Biblical worldview


A worldview describes a particular way of looking at life - the lens through which our generation interprets the world and interacts with it.  Before we look in detail at the Judaeo-Christian biblical worldview and the consequences for us of holding to it, we need to differentiate between this and other prevailing worldviews.  To do this we will look in some detail at Postmodernism, which is the current worldview in the West.

How is a worldview formed?

A worldview is formed when the movers and shakers, philosophers, politicians, theologians and intellectuals begin to reflect on the way life is and consider their response to it.  As they comment and write about their ideas they shape the way that others think about the world and a new way of looking at it becomes established.

Takes time to become the accepted norm

A worldview normally takes time to become fully established and it wasn’t until the 1980’s that the Postmodern worldview, which began to emerge around 30 years earlier, was finally recognised and embraced by our culture generally.

Different worldviews

Postmodernism followed the worldview known as Modernism and to fully understand the Postmodern worldview we will need to understand Modernism (sometimes referred to as The Enlightenment) and even the worldview that preceded that – the Pre-modern worldview.  Please note that these are not precise chronological time periods.  There is considerable overlap between each:

i    Pre-modern:

This, for our purpose, refers to the Judaeo-Christian era up to around the 18th century.  During the Pre-modern period most people believed that God existed, that he created all things, was separate from his creation and that he knew everything; therefore all that they knew came from God and his self-revelation.  Reality centred on God’s existence, attributes and character.

Christianity claimed to have exclusive knowledge.  It also claimed that no one could come to the Father except through Jesus his son.  In both Judaeo-Christian and non-Judaeo-Christian societies in the Pre-modern world access to and experience of the unseen realm, angels and demons, together with miracles, were readily accepted and anticipated.

ii    Modernism (or the Enlightenment):

With the advent of the Modern age or Enlightenment which began around the beginning of the 18th century and lasted until about 50 years ago, all this changed.  The Enlightenment was a philosophical, intellectual and cultural revolution creating a worldview that stressed the benefits of reason, logic, criticism, pre-eminence of scientific thought and freedom of thought over doctrine and creeds, blind faith and superstition.

The Enlightenment was in many ways a return to the rational thinking and materialism of ancient Greek philosophy (shaped by Plato) which separated the sacred and the secular.  Sadly, the Western world generally, including many Christians, were influenced by this.  Click here for more on the Greek worldview.  The Western view of the universe ignored the supernatural and the unseen spiritual realm, which were acknowledged quite readily by non-Western cultures.  Click here for more on the unseen realm.

Modernism represented the pursuit of truth, absolutism (certain actions and beliefs were definitely right or wrong), linear or logical thinking (step by step approach – opposite to creative thinking), rationalism (the theory that the exercise of reason, rather than experience, or spiritual revelation, provides the primary basis for knowledge) and certainty (the assurance or conviction that something is clearly established).

Modernity, in simple terms, was characterised by the belief that truth exists and that the scientific method is the only reliable way to determine it.  The Modern mind discounted the idea of the supernatural and looked for scientific and rationalistic explanations for everything.  According to John MacArthur in his book 'The Truth War':

Those presuppositions gave birth to Darwinism, which in turn spawned a string of humanistic ideas and worldviews.  Most prominent among them were several atheistic, rationalistic, Utopian philosophies - including Marxism, fascism, socialism, communism and theological liberalism.

Overconfident rationalism, human conceit and arrogance characterised the Modern era.  Influenced by Rene Descartes (the father of Modern philosophy) and his well-known principle ‘Cogito, ergo sum’ (I think, therefore I am), man was placed at the centre and God was no longer a ‘given.’  During the Enlightenment it was held that the history of mankind was one of progress; that human life and character could be improved through education and reason.

Scientists, during this period, tended to be deists.  Deism, which originated in England in the early 17th century, rejected orthodox Christianity and asserted that reason (not revelation or the teaching of any specific religion) could find evidence of God in nature (proving that God had created the world, but then left it to operate under the natural laws he'd devised).

