Posted in Musings

Musings on Confronting Challenges and a Preview of Things to Come

There are many ways that you might approach life’s challenges.  There is the noncommittal response—the neutral approach. There is the “guns’-blazing, no holds barred” response—the aggressive approach.  There is the, “I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that” response—the ignoring approach. There is the, “Well, they really don’t know what they are talking about” response—the passive-aggressive approach. There is the “Actually, according to this source you show yourself to be an ignoramus” response—what I like to call the ivory tower, scholarly approach.

I tend to be a bit of a plodder. Like the stubborn donkey, I tend to be methodical in how I deal with various challenges that arise in my life.  And like the donkey, I am not easily pushed or persuaded from the position that I hold. I suppose some might find this characteristic of my personality to be a bit tiresome, but I won’t apologize for it. Actually, I believe that all the aforementioned responses above are necessary at times when the situation calls for it.  Just as we don’t wear the same type of footwear for every activity that we do, neither should we feel compelled to handle every situation the exact same.  As one person said, much wiser than myself, “there is a season for everything…under the sun” (Eccl 3.1; paraphrased).

The One consistent, stable, static thing regardless of what the situation calls for is the Rock upon which we stand. The foundation that we build upon must be solid, and the materials that we choose to build with must be of the finest source, but the way in which we labor and toil will differ from degree-to-degree depending upon the circumstantial conditions. In this the wise person will be one who discerns the times and or occasions they face, and acts appropriately (cf. 1Chr 12.32).

Now it took me a long time to get where I was going over the last few posts, but I am finally to the point which spurned me to write what I have previously written. There are a few issues that I hope to tackle in the coming weeks—the Lord allowing and my schedule permitting. The following topics are within my current purview: Apologetic Foundations—Philosophy and/or Biblical Exegesis, Mere Christianity and its Whittled down form, The Value of Christ’s Resurrection, etc.

Some of these topics will necessarily run together and overlap, and I may shorten or lengthen the discussion as I feel necessary. As for the number of written documents over the course of the next few weeks…that’ll depend on how well I finish other important projects I have going on at this time.  But there is my proposed plan, for those who are interested. I hope you stay tuned, read the content and if you find it necessary comment your agreements or disagreements.

Have a great weekend and Lord’s Day!

Posted in Worldview Analysis

Worldview Authority, Indoctrination and the Implications of Deuteronomy 6

Just a reminder: “A worldview is… ‘Our conception of the world around us, stemming from an authoritative source that we submit to, affecting all areas of activity in our life.’”

Contained within this definition are two concepts, one stated and the other implied, that might cause a knee-jerk reaction against it. The first concept is that of authority. The second, which is implied, is indoctrination. This article will address this knee-jerk reaction and why, given serious thought, is unnecessary.

On Whose Authority?

  If there is one thing that this current generation hates it’s the idea that there is some overarching authority that ought to be submitted to, in order to think and live correctly.  Even many well-known Christian and conservative speakers will do as much as they can to steer clear of that concept.  Take for instance the recent interview of William Lane Craig by Ben Shapiro.  Toward the end of that dialogue between these two intellectual giants (I’m not being tongue-in-cheek here, because I do think both men are fairly brilliant in their own right), Craig tells Shapiro to notice that he does not appeal to the Bible, but starts with philosophy.1

**Why not the Bible? Why not start with the source of one’s religious faith/convictions/assumptions? What is wrong with starting our reasoning from there, from the standard we ultimately appeal to?

Well, you don’t have to do much research into the thoughts of Craig to figure out why his approach is the way that it is.  In his book, Reasonable Faith, Craig asks the rhetorical questions “Exactly how do we know Christianity to be true? Is it simply by a leap of faith or on the authority of the Word of God, both unrelated to reason?”2

I find it interesting that he sets up the issue of biblical authority by introducing a Straw-Man argument.  The Christian worldview does not view faith as a leap of anything. That might be a secular view of “faith” in a religious sense, but biblically speaking faith is an issue of trusting belief, an internal/external commitment, but I digress.

