On October 19, 1944, under the tyranny of Hitler’s Nazis, Jewish psychologist Victor Frankl’s family was interned at Auschwitz concentration camp. There his mother died in the gas chambers, his brother as a slave labourer and his wife Tilly after being transported to another camp. As his family’s only survivor Frankl reflected on his experience at Auschwitz and the powerful force of ideas that made such horrors a living reality, stating:
“The gas chambers of Auschwitz were the ultimate consequence of the theory that man is nothing but the product of heredity and environment – or as the Nazis liked to say, ‘of blood and soil.’ I am absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidenek were ultimately prepared not in some ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and in lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers.”
As a thoughtful student of the human mind, Frankl understood that whatever ideas form the foundation of man’s thinking shape the ‘ediface’ of his life. In short, that human life and actions always flow from a worldview
THE POWER OF A WORLDVIEW
Your worldview shapes the way you see the world. It’s not WHAT you see but HOW you see what you see. It is often described as a “set of lenses” you look through,
but unlike actual glasses your worldview lenses are comprised of your ultimate assumptions about the world.
Worldview has become an increasingly important subject for Christians in recent times
due to the seismic cultural shifts experienced over the past century. While Christians have always been able to point to cultural ideas that con ict with biblical convicitions, it is this shift in ‘ultimate assumptions’ that is of particular concern today.
THE REMOVAL OF GOD FROM PUBLIC THOUGHT IN CANADA
In 1982, when Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau led Canada to take control of its own constitution, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was enshrined into our national fabric with these opening words:
“Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law.”
While some may be encouraged to still find at least a token of national Christian consciousness, historian Mark Noll points out that since then Canadian legislation and court rulings have favoured “principles of privacy, multiculturalism, enforced toleration, and public religious neutrality.” The net effect is that “recognition of the surpremacy of God” has been erased from any and all public dialogue, and those attempting to appeal to it in public discussions are ridiculed.
Unfortunately, the majority of Christians seem to have accepted this cultural shift and now think of faith only in terms of their personal private lives. What governs their thoughts and actions in daily public living are all too often the secular ideas and values of our culture. In contrast, the Bible affirms that “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him.” (Psalm 24:1) In other words, there is nothing in life, private or public, over which God is not sovereign and does not possess supremacy. Our failure to see the relevance of this truth demonstrates that we’ve lost something significant.
RECOVERING A CHRISTIAN WORLDVIEW
God gave the Apostle Paul great insight concerning the power of ideas to weaken faith and undermine the power of the gospel. In Colossians 2:18 he warned:
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends upon human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”
The danger faced by Christians today is that we do not see how Christ provides the foundation for all thought and life, informing everything we know and experience. Consequently we struggle to see and therefore demonstrate the real difference that Jesus makes to our world. What is needed is a fresh application of biblical truth to its intended sphere of influence, namely every thought that enters our mind. To quote Paul again:
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)
But how do we do this? How do we “transform” our minds? How do we make Jesus the foundation of every thought and action? The answer is to follow Paul’s example and reflect critically and biblically upon our own worldview assumptions.
For some this sounds too “intellectual”; something for philosophers and theologians. In truth, it is an extremely practical exercise useful for everyone. Perhaps a simple analogy will help.
Few people invite friends to their home and show off the foundation of their house. Rooms and decor garner all of our attention, enjoyment and appreciation, yet seldom do we consider the fact that without the foundation all of our living space would crumble under its own weight and sink into the ground. If the walls start to lean and the floors sag, it isn’t the paint or carpet that is the issue; rather it is what supports the whole house that must be examined. Living may take place between the walls and on the floors, but it all rests upon the foundation. This illustrates the necessity of reflecting upon your worldview. (i.e. ultimate assumptions) It is the foundation for all of your thoughts and actions.
So what forms the foundation for a Christian worldview? Where do we start in assessing if our ultimate assumptions line up with what God has revealed to be true? We could hardly do justice to the whole subject here, but as a start we can begin with what biblically appears to be the three most basic “pillars” of a Christians view of the world.
THREE PILLARS OF A CHRISTIAN WORLDVIEW
1. The Creator / Creation Distinction
The most fundamental pillar of a Christian worldview is the biblical distinction between Creator and Creation. The Bible opens with one basic fact:
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)
This gives Christianity its most basic framework and sets it apart from every other worldview because Genesis affirms, as Clause Westermann wrote: “there can
be only one creator and [therefore] all else that is or can be, can never be anything but a creature.”
This may sound theologically profound, but what does it really affect in your everyday life? In a word: EVERYTHING. The fact that our Creator stands apart from and over us gives the Christian a completely counter- cultural living perspective. It is the perspective that says: “my life does not belong to me…it is the rightful property of another.” As Paul affirms when speaking about Christ in Colossians 1, “through him God created everything…everything was created through him and FOR him.”
