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When Worldviews Clash

It’s easy to look at the tumultuous changes in American life that have taken place since May of this year and be discouraged. The US Supreme Court has decided that the US Constitution requires recognition of homosexual marriage. There is an encouragement to accept the worldview of Islam that would have been unthinkable in America just a few years ago. And we shudder to think of the atrocities that have come to light in the nation’s abortion clinics. Many of us have grown up assuming that our national values would align with Christian ethics as set forth in the Bible. So we can sympathize with David in Psalm 11 when he asked, “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

On a macro level this tumult can be explained as a clash of worldviews. Those of us who hold to a traditional view of Scripture mourn the continued loss of Christian influence on our country. We remember the sacrifices of those who struggled to establish and preserve our freedoms, even acknowledging that Scripture was imperfectly understood by them when the framework of our nation was built. Those who promote homosexual marriage don’t understand sex as a good gift given to mankind by a holy and loving God. They have a different worldview.

And those who promote the acceptance of Islam do not understand the consequences of the different worldview of this religion. They don’t realize that Islam is not just a religion, but a way of life that is utterly incompatible with Christianity, with Western values and is at conflict with its legal system.

And the absolutely callous way that Planned Parenthood’s senior executives discussed the tortuous way they treat human infants for profit calls to mind the way that God condemned the way that the Ammonites, Canaanites and eventually the people of Israel sacrificed their children to the pagan god, Molech. Can there be any doubt that the worldview of such people is completely disconnected from that freely offered by a good and gracious God?

Fortunately, these issues are still being debated, and they are big debates. One might refer to them as clashes of worldviews on a macro level. I like the definition of worldview offered by J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig in Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview: “an ordered set of propositions that one believes, especially propositions about life’s most important questions.”

And yet these macro worldviews are composed of the worldviews of many individuals viewing the circumstances of their lives. One might say that the micro level worldviews of individuals taken together comprise the macro level worldviews of society. And the micro level worldviews are more likely to be shaped by personal circumstances than by a debate.

Among these micro level worldviews, there can be no sharper distinction than the one Pastor Sunday described in this past Sunday morning’s message. On one hand man naturally supposes that he has achieved all that he needs to be acceptable to his God. This is salvation by works and can take many forms, but its variants constitute virtually all religions other than Christianity. Even atheists, who profess no God at all, will likely try to justify themselves.

In contrast, the Christian sees himself as the unworthy beneficiary of a “great exchange,” one in which his sinfulness was exchanged for the sinless perfection of Jesus Christ. This is a radical shift in the propositions that one holds and cannot help but alter his worldview.

For instance, how does the loss of a loved one to cancer affect how one understands the character of God? Does one interpret the goodness of God when faced with a tragedy on this level? Does the suffering itself have any value? And if all of our loved ones are healthy, there are still job losses, relational conflicts, financial setbacks, legal or tax difficulties to bring these questions into mind.

Even when everything is going well in our lives, the same might not be true for our neighbors. In fact our neighbors may have a distinctly different worldview from which they interpret the circumstances they face. Do we see these circumstances as being orchestrated by a gracious God giving us an opportunity to reach them with the Gospel? Have we taken time to understand “where they’re coming from,” well enough to help them see circumstances in a new light, the light of the Gospel? Hence, there is a missionary aspect to understanding worldview.

Starting September 13 during the 9:00 a.m. hour, Tim Holloway and I will be teaching a class for the Institute of Disciple-makers entitled A God-Centered Worldview in which we will be examining these issues. We’ll start off by examining the foundations of a Christian worldview and why it matters. This first section will also include a class that considers the uniqueness of Christianity among the world’s religions. The second section of our class will look at major questions that many of us face which generally reflect our real world view, questions like does life have meaning apart from God, the character of God, and why God allows suffering. The third and final section will take up the big debates that crowd our newspapers today. We’ll look at how a Christian worldview changes how we look at sexuality, the sacredness of human life, and how we use our resources to care for others.

John Richmann