Later in this same text when looking at the history of Christian faith Craig starts with Augustine of Hippo. Picking up on Augustine’s commitment to biblical authority, Craig writes, “Such a view of authority would seem to imply reason has no role to play in justification of belief, and sometimes Augustine gives that impression.”3 One of concerns he has is in regards to “circular reasoning.”4

On his website commenting about last year’s interaction with Andy Stanley’s sermon on separating the Christian faith from the Old Testament law-code, and the heat Stanley was facing by men like Al Mohler, Craig defended Stanley’s position. He said, “When we do systematic theology the basis of theology—the rule of faith—is Scripture. The Scripture is the only authoritative and infallible rule for faith and practice. But [not] when we do apologetics…The apologetic enterprise or task does not depend upon biblical authority, inspiration, inerrancy, and all the rest. Those things are important for doing theology, but when you are doing apologetics those sorts of things are not presupposed lest one be arguing in a circle.”5 Since my primary concern here is about the authorities that we submit to, I will ignore Craig’s dichotomy of theological vs apologetic practice in a later post.  For now let it be safe to say that Craig is concern with how his opponents (or those of a dissimilar view) will react to an appeal to the Bible as authoritative over ones thoughts and actions.

Likewise Shapiro shares Craig’s underlying sentiment, as seen in a Q/A session he had with students in another setting: “I’m a religious person. I never cite to the Bible. The reason I don’t cite to the Bible is because that’s an argument from authority. You may not believe that authority to which I’m citing….”6 I’ve heard Stephen Crowder, another popular conservative make similar comments’. Now what is true of the conservative is likewise true of the more left-leaning.

In citing those who I have much more in common with, I merely highlight our current culture’s distaste for appealing to one standard as authoritative over another; and yet, that is precisely how ALL worldviews work.  There is no getting away from it. Even when the above individuals attempt to stay away from appealing to authoritative standards, they are inconsistent in doing so. Which, by the way is perfectly fine (no, not that they are being inconsistent, but…), because no one human being can know all things.  Even experts get things wrong in the very field in which they are deemed the wisest.

Although men like Craig, Shapiro and Crowder do not cite biblical truths as the foundation from which they draw moral conclusions of right and wrong on particular aspects of society, they are still making their argument based upon that foundation.

For example, Craig believes that the resurrection of Christ is meaningful; leading to the strong possibility that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, but in order to have those categories of Christ and Son of God—in the sense of equality with deity—he must smuggle in biblical precepts. So too, with Shapiro and Crowder who borrow their ideas against murdering babies in the womb from the Bible (i.e. human life is sacred at conception). Rather than condemn such individuals and others for making an appeal to authority we ought to recognize that everybody else on the planet does the same thing.  It is just the simple fact of how our minds work, and were designed to do so.7

Indoctra…what? Indoctrination

The above term may be familiar, it may not.  Currently, the word “Indoctrination” is seen in a very negative light in academia.  This view highlights the concerns of such people like John Dewey a key signer of the Humanist Manifesto I which governs much of public educational thought.

Indoctrination, according to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate dictionary, means “to instruct especially in fundamentals or rudiments…to imbue” other persons with a particular viewpoint of reality or truth or evidence, etc. This is viewed negatively by those who have a strong aversion of religion/religious belief.  That being said, ALL people are the byproduct of someone’s indoctrinating. We are taught from an early age, and that teaching is ingrained in our minds (i.e. indoctrinated).

**This happens on all levels of learning.

For instance, being indoctrinated in the fundamentals of a particular sport (the form of it) is what we call “practice.”  Growing up I learned the fundamentals of baseball, football, weightlifting, breathing when I run, and teaching my body how to react when threatened in Martial Arts. In relation to writing institutions of higher learning indoctrinate their students in the particular writing style that their students will learn in their particular field of study (e.g. MLA, APA, Chicago/Turabian, etc.). I won’t bore you with details that you are hopefully beginning to grasp.  Pick a field of study, or a discipline, or a craft of interest and when you learn the fundamentals of it understand that what has taken place is indoctrination (from one degree to another).

The same is true of worldviews…

A person’s worldview is what guides and under-girds their interpretation of the world, classifying all facts and evidences in light of previously held assumptions/biases, in order to justify the manner in which they live on a day-to-day basis.  Worldviews affect the thoughts and actions of the individual in question, and this applies to all people everywhere regardless of whether or not they choose to accept/confess this reality. Worldviews are really faith-based systems that act dependently upon an authoritative source that the person willingly submits to. A cornerstone, if you will and it is the fundamentals of that cornerstone’s insights regarding reality that ingrain within the life of the individual how to think and act in everyday life.

