Christian Worldview: A Way of Seeing

You may be wondering what a worldview is. Or maybe not. Either way, worldviews are worth pondering. A worldview (sometimes called a "world and life view") is something we all have whether we know it or not. It is like a pair of glasses we wear to see the world around us more clearly. The point is to look through the glasses not at them. But right now we do want to look at worldviews. So we will be "beside the point" for a little while as we consider worldviews.

 A worldview is a way of looking at the world. It is how we integrate life and all our various experiences. It has some things in common with philosophy which ideally is the love of wisdom. The word itself is a translation of the German weltanschauung and traces its origins to the philosopher Immanuel Kant. Kant's philosophy is debatably unhelpful but the concept of a worldview is not so tied to his philosophy that it cannot be useful for the Christian. Years ago St. Augustine reminded his readers that because of common grace unbelievers sometimes understood the world rightly but that the good idea would need to be untwisted and baptized into Christian theology to cleanse the idea of its unbiblical and pagan associations. Augustine is surely correct. Kant's idea of a worldview is useful when reset within a Christian context.

From what I have already said, you will no doubt realize that a worldview is not neutral. Worldviews are either good or bad or some combination. But there are no neutral worldviews. A worldview can be Christian (in intention if not perfectly in execution) or it can be un-Christian. Unfortunately a worldview can be a poor mix wherein the Christian elements are overwhelmed by the pagan elements. We have a name for this: Syncretism. This is not good. But our concern is elsewhere now.

Some Christians have mistakenly thought that developing a Christian worldview is for intellectual types and so can be safely ignored or left to them. While it is certainly true that a Christian worldview can and ought to be the subject of profound thought (as it indeed has been), this does not mean that the average Christian can afford to ignore the topic. As R. C. Sproul has recently reminded us, everyone is a theologian. To think about worldviews is another way to think about theology. Or to put it differently, a Christian who seeks to develop a specifically Christian worldview is simply applying Scripture and theology to all of life. There is no aspect of life that is not subject to Scripture. Indeed, Dutch theologian and statesman Abraham Kuyper once said that there was no square inch over which Jesus does not say "mine!"

So we see that a worldview is a way of looking at the world in which we endeavor to integrate all our thoughts and experiences so that life makes sense. A Christian worldview is one in which we do this subject to the Triune God and his Word. Looked at this way, developing a Christian worldview is simply systematizing our theology, which the last time I checked is called systematic theology or dogmatics.

In case you were wondering there was a biblical basis for doing this, fret not. I would argue that there are many places we could look. But I limit myself to two New Testament passages: Romans 12:1-2 and 2nd Corinthians 10:4-5. In Romans 12 Paul transitions from his doctrinal exposition of the first eleven chapters to practical application. Paul would certainly affirm that what we believe effects how we behave or ought to. This highlights another way to think of worldviews. A worldview is an attempt to integrate all of our thought life and to bring our activity into consistency with our integrated thought life. Paul exhorts us to not let our minds be molded by the unbelieving world. By offering ourselves as a living sacrifice to God our minds will be transformed by God and not the world. In 2 Corinthians Paul reminds the saints in Corinth that we do not fight the world with fleshly weapons but with spiritual weapons which include a spiritual mind. We are called to tackle every lofty opinion that sets itself up against Christ and to take all thoughts captive to Christ.

Taking thoughts captive to Christ is another way of doing what Augustine encouraged when he told Christians to "plunder the Egyptians." Building on the narrative from Exodus 12:33-42 when God influenced the Egyptians to give to the departing Israelites precious goods like gold and silver and jewels that were likely used later in the construction of the tabernacle (Exodus 25-40), Augustine, as noted earlier, reminded his readers that Christians can benefit from truth discerned by an unbeliever. Augustine is following Paul's line of thought in 2nd Corinthians 10.

Getting back to our topic, we see that developing a Christian worldview is in fact a biblically grounded (not to say mandated) practice. It also makes sense theologically since we want our theology to be consistent with Scripture and with itself. We also want our thinking to be consistent with our practice and vice versa. Ultimately we want all our thinking to bring glory to God as with our other activities (I Corinthians 10:31).

Jeffrey C. Waddington (Ph.D., Westminster Theological Seminary) is stated supply at Knox Orthodox Presbyterian Church.  He also serves as a panelist at Christ the Center and East of Eden and is the secretary of the board of the Reformed Forum.  Additionally he serves as an articles editor for the Confessional Presbyterian Journal.

Jeffrey Waddington