The ‘biblical worldview’ doesn’t come from the Bible

Paul at Disoriented. Reoriented has a nice post today on “The Toxic Assumption of the ‘Biblical Worldview.’

He’s reading through the book unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity … and Why It Matters, by David Kinnamon and Gabe Lyons of the evangelical Barna Group. Kinnamon and Lyons argue that a greater emphasis on a “biblical worldview” is what the church needs to stop hemorrhaging young people.

As Paul notes, this is a popular slogan, but an empty one. In the white evangelical subculture, “‘biblical worldview’ is something of a code for ‘conservative doctrine’ that treats the Bible as a fully applicable roadmap for life in the 21st century.”

The quest for a bit of content to such slogans often seems futile — a tour through an endless cycle of synonymous ciphers. What do you mean by “biblical”? Conservative. OK, then what do you mean by “conservative”? Orthodox. OK, then what do you mean by “orthodox”? Evangelical. OK, then what do you mean by “evangelical”? Biblical. …

Happily, Kinnamon and Lyons take the unusual step of actually enumerating what they mean by a “biblical worldview,” listing the eight essential vitamins and nutrients they say it must entail.

Unhappily, this list is, as Paul says, “a hot mess.”

Here is what they provide as the eight elements of a “biblical worldview”:

  1. Jesus Christ lived a sinless life.
  2. God is the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the universe, and he still rules it today.
  3. Salvation is a gift from God, and it cannot be earned.
  4. Satan is real.
  5. A Christian has a responsibility to share his or her faith in Christ with other people.
  6. The Bible is accurate in all of the principles it teaches.
  7. Unchanging moral truth exists.
  8. Such moral truth is defined by the Bible.

“Faith, hope, and love abide, these three,” the Apostle Paul wrote, “and the greatest of these is love.”

But faith, hope and love do not abide in this “biblical worldview.”

Love — the greatest of these, the most excellent way, the imperative of the greatest commandment and the second which is like unto it — is apparently not an essential element to a “biblical” worldview.

Seriously, what book were these guys reading? Because it sure wasn’t the Bible.

Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with thy God. … Not part of a “biblical worldview.”

For I was hungry and you fed me. … Not part of a “biblical worldview.”

For God so loved the world. … Not part of a “biblical worldview.”

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. … Not part of a “biblical worldview.”

Is not this the biblical worldview that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

We could also critique those elements that did make the cut in Kinnamon and Lyons’ list — such as the perverse choice to emphasize Jesus’ moral purity as his most essential attribute, as though this leper-hugging, Sabbath-breaking, woman-touching, dead-embracing friend of prostitutes and tax collectors wanted us to turn him into the standard-bearer for the very holiness-as-avoidance purity system he trespassed and trampled as routinely as breathing.

But there’s no need to nitpick. Kinnamon and Lyons took eight swings at the question of what constitutes a “biblical worldview” and whiffed on love every time. I am agape at this lack of agape.

If “the Bible is accurate in all of the principles it teaches,” then this idea of a “biblical worldview” that hath not love is a sounding brass and tinkling cymbal. It is nothing. It gains nothing. Whoever does not love does not know God.

This isn’t complicated. It’s not a trick question.


Love. Love. Love. Love. Love.

Any discussion of a “biblical worldview” has to begin with love. And it has to end with love. Love is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end of it. He said so himself.

I don’t know where Kinnamon and Lyons got their “biblical worldview,” but it isn’t from the Bible.
"Fun fact I just learned: In Morse code 88 is the abbreviation for love and ..."

‘That’s why we are here’
"I showed one the actual termination letter showing Comey was fired because of hurting Clinton's ..."

‘That’s why we are here’
"I foresee the future of this coin thusly:Several thousand will be minted. Almost a hundred ..."

‘That’s why we are here’
"I am deeply curious what people complaining about the length of the Mueller investigation thought ..."

‘That’s why we are here’

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • jamesprobis

     I guess I missed the part where Fred beat a member of the religious right, tied them to a fencepost and left them to die. Surely that’s what you mean by “bashing” the religious right. Surely you wouldn’t be belittling the very real violence some folks face by comparing it to a post on the internet.

  • Ok, that is rhetorical sophistry and purposely slanting the interpretation of a word to suit your case and that is not on.

    “Bashing” has damn well been used metaphorically, or have you never heard the term “poor-bashing” before, usually applied to the way politicians trash them verbally in their stump speeches?

  • that’s why you’re fucking crucifying me rather than listening to what I have to say

    Surely you wouldn’t be belittling the very real violence some folks face by comparing it to a comment on the internet?