For the Christian our indoctrination comes from the Bible; which is Christ’s Word—Genesis to Revelation. Being indoctrinated in God’s Word is not a concept of the Enlightenment, or the Reformation before that, or the Scholastic Period during the Middle-Ages, nor is it the by-product of some supposedly Constantinian understanding of the Christ faith.  No, being indoctrinated in one’s faith-system is something that God has intended since the beginning.

To be made in God’s Image (imago Dei) is meant to convey the idea of shadowing our Creator. In the beginning, the Lord God made man (male and female) to bear His image throughout all creation.  He created mankind to be His representatives. Now the only way to truly represent God is to mirror who He is—His thoughts and actions—in our daily lives, as we think and act in a godly fashion.  Peter highlights this in his 2nd epistle:

  • “May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2Pet 1.3-4; emphasis added).

Peter then goes on and highlights that which enables them (us) to live godly lives. Something, he says he intends to remind them of continually until he departs with the Lord so that “after [his] departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.” (2Pet 1.15). What things? The truth of God, rather than “cleverly devised myths” (2Pet 1.16) …truths that were greater even than eyewitness accounts (as important as those are) “the prophetic word” which acts as “a lamp shining in a dark place” (2Pet 1.19; cf. Psa 18.28) to guide their (our) hearts.

Deut 6: A reference point to Godly Indoctrination

This concept of indoctrination, to which Peter speaks was not new but old. For Moses, many years before instructed the nation of Israel with the following truths:

  • Deut 6:1 “Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the rules that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the LORD your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long” (Deut 6.1-2)

Jacob’s descendants were not to look at the Word of God—including His commandments—as burdensome or tasking, but as a token of grace. These instructions of the Lord were given so that the people might know how to think and live in a manner pleasing to Him.  By following God’s commands for all of life the people were promised very rich blessings; both temporal and eternal.  Not only were they to treasure His teachings, but the Lord God also instructed them to…

  • “teach them diligently to your children, and you shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deut 6.7).

In short, they were commanded to indoctrinate their children with the truth of God. It didn’t matter if they were working, or walking, or preparing for bed etc. Whatever they were found doing, when the occasion called for it (and there would be plenty of those as any parent knows), they were to instruct their children faithfully in the ways of the Lord. God even tells the Israelites:

  • “You shall being them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deut 6.8).

This language is metaphoric and not meant to be taken in a wooden-literal sense. In the first part of the verse pertaining to the hand and head (i.e. between your eyes), the Israelites are being told to treat God’s commandments as that which governs their thoughts and their actions, whether they work or play. The second portion of the verse pertains to God’s governing light it the home (i.e. doorposts of the house), and in civil society (i.e. your gates).  God’s Word was meant to be authoritative in the home guiding the family’s thought and action, as well as the civil society’s thought and action. The Bible (Torah= Law/Instruction) was meant to be the indoctrinating document for all of life.

What’s Changed in a Few Thousand Years?

Absolutely nothing, at least when we are talking about governing principles in regards to a person’s world and life view.  Worldviews are the elementary principles of human life (individually, familiarly, and societally) that are based upon an authoritative foundation.  We must be careful with not only what foundation stone our lives are built upon (the Christ of God), but also what materials we use in building upon it (His doctrine/teachings).  We must also be aware of what we are allowing ourselves to be indoctrinated with, and this includes our children and the least among us. For how we think will have a direct bearing on our actions in life, and the activity of our society. As our 24/7 news cycle ought to show us.

____________________

ENDNOTES:

1 The Ben Shapiro Show, Sunday Special Episode 50: William Lane Craig. Time-stamp: 57:40—58:45. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hL-zJzE5cIA

2 William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, 3rd ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, [1984], 2008), 29, Adobe Digital Editions.

3 Ibid, 30.

4 Ibid, 30.

5 William Lane Craig, “The Bible Tells Me So! So?” Reasonable Faith with William Lane Craig, March 26, 2017, accessed May 23, 2019, https://www.reasonablefaith.org/media/reasonable-faith-podcast/the-bible-tells-me-so-so/.

6 https://www.dailywire.com/news/13350/watch-ben-shaprio-breaks-down-argument-authority-hank-berrien.

