Cultivating a consistent biblical world view is a priority for every Christian.
In recent columns I have tried to relate this to the Great Commission to proclaim the good news to all the world. Far from being a tangential occupation for those with an academic bent, developing a biblical mind-set is vital for every believer. It is the only way that we shall be able to stand against the onslaught of secular materialism and so, like the church in Pergamum, to remain true to Christ’s name (Revelation 2.13). But it is also essential if we are to communicate effectively with the alien world views which govern our culture. A biblical world view is not a retreat from evangelism, but a necessary tool for its accomplishment.
Apparently, when people are being trained professionally to work in other cultures, learning the language is considered secondary to understanding their world view. What is different for us, as Christians, is that our distinctive world view, formed by the infallible Word of God, provides us with the critique by which we can understand what alternative mind-sets are trying to achieve. It exposes the areas where the false world views – Marxism, Darwinism, liberalism, or whatever – seek to satisfy the same basic longings of the human psyche, but from erroneous premises and often with disastrous results.
Ten years ago an important, but little noticed, book was published by Crossway Books in the USA entitled Total Trust – liberating Christianity from its cultural captivity. Its author, Nancy R. Pearcey, was then teaching at Biola University. Her thesis was that the distinctive Christian world view depends upon a grid of basic principles, derived from the very structure of the Bible and the central ingredients of a biblical theology.
Its three constituents are Creation, Fall and Redemption, which she suggests ‘provides the scaffolding for constructing a Christian perspective on any topic, along with a grid for analysing competing world views’. This provides us with a valuable tool for assessing the rival claims of competing ideologies against the divinely-given biblical revelation.
Let’s take a current example. Even though the European and local elections are behind us, we are effectively launched into a year-long election campaign, until next May. How are we to decide which way to vote, given that blind loyalty to a party position cannot be an option for a thinking Christian? It may be tempting not to bother, on the same grounds as an elderly pastor in my youth, whose line was to withdraw ‘because it will only be one lot of sinners out and another lot of sinners in’. There is undeniable truth in that, but it can hardly be the best way to advance Christianity!
Applying Nancy Pearcey’s grid, we can see that the central political choices on offer are between increasing state domination and control (what used to be called socialism) and rampant individualism (what used to be called liberalism). But both are founded on a denial of the uniqueness of the creation of humanity in the image of God, the reality of the historical Fall and the consequent broken-ness and disintegration of people and society.
Out of this come the false promises of redemption, through human efforts, to repair what is broken beyond the wit of man to mend. We are a long way ‘east of Eden’ and all Utopian efforts to restore a state of bliss, or even just to improve the status quo, will inevitably founder on the secularists’ refusal to recognise the necessity of divine redemption.
Key components attacked
It is hardly surprising then, that the key components of our Christian world view are so routinely attacked today. If human beings are not the unique creation, in his image, of the God of truth and love, then how can the claims that we are distinctively different be justified?
How can human dignity and value survive? If there is no real historical event, the Fall, in which Adam and Eve lost their innocence and found themselves alienated by their disobedience, then how do we know that God is not the author of our sorrows and our suffering? Is this then perhaps how the world was created to be? How then can we speak in any moral categories at all, if there is no ultimate reference point of good grounded in the unchanging character of our infinite yet personal God?
And what hope of redemption can we legitimately treasure, if that God has not intervened on our behalf in the great rescue mission of his Son, inaugurated in his birth, life, death and glorious resurrection? These are the grounds of divine revelation on which we can and should dialogue with any alternative world view and demonstrate its limitations; not just theoretically, but also practically, because of its failure to account for our real experience of life as we live it and know it.
David Jackman is the past President of the Proclamation Trust and writes the ‘Notes to growing Christians’ column for EN.