Competing Worldviews Influence Today’s Christians
The day after the 2016 Presidential election, I was visiting with a very close ministerial friend of mine and we began discussing the outcome of the election, in which in a surprising turn of events, Donald Trump won the election of the presumed front runner Hillary Clinton. During the course of our conversation, my friend asked me a really simple but yet very profound question. He asked me, “How does my religious views or my theological perspectives impact or influence my political views?”
The reason why this question was so fundamentally significant, is because regardless of your position on the election’s outcome, it is your worldview or your perception and presuppositions of politics, your perception and assumptions of government, or your view of the country and the world in general that determines or frames not only how you vote, but your view of the outcome of the 2016 election. It is also important to keep in mind that, whatever your given perspectives, perceptions, presuppositions, paradigms or worldview may be, those worldview frameworks existed long before the 2016 Election. In short, the determining factor for which end of the culture war rope you are pulling and why, or your reaction to outcomes of elections, is ultimately determined and influenced by your worldview.
The power of a worldview
A worldview is inescapable. Our worldview consists of our most basic assumptions (presuppositions) about reality. Our most foundational presuppositions (axioms) cannot be proved by something else (otherwise they would not be the most foundational), yet we hold them to be unquestionable. We use these assumptions (often without realizing it) to help us interpret what we observe in the world. We cannot avoid this; without a number of foundational presuppositions about reality we could not make sense of anything.
Today, we live in a world of competing ideas and worldviews. In an increasingly globalized and digitally interconnected world, Christians are more aware of (and influenced by) more divergent and conflicting views than ever before. But there are two very hard questions that need to be asked if you are a believer. First of all, just how much have other, or non-biblical worldviews crept into Christians’ perspectives? And how are we to discern what is of God and what is of the enemy?
To begin to address these questions, it might be helpful if I give a brief overview and summary of the previous two articles in this series: For starters, it is critical that we never loose sight of the fact that it is our worldviews that will dictate your beliefs and your beliefs will then dictate your behaviors, responses, reactions, emotions, and choices in any given situation. And then those behaviors, emotions, reactions, and choices that we display to the various stimulus we face, will ultimately testify to our worldview.
Simply put, since the beginning of time, humans have pondered, debated, argued, philosophized and have even gone as far as starting wars over many of life’s existential questions such as:
- What is the origin of the universe? Is everything that exist just the simple result of time and random chance? Or was there meticulous design and creation of the universe?
- Is there a God? Is there a supernatural being that is beyond time and space? And if so, what is He like?
- What is the nature of man? Is man just an animal that evolved differently? Or is he created from the dust and designed to be something special by a super natural God? And also, Is man basically good but society makes him do bad things? Or is man’s badness a built in, inherited result of the Adamic fall?
- What is the basis of ethics or morality? We can’t actually understand man’s being good or bad without having some sort of reference point about what is good and what is bad. Where do we get our ideas of good and evil? Do we get it from ourselves? Do we get it from nature? Do we get it from society? Or do we get our ideas about good and evil from God?
- What is the meaning of history? Is history just a meaningless series of events that just happened? Or was there a providential, purposeful, and orchestrated intention to history?
- Why is there evil and suffering in the world? Does the fact of evil and suffering in the world proof that there is no God, or that God if He exists, is not good and loving?
- What happens after we die? Do we just cease to exist? Do we get reincarnated and come back to earth as a cow or another person? Do we get absorbed into the cosmic consciousness? Or do we face God and judgment?
- Epistemology or how do we know what we know? Is there such a thing as objective truth? How do you know what is true? If you believe in objective truth, does that make bigoted? Should you be criticized and accused of trying to “impose your views” on others?
- If you are a minority, are all of the difficulties that you face the result of racism? Should the idea of personal responsibility ever be factored in a person’s or community’s problems? Or are all the problems the result of Republicans? Is our capitalist system the root of all of their problems? Is race the “root cause” of the rise in violent crime in inner city communities, or is the lack of fathers or the lack of two parent families?
- What is your view of the role of government? Should America become more socialists? Should more power and control be given to the government, or should less control be given to the government and more responsibility placed on individual citizens? How much government power is too much and how much is not enough?
- Should the American remain a free market economy or should we transform to a European socialist economy?
- Should the US Constitution be interpreted literally, with the original intent of the framers intact, or is it a “Living document” that can be interpreted differently than it was intended depending on the time we are living in?