7 Norman L. Geisler and Ronald M. Brooks, Come Let us Reason: An Introduction to Logical Thinking (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1990). They write that “Argumentum ad Verecundiam (appeal to authority) … [means] ‘Accept this because some authority said it…The mere appeal to authority should never be substituted for evidence or a good argument. However, it is not always wrong to trust an authority… [For example,] any appeal to authority is justified if there is evidence that it is an ultimate authority…” in such cases the authors argue the authority “knows the evidence better than we do.” (p. 98, 99).

The Christian justification for appealing to the Holy Bible as authoritative is not just because “The Bible says so…” (i.e. it’s God’s Word and He has spoken). The Bible is seen as a valid authority to be appealed to, as well as being used to judge all other standards—something that all ultimate standards attempt to do—because it alone makes sense of the world in which we live. The Bible offers the framework that makes knowledge possible, explaining why things are the way they are, pointing to how things ought to be.

Posted in Worldview Analysis

Why the Divergence When the Same Standard is Shared?

“Your assumptions can’t be validated.  Not everyone at the founding of this nation had a biblical worldview, many popular men were at best deists; Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin are just a couple names that illustrate this point.”  That’s what the email said that I had been waiting for.  Those weren’t the exact words of the sender, but they are his generalized convictions being expressed to me.

A few weeks prior I had submitted the first chapter of something I was working on, and that was the response I got.  Let’s be honest, criticism stings. Especially, when you have worked really hard on something…put a lot of passion into it, only to find out that what you’d written was not the precious gem you suspected it to be.

The problem was that my advisor and I saw things differently.  We looked at the same period of time (the event you might say) from two different angles.  Like others that I have read, I have become convinced that the founding of this nation was rooted in the Christian worldview.  An idea that, lets face it, has come under extreme scrutiny in the last few decades.

Why the two different perspectives? We are, as far as I know, both Christian men.  We share the same affection, I would assume, for Jesus Christ, the Holy Bible and all that is contained therein. So, why the discrepancy? How can two people share the same standard (ultimate authority?) and yet come to opposing sides about the same issue?

**Last week, I began a discussion pertaining to worldviews and in so doing I asked, what I believe, are five important questions that ought to be answered regarding them. I won’t repeat those questions or how I responded to them here, but if you’re interested you can check out the following articles in sequential order: 1)Uhm…What’s a Worldview? , 2)Two Sorts of Stone: Fashioned by Man or Fashioned by God

Ultimately, when you whittle all worldviews down to their base (i.e. foundation) you are left with two options—God’s Word or Man’s Word. I realize that is not something that many people might agree with.  Why? Well, when we look at the world around us what do we see?  We see a wide array of religious/spiritual/professed agnostic or atheistic forms of belief, so it is only natural that we conclude there has to be more than just two. The problem is not with what we are seeing, but with how we understand what we are seeing.

Normally, when you look at a structure that someone has built, what do you notice? Well, we tend to fixate on the visible attributes of the structure in question. Those aspects of the building that we find aesthetically pleasing; such as, the type of crafting material (metal, stone or wood), or the sweep and slanting nature of the roof(s), various lighting ascents, even the size of the structure may tantalize us, whether it is majestically robust or quaintly petite. The point being we make much ado about the above ground nature of the structure we are admiring, but we more than likely give little thought to that which holds it up.

Interesting isn’t it that we can be so fussy about superficial things, but give little consideration to truly weightier matters? For, it makes little difference what materials a building is fashioned from—not to mention how well it is put together—if the foundation upon which it is built is shoddy.

So, why did my prof and I not see this nation’s founding in the same light? What was the real issue? More importantly, how does this relate to the Christian worldview as a whole? As I mentioned in my last article, how can Christianity be based upon one book (the Bible), and in particular Jesus Christ, if there are such divergent views within this supposed singular faith-system (worldview).

A Nation Founded on a Biblical Worldview? Where’s the proof?

