Saturday, October 04, 2014

A Biblical Worldview

I am not opposed to using worldview language. There are important cautions that need to go along with it, to be sure.

1. For example, the relation between people's thinking and action is far more complex than some consistent movement from thought to action. Our professed ideas often aren't the real reason for what we do. And most of what passes for a "worldview" is a gross oversimplification, like goo-goo ga-ga talk. It's embarrassing to think of a college class calling something "faith integration" that takes a doctoral level understanding of one field and tries to "integrate" it awkwardly with some kindergartenish worldview concept. In many, perhaps most cases, it would be better for the professor not even to try and just be a person with faith teaching a subject they are actually an expert on.

Still more problematic is language of "biblical" worldview. I will use this language below but most of those who use this language are pre-modern, unreflective interpreters. That is, they are Bible readers who define the words of the Bible by the definitions of their tradition. They read the Bible like a mirror and rip a selection of key mirror verses to express what their community already thinks.

It is somewhat difficult to speak of a biblical worldview if you know how to read the Bible in context. For example, the way the Israelites who wrote down the books of the OT viewed God among the gods was arguably not exactly the same as the way Jews viewed God by the time Paul came around. You will not find the best original meaning Bible scholars even speaking much of biblical theology in relation to the whole Bible, let alone the more simplistic biblical worldview construct.

But it is now potentially a "post" modern time. That is to say, I am open to speaking reflectively of a biblical worldview in a way that is aware that it is loosening the original meanings of the biblical texts and organizing them by an outside organizing principle.

I believe for Christendom, that organizing principle is best some form of common Christianity or orthodoxy. For me, that pattern also might involve the Wesleyan-Arminian tradition, which I believe is the best "constructive" version of Christian tradition in relation to the modern world. (We all at least partially construct our theologies in dialog with modern issues of thought. We just don't always admit it to ourselves.)

2. So what might such a "biblical worldview" look like?
  • It believes in a loving, powerful, knowing God who exists apart from the world but is involved in the world. 
  • But God does not determine everything that happens, even though nothing happens apart from his permission and will. We have a responsibility to choose the good and can choose the good.
  • God speaks. He has spoken through Scripture and he continues to speak to people today, especially those among his people. The Spirit helps us arbitrate between what is his speaking and what isn't.
  • But there is much truth we can know without a special word from the Lord.
  • It believes that the world needs to be reconciled to God. The world is alienated from God. Although God is working everywhere--there is hope for goodness everywhere--humanity's default state is one of disempowerment and degradation everywhere. We need rescued.
  • The key to the restoration of fallen humanity is Jesus. He is the means of restoration and reconciliation. He is also the Lord and master of all the earth.
  • History is moving toward an ultimate restoration. We are eternally accountable to God for our lives, although his disposition is one of mercy toward those who trust in his mercy.
  • There are two great ethical requirements of humanity by God. The first is to submit to his absolute rulership, a submission that is not onerous because he is a loving Sovereign. The second is for us to live lives of love toward one another.
3. A sound "biblical worldview" has implications for the specific issues of our world (e.g., abortion, poverty) but flies more at a "meta" level. For example, I do not believe that it makes sense to speak of a "biblical" perspective on abortion unless you are a pre-modern reader who is simply seeing the Bible as a mirror of what you already believe. There is rather a biblical perspective on murder, especially on the basis of the love ethic. Our position on abortion then tries to play out that worldview perspective in the specific case of an unborn child.

But the Bible read in context, either on the whole (which is where "biblical worldview" comes into play) or in some particular verse (which then is not usually flying on the level of worldview but more on the level of ancient situation), does not take a position on human identity in relation to human development. This is a question from our world, not theirs. What we do as communities of faith is apply the basic principles of our Christian worldview to specific situations like these in our contemporary world.

The freedom of speech and our democratic worldview enables those in America with means to speak our minds loudly and with great vigor in the public forum. I'm afraid that, much of the time, we more or less embarrass ourselves when we speak of a biblical or Christian worldview and turn off intelligent outsiders to faith. We are a people of easy answers where, in the name of our religious tradition but invoking the Bible, a person of mediocre thinking ability can speak with the authority of God.

1 comment:

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for the warning.