The world recoils at such a notion which offends its greatest value, namely the right to self-determination based upon the belief that our lives belong to us. As Lady Gaga puts it: “Don’t you ever let a soul in the world tell you that you can’t be exactly who you are.” The faulty assumption behind such a sentiment is that I am the one who decides who I am and what my life is for. With this as a starting point it is easy to see how our present culture and its values proceed. But the Christian knows that this is no foundation to build life upon. Only in living relationship to God our Creator can we truly know who we are and what our lives are for.
2. God’s Self-Revelation to the World
Our post-modern culture abhores anyone who presumes to possess the truth, especially in the areas of ethics and religion. For the post-modern mind the fallibility of human reason as well as individual or group biases make all truth claims suspect. Of this I am
in partial agreement since the Christian doctrine of sin ensures the hopelessness of human reason to provide us with a reliable foundation for truth. But does this mean
we are caught in the post-modernist’s web of subjectivity, consigned only to affirm
“our own truth” and nothing more. Not at all, for the Christian does not start from human reasoning to establish truth, but from God’s revelation. As Peter Jones puts it: “Christianity begins with revelation, not reason. God is not subservient to our reason, but is the transcendent Creator who must be approached in humility and faith.” Human reason therefore serves not to establish truth, but is God’s gift to us by which we can recognize it.
My seven year old recently asked me; “Dad, how can we even know anything about God?” I helped him discover the answer by asking him a few simple questions: “If God is invisible and bigger than even the universe, and God is unlike anything we can experience in the world, and God is beyond our ability to fully understand, what is the only way we COULD know anything about him?” He quickly responded with what even at his age was intuitively obvious. “The only way we could know is if he told us.”
Indeed, how can we know anything about ultimate answers from our finite and mortal perspectives? Only if the infinite and immortal reveals it to us; and this is bedrock to a Christian view of the world. As Scripture reminds us, God has revealed himself to us because he wants us to find him and to know that he is real. (cf. Psalm 19:1-4; Acts 17:24-28; Romans 1:18- 20; 2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21) This implies that I consider the Bible not simply to be a book about faith, guiding my own personal beliefs and values, but a book about knowledge that teaches me what is actually true about God, the world and my life in relationship to both.
Judging from the lack of priority that many Christians give to actively studying (let alone just reading) the Bible, it would be safe to say that we don’t truly believe the Bible contains real knowledge. The fact of God’s self-revelation however, means that the Bible is the starting point for ALL true knowledge. As Solomon put it:
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” (Prov. 1:7)
Christians need to reflect long and hard on this fact.
3. God’s Redemption of His Creation
What purpose does our life serve? Are we simply putting in time? What are we to do with the days we’re given? What the Christian knows is that God has a purpose for history and our place in it. There is a direction and goal toward which all things are moving. Paul expresses this in Colossians 1 where he says:
“For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in [Christ], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood shed on the cross.” (cf. Eph. 1:10)
God has shown us that history serves as the time in which he is fulfilling his eternal purpose in Christ to redeem his lost Creation. In willful sin mankind rebelled against God and is now experiencing a self-imposed alienation from his Creator. Presently this alienation is manifested in humanity’s living blindness to the reality of God and the consequent absence of the blessing and knowledge of his presence. And yet in love God is withholding the full and eternal implications of this alienation by allowing man a season in which to still live under the grace of his hand, in the hopes that he might “perhaps reach out for him and nd him”. (cf. Acts 17:24-28) The problem is that apart from Christ people don’t realize it. They still enjoy the life blessings of God, who “causes his rain to fall on the righteous and unrighteous” (Matt. 5:45) but have no one to thank for all that they enjoy. (Although are quick to blame “God” when things go wrong).
What the Christian knows is that the present time is one in which the door is still open and the time is still now for people to seek the Creator who longs for their return. As Christ’s followers we view the present therefore as the time given us to urge the lost to find God in Christ, and this supplies purpose for everything we do. As Jesus said:
“My food…is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work…I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” (John 4:34-35)
The Creator/Creation distinction; God’s Self-Revelation to the World; God’s Redemption of His Creation. These ultimate truths are bedrock to a Christian view of the world. If you allow them to form the foundation of your worldview it will absolutely change how you look at and understand everything.
1. Victor Frankl, The Doctor and the Soul: Introduction to
Logotherapy (New York, Knopf, 1982), xxi.
2. Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Preamble.
3. Mark A. Noll, What Happened to Christian Canada?, (Vancouver, BC, Regent College Publishing, 2007), 11.
4. Clause Westermann, Genesis 1-11, (Fortress Press, 1994), 127
5. Lady Gaga, SXSW Keynote Address, March 13, 2014.
6. Peter Jones, One or Two: Seeing a World of Difference, (Escondido, CA, Main Entry Editions, 2010), p. 53.