There are various markers (evidences if you will), which attest to previous generations saturated with a Christian view of life; such as, government buildings, national monuments, legal documents, statements found on currency, and even oaths sworn before taking office. As Gary DeMar explains, “An honest study of America’s past will show that a majority of Americans shared a common religion and ethic. America’s earliest founders were self-professing Christians and their founding documents expressed belief in a Christian worldview.”1

Take for example, an honest examination of the legal documents of the thirteen colonies of what would later be called the United States2:

  • Massachusetts—“In the charter granted to Massachusetts, in 1640, by Charles I., the Colonies are enjoined by ‘their good life and orderly conversations to win and invite the natives of the country to a knowledge of the only true God and Savior of mankind, and the Christian faith which, in our royal intention and adventurer’s free possession, is the principal end of this plantation.” (p.56)
  • Connecticut, in 1639 had several articles in their constitution that upheld the Bible, “hold[ing] forth a perfect rule for the direction and government of all men in all duties which they are to perform to God and men, as well as families and commonwealths as in matters of the church….” They went so far as to limit civil government “by those rules which the Scripture held forth to them.” (p. 68)
  • Pennsylvania—“The frame of government which [William] Penn completed in 1682 for the government of Pennsylvania was derived from the Bible. He deduced from various passages ‘the origination and descent of all human power from God; the divine right of government, and that for two ends,—first to terrify evil doers; secondly, to cherish those who do well…Whereas the glory of Almighty God and the good of mankind is the reason and end of government, and, therefore, government in itself is a venerable ordinance of God….” (p. 82, 83).

Even men like Ben Franklin who were not orthodox Christians, admitting at one point in his life he was “a thorough Deist,”3 held many teachings of the Holy Bible and Jesus as amicable.4 He even went so far as to being drawn to the itinerant preacher George Whitefield’s preaching, “notwithstanding,” what Franklin called, “his common abuse of [his audience], by assuring them that they were naturally half beasts and half devils.” And he even credited the gospel’s proclamation as changing the hearts of its hearers to the point that “it seem’d as if all the world were growing religious, so that one could not walk thro’ the town in an evening without hearing psalms sung in different families of every street.”5

Now such information is not hidden, but is available to all who desire to learn it.  Most people just assume what they are told, and refuse to do the research themselves. However, that does not seem to be the problem I was having with my advisor. The discrepancy was in light of what he assumed to be true.

“If the people who founded this country really had a biblical worldview (a predominantly Christian one) like I was proposing, then why are the divergent beliefs? Surely, one cannot deny that the people of that period were influenced by Scriptural teaching, but they did not all believe the same thing!”

There were deists (children of the Enlightenment), there were various Christian denominations (i.e. Congregationalists, Anglicans, Baptists, etc.), various theological traditions (i.e. Calvinists, Quakers, Arminians, and even Roman Catholics), not to mention various modes of worship expressed in each system of Christian thought.  Even today, we have similar expressions of diverging thought within Christian circles.

One group practices “believer’s” Baptism, others paedo (infant/child) Baptism; of course, then there’s the question of submersion versus sprinkling or pouring of water. Communion/Eucharist divisions occur in the use of wine or juice, unleavened or leavened bread, and even times of remembrance (once a month, every week, once a quarter, etc.).  How about style of music? Do we have it or leave it out? Do we use Psalms, hymns, or various other “spiritual” songs? What sort of facility do we meet in: a home, a renovated storefront, a cathedral or a community center, or perhaps no building at all instead preferring the outdoors or tents when the weather is unsatisfactory? Should witnessing be a biblical-first approach or an evidence-based appeal eventually leading to the Bible?

There is no end to differences with the expression of the Christian faith.  Do those differences then make the Christian faith null and void? Do they mean that Christians are not people of the book? It does seem that is how some want to pit the argument, but the fact remains that there is no institution that does not demonstrate diversity.  Does that mean that all expressions or interpretations or applications of the truth are invalid? No, it does not.  The problem is not with the standard, the problem is with our use of the standard.

One Foundation—Christ’s Word

Let’s turn to the Bible for some guidance. The apostle Paul explains to his Corinthian audience that they are “…co-workers belonging to God” (1Cor 3.9a; NET).6 The stress is laid on the fact that these believers are God’s possession: He is the planter, they are the plant (vv. 7-8); He is the husbandman, they are the field (v. 9b); He is the builder, they are the building (v. 9c).  Paul explains to them that when he came to them “according to the grace of God” (1Cor 3.10a) preaching the gospel of Christ crucified (cf. 1Cor 1.18-21; 2.1-4) “like a skilled master-builder [he] laid a foundation, but someone else builds on it;” therefore, “each one must be careful how he builds [on it]” (1Cor 3.10b).