Many theologians, particularly in Germany, began to study the Bible in a critical way and so many Christians, intimidated by the critic's so-called higher knowledge, were no longer as confident about the Bible as in the Pre-modern era.  As a result, many Christians became liberal in their outlook, doubting things like the miracles, the virgin birth and so on.  Faithful Christians were concerned about this and started to call the church back to its fundamental beliefs.  This is where Evangelical Fundamentalism was born.  It was a reaction to liberalism.

Whilst the eventual demise of the Modern worldview and the resulting blow to rationalistic human arrogance was someting to celebrate, the worldview that replaced it was not, as we shall now go on to see.

iii    Postmodernism:

We’ll spend a little longer on this than on the previous two periods since this worldview, which, as we have said, arose around the middle of the twentieth century, significantly impacts the beliefs and practices of pagans, spiritual/religious people and many Christians, in particular what has become known as the Emerging Church.

A new worldview desired

Postmodern philosophers and theologians believed that Modernism had led to arrogance, inflexibility, an elevation of reason, the need to be right and the desire to control, and so a new view of reality (or worldview) was needed.  Postmodernism therefore reflects a loss of confidence in the power of human reason and scientific inquiry to understand the nature of true reality.  Postmodernists also argue that Modernity brought us to the brink of disaster (the world was not the safer place in the middle of the last century that Modernists had expected and promised it would be) and therefore they reject the idea of progress.

There is some validity in the Postmodern view since it can be said that Enlightenment thought had led to a rejection of revelation and succumbed to an unwarranted optimism and arrogance.  D A Carson points out that Modern thought has been shown at times to be wrong:

After all, many things that have been labelled ‘scientific’ that time and distance have proved were not: phrenology, Marxism, Aryan superiority, phlogiston, and much more.

A defining moment: the 60s

Before looking at the Postmodern worldview in more detail, we’ll take a quick detour to explain how this worldview took hold.  Those of us born in the mid 20th century will quickly realise the part we played in shaping it!

Most would agree that the decade of the 60’s was significant.  For those with eyes to see, this was a defining period in history.  A radical shift was taking place in how people viewed themselves and the world around them.  Many had lived through the nightmares and restrictions experienced as a result of two world wars, and were no longer confident that the Modern view of the world was right.

A new generation was growing up, and God’s goodness and mercy to their parents through two world wars was fading fast from the national consciousness.  Here at Christian Spectrum we believe that it's possible something was also shifting in the Heavenlies and the restraining power we read about in 2 Thessalonians 2: 7 was removed, opening up a new era:

For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.  And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendour of his coming (2 Thess 2:7-8)

For many, oblivious of any demonic activity, it was an exciting time to be alive.  The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones and other poet philosophers were beginning to challenge perceptions and changing mindsets through their songs.  They opened the door in the West to drugs and Eastern Mysticism.  The long awaited Age of Aquarius was believed to be breaking in.  The media was quick to promote their ideas.  They were the 'movers and shakers' of the time.

The slogan ‘Make love not war,’ the hippies' counter-culture, the pill and sexual freedom, the use of drugs, the 1967 Abortion Act, the legalising of male homosexuality, Hari Krishna chanting - it was all happening in the 60’s.

Everything was up for grabs and the status quo questioned.  No one trusted or respected anyone but themselves.  They were heady days indeed.  Unfortunately, there was a failure to discern the true nature of the rebellion and lawlessness that were being released in the West.  Today, with the benefit of hindsight, it can be seen that they were not such good days.

At the same time, the pagans, occultists and New Agers were having the time of their lives.  They took the opportunity to make rapid progress.  Theosophist Alice Bailey’s demonically inspired ten point strategy (including kicking God out of schools, allowing abortions and homosexuality and destroying the Christian family) to set people free from what she called ‘Christian restrictions,’ epitomised their thinking.