Along with these and many other worldview questions, over the years there has been several popular political terms that have become associated with or attached to these questions such as: Liberal, Conservative, “Alt-right,” Atheist, Capitalist, Theist, Marxist, Progressive, Free market, Socialist, Communist, Theist, Materialist, Postmodernism, Evolution, Creationist, Western imperialism, Pluralism and New age.
And even among bible believing Christians there are vast philosophical and theological differences that have given us terms such as: Protestant, Catholic, Evangelical, Pentecostal, Charismatic, Holiness, Baptist, Jehovah’s Witness, Mormonism, Calvinists, Oneness, Trinitarian, Liberation theology and so on.
Every one of these terms, all have a corresponding worldview or ideological construct that are attached to them that impacts how those who embrace one or more of these terms view the world. So, for example, if you embrace a socialist form of government, it means that you advocate a “centralized federal government” centered economic and political system, which in turn will influence how you vote during a political election. In contrast, if you embrace a “free market” or capitalist system, then that will also motivate you to vote for more free market political candidates during a given election season.
Now, time or space would not allow me to expound up all of the plethora of worldviews that we are regularly confronted with. However if I could summarize and encapsulate all of the contending worldviews, that are competing for the minds of God’s people, and argument can be made for the idea that all of these opposing worldviews can be encapsulated into two competing worldviews which are: 1. A secular worldview Vs 2. A biblical worldview.
The two primary competing worldviews
Now as I pointed out earlier, there are many competing worldviews or ideological frameworks that are competing for our minds. However, if I were to encapsulate all of the plethora of ideas contending for our attention from a big picture standpoint, they could arguably be divided into two sides: The world view of secularism and a biblical or Christian worldview. In other words, of all of the competing worldviews that exists today, they can be summarized or encapsulated in either a secularists or Christian worldview.
What exactly is a secular worldview? Essentially, while there are several tenants to it, secularism is basically a system of doctrines, ideas, philosophies, and practices that disregards, undermines or rejects outright any form of religious faith or biblical teaching and influences. The primary objective of those who advocate for a secularist America is the total elimination of all religious elements from society. Secularism, also known as secular humanism, or “progressivism” teaches that there are no objective or absolute truths that define right or wrong.
In other words, to secularize something is to make it worldly and unspiritual. Its intent is to deprive something of its religious character, its spiritual influence and significance, and replace it with worldly ideas, or as the Apostle Paul phrased it in his first letter to the believers in Corinth, “man’s wisdom.”
Regrettably, we live in a world today, where secular values and biblical values increasingly clash. And all to often, the secular values are winning. Biblical values, more and more are increasingly crowded out by other voices and other images. In fact, more and more it seems that our culture has actually become hostile to religion. Those who still hold on to biblical principles, feel like aliens in a strange land. For example, if you maintain that the biblical principle of marriage is only between one man and one woman, the you are not only ostracized by society and labeled as a “homophobic bigot,” you even can run the risk of losing your job. And because of this growing, unbridgeable cultural gap, it is my contention, that unless there is a national revival on the level of another Great Awakening, this friction between secularism and religion, will only increase and not decrease as time goes along.
In America today, secularism permeates all facets of the major influential institutions of modern society including: public education, academia, government, the criminal justice system, the news media, the Courts, the entertainment industry, professional sports leagues, and so on. Many who advocate for secularism, essentially believe that man is the measure of all things, that morals are man-centered, not God-centered. Therefore, no one is entitled to determine right from wrong and morality is best determined by what is good for today’s culture. In addition, those who view the world through a secularist lens, do not believe that mankind can have a set of permanent values such as taught in the Bible. Now while secularist do in fact pontificate such words as: tolerance, fairness, and diversity in their lexicon, they are actually totally hostile and intolerant to those who hold a biblical worldview or look at the Bible as God’s objective standard for behavior and morality such as the age-old biblical standard of marriage being between one man and one woman. Situational ethics does away with moral absolutes, and dictates that there are no limits, no objective values and no real standards.
What is a biblical worldview?
A Christian or biblical worldview on the other hand, begins with God in Genesis, chapter one and verse one. Succinctly stated, a Biblical worldview is viewing the world, the beginning of the world, people in the world, the problems in the world, governments of the world, issues in the world, solutions for the problems in the world, and the future of the world, through the lens or filter of God’s Word.
In other words, in a biblical worldview, everything you see should be viewed through the Word of God. A biblical world view affirms that the world and our entire existence is the deliberate result of a divine Creator and the answers to the questions of, “what is truth,” can only be found in God’s word.