Well, what foundation did Paul lay? The answer is Jesus Christ, His Word.

  • “For no one can lay any foundation other than what is being laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1Cor 3.11).

He then offers his readers the following warning in regards to the building material that they chose to lay on this foundation; this cornerstone.

  • “If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, each builder’s work will be plainly seen, for the Day will make it clear, because it will be revealed by fire. And the fire will test what kind of work each has done. If what someone has built survives, he will receive a reward. If someone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1Cor 3.12-15).

What the issue is really about…

The foundation is Christ’s Word, for there is nothing else that a person who bears the Name of Christ might be established upon.  Moreover, diligent care must be used with what one puts upon this precious, trusted cornerstone.  That which is pure and un-defiled is from God, and is found in agreement with Jesus Christ in whom “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” lie (Col 2.3). Therefore, the believer must discern the material being used to build on Christ.

What should Christians use? In short, only that which honors and glorifies God.  How then are they to know what is right and true, right and wrong, good and evil, pure and impure, righteous and unrighteous? By appealing to what God has declared clean (cf. Acts 10.15), refusing to lean on our own understanding but on His (cf. Prov 3.5-7) so that we might bring “every thought captive to make it obey Christ” (2Cor 10.5). For if Christ Jesus is truly the “Light of the world” (John 8.12) as He says, then it is only in “his light that we will see light” (Psa 36.9).

The issue about building materials is doctrinal standards. It is about properly grafting biblical teaching into one’s life, and living that life in light of it. You see, Paul has been dealing with a ton of issues in the Corinth church, and the reason that this is the case is because they desire to live according to their own standards, not God’s. Which is why in just a few short verses he will plead with these people to “learn ‘not to go beyond what is written’” (1Cor 4.6). Why? Because, worldly wisdom is foolishness to God (1Cor 3.19), and Christians having the mind of Christ should not be so (1Cor 2.16). Christians are told repeatedly to be conformed to the image of Jesus, to be renewed in their minds so as not to defame the Name that they represent.

What does this have to do with ultimate standards and the differences we see within the Christian worldview (and all others)?

There are only Two…

Two Ultimate Standards, two stones, one formed by God the other by man.  According to the Bible when a person is saved, they are delivered from the former standard to another; from one rock (an idol) to the other (the One True God). The problem is that our minds have attachments to the former rock (man’s opinion). In our sinful state we were in open rebellion to God (cf. Rom 8.7-8), but now in our redeemed state we still struggle with casting off the old man (cf. Eph 4.20-24). In short, we struggle with winds and waves of doctrine (cf. Eph 4.12-15), seeking teachers that teach beliefs that scratch our own egos (2Tim 4.1-4).

Why do some Christians believe in a biblical creation allowing the text to speak authoritatively in their lives, where others seek to bend the language to fit preconceived ideas that are popular with the surrounding culture? Why do some Christians attempt to whittle the faith down to the “minimal facts approach” rather than following the model of Christ or the apostles when proclaiming the gospel? What causes Christians to balk in our culture on issues of justice/righteousness in various sectors, refusing to stand up and speak out for fear of losing personal prosperity? What is the root of such things? Why the deviation from clear biblical precepts, statutes, commands, laws, etc.? A refusal to bow the knee before Christ’s Word. A purposeful appeal to standards/teachings/doctrines that deny what the Bible has taught, but invites the individual or the group to decide for themselves truth.

It really comes down to an issue of authority.  Who really has it? Who really wants to submit to it? That is the cause of mingled belief in what is pure as gold, silver and precious stone, with hay, stubble and straw.  When Christians refuse to submit to what God has spoken, preferring their own intellect over the mind of God as more reasonable, that is when we step into error. We call things sinful that God has not. We call things true that God has not. And we are left looking like the fool.

Am I saying that all believers are purposefully malicious in this regard? No. I think much of it has to do with ignorance (not knowing), but it does become malicious when the truth is taught and we refuse to adopt it as good.

The Answer for Divergence, when People Share the same Standard?

It is the same as the lady I spoke to before.  We want our thoughts to be the final arbitrator of truth. Being a Christian is a lifelong process of learning to submit to God’s thoughts over and above our own. Next time, we’ll look at how God tells us to do that.

