SUMMARY: Toward a Christian Worldview
Submitted By: Dr. Frederick Jones
Summary: In summarizing this lesson, the authors divided the introduction to the study of worldviews into four major chapters: (1) The Nature of a Christian Worldview (2) Christianity and the Basic Elements of Philosophy, (3) A Biblical Theodicy, and (4) False Philosophical Systems. The key point made by the authors in summarizing the entire lesson was that Biblical Christianity is the only true consistent, coherent, and logical worldview or philosophy today because it comes directly from the eternal mind of God. All other worldviews or philosophies come from the finite speculations of fallen man in his state of unregenerate total depravity.
To begin the summary of the lesson titled “The Nature of a Christian Worldview,” the authors issue a warning from the apostle Paul found in Colossians 2:8, cautioning Christians to beware of falling captive to the false philosophies of this world. It is imperative that Christians develop a knowledge of what is true philosophy, what is a Biblio-centric worldview, and what are the false philosophies that come from the mind of man.
The importance of developing a unifying system of thought or worldview was reiterated by the authors in a quote by R. C. Sproul that “no society can survive, no civilization can function, without some unifying thought. . .” This unifying system of thought is what can be called a worldview. While Dr. Sproul discussed this on a larger societal level, it has application for each person on an individual level.
This aspect of the lesson focused on the need to study philosophy and to come to an understanding that there are two radically different worldviews, Christian and non-Christian, and that there is not and nor can there be any neutral or compromise position that can be found between these two competing worldviews.
The Christian philosopher is totally committed to God and dependent on His Word. In contrast, the non-Christian philosopher is not committed to God and His Word, and instead views the world though the lenses of finite man and the endless speculations from his own viewpoints.
The authors noted that all worldviews or philosophies have presuppositions that are the axiomatic foundations for their belief systems. For the Christian, the first and absolutely essential presupposition is that the Bible alone is the Word of God and no other religious writings in the world contain His inspired revelation.
Secondly, the Bible alone, as God’s only inspired Word, has a systematic monopoly on truth. No other religious or philosophical system contains God’s Truth, due to the unregenerate depravity of fallen man. These philosophers may glimpse or even borrow aspects from portions of God’s Word in their own religious or philosophical writings. This is done in order to deceive or take captive men through their own errant philosophies. However, their writings come from the mind of finite man and not from the mind of the infinite God.
Concerning the concepts of philosophy and wisdom, there is a graphic contradistinction between the non-Christian who suppresses and rejects God’s Word as the standard of all truth and the Christian who has a Biblical worldview. The non-Christian is described as being foolish, unwise, and false philosophers who have chosen to worship man as the sum of all things instead of the Creator.
The Christian, in contrast, is described as a wise man. From a Biblical worldview he examines all things through the lenses of Scripture. True wisdom, according to Scripture, begins with “the fear of the lord” and the belief and knowledge that the Bible alone has a monopoly on truth.
The lesson continued with an examination of “Christianity and the Basic Elements of Philosophy.” A summary of this portion of the lesson begins with an analysis of the basic elements of a worldview. The four most basic elements or tenets of philosophy included the study of epistemology (the theory of knowledge), metaphysics (the theory of reality), ethics (how one should live), and politics (the theory of government).
The key component to any theological or philosophical system was the study of epistemology or a theory of knowledge. Without some type of standard with which to measure or gauge a basis for belief (epistemology), man cannot know what is authoritative, whit is right or wrong, valid or invalid, or what is a true theory of reality and what is not. How can we know anything shows why an epistemic base is always necessary.
The three major non-Christian theories of knowledge were examined in a brief history of philosophy. These theories were (pure) rationalism, empiricism, and irrationalism. Each theory was examined in light of a Christian worldview and the weakness of each came quickly to the forefront when compared to an infinite God and His Holy Word.
Having said that, the lesson pointed out quite succinctly that of the many philosophical systems that war against Christianity, the most dangerous and insidious is the idea that we do not and cannot know the truth. There are those who claim that nothing can be known for certain.
