There are many Christian phrases that make me recoil in agony. In fact, a short time back, I wrote an article on some of the ones I find most cringeworthy. You can read it here. One I didn’t cover, however, is the phrase “biblical worldview.” So, that is what I am going to focus on in this piece.
To start, I really don’t even know if such a worldview exists. Sure, many Christians, being the self-referential creatures of certainty that we tend to be, argue that the proper worldview is a biblical one. But when we dig into what the Bible is and is not, this seems like a meaningless statement. For instance, are we really going to sit here and think that folks like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses—assuming these were real people and not just archetypal figures—had the same view of the cosmos as Jesus or Paul? Or that their theologies were all the same? Are we honestly going to hold fast to the belief that the writer of Deuteronomy, for instance, had the exact same views as those of the prophets, or of Jesus, or of Paul, or of Peter, or of James? Or even that two brothers, Jesus and James, shared the same views? Or that John the Baptist and Jesus did? Or that Peter and Paul did?
Get real! That is just silly.
But we are prone to act silly, aren’t we?
And in our silliness, we conjure up this notion that there is a biblical worldview. This is not without danger, though, because throughout the whole of the Bible—no matter which canon you subjectively hold to—there are a lot of bizarre ideas that have been used to cause real sociological harm throughout the eons.
Here are but a few of them:
That Slavery is Okay
Yes, that’s right, a prima facie reading of the Bible could lend one to believe that the abhorrent practice of slavery is just fine and dandy. Some passages where this occurs includes, but is not limited to, Exodus 21:2–5, 7–11; Leviticus 25:44–46; Ephesians 6:5–8. And wouldn’t you know it, Christians have, in turn, used these texts to argue for slavery in the modern age. In fact, here’s what the first president of the South Carolina State Baptist Convention, as late as the 19th century, had to say on the matter:
“The right of holding slaves is clearly established by the Holy Scriptures, both by precept and example.”
But he’s right. As the Scriptures clearly state, holding slaves is not only said to be divinely mandated, but is then lived out in real time. This is a major problem, is it not? (And if not, then methinks you are speaking from a place of privilege—like I’m sure the uber-white former South Carolina Baptist president was—and you may want to reassess things.)
That Violence is Okay
We cannot escape this reality. Those things are in the Bible and they are here to stay. However, should we really be using these texts to justify our own violence? Should we really allow such violence to pervade our world? God, I hope not. That’s not a world I really want to live in, even if “the Bible clearly states.”
That Being Anti-Gay is Okay
I know this one is going to rub some people the wrong way. But I feel it must be included. Why? Because for too long the Church has caused great harm to the LGBTQ community. We’ve shunned them. We’ve kicked them to the curb. We’ve trodden all over them . . . all in the name of “loving the sinner, hating the sin.”
And look, I know that the Apostle Paul may have been against “homosexuality.” I don’t think he was but for the sake of argument I’ll just assume I’m wrong and give those who do the benefit of the doubt here. My question then is: So what? Didn’t Paul also think that it was dishonorable for men to cover their heads and women to uncover theirs whilst praying? Last I checked, plenty of guys wear hats to church. And even more women don’t. Hence, it seems safe to say that even the most conservative of Christians admit that some of what Paul had to say was in regards to his current cultural context.
Anyway, at the end of the day—and as the Bible clearly states—what matters most is how we love others and God. Full stop. And sure, if that is what is meant by having a “biblical worldview,” then that is something I can get on board with. The problem, though, is that this view is not necessarily uniquely “Christian.” The last I checked, many within the Buddhist faith, for example, love as well as or even better than many Christians. So do many of the Baha’i faith. So do many Muslims. So do many Jews. So do many atheists.
That is why the phrase “biblical worldview” is essentially meaningless. It can mean so many different things to so many different Christians that it seems like a completely vacuous statement, a vapid platitude we tell ourselves and others in order to feel certain about our so-called “correct beliefs.” That’s how I see it at least. And perhaps I’m wrong; I don’t know.
Let me hear your thoughts. Agree or disagree, it’s all good in the hood.
Until next time.