________________

ENDNOTES:

1  Gary DeMar, America’s Christian History: The Untold Story, 2nd ed. (Atlanta, GA: American Vision, 1995), 5.

2  The following excerpts are taken from B. F. Morris, The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States (1863), quoted in Gary DeMar, God and Government: A Biblical and History Study, Vol 1, 2nd ed. (Atlanta, GA: American Vision, 1997), 122-124. DeMar points out that this was normative for all the colonies. He writes, “The study of the history of each colony will result in the same conclusion: The Christian religion was the foundation that gave meaning, direction, and stability to the young colonies. Delaware, Virginia, Maryland, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia exhibit the same religious commitment” (126).

3 Franklin, Benjamin. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (Public Domain Books), p. 50, Kindle Edition, loc 820.

4  Ibid, 72. However, I’d be remised if I didn’t point out that Franklin treated Holy Writ as something that may be sampled from, but not submitted to in humility.  He went so far as to writing his own “commandments” which were virtuous truths that he had fashioned and worded in such a way that he found pleasing (cf. p. 70-72).  Of course, even these attest to how greatly his thinking was shaped by biblical thought (i.e. worldview) as many of his “commandments” were borrowed from the Christian faith

5  Ibid, 91.

6 All Scripture unless otherwise noted shall be of the New English Translation (NET).

 

Posted in Worldview Analysis

Two Sorts of Stone: Fashioned by Man or Fashioned by God

When last we met we began to have a conversation about worldviews. In that discussion there were five questions that were asked. The first was “What is a worldview?” The second said, “If I have one, then how does it function?” Questions 3 & 4 queried “What [are worldviews] founded upon,” and “What [are worldviews] made up of?” The final inquiry was a personally practical one: “Why should I even care?”

Numbers 1, 2 and 5 were answered (Uhm…What’s a Worldview?), and I started to speak on number 4 but thought it best to stop while I was ahead, saving further discussion for my next post. (This was an effort on my part to keep you the reader in mind, since I have a strong tendency of getting a bit long winded.) Today, I plan on tackling questions 4 & 5: What are worldviews founded upon? (4); and, what are worldviews made up of (5)?

An illustrative conversation…

I once had a conversation with a lady who very proudly told me that she was “not a religious person, but a very spiritual one.”  What she meant is that she did not ascribe herself to the Christian faith, but a faith of her own choosing. You may be wondering, “How in the world could you possibly know that?” because, the Christian faith was the subject matter of the conversation.

She had grown up Roman Catholic, but had a problem with the corruption in that particular system as she saw it.  The result was that she became a purveyor of various religious faiths with an eastern mystic mentality, mingled with a Western New Age bent. One might be tempted to wonder whether she really had an authority that she appealed to, for she drew from several standards of belief.  The Holy Bible said something she liked “love your enemies” for instance, and “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” in another, and so she grafted those tenets into her overarching system of faith (i.e. worldview).  However, she rejected the idea of an all-seeing/all-knowing judge that would determine a person’s eternal dwelling, and so she preferred the doctrine of Hinduism/Buddhism regarding karma, reincarnation, and a sense of deity dwelling within all (New Age), etc.

Think this through with me for a moment, will you? There are two things that we ought to note when we examine her worldview. What are they?

Well, we might first notice that the lady above appealed to many sources of “truth.” She treats religion/spirituality as if it were a smorgasbord of truth, like various fruit being picked from the tree of life (no not the one in the garden).  Whatever suits her fancy is she deemed worthy of acceptance. This leads to a second important observation. The authority that she leans upon above all others is her reason, her intellect, her feelings, her wisdom, etc. Ultimately, who told her how to determine right/wrong, good/bad, truth/error, etc.? She did.

Her rational, reasoning mind is the seat of her knowing knowledge and wisdom, helping her sort out truth from error, so that she may determine the right and the wrong way to live life. This is the proverbial rock upon which her whole life is built; her worldview.

I do not fault the lady above for her convictions.  They are wrong, but she has a right to them if she chooses. There are consequences to be sure, but that is not for me to decide. However, by knowing these things I am better equipped to attempt to relate to her—witness to her—as a fellow human being.