Nevertheless, when examining “Christian Epistemology,” it may be summarized in brief that apart from Biblical revelation man cannot truly know God or His creation. This type of revealed knowledge or philosophy can only come from the mind of God Himself. Anything else is just mere speculation from the finite minds of finite men. The Bible alone, not any other so-called religious writings, is the Word of God and it has a systematic monopoly on truth. The Bible itself masks these claims while few other religious writings make the same assertions.
Since it is God Himself who communicates to us through His written Word, the Christian faith is therefore logical, measurable, consistent, coherent, and true. The Christian faith is totally dependent on God and His revealed Word and upon coherent thinking for its proclamation and understanding. There is strong relationship between faith (revelation) and reason (logic) in Christianity because our epistemological beliefs come from the mind of God. Only the Word of God can give us this knowledge.
The next portion of our philosophical study explored the ultimate reality lying beyond that which is merely physical and is termed “metaphysics.” Metaphysics deals with that which transcends the physical and our senses and deals with the study of ultimates. Why is there something rather than nothing, or why is there being versus non-being? The major issue in the study of metaphysics is the millennial long discussions over the question of “the one and the many.” This question has plagued non-Christian thinkers throughout the history of philosophy. How can there be so many diverse (a multiplicity) of things in the world while there also seems to appear a basic unity throughout all the complexity?
All non-Christian philosophies, from Plato to Parmenides and even to Leibniz fall far sho
rt of a solution to this problem. The answer or solution to the problem lies in the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity according to Francis Schaeffer. He is quoted in this portion of the lesson as stating, “without the high order of personal unity and diversity as given in the Trinity, there are no answers.”
Since God is “one” in essence, yet three distinct persons (“many”) in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, God may be called the eternal “One and Many.” He (“One”) has created the universe and all the diverse (“many”) things that are found there. We find order, not chaos, and God (“One”) who providentially cares for His creatures (“many”). He is the Creator and Sustainer of all things.
Jesus Christ, as the eternal “Logos of God” is the mediator (the “One”) between God and man (“many”). Jesus gives us coherence between the finite and the infinite, the Creator (the “One”) and the creation (“many”). Herein lies the solution to the problem of the “one and the many.”
In summarizing the portion of the lesson titled “Ethics,” there is a need to differentiate between the terms “ethics” and “morals.” Many times they are used synonymously, however, there are distinct differences between the two.
Ethics is the area of philosophical and theological inquiry into what constitutes right and wrong. It has to do with what a person “ought” to do. Ethics, as a discipline, seeks to provide obligations upon mankind in either general or specific situation in life.
Christian ethics is totally dependent on the revelation from God, which comes only through His written Word. Therefore, from a Christian worldview there is only one ethical standard of conduct for mankind, and that is the law of God found in the Bible. Any distinction between right and wrong is entirely dependent upon the commandments of God who is the Creator, Sustainer, Judge, and Lord of all. This system of ethics is founded wholly upon the very nature of God Himself.
Morals, in contrast, describe not only the behavior patterns of individuals, but also describe the behavior patterns of whole societies and cultures. If Christian morals, patterns of behavior, should reflect Biblical teachings of truth, then all non-Christian ethics and morals are nothing more than perversions of the only true standard found in Scripture.
Due to the “Fall,” man is ethically in a state of total depravity, unregenerate and unable to do anything to please or reconcile himself with a holy God. The effects of sin on all human beings is such that all are unable to do anything on their own to obtain salvation. This does not mean that everyone is as bad or sinful as they could be. It does mean that their sin has placed them in the worst position possible before a holy and just God. Men are unregenerate, lost, and dead in their trespasses and sin without the ability to help save themselves.
Therefore, all non-Christian ethical systems which have no external standard on which to stand, are nothing more than man’s speculations and hypothesis of what should be ethical and moral. As man’s morals and ethics change, these systems have no absolute standard by which all is to be judged. Situational ethics and the vagaries of cultural changes become the new norms with the rejection of God’s divine revelation.