Her final point, to persuade the Christian Church to endorse all the other nine points, was the greatest plank in her strategy.  Today, when we can see how the Church at large has clearly endorsed her plan, who can deny that a new worldview has taken hold and that the pagans have gained the upper hand!  OK, end of detour.

According to John MacArthur in his book 'The Truth Wars':

Postmodernism in general is marked by a tendency to dismiss the possibility of any sure and settled knowledge of the truth.  Postmodernism suggests that if objective truth exists, it cannot be known objectively or with any degree of certainty.  That is because (according to Postmodernists), the subjectivity of the human mind makes knowledge of objective truth impossible.  So it is useless to think of truth in objective terms.  Objectivity is an illusion.  Nothing is certain, and the thoughtful person will never speak with too much conviction about anything.  Strong convictions about any point of truth are judged supremely arrogant and hopelessly naive.  Everyone is entitled to their own truth.

He goes on to say:

Therefore Postmodernism's one goal and singular activity is the systematic deconstruction of every other truth claim.  The chief tools being employed to accomplish this are relativism, subjectivism, the denial of every dogma, the dissection and annihilation of every clear definition, the relentless questioning of every axiom, the undue exaltation of mystery and paradox, the deliberate exaggeration of every ambiguity and above all the cultivation of uncertainty about everything.

. . . Postmodernism therefore signals a major triumph for relativism - the view that truth is not fixed and objective, but something individually determined by each person's unique, subjective perception.  All this is ultimately a vain attempt to try to eliminate morality and guilt from human life.

Cultural superiority

Postmodernism rightly rejects the Modern assumption that ‘our culture’ is superior to all others.  Postmodernity is generally more sensitive and respectful to the diversities of cultures in the world.  It’s also open to thinking in a nonlinear way and as we know, intuitive leaps in imagination have played a huge role in science as scientists have thought ‘outside the box.’

Backlash against reason and truth

However on the downside, there is the backlash against reason and truth which is now widely promoted in higher education.  The argument runs that every time somebody claims to have the ultimate truth (especially religious truth), it ends up repressing people and so it’s best to make no claims to truth at all.

Rejecting objective and transcendent truth

Rejecting objective and transcendent truth is the basis of Postmodernity.  In essence, Postmodern ideology declares an end to all ideology and all claims to truth.  Postmodernists believe that what we know is shaped by many things including the culture in which we live, our experience, emotions, subjective feelings, heritage and traditions.

Reality and truth as social constructs

Postmodernists do not see humanity as an ocean of individuals, but think of humans as local communities which produce ‘social constructs.’  In other words, we do not exist or think independently of the community in which we live, so we can't have autonomous access to reality or truth.  Social constructs are generally understood to be the by-products of countless human choices made within each separate community - not laws resulting from the divine will or nature.  Someone has said: 'Social constructs and social contracts are what keep society functioning as a shared consciousness and allow us to communicate meaningfully with one another.'

Reality or truth therefore turns out to be a ‘social construct’ or a paradigm which must be constantly re-affirmed in order to continue.  This process also allows for change: what justice is and what it means can shift from one generation to the next, as can a community’s views on abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, free speech, Christianity, etc, as we have witnessed in Britain over the last half century.  The search for an overall objective reality is therefore rejected.

Local narratives: no all-embracing worldview

Postmodernists say there is no hope therefore of discovering one absolute and universal truth that unites humanity (such as that presented by the Bible).  In the place of objective truth and ‘meta-narratives’ we find ‘local narratives,’ or stories about reality that work for particular communities - but have no validity beyond that community.  The Postmodernist resists the idea of an all-embracing worldview.

Personal morality is part of the social construct

Personal morality is also part of the social construct and cannot be imposed on other communities who operate by a different set of values.  In other words, what may be right for one community could be wrong for another.  Child sacrifice, the stoning of adulteresses, severing the hand of a thief and freedom of speech would be examples of different communities holding differing views.

