Shaping a Christian Worldview: An Introduction (Part II)
While many examples could be offered, we will conclude this introductory chapter with six particular applications where a Christian worldview will provide the difference in perspective. Many others will be expanded in the chapters which follow:
- Technology can become either an instrument through which we fulfill our role as God’s stewards or an object of worship that will eventually rule us. A Christian worldview provides balance and insight for understanding this crucial aspect of 21st Century life.
- Sexuality has become a major topic for those entering the third millennium. Much confusion exists among Christians and non-Christians. Sexuality is good in the covenant relationship of mutual self-giving marriage. Sexual intimacy, separated from covenant marriage, in heterosexual or homosexual relations is sinful and has a distorted meaning, a self-serving purpose and negative consequences.
- Another pressing issue of our day focuses on environmental concerns. Environmental stewardship means we have a responsibility to the non-human aspects of God’s creation. Since God’s plan of redemption includes His earthly creation, as well as human (see Rom. 8:18-27) we should do all we can to live in it carefully and lovingly.
- A fourth area important in our culture includes the arts and recreation. The arts and recreation are understood as legitimate and important parts of human creativity and community. They express what it means to be created in the image of God. We need to develop critical skills of analysis and evaluation so that we are informed, intentional, and reflective about what we create, see, and do.
- For almost two centuries science has been at the forefront of our modern world. We must explore how we see scientific issues from the vantage point of a Christian worldview. An understanding of God includes the knowledge we gain through scientific investigation. With the lens of faith in place, a picture of God’s world emerges that complements and harmonizes the findings of science and the teachings of Scripture.
- Important for any culture is an understanding of work. Work is a gift from God and is to be pursued with excellence for God’s glory. We recognize that all honest professions are honorable, that the gifts and abilities we have for our vocation (vocatio/calling) come from God, and that prosperity and promotions come from God.
These are only a few examples that would be cited that will help shape our thinking in other areas.
Toward Christian Thinking in Higher Education
As we enter this new century there are inescapable choices to be made and these choices have great implication for all aspects of life, and particularly for higher education. Those who teach and study in Christ-centered institutions should take to heart the words of the apostle Paul: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds” (Rom. 12:2).
What is called for in this volume is intellectually challenging. It is not the easiest option, but it is the one faithful to the calling upon Christ-followers. In what follows there is an amplification of the meaning of the biblical and theological foundations of a Christian worldview. Also there are discipline-specific applications of a Christian worldview. Certainly what will be seen is that there is no room for anti-intellectualism in Christian higher education. We are to have the mind of Christ, and this certainly requires us to think and wrestle with the challenging ideas of history and the issues of our day. For to do otherwise will result in another generation of God’s people ill-equipped for faithful thinking and service in this new century. A Christian worldview is needed to confront an ever-changing culture. Instead of allowing our thoughts to be captive to culture, we must take every thought captive to Jesus Christ.
This call for serious Christian thinking built on the foundational truths outlined in this introductory chapter affirm our love for God and our love for study, the place of devotion and the place of research, the priority of affirming and passing on the great Christian traditions and the significance of honest exploration, reflection, and intellectual wrestling. These matters are in tension, but not in contradiction and are framed by a faith-informed commitment.
A Christian worldview is not just piety added to secular thinking, nor is it merely research that takes place in a Christian environment. Thus being a faithful Christian scholar involves much more than mere piety. As Chuck Colson says, “True Christianity goes beyond John 3:16—beyond private faith and personal salvation.” History shows that a commitment to piety alone will not sustain the ideal of a Christian university. The Christian intellectual tradition calls for rigorous thinking, careful research, and thoughtful publication. Christian scholarship is far broader than biblical and theological studies, though they help provide the framework for serious intellectual wrestling with literary, philosophical, scientific, historical, technological, and social issues.
Such a Christian worldview provides the framework for Christian scholarship in any and every field. This worldview, which grows out of the exhortation to take every thought captive to Christ, begins with the affirmation of God as Creator and Redeemer, for the dominating principle of Christian scholarship is not merely soteriological but is cosmological as well. We thus recognize the sovereignty of the triune God over the whole cosmos, in all spheres and kingdoms, visible and invisible.
Such an initial reference point avoids the error of a spiritualized Gnosticism on the one hand and a pure materialistic metaphysic on the other. This premise forms the foundation for our affirmation that all truth is God’s truth—truth that is both revealed and discovered. Thus we respond on the one hand with grateful wonder at what has been made known to us and on the other with exerted effort to discover what has not been clearly manifested. In such exploration we dare not misconstrue our previously stated premise so as to wrongly deduce that all scholarship or all research even if carried out by Christians is necessarily God’s truth. No! We want to affirm the Christian intellectual tradition that recognizes that all scholarship, all invention, all discovery, all exploration which is truth—is God’s truth.