The last major tenant in the “Basic Elements of Philosophy” is that of politics. In summarizing this aspect of the lesson, a key aspect of a Christian worldview maintains that there are three core Biblical institutions that have been ordained by God: the family, the church, and the civil authorities or magistracy. All three fall under Biblical mandates of Scripture.
The civil magistracy was made necessary due to the “Fall of Man” and its primary purpose is to glorify God, help maintain order, and to punish evil doers. Scripturally a nation is considered righteous when every facet of its national life seeks to honor God through obedience to the Biblical mandate.
In summarizing “A Biblical Theodicy,” the lesson noted that one of the greatest challenges facing Christian theism is the problem of the existence of evil we find in the world today. Theodicy may be defined as a Christian response to the problem of evil in the world that attempts to logically, reasonably, and consistently define the position that God is simultaneously omnipotent, omniscient, all-loving and just despite the reality of the existence of evil.
Many non-Christian individuals and groups have attempted to deal with this issue over the centuries. Some have stated that God is finite, has limited powers, and is simply unable to eradicate or prevent evil. Others state that evil does not exist, it is an illusion, a construct from the mind of man. Others hold to various forms of dualism where good and evil exist independently thus accounting for the mixture of good and evil we find in our world today.
All of these theories fall short of a Biblical theodicy. The Scriptures stated that God is infinite, not finite with limited powers and unable to eradicate evil. Further, Scripture states that evil is not an illusion and that it is even personified in the person of Satan. And lastly, since God created everything from nothing, ex nihilo, He is the ultimate Sovereign, the first cause of all things and the ultimate authority in the universe which eliminates any form of the ultimate dualism between good and evil.
As God is the first cause of all things, many things occur through the free acts of men which can be defined as second causes. Therefore, while God is not to be considered the author or approver of sin (the Westminster Confession), God can be said to be the sovereign first cause of sin but not the author of sin. God created both the angels that fell and fallen man, who are the second causes of sin and therefore they alone are the authors of sin. Man is responsible for his own sin, and God is exonerated as being the author of sin.
The lesson describes this view as the Calvinistic concept of determinism. Determinism sees all events as being directly caused by God (”first cause”) in which He decrees or “determines” every event in history and every action of man (“second cause”).
In this Biblical determinism, God sovereignly determines all things while holding man responsible for his sins because he has the ability to choose. God, who is completely Holy and who can not sin and cannot do wrong, has sovereignly decreed that evil things take place for His own good purposes. God has decreed it, and while we may not completely understand it as finite men, it works for His ultimate glory.
In summarizing the last portion of this lesson, “False Philosophical Systems,” from a Scriptural standpoint a false philosophical system is one that teaches anything that is contrary to the Word of God. Since the Fall of Man, unregenerate, totally depraved humanity has suppressed the true knowledge of God and substituted his own reasoning through the limited rebellious knowledge he possesses.
False philosophical systems manufactured by corrupt and rebellious man in one way or another deny or misinterpret God and His Word. Having rejected God and His Word, man has developed constructs through his own limited knowledge and speculations on how things might be if devoid of Creator God.
An examination of the brief overview of various false philosophical systems reveals that all of them either attack the personhood of God, His attributes, His Word, or a combination of all three. The Bible clearly states that the Christian worldview is the only true worldview or philosophy in existence. There is no neutral ground, no compromise position of the Christian worldview with any other philosophy, ism, or false theological or religious movement.
Critique Of The Course Module
The authors of this lesson presented a challenge to all Christians to develop a Christian worldview, a philosophy that is dependent solely on God’s Word and encompasses every aspect of an individual’s life. They challenged us to engage the culture in which we live, and “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you. . . “
The strengths of this lesson are many. In order to assess them adequately, I will break them down into their individual chapters and discuss the strengths in sequential order.
