Deep Worldview

Deep Worldview June 7, 2021

Last time we blogged about a study that found that only 6% of Americans and 9% of Christians hold to a consistent Biblical worldview, as defined by the researchers’ benchmarks.

As I said, some of these questions have more to do with doctrinal lapses–such as the authority of Scripture, the nature of salvation, etc.–than worldview issues, as such.

And often the concept of “worldview” is used as means to smuggle in the notion that there is a Biblical “law” that governs every facet of life, as distinct from regular laws that govern that facet.  A story on the study quotes the Reformed theologian, statesman, and worldview-thinking pioneer Andrew Kuyper:  “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”  Right.  But we Lutherans say, it is already His.  The secular realm even in its secularity is already part of God’s temporal kingdom, which He rules in a hidden way.  We don’t need to Christianize everything.  The workings of ordinary vocations, the natural laws disclosed by science, the dynamics of social order, etc., etc., are part of God’s creation and His providential care for what He has made, though we always have to contend with our sin, other people’s sins, and the usurpation of the Devil in these realms.  But meanwhile, we are also part of God’s eternal kingdom through the Gospel, in which God is no longer hidden but revealed by His Word, which, though it contains God’s Law,  must not be reduced to a law book.

This is not to say that “worldview” is not a useful concept, but it just goes deeper than many people, Christians and non-Christians realize.  Again, the term comes from the German philosophical term Weltanschaung, referring to the view of the world that human beings bring to their perceptions.

Linguists talk about the “deep structure” of language, the ordering principles that underly grammar itself and that can apply to multiple languages.  Perhaps we can think of “deep worldview.”  The Bible indeed has shaped the deep worldview of Christians and non-Christians alike in Western civilization.  Here would be some survey questions that reflect the deep worldview.  I suspect that the scores for Biblical influence would be much higher in a study of these questions, though they too would show that this may be changing.

(1)  Does the universe exist or is it an illusion?  The answer might seem obvious–of course it does!–but this is a worldview issue.  The reason that virtually everyone in the West today–no matter what their religious beliefs or lack of them might be–is the Bible’s teaching that the physical world is the creation of God, who, in addition, declared it to be “very good.”

Hinduism, along with the traditional culture of India, teaches that the objective universe is an illusion, one spun by the demon-goddess Maya.  Salvation comes from escaping this maze of illusion through meditation, yoga, and acquiring positive karma.  In doing so, one can end the endless cycle of reincarnation into this world of misery.  (That’s another point of difference:  I suspect that all of the Christians documented in that study who believe in reincarnation think that this would be a good thing, that it would be really cool to come back and live a bunch of different lives.  But Eastern religions who believe in reincarnation consider it a bad thing.)  Buddhism similarly believes that the objective universe is a realm of samsara, a state of constant suffering.  As opposed to the Biblical teaching that the objective, physical creation, for all of its problems, is “very good.”

I do think that this worldview assumption is fading in the West.  The postmodern notion that reality is a “construction” would be an example, similar to the Hindu notion of the god within who projects what we experience.  The existentialist conviction that life is “meaningless” is also similar to the Buddhist assumption that existence is nothing but suffering.  We have a broader, more popular trend of rejecting the physical world in favor of being “spiritual,” or, perhaps more accurately, just delving into our own subjectivity.

Notice that modern science depends on this Biblical worldview assumption and that it cannot be sustained by the denial of objectivity inherent in contemporary thought.

(2)  Does time progress forward or does it simply repeat itself?  Again, a linear view of time seems to most of us, believer and nonbeliever alike, as the only way it can be.  But it’s in the nature of Weltanschauung, or deep worldview, to be so fundamental to our perception that it will seem obvious and unquestioned.

Pagan cultures, whether animistic or the relatively sophisticated version of the Greek, tend to have cyclical views of time.  Indeed, this makes perfect sense.  The sequence of the seasons repeats year after year.  In human life, we are born, grow up, have children of our own, get old, and die.  And those children likewise grow up, have children of their own, get old, and die.  And on and on.

The Bible, of course, recognizes and speaks of the seasons of the year and of human life, and the weekly pattern of the Sabbath and the yearly courses of the festivals keep recurring.  But it also speaks of time having a beginning (the creation), a middle, which is also the climax and the turning point (the incarnation), and an end (Christ’s return).

Again, this Biblical view of time is shared by modern scientists, Marxists, historians, and progressives in general.

(3)  Is every human being equally valuable?  Of course!  But that is a Biblical idea.  In many hierarchical societies–including here in the West, but also elsewhere throughout Europe–some people really are considered better than others.  Such a worldview gave us aristocracy, slavery, racism, and every kind of oppression.  But such views in the West were hard to sustain in light of Biblical anthropology, with its teachings that all human beings bear the image of God, have a common origin, are equally subject to God’s moral law (including kings, priests, the rich, etc.) and are objects of God’s love and Christ’s redemption (Revelation 7:9-10).

(4)  Is war, though perhaps sometimes justified, a bad thing or a good thing?  You don’t have to be a pacifist to consider war to be horrible, tragic, and evil.  But in many societies, war is considered glorious and greatly to be desired.

We could go on. . . .

Interestingly, when the New Atheists criticize Christianity, they are often doing so by drawing on the Christian worldview.


Image by stokpic from Pixabay 


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