. God is being implored to sway the sceptre of his rule on earth in the unchallenged form heaven is accustomed to witness.
In view of this should the Christian not change both his attitude to this prayer part and perception of the world; to see it wholly as God’s rightful territory? Abraham Kuyper could not be more accurate when he said: “there is not an inch of ground on which Christ, the Sovereign of all does not lay His hand and say, ‘This is Mine.’”
Let us be clear. This is no advocacy for World-dominion or Reconstruction; the notion that Christians should bring the socio-political world under the authority of God’s law, old and new.
Rather I am saying, because everything is God’s, everything must inevitably be seen through God’s eyes and related to as God prescribes. This means that the Christian must see the environment and the race inhabiting and administering it through God’s eye. The Christian must yearn for God’s will in creating all things beautiful to be done. This should not be a problem since no aspect of creation is without God’s fingerprints, still declaring his invisible attributes (Romans 1:20).
As to the question “just how does one carve out a Christian world view?” It is comfortably resolved by the pervading sufficiency of Scripture (2Timothy 3:16, 17). Scripture is the source of all wisdom. All that is needed for life and godliness has been given therein. A careful study of God’s Word will furnish an adequate and accurate perception of the world and all in it. A biblical world view is therefore constructible. This, actually, is the basis for a Christian world view.
The scope of the Christian world view
Adhering to Christian values in matters of morality is the irreducible practice of all true believers. Yet this so easily sits well with adherence to a less than Christian world view. It is possible for truly pious Christians to view the world, beyond the religious, in a perfectly Pagan, Islamic, or Modernistic manner.
I can illustrate. Do you, for example, have a distinctly biblical view of the solutions to life’s problems? Does your world view guide that physical problems are taken to the medical doctor while spiritual problems go to the church and her Lord, and that no further options exist?
At what points does your view of education differ from that of the secular mindset? Does it hold that science, geography, mathematics and all other learning must have the effect of ultimately displaying the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God, to the praise and glorify of his name, and in the process of reaching this goal parents are the foundational players?
Do you have a view of personal health that differs significantly from that of the non-Christian? In which way is your view of affluence and power biblical and not hedonistic? How does your view of labour differ from that of the fatalist? How informed and regulated by God’s Word are your views on the eco-system, art, science, politics, social and civic involvement, entertainment, suffering and pain? Do you consider everything created as good and worthy of prudent exploitation and conservation? Does this include all flora and fauna? If God is to be glorified in your life out there in the world beyond church fences, it is vitally important to have a truly Christian view of all that is in existence.
There is a still more important requirement. The Christian needs to be sure that he or she possesses a world view that is transformatory of attitudes to the world. “As Christians we are not only to know the right world-view, the world-view that tells us the truth of what is, but consciously to act upon that world-view so as to influence society in all its parts and facets across the whole spectrum of life, as much as we can to the extent of our individual and collective ability” (). A world view that is only cuddled by the cerebral and not the cardiac will fail to engage the world. It will also fail to pervade the world with the Christian ethos.
Placing this on the backdrop of a more theological spectrum, God’s intervention in world affairs is not always direct. It is often mediated through the very people sincerely praying “thy kingdom come.” They are God’s agents in two ways: first and foremost by preaching the good news of salvation through Christ, second, by sharing in the good fruit of salvation, namely a sanctified life full of good deeds to man and nature. A world view that reverses this order is not biblical but broad-based philanthropy impacting society only minimally.
Although subservient to the former, the focus in this article is the latter service, at the end of whose reading must linger the question, what contributions has God called me to make that will result in a significant redefinition of secular life in terms favourable to Christian thought?
Queries on the Christian world view
There are two serious objections that may be raised against a Christian world view. The first asks, “of what purpose is such a world view when perfection of the world is unattainable? Ought we not to focus only on preaching the gospel and by this lay ground for a better world order?”
The simple answer is Christ did not see things that way. He both preached and did good (Acts 10:38). The only Sovereign spreads the duvet of his grace to the sin-freezing world through his people by the gospel, to be sure, but not exclusive of other noble services.
History does not leave us without models for emulation in such services. Were it not for the labours of Samuel Rutherford constitutional reform in England would have come much slower. To the labours of Witherspoon is credited much of constitutional and democratic rule in America. I shudder to imagine how long the evil of slave trading would have run on had men like William Wilberforce held on to a less than biblical world view. When the name of the prophet Abraham surfaces, we often only think of him as worshiping or farming. Well, he actually did take up arms to defend nation, property and lives (Genesis 14). Call him a freedom fighter if you wish.