In the large majority of our institutions it is teaching that is rightly prized and prioritized, but we also need a complementary place for Christian scholarship. Rightly understood Christian scholarship is not contrary to either faithful teaching or Christian piety. Christian scholarship provides a foundation for new discovery and creative teaching, as well as the framework for passing on the unified truth essential to the advancement of Christianity.
Can we then summarize this serious Christian thinking for which we are calling? I believe we can and I would like to suggest six overarching characteristics:
- It is derived from the unifying principle that God is creator and redeemer.
- It seeks answers through curious exploration and serious wrestling with the fundamental questions of human existence.
- It aspires to be internally consistent and flows from a comprehensive worldview.
- It recognizes the need to be aware of contemporary cultural, social, and religious trends.
- Serious Christian thinking lives in tension, by reflecting a (worldview) outlook while simultaneously having a particular discipline-specific focus—which means it will at times reflect an engagement mindset and while at other times it needs to take on an antithetical, perspective from the avenues of thought pursued by others in the academy. This approach will not entirely please those who see truth as a battle in which it is perfectly clear who stands with the forces of light or darkness. Sometimes the issues with which we wrestle are filled with ambiguities. For at this time, even with the help of Scripture and Christian tradition, we are finite humans who still see as through a glass darkly.
- Ultimately, Christian thinking grows out of a commitment to “sphere-sovereignty,” whether in the arts, science, humanities, education, business, healthcare or social areas.
Thus Christian thinking must surely subordinate all other endeavors to the improvement of the mind in pursuit of truth, taking every thought captive to Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). At three places in the book of 2 Corinthians Paul reminds us that we cannot presume that our thinking is Christ-centered. For in 2 Cor. 3:14 we learn that the minds of the Israelites were hardened. In 4:4 Paul says that the unregenerate mind is blinded by the god of this world. In 11:3 the apostle says that Satan has ensnared the Corinthians’ thoughts. So in 10:5 he calls for all of our thinking to be liberated by coming under the Lordship of Christ.
So today like in the days of the Corinthian correspondence our minds and our thinking are ensnared by the many challenges and opposing worldviews in today’s academy. Like Paul and Bernard of Clairveaux several centuries after him we must combine the intellectual with the moral and spiritual expounded in Bernard’s famous statement:
Some seek knowledge for
The sake of knowledge:
That is curiosity;
Others seek knowledge so that
They themselves may be known:
That is vanity;
But there are still others
Who seek knowledge in
Order to serve and edify others;
And that is charity.
--And that is the essence of serious Christian worldview thinking—bringing every thought captive to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in order to serve and edify others. That is a high calling indeed as we move forward and faithfully into the 21st Century.
For Additional Study
Blamires, Harry. The Christian Mind. Ann Arbor: Servant, 1978.
Carson, D. A. and John D. Woodbridge, eds. God and Culture: Essays in Honor of Carl F.H. Henry. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993.
Colson, Charles, with Anne Morse. Burden of Truth: Defending Truth in an Age of Unbelief. Wheaton: Tyndale, 1997.
Colson, Charles and Nancy Pearcey. How Now Shall We Live? Wheaton: Tyndale, 1997.
Dockery, David S. and David P. Gushee, eds. The Future of Christian Higher Education. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1999.
Eliot, T. S. Christianity and Culture. New York, 1940.
George, Robert P. The Clash of Orthodoxies: Law, Religion, and Morality in Crisis. Wilmington, Del.: ISI Books, 2001.
Henry, Carl F.H. God, Revelation, and Authority. 6 vols. Waco: Word, 1976-83.
Holmes, Arthur. All Truth is God’s Truth. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977.
Kuyper, Abraham. 1898 Stone Lectures, Princeton University, in Creating a Christian Worldview: Abraham Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism, compiled by Peter S. Heslam. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998.
Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity. New York: McMillan, 1943.
Noll, Mark. The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994.
Orr, James. The Christian View of God and the World. (Grand Rapids: Kregel, reprint, 1989),
Schaeffer, Francis. He is There and He is Not Silent, in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview, vol. 1, A Christian View of Philosophy and Culture. Westchester, Ill.: Crossway, 1987.
Sire, James W. The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog. 3rd ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1997.
[i] See Daniel Yankelovich, Coming to Public Judgement: Making Democracy Work in a Complex World (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1991).
[ii] See Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey, How Now Shall We Live? (Wheaton: Tyndale, 1999).
[iii] James Orr, The Christian View of God and the World (Grand Rapids: Kregel, reprint, 1989), 16. The term worldview probably can be traced to Immanuel Kant’s use of Weltanschauung in Kritik der Urteilskraft (1790).
[v] Cf. Abraham Kuyper, The Stone Lectures, Princeton University, 1898.
[vi] See T. S. Elliot, Christianity and Culture (New York: Harcourt, 1940), 22.