If on the other hand, you have a secularist worldview (one that does not include God) you will seek to develop an answer for every situation, issue or problem that does not include God or anything that could be associated with biblical principles. For example, a secularist worldview tends to either undermine or flat out deny any allusions to the Genesis creation account because there is no God. From their perspective, the world came to be out of naturalistic causes like a “big bang,” not because God created it. In other words, if you are coming from a secular worldview, you will do everything in your power to promote your view and discredit your opponent’s view. In addition, if you have a secular worldview, you will tend to view and interpret world events, politics, religion, culture and race through a secularist’s lens with a secularists filter.
Eight Important Components of a Biblical Worldview
In general, seeing the world through the lens of a biblical worldview, can be summarized in the following eight components:
- God is the Creator of the world and rules this universe! (Genesis 1:1)
- The Bible is God’s Word for mankind and is completely accurate including matters of life and its origin. (2 Timothy 3:16)
- Because of God and His Word, absolute moral truth exists! (Psalms 102:25–27; Malachi 3:6)
- Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God and He lived a sinless life, died for our sins, was buried, and rose again from the grave three days later! (1 Corinthians 15:3–4; 1 John 4:9–10)
- Satan is a real being (not symbolic) and seeks to defeat God’s plan for man! (1 Peter 5:8)
- Salvation is obtained solely by individual faith in Christ’s work on the Cross and cannot be earned! (Ephesians 2:8–9)
- God is hand has been providentially sovereign over world history, and one day, when the “Fullness of Time comes, (Galatians 4:4)” Jesus will return again and set up His Kingdom here on earth.
- The bible is the sole infallible source of authority, faith and practice for the Christian.
To further expand upon these seven components, for those of us who have a biblical worldview, our presuppositions and perspectives about life, culture and history are seen through a biblical or divine providential lens which is based on such presumptions as:
- There are prophetic or divine providential links between God’s word and many historical and current world events, many natural events have been providentially orchestrated and guided by God.
- God created the universe and the world is not the result of some random set of natural occurrences over billions of years.
- God had a prophetic and providential role in history for a specific end time purpose.
- And of course, ultimately that God’s Word is true and should be the sole authority for faith and practice for the believer.
So, for example, for those of us who affirm the evangelical creed that the Bible is the Word of God and speaks with authority on the issues pertaining to life, such as what constitutes a marriage, then chances are that you interpret or analyze the topic of marriage for example, from the perspective of a divine providential or spiritual influence, which means that we defer to the Creator and Designer of marriage who is God. We therefore, base our understanding or our worldview of marriage on the Creator of marriage’s divinely inspired instruction manual which is the Bible.
In addition, if you have a true biblical worldview, or a worldview that is centered around “rightly dividing” the biblical text in its original context, and applying scripture based on the “original intent” of the author, you should presuppose that there is a spiritual warfare element and a divine providential aspect to world’s cultural decay that is building up to, or setting the stage for the fulfillment of end time events and the return of Christ. To put it another way, if you hold the position that the bible was written “under the inspiration of God,” and that God has been providential in the flow of human history for a specific purpose, with a specific plan and with a specific redemptive and eternal end game, then you will invariably view world history, as well as, current world events as another puzzle piece of God’s ultimate eternal prophetic purpose being put in place.
To add to that, those of us who have a biblical worldview, believes that God has given us a moral code of ethics, while secularists on the other hand, believe that men are to establish their own moral compass or code of ethics situationally, depending upon the times and circumstances of the moment. In contrast, the Christian worldview believes that as a result of Adam’s fall, man was born into sin, and it is that “Adamic sin nature” that is man’s greatest problem. While those who have a secularists worldview believes that we are all basically born good, but due to negative influences people have become bad.
One worldview believes man’s greatest problem is solved spiritually, while the secularists believes that man’s problems are solved through government intervention, more education, technological developments or a variety of other ways other than a spiritual or biblical inference.
Also, and most importantly in fact, any worldview needs to be able to answer the following questions:
In summary, if you view the world through a more secularist lens and reject the idea of a providential influence on history and current world events, then you will of course interpret history and world events through more of a secularist or “progressive” lens, which in turn will influence you to draw much different conclusions on issues of politics and religion. Those who hold a more secularist worldview for example, view America as a country that is racist, bigoted and intolerant and therefore see the election of Donald Trump for example, as confirmation that America is racist and bigoted. In addition, if you embrace a secularist worldview, you believe that man can somehow control the climate by having more government energy regulations and taxation. While those who believe God’s word on the other hand, recognize that the end is already written in God’s Word and that eventually, there will be a “New Heaven and a New Earth,” where Jesus Christ will reign as King, and that no human government can do anything to stop or control this inevitable eventuality.