  • Brock Freeman

    Good analysis of how the researchers in this book are being blinded by their own perspective of how people’s faith should look like. In fact, Jesus does not ask us to have a “biblical worldview” but asked us to have a Jesus view and imitate him and his love for us. I believe there is a HUGE difference in those views and that will in turn greatly affect how you live your life and treat others around you.

  • What does “Satan is real” mean?  Like I get how you might need to enumerate it, since there isn’t like any sort of consistent portrait of Satan in the book, but then ENUMERATE IT.  

  • AnonymousSam

    That’s because they’re not going by Bible canon for that. They need a version of God and Satan that allows God to influence a man to go on a shooting spree in an elementary school, but who has nothing to do with abortion clinics. Satan is the name they use when the only alternative is saying that sometimes God does things they don’t like.

  •  As a father of a small child, let me give you some advice:

    You want to make a sort of “Huu!” noise on the inhale, so that it comes out as “Huu-Waaaah! Huu-Waaah! Huu-Waaaah!”  It makes you sound more plaintive and needy. If the “Huu” isn’t there, it’s a lot easier to tell when you’re just trying to get attention as opposed to actually being upset.

  • Interestingly, English does have quite a few words to describe
    intellectual deficiency on the part of another person.  I think that
    maybe says something unpleasant about the kind of environment we

    Also, boy howdy do we have a lot of words for our genitals. (In fact, I believe “boy howdy” is one of them)

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Now, now, Deird, comments like that are why you are the one giving Christianity a bad name. Not the Crusades or abuse crisis or American Presidents bombing the everliving shit out of foreigners because God told them to; you, mainstream progressive Deird of Australia with your apposite comments on the internet. No more snark from you, please, we have a PR campaign to win.

  • Eminnith

    Why do you expect people do give you the benefit of the doubt when you don’t give them the benefit of the doubt?

  • In college, the two books that had the most profound effect on me were Gene Outka’s Agape: An Ethical Analysis and Rosemary Radford Ruether’s Sexism and God-Talk. Both helped shape me into a person whose feminism and pro-equal-rights positions are because of my religious beliefs about agape, not in spite of them.

  • That’s what I thought, but it comes off rather clumsily in this case. 

  • Did he put this on YouTube? That I gotta see.

  • Tricksterson

    Even at the height of my arachnaphobia I never would have tortured a spider, just squished it, quick and clean.

  • Tricksterson

    While “gays, feminists enviironmentalists and liberals are evil” can certainly be taken as the message and is probably the one intended it speaks well of Ana that she can get love your neighbor and help the needy” out of it.

  • Tricksterson

    Then again:

    No pearly gates
    No thorny crown
    You’re always letting us humans down

  • Immaterial

    um… what is its other meaning? *confused*

  • In Greek, “agape” is one definition of love, and is pronounced, I believe, “ah-gah-pay”.

    Et voila.

  • AnonaMiss

    Interestingly, English does have quite a few words to describe intellectual deficiency on the part of another person.  I think that maybe says something unpleasant about the kind of environment we inhabit.  

    Please pardon the slight necro but I just saw this and I find it fascinating.

    The really interesting thing to me about it is that we have a number of words to describe intellectual deficiency, but that we don’t have a lot of shades of intellectual deficiency. They all basically synonymous in current usage, with the exception of whatever’s newest at the time.

    This points back to the way that in English, we keep coming up with new “value-neutral” ways of saying ‘intellectually deficient’, when the previous way becomes sufficiently corrupted by general usage. Which could be construed as a positive or a negative depending on what you think the baseline is: is it bad, because the value-neutral term keeps being overtaken with insult connotations? Or is it good, because when a term becomes sufficiently hurtful, a subset of us go out of our way to find a new one?

    Would a language with only one word for ‘intellectually deficient’ point to a more accepting culture, in which the word is not used as an insult enough to prompt language change; or a less accepting culture, in which no one even tries to talk about such people without insult?

  • Immaterial

    Thanks :) Found the discussion further into the thread, was just confused when on the front page people were all “Oh, the Greek meaning is the normal one, and the actual English one is the one we need to define when people don’t know there’s two meanings to it”

    I’m guessing it’s American Evangelical culture at work, where I’m just not aware of the normal words :P

    (Also, I took the pun to be meaning “I am shocked that they are not shocked by this”; it’s cleverer with the dual meaning, but it worked anyway).

  • The “biblical worldview” touted by many conservative evangelical Christians is really no different than the way conservative evangelicals have made the Gospel into a soterian message about eternal salvation. The Roman Road. When in fact the Gospel is so much more than eternal salvation, escaping hell, and yada, yada, yada. It’s about abundant life, here and now. It’s about being the whole person that God originally intended for all of us to be… now. It’s about loving God, and loving others. Helping the poor, the least of these, and correcting injustices. While it seems to me the “biblical worldview” is more of a biblical emphasis on academics and culture and nothing more.