A worldview is the framework of primary beliefs that we hold, whether we realize it or not that shapes our view of and for the world. Everyone has a worldview. The question is not whether one has a worldview, but which worldview one has.
There has been a recent proliferation of camps, conferences, books, and organizations promoting the idea of Biblical worldview (Christianly Thinking is what I prefer, but for this discussion, Biblical Worldview will do!). Whereas the word “worldview” would have in times past elicited a blank stare, many Christians today have at least some familiarity with the concept.
But familiarity can breed contempt. “Biblical worldview” is often thrown around today in a haphazard fashion, and it may no longer be clear what it actually means. Also, Biblical worldview may be in danger of dying the death of the “been there, tried that, and we’ve moved on” mentality that is prevalent in so many contemporary program-driven churches, infamous mega personalities, and denominations.
This would be tragic for two reasons. First, a Biblical worldview is not a means, like a curriculum or a program. It’s an end. Seeing God, others, the world, and ourselves, as God sees them, is a telos of the Christian life. Second, despite all the rhetoric of Biblical worldview, it is not necessarily a reality. According to recent studies produced by the Barna Group, only 20% of those claiming to be born again and less than 1% of young adults in America can answer a basic set of theological questions according to the biblical worldview. So you know exactly where we stand on this view of Christianly Thinking on a Biblical Worldview: We CANNOT “unhitch” the O.T. from the N.T. as if one is complete without the other. The whole story of His-Story shows how God through one man Abraham, to one tribe of Jacob, to one Nation Israel in the line of David, brought one hope/life through one Man – Jesus the Messiah to ALL people.
Biblical Worldview: What It’s Not
Before looking at what a biblical worldview is, let’s consider what it is not.
1) A Biblical worldview is not merely holding to Christian morals. BW is more than that. Because the Biblical worldview begins with a Creator, we live in a world that was designed—not a random place with arbitrary rules. Moral norms flow from God’s character, expressed in His design for His creation. You find this thoroughly taught throughout the entire Scriptures
2) A Biblical worldview is not just living life with Bible verses attached. In this approach, the Bible is merely a therapeutic tool and never alters one’s orientation to life. These Christians view the Bible through the lens of their existent worldview, rather than having their worldview framed by the Bible. All you have to do is read Jeremiah 33 and focus a bit on 33-34.
3) A Biblical worldview is not automatic from being “saved.” One can be redeemed and yet not entirely think or act like a Christian. The apostle Paul spoke to believers about taking ideas captive (2 Cor. 10), not being taken captive by bad ideas (Col. 2), being transformed by renewing of our minds (Rom. 12), and growing in discernment (Phil. 1).
4) A Biblical worldview is not Christian reactionism. This is our reputation in culture, and it is well earned. Worldview rhetoric is often nothing more than code language for defensively reacting to all the bad things in culture. Rather than a view of and for the world, it becomes just a view of how we are against the world which is always a disaster.
Biblical Worldview: What It Is!
While a full exposition is not possible here, I suggest that a Biblical worldview is unique from all other worldviews in at least three ways.
1) A Biblical worldview is Biblically grounded. Jewish Rabbi Abraham Heschel once made the following comment about Christians: “It seems puzzling to me how greatly attached to the Bible you seem to be and yet how much like pagans you handle it. The great challenge to those of us who wish to take the Bible seriously is to let it teach us its own essential categories; and then for us to think with them, instead of just about them.” Jeremiah 33 again you must use and have the ENTIRE Biblical story speak to us!
A Biblical worldview is one that is grounded in the whole Biblical meta-narrative of His-Story, it is not Biblical literacy course but a view into who God is and who we are in needing reconciliation with Him and one another. The Bible is first and foremost a meta-narrative, a grand, sweeping story that claims to be the real story of anything and everything that has ever existed. It begins with the beginning of all things and ends with the end of all things. We and all people live in this story somewhere between Genesis and Revelation.
Thus, the Bible sets the stage for all aspects of life and culture. The assumptions we think and live by this worldview. We should build on these biblical assumptions when approaching theology, politics, economic theory, medical science, emerging technologies, the arts, human behavior, literature, criminal justice, international relations, or anything else.
2) A Biblical worldview is culturally literate. Loving God fully by thinking deeply, discerningly, and truthfully about His world is essential to being a real disciple of our Messiah Jesus. According to the way the Bible presents the grand narrative of God’s redemptive plan, Christianity is neither a religion of abstemious withdrawal nor a dualistic philosophy that denigrates specific human activity as less than spiritual. Followers of Christ are called to dive deeply—and hopefully headfirst—into the significant historical and cultural issues of the human situation. As G.K. Chesterton said, “If Christianity should happen to be true—that is to say if its God is the real God of the universe—then defending it may mean talking about anything and everything.” He also said sadly, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” G.K. Chesterton, What’s Wrong with the World.
Jesus makes this clear in His High Priestly Prayer recorded in John 17. Jesus prays for two groups of people, His disciples (vs. 6-12) and those who would believe because of the disciples’ testimony (vs. 20-22). For both groups, Jesus prays that the Father would be glorified as people came to know Jesus and thus received eternal life. Then, Jesus asks for an astounding thing: that his followers would not be taken from the world (vs. 15), but would be protected in the midst of the world by being oriented in the truth (vs. 17).
The Biblical approach to culture is to understand it (2 Cor. 10; Dan. 1), confront it (Dan. 3-4; Acts 17), and contribute to it (Gen. 2; Jer. 29). The Bible transcends cultural trends and realities because the Bible is the context of all cultures. Therefore, we can speak truthfully and significantly to cultural trends and issues, blessing what is good and cursing what is evil.
3) A Biblical worldview is defined by hope.
Hope is a crucial aspect of the biblical approach to life and the world. Peter tells the persecuted church to “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet.3:15). Of all the reputations Christians have today, being hopeful is rarely one of them.
Biblical hope, however, is a full certainty because Biblical hope is not a hope for; it is a hope in. Biblical hope rests squarely in and on Christ—the Creator (John 1), Sustainer (Col. 1), and Redeemer (Rev. 4) of the entire human story. We CANNOT “unhitch” the O.T. from the N.T. as if one is complete without the other. The whole story of His-Story shows how God through one man Abraham, to one tribe of Jacob, to one Nation Israel in the line of David, brought one hope/life through one Man – Jesus the Messiah to ALL people.
Because of Christ, neither optimism nor despair is an option for the believer. How deeply broken must the world, and we are that required God (the Son) to die! Of course, He did not stay dead. He has risen. Death, in fact, has died and nothing that will ever happen in the history of the world will alter this certainty. Thus, despair is no option either.
A Biblical worldview explains the profound goodness and the profound evil that is found in the world and the human heart. No other worldview can do this. Further, the Biblical worldview rests on the story of the world and the human heart in the hands of a God who created and has invaded both. And through our joining our hands, heart and heads Christians – thinking Christianly and acting can change: individuals, people groups, and countries, therefore cultures both micro and macro.