Relativism rules

Right and wrong are therefore reduced to what is expedient, practical, and helpful, but don’t correspond to some universal moral law to which all humans are equally obligated, as the Bible teaches.  In other words, relativism rules the day – truth and moral values are not absolute, but relative to the individual or group within which they originate.  Relativism is the doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute.

A rejection of propositional truth

Postmodernists reject propositional truth (a proposition is simply a statement that can be either true or false) and believe that they can only experience what is true for each community.  Indeed, Postmodernists reject the whole language of truth and reality in favour of image and literary terms like narrative and story.  It's all about image and interpretation, not about what's real or true.

All claims to ultimate truth, they argue, are essentially tools to justify power.  That's why in Postmodern culture, the person to be feared is the one who believes that they can discover, or already have, ultimate truth.  Of course they refer here to conservative evangelicals, orthodox Jews and Muslims!  The greatest threat to the Postmodern worldview therefore, as they see it, comes from the monotheistic religions (religions with only one God).

Openness without the restraint of reason and tolerance without moral appraisal

To the Postmodern mind therefore the dogmatist or absolutist is naive and dangerous.  Rather than dominating others with our version of reality, they tell us that we should accept all beliefs as equally valid.  Openness without the restraint of reason, and tolerance without moral appraisal are the tenets of Postmodernism.

Celebrates diversity, multiculturalism and religious pluralism

Postmodernism coincided with the coming of the Internet, the explosion of information technology and the emergence of the global village.  Postmodernism therefore celebrates diversity and multiculturalism (different cultures in one society).  It also celebrates religious pluralism (the conviction that various religious groups should be allowed to thrive in a single society).  All religion, in their view, is the fruit of cultural dynamics and therefore all religions are equally valid.

Christianity not superior to any other religion

Postmodernists do not consider Christianity to be in any way superior to any other religion.

A Christian Worldview equals a Biblical Worldview

Here at Christian Spectrum we believe that Christians should not embrace any of these worldviews, but should develop and live from a Biblical Worldview.  It goes without saying that a Biblical Worldview is shaped entirely by the Bible, since this describes how things came into being, why they are like they are now, and where they are going.  A basic biblical outline includes our belief:

*    That the world was created by an awe-inspiring transcendent God who is separate from his creation
*    That man is a created being unlike God and that he fell through sin in the Garden of Eden
*    That the nation of Israel has a unique place in the purposes of God
*    That Jesus (the Son of God) came to earth, born of a virgin – known as the incarnation
*    That he died on the cross for our sins – he paid the price for our redemption (substitutionary atonement) and then rose to life again on the third day and returned to Heaven
*    That he will return for his bride the church and reign and rule over the nations from Jerusalem – known as the Consummation and Millennial reign

We should mention a number of other related features:

*    An acceptance of the supernatural and the unseen realm
*    An awareness of evil and of a literal and personal devil known as Satan
*    A belief in absolute truth
*    An acceptance of biblical authority
*    A belief in the Lordship and uniqness of Jesus
*    A concern for the saving of individuals
*    Our calling to steward the earth

The uniqueness of the Biblical worldview

Over the last year or two the Lord has been showing us at Christian Spectrum the importance of understanding what a worldview is, and how it shapes our lives.  A visit from author Dr Peter Jones from The TruthXchange spurred us to delve into this subject and as we’ve explored it the fundamental importance of understanding the Two-ist position, as Jones describes it, has become paramount.

The Judaeo-Christian biblical worldview stands alone in believing that while all of creation shares a certain essence (because everything apart from God is created), God himself is the Creator, a completely separate being.  All other worldviews, philosophies, ideologies and theologies adhere to Monism (or One-ism), i.e. that everything shares the same essence and therefore everything is a piece of the divine.

Once we begin to examine the difference between the unique Biblical worldview and all others, the reality becomes apparent: the others have embraced the lie Paul identifies:

They exchanged the truth about God for the lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever (Romans 1:25).

