Worldview Education: the Good and the not so Good

Worldview Education: the Good and the not so Good February 11, 2015

Google “Christian worldview” and you will discover a large number of people whose profession it is to teach Christians to look at issues from a Christian perspective. The most common explanation of “worldview” is the intellectual “glasses” we use to clarify our vision of the world.

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Safe to say, there are two different opinions about “worldview” education that I encounter. Christian academics (or want to be academics) generally dislike it while standard church goers are not big fans, either.

The funny thing is that this opposition is for entirely opposite reasons.

For the average Christian I meet, “Worldview training” sounds too intellectual and distracting from the central mission of the church. For most Christian academics, particular worldview programs are too generalized and more than a little embarrassing in their simplicity.

One group is daunted by the “big book of answers” and the other, by training, sees any “big book of answers” as almost surely bad.

Let’s get two problems out of the way. Some “worldview programs” seem averse to questions. They have five arguments for the existence of God and if a student keeps pressing or is unpersuaded, they shut down discussion. This is a bad thing.

The good news is that presenting what an instructor believes to be true can begin  a discussion. It does not have to end it. One can start with a set of answers, hold them fiercely, and still be a good discussant.

Another problem is the “worldview program” centers which condemn “non-Christian” points of view and “syncretism” without acknowledging what is good, true, and beautiful about other points of view. Some programs even behave as if there was a pristine “Jewish” thought that evolved without contamination into “Christian” thinking. This is entirely wrong.

The idea that any part of the Bible was written or produced apart from the surrounding cultures is indefensible. God used human writers and human languages to express His eternal, infallible truth.

There are worldview programs that recognize this fact as well.

Let me be clear: a few worldview or “Christian history” programs do not just have opinions with which I disagree, they are wrong on the facts. Be a careful consumer. Look for support and endorsements of a package from working Christian intellectuals such as JP Moreland or Lou Markos.

So, what do I make of the complaints?

First, Christian intellectuals sometimes suffer from academic envy. If I want to explain Plato to Freshman, I must simplify and generalize. It is useless to complain about “Intro to Philosophy” that simplifies: that is the job.

Of course, a two hundred page book cannot capture every Islamic idea, small group of believers, or historic position. As long as the “big book of answers” admits it simplifies and has a bibliography, what else is the trainer supposed to do?

Her or she is already pushing the limits of the audience.

Second, church goers complain about losing the “culture war” and then do not want to do any work to understand the culture. I have no patience with this attitude.  All truth necessary for salvation is in Bible, but not all truth necessary for my life in 2015 America. Surely part of “loving my enemy” is understanding what the enemy is saying and not just shouting my point of view at the intellectual opponent.

Lazy church goers need to get a good book on Islam and read it before opining. One doesn’t have to be an expert to vote, but one does need a bit of information.

And so churches should look for humility, simplification that strives for accuracy, and hard work on the part of the presenter. Nancy Pearcey, faculty member here at HBU, is a good example of the proper balance. She has opinions about things that are not always my own, but she listens when I disagree. Her opinions are based on careful reading and if she generalizes, she does so responsibly. She works in a thriving intellectual community, not off by herself in her own little group.

A good worldview book is all many people can process, but they almost surely should process that much. Read Pearcey’s Total Truth not as the last word on any topic, but as a good word from a careful Christian public intellectual. As for the rest of us who write, if we disagree with Pearcey, then we should work hard to present readable alternatives agreeing where we can and dissenting where we must.

Thank God for the responsible and intellectually stimulating worldview education of my friend and colleague  (and a hero): Nancy Pearcey.

 


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