Manifestly these are men whose concerns went beyond the comforts and security of church walls. Their battles went beyond fighting temptation to sin. They fought evil in its every form and wherever it took root, in proportion to their capacities and opportunities. They fought both moral evils and social evils, both evils by individuals and institutional evils. They sought to apply and defend the rule of their God on every inch of ground within the parameters of providential placement. And they sensed no clash between ecclesiastical and global citizenry duties.
Another objector asks, “Will a world view that is pervasively Christian not clash with other world views in this pluralistic age? And why will such a world view not resemble the Islamic fundamentalist world view that seeks to conquer all?”
Naturally the Christian world view is invasive of other world views. Islam’s world view is no less invasive. All world views are in their scope cosmic and by intent invasive. Hence pluralism ought to be a free market for philosophical exchange and not a gag on detested world views.
There is yet a fundamental difference between Islamic and Christian world views. The Christian world view is essentially Christocentric. This means everything. It means the God whose dominion on earth is sought is Father, to those who savingly believe in his Son Christ Jesus, with whom a loving relationship can be entered. Not so the Moslem God.
It also means it achieves its ends peacefully after the spirit of the Prince of peace. “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2Corinthians 10:4, 5). By the application of truth to minds and consciences, the delusions of false science, pseudo knowledge, all false answers to the world’s problems and pretenders to virtue have been exposed. No legalism, no death-stones, no suicide jackets in the realisation of the Christian agenda. But it is as the church competently engages the world, with its biblical outlook on science, education, etc., that the world pays attention to Christianity as a faith with broad relevance and appeal.
Culturing a Christian world view
Developing a Christian world view will demand quite a bit. It will first demand interest in the world as God’s property and field of interest. God strolled in earth’s garden in the cool of the day, remember! Our interest in the world is most profitable when it translates in an integrated studious interaction with all that constitutes reality nationally and globally.
It will also demand a readiness to confront ones own culture where it is in conflict with God’s Word. Societal norms are only of value to the extent that they do not undercut Christ’s rule. The snare here is fear of man. In fact this is the fiercest challenge to living out a Christian world view in the God-hating world. All Christians must see it as an integral part of their agenda to venture on biblically influencing their people’s general perception of and relationship to the secular and physical world, in whatever legitimate ways possible.
A key channel for exerting lasting influence is the permeation by Christians of educational institutions and channels (e.g. the media). According to God’s placement and gifting, the Christian must seek to influence public opinion, and why not national policy. Why should the Christian shy away from intelligently engaging in vital national debates? Why should his voice not be respectfully heard in professional discourses? Does he not honour God when he brings sanctity to business or political life? The curse of the church is the prevalence of world view schizoids; Christians with a split world view – one for the religious world and another for the secular.
Cultivation of a Christian world view will also require careful study and knowledge of God’s Word with a cosmic outlook and impetus. Teachers of the Word will boost the cause of Christ, in this regard, by regularly expounding Scripture, bearing in mind its cosmic relevance. Unless Scripture is carefully and prayerfully studied, its statements on the social and material world will go unnoticed.
Having and living out a Christian world view is not attempting to be a Jack-of-all-fields or a Saint-know-it-all. It does not require suspending or substituting gospel telling for mere social, political, economic, or environmental action, as if they were mutually exclusive. No, it does not mean intimate intermingling with the sinful world.
Living out the Christian world view is conscientiously living out the happy recognition that “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” (1Corinthians 10:26). It is being “salt and light” of the world in the most comprehensive sense. It is awakening the world to its need of a saviour through unveiling the material world’s beauty and worth, but inadequacy to fully satisfy, by its own confession in its cry for redemption (Romans 8:19-23). It is interpreting the world and relating to it biblically.
Kuyper Abraham, Calvinism, Höveker & Wormser Ltd., 1898
Kirk Andrew, The Meaning of Freedom, Paternoster Press, 1998
Murray John, Collected Writings, Vol. 1, Banner of Truth Trust, 1976
Miller William, A Christian’s Response to Islam, Presbyterian and Reformed, 1976
Sproul R. C., Lifeviews, Revell, 1986
Walsh, Brian & Middleton Richard, The Transforming Vision, IVP, 1984