Paul makes it clear that there are, in reality, only two worldviews - either God is creator and separate from his creation, or god is part of his creation and therefore creation is worthy of worship.  All humanity, regardless of the prevailing worldview, falls into one of these two categories. 

We live in an important moment in history, when the prevailing worldview in the West has been changed as mentioned above.  This cultural revolution was in the making for many decades but as we have said escalated in the permissive society of the Sixties.  Up until then British culture was defined by patriarchal, heterosexual and Judaeo-Christian principles.  Despite the fact that Britain is still often described as a Christian nation, Peter Jones in his book, ‘One or Two?’ sums it up in this way:

. . . in one generation the traditional worldview has been largely replaced by a radically egalitarian, omni-gendered, pansexual, multi-religious (but all One-ist or Monist) belief system that has turned our contemporary world upside down.

Paganism is now a respected academic discipline and generally accepted by society, even if it isn’t given that name.  Our Postmodern culture has been a breeding ground for this new spirituality.  Peter Jones remarks:

Postmodern deconstructionists said there is no metanarrative (overarching worldview) but religious pagans didn’t seem to hear them and are busy constructing a new one to explain everything.  In other words we are not seeing a breakdown of law and order but a redefinition of it; not unrestrained immoral behaviour but a justification of it; not a laxity about sexual perversion but a legalisation of it; not a materialistic rejection of God but a spiritual redefinition of God that turns him into the goddess.

In the name of tolerance and equality, though progressives give lip service to ‘each to his own’ or ‘do as you like,’ the new paganism will not allow Christians the freedom to keep looking at life from a Christian perspective or Biblical Worldview.  There is a stark contrast between the prevailing One-ist philosophy that unites most of mankind and the Christian Two-ist conviction.

When Adam and Eve sinned they chose to believe the lie they were fed.  God’s character was brought into question.  Satan tempted them by saying that they could be like God (as God).  This was the beginning of One-ism – man trying to attain Godlikeness, resulting in seeing himself as a god, the god within, the higher self, master of his own destiny, etc.

Today we are still reaping the rewards of that choice, and Satan continues to feed the lie whenever and wherever possible.  The truth is, however, that Adam and Eve were called to represent God on the earth, not to be God.  They were to show what God is like by the way they related to him, to each other and to the creation they were called to steward.

Consequences of holding to a biblical worldview

What does this mean for Bible-believers like us, who hold to a Biblical Worldview and are convinced that Creator and creation are separate?  Here are a number of aspects, in no particular order:

i    It explains the unpopularity of the Judaeo-Christian Biblical Worldview.   Belief in an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent and benevolent Creator who is separate and not dependent on his creation puts us in a small minority position.  The worldview we hold is diametrically opposite to the worldview of other cultures.  Indeed, in many other cultures which have creation myths, the serpent is portrayed as the good one in the story.

ii   It explains why the Jewish people, the early church and Christians and Jews throughout history have suffered persecution.  The worldview of Nebuchadnezzar (who demanded to be worshipped as a god) and of the Roman Emperors (who also demanded to be worshipped) could not be tolerated by Daniel, Paul and countless others through the ages.

iii  It makes sense of the ten commandments and the law God gave the Israelites.  He instructed them to be holy (set apart from the nations around them) just as God is holy, set apart from his creation.  The religion of the Canaanites was anathema to the Two-ist worldview of God’s people and the Old Testament story shows that when they compromised and imbibed Canaanite worship (of creation, not the Creator) they invited the wrath of God and failed to be the light to the Gentiles, by demonstrating a right relationship with the Creator God, which was their calling.

iv  It makes sense of the thrust of much of Paul’s teaching in his letters to the churches.  He recognised the dangers of merging with the pagan culture the churches were birthed into and imbibing the lies of the Gnostics who, simply put, were strongly influenced by Greek culture and believed they had a secret mystical route to salvation and Godliness but denied the true nature of Jesus.