In Chapter 1, “The Nature of a Christian Worldview,” the authors utilized a strong blend of Scripture, philosophy, theology, and quotes from respected Christian theologians and apologists. They continually compared and contrasted components of a Christian worldview or philosophy and that of non-Christian worldviews and philosophies. The key to the development of a Christian worldview was continually reiterated as being dependent solely upon the Word of God.
The strengths of Chapter 2, “Christianity and the Basic Elements of Philosophy,” lie first in the discussion of the four most basic elements of tenants of philosophy: epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, and politics. Further, a discussion of the three main Biblical institutions ordained by God: the family, the church, and the civil magistracy (or state), was also a major strength found in this portion of the lesson.
Another major strength was the discussion of the writings of Dr. John W. Robbins who stated that according to Scripture there were at least seven basic values which are considered essential for a nation to be considered righteous. These include: (l) A Recognition of the Sovereignty of God, (2) Limited Government, (3) The Primacy of the Individual, (4) The Right to Private Property, (5) the Protestant Work Ethic, (6) The Rule of Law, and (7) Republicanism.
The key to this chapter was the incorporation of Scripture with theological discussions and numerous quotes by theologians, apologists, and non-Christian philosophers. Once again Scripture as the Word of God was the axiomatic starting point for describing Christianity as a complete philosophical system.
In summarizing Chapter 3, “A Biblical Theodicy,” the authors described the problem of evil as the most serious challenge to Christian Theism. They compared and contrasted the theories and beliefs of many non-Christians with solid Biblical evidence supporting the Christian worldview of theodicy.
Again, a blend of historical perspectives from both the Christian and non-Christian worldviews, coupled with many Scriptural and theological perspectives taken from the Bible and the Westminster Confession, were presented. In addition, the writings of both Christian and non-Christian philosophers were a major strength of this lesson.
To summarize Chapter 4, “False Philosophical Systems,” a major strength of this Chapter was the authors’ emphasis on the point that from a Biblical standpoint a false philosophical system is one that teaches anything that is contrary to the Word of God. False philosophical systems all deny or misinterpret the Bible or the person of God as Creator and Sustainer.
A brief overview of some of the major false worldviews in comparison to a Biblical worldview helped to strengthen the contra-distinction between truth and falsity.
One weakness of this lesson, from my perspective, was in the chapter titled “A Biblical Theodicy.” While emphasizing the philosophical problem of evil, there was no contra-distinction made between that and the argument from evil. The problem of evil is more like a direct declaration of a challenge to the Christian theist. When the problem of evil is offered to the theist, the person who gives the argument is trying to declare that there is some problem why an all good, all-powerful (omnipotent), all-knowing (omniscient), and omni-benevolent God of love would allow evil to exist in this world. Christians agree that there is a problem of evil in the world today. We see all around us human suffering, tragedy, misery, disease, death, and sin in every corner and culture of this world. On this point everyone concurs. The question that is asked is “Why?” The Christian has logical, reasonable, consistent, and coherent answers to this and other questions while the non-Christian does not.
Having said that, the problem of evil should not be confused with an argument from evil. In an argument from evil, there is an explicit argument from the existence of evil in the world to the non-existence of God. That is, a skeptic tries to gather together evidence that tries to argue and make probable the claim that the theistic God does not exist.
A Christian theist should never give an argument from evil because an argument from evil argues from evil in the word to the conclusion that God does not exist. On the contrary, by definition a Christian theist believes God exists. So, a theist might look into the problem of evil but he would never put forth an argument from evil and think somehow the argument is sound and valid.
This lesson did not differentiate between these two seemingly similar statements which come from two completely different philosophical perspectives. The authors appeared to consolidate concepts from both the problem of evil and an argument from evil in the lesson with no differentiation. This was a weakness from my perspective in the discussion of “A Biblical Theodicy.”
This lesson blessed me by reinforcing the need to develop a Christian worldview that encompasses all aspects of my Christian walk. It also validates my desire to further my education and increase my nascent knowledge of the discipline of Apologetics.