So, as I began to reflect on my friend’s question of, “How does my biblical or theological beliefs impact my political positions?” It became clear to me that we were dealing much more with a worldview question as opposed to a strict Republican Vs Democrat question, or Clinton Vs Trump question. Because at the end of the day, our political leanings are going to be heavily impacted and influenced by our worldviews. Therefore, in reflecting on the question, rather than state a percentage of how much my biblical views influenced what personality or what political party I voted for, which by the way is a very broad and open ended question, I began to consider how I would relate what I consider to be a worldview question to more “Specific issues” such as, education policies, tax policies, the “Constitutional role of the Federal Government,” the role of the Courts, The Constitution, the National debt, family values, energy policy, and so on. Because once again, most of the disagreements we have regarding topics relating to politics or religion are more worldview disagreements, more so than anything else.
So, with that as a backdrop, it will be helpful to address the question of, “how are our worldviews formed?” Or more specifically, why exactly do we think the way that we do, or believe the things that we believe? Succinctly put, we all have acquired our worldviews, or our belief systems over a lifetime of sensory inputs. The following chart gives a basic outline for how our ideas and belief systems have been formed and developed over the years:
What Determines Our Worldview?
To summarize, at the heart, our worldview is made of core beliefs which answer the questions of what is real and what is important. These core beliefs have been established over years of external influences. In order to understand why we believe what we believe, we need to discover, clearly identify and define our foundational beliefs. These beliefs lie beneath the ground, out of sight. They often go unquestioned and forgotten, yet they determine our core beliefs and thus influence how we make sense of our lives and live our lives. A foundational belief is what we use to decide what is true and what is false in regards to our core beliefs.
Most worldviews, whether secular or religious, have stories and narratives as part of their basic structure. In the case of a Christian worldview, the stories that lie at the heart of our perspective are essentially the narratives of what God has done in history. The God of Scripture is active in the world he made; thus, history witnesses to his presence both in creation and in his actions, particularly as these are revealed in the Bible. Thus, Scripture not only provides a worldview for those who accept its testimony, but it also reflects the worldview of its authors. Put another way, the writers of Scripture are themselves informed by the great truths that they teach-so that the biblical worldview provides a lens through which their writing should be understood-while they also establish the worldview that informs Christian theology.
As a Christian, my foundational beliefs are centered around my belief that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and is profitable for faith, doctrine and conduct for the believer. That because of Adam’s sin, as recorded in the Book of Genesis, sin and death entered into the world. But God then, because of His lover and mercy, He began to orchestrate His plan of redemption and restoration of humanity. That plan began with the call of Abraham, through whom God choose to work His plan of redemption. That plan that would include the virgin birth, death, resurrection, and soon return of His only begotten Son.
In summary, a biblical, Christian worldview begins with the assumption of the one true Creator God, who involves himself in history and seeks relationship with his creatures. It does not assume a deist god who is merely there, and certainly not a pantheistic god whose existence is mingled in with all that there is. The God of Scripture is the God who creates, who makes all things good, who is intimately involved with his creation, and who is faithful in all his interactions with it. From a biblical perspective, there can be no argument as to whether or not God does the “miraculous,” because the whole of creation is his world; he is involved in it; and his presence in the world occurs both by routine and by things wondrous and strange. The Scriptures refer to God as having covenants not only with his human creatures, but also with the creation itself (Genesis 8:20-22; 9:8-17).
This outline of the biblical narrative constitutes the lens through which Christians understand the world. Worldviews may be described, analyzed, and debated. But every worldview that claims to be Christian and biblical must start with the one true Creator God, who made man and woman in his image and who, despite the rebellion of his creatures and the consequent cursing of creation, longs to redeem his people, an action that He has accomplished through the coming of Jesus, the long-awaited son of David. Christ fulfills the work of Israel, drawing the nations back to God through his obedient death, resurrection, enthronement at the right hand of God, and final appearance as King of kings and Lord of lords.
Finally, not only as believers, we should base our lives on the God’s Word, but we should also be able to discern the “signs of the times” from a biblical perspective, and to be able to view the world, including our politics through the lens of God’s word as opposed through a secularists lens.