v   It explains why Christians who will not compromise with the worldview surrounding them are increasingly being marginalised.  The cases being fought in the UK courts and in the European Court of Human Rights are increasing as Christians take a stand for the right to be free to live out their convictions.

vi   It explains the attitude of the world towards Israel.  Ultimately it is only the Christians, who share the same worldview, who will stand with Israel against the might of the nations.  This is part of the End Time scenario which will be played out immediately before Jesus’ return.

vii  It explains the spiritual battle uncompromising Christians are engaged in.  We declare that Jesus, the Son of God, is unique in every way.  There is no other religion, ideology or philosophy which makes such a claim.  Other religions and ideologies are generally happy to accept that ‘all roads lead to God’ and that their version of spirituality is on a par with the others.  Christians can’t be a party to such beliefs.

viii  It explains, therefore, why Christians will be the ‘inconvenience’ to any world peace plans based on a common worldview.

In short, we are identifying the battle lines.  Since the Fall, everything in the world is set against the created order which God put in place.  The battle has been relentless and has morphed into different shapes at different times.  There are some (ultimately the Antichrist will fulfil this role) who actively feed the agenda, but Satan’s strategy has been to win the mass vote by floating issues which people buy into unwittingly.

For example, the current climate in the West of destroying the need for a father-figure (disintegration of the traditional family) is presenting the father as an absent, estranged, obsolete figure.  This undermines the vital right relationship between Creator and creation, where the Father is anything but remote, abusive or irrelevant.

It is vitally important to understand the worldview we hold and how it affects the way we conduct our lives and relate to our culture and the worldview it holds.  In summary, the central issue is to know what God intended and how the enemy has distorted the original order for creation.  If man does not see God as completely other than us, thus swallowing the lie, he can only try to improve himself and the environment, striving for perfection.  He therefore, in some form or other, worships himself, his own achievements and the creation he is part of.

Further outworkings of a biblical worldview

A Biblical Worldview believes 'the Kingdom of God is here,' responds to the unseen spiritual realm, casts out demons, speaks in new tongues, heals the sick, raises the dead, visits the third heaven, pulls down spiritual strongholds, speaks of national guardian angels, expects personal angelic help and cleanses the land through prayer and holiness.

As we develop a mature relationship with the Holy Spirit we:

. . . fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18).

Our approach to the Bible

How we approach and read the Bible is important if we're to develop a truly Biblical Worldview.  Nineteenth century rationalism, amongst other things, refused to countenance predictive prophecy and elevated a spirit of scholarship and intellectualism disposed towards fragmentation rather than to holism in its approach to scripture.  This still exists today.

An elevation of mind over spirit

Sadly the Enlightenment and intellectualism has elevated the mind over the spirit.  An acknowledgement that we need the Holy Spirit to understand the scriptures has been lost. Whilst there is an important place for in-depth study (it is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings - Proverbs 25:2) it's important to do this dependent on the Spirit and not just as an exercise of the mind.  Many well known Bible teachers feed the mind and fail to touch the spirit.

A spirit of humility

We believe a spirit of humility is required when approaching the scriptures and that our attitude is more important than our level of intelligence or learning.  We believe the scriptures should be taken at face value and as a whole, and that they can be understood and comprehended by anyone (however learned or otherwise) in any generation.  That is not to deny the mystery that will always be a factor at work in all things spiritual.

The Bible written for more than one generation

The Bible was not just written for those living at the time (the Holy Spirit knew that he would be speaking to more than one generation) or to be understood only by those with specialist knowledge - a PhD in theology and/or conversant with ancient history, Hebrew and Greek.

Not the domain of an intellectual elite

The Bible is not the sole domain of an intellectual elite.  Some of the first disciples were said to be unlearned men and yet their wisdom, the Bible says, confounded the wise.  May it continue!

A worldview is formed when the movers and shakers, philosophers, politicians, theologians and intellectuals begin to reflect on the way life is and consider their response to it.  As they comment and write about their ideas they shape the way that others think about the world and a new way of looking at it becomes established . . .

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