So very quickly, we may draw from this illustrative encounter the answers to the final two questions. Worldviews are built upon a foundation that is seen as the final authority (Q. 4). What we might call an ultimate standard where all of life is judged.  Moreover, a worldview is made up of the presuppositions, assumptions and biases that are formed from and seen as reasonable in light of the standard we submit to.  Can you identify what the lady’s ultimate standard is? It is her mind, she is her own standard. Can you identify what her worldview is made up of (Q. 5)? Whatever she finds pleasing to believe. Those teachings are doctrinal standards put into practice.

Only Two…

What you as the reader need to understand is that when all worldviews are whittled down, there are not many but two. “Only two worldviews?” you ask.  Yes, only two.  “How so?”

A worldview is defined by its foundation, the stone or rock upon which it is built.  Ultimately, there are only two choices: God’s Word or Man’s Word. “If this is true, then why all of these other religions, cults and systems of belief?” you ask.  That is really a great question.

The reason we see such diversity in systems of belief (worldviews) is not due to opposing ultimate standards, but because of what an individual (or group) finds pleasing to believe. Normally what you see when you look at various worldviews is the “above ground construction” not the footer on which the building is built.  They share the same rock (i.e. Man’s Word), but their structure is different (i.e. subjective beliefs). However, if you look close enough you will notice that even in these various expressions of belief similarities exist that help reveal their foundation.

  • They believe in “works-based” salvation. “What’s that?” Works-based salvation is a salvation rooted in the activity of mankind.  In short, you ultimately save yourself. You bring about your own enlightenment.  You redeem your own fallen estate. You make yourself acceptable, good enough, for your idol (whoever it, she or he may be) to accept you.
  • They are “power based.” “What’s that?” It is the might, wisdom and intellect of such an individual’s rational, reasoning mind that saves them.  They do not need to be externally sourced to know the truth, for the truth is really in them or able to be reached by them.  Aid to knowing is unwanted, for they are fully capable of knowing and believing on their own.  In short, the power to save is within them.

**One of the trademarks of a false worldview (faith-system) is the idea that they will all eventually lead to the same place.  Not one standard, but a plethora of them. Therefore, you will often hear that it doesn’t really matter which religion or spirituality you believe in and adhere to (i.e. practice) because they all lead to God—either a person or a force of some kind.

How does that compare with Christianity?

First, our works will not save us; we are saved in spite of our works:

  • “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Rom 3.28).1
  • “Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Jesus Christ, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified” (Gal 2.16).

What is being said by Paul here? The term justified is a legal term that means this person has been acquitted of wrong doing; absolved. This gifting of a saving sentence (i.e. salvation) is due to faith in Christ. Which means, what precisely? Trust in his atoning work.  It is not mere belief in the man (e.g. “Yeah, I know who Jesus of Nazareth is), but belief that His righteousness sufficiently covers my sin (unrighteousness) in that He took my place on the cross. It is a simultaneous affirmation that we are not “good.”

Second, our “power” is nothing. It is not our strength, wisdom, knowledge or status that saves us; we are saved in spite of any “power” we possess:

  • “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preached to save those who believe…we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God…For consider your calling brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1Cor 1.18, 20-21, 23-4, 26-29; emphasis added).2

This is the meaning of grace. Unmerited favor, unearned or deserved charity from above, our salvation is not a result of human ingenuity or wisdom or knowledge or our efforts of reasoning, but all “because of [God we] are in Christ Jesus” (1Cor 1.30). His power saves, not man’s (cf. Rom 1.16).

Two Sorts of Stones: Stones fashioned by Man or Fashioned by God?

Jesus illustrates the difference between the two opposing worldview standards—i.e. the stone’s upon which they are built.  At the close of His preaching on the mount He says the following:

  • “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell and great was the fall of it” (Matt 7.24-27; emphasis added; cf. 1Cor 3.11).

The rock is the testimony of Christ, the Word of God. This does not limit Christ’s Word to that which is found in the New Testament, but entails all of God’s revealed Word, as He never opposes but fulfills, affirms and upholds all of it—it is His Word. The home in the parable is comparable to the totality of that person in question, their worldview; how they think and live.  Both builders in the parable have a choice in the foundation upon which their worldview (life) is built.  They can either be built upon the chief cornerstone which is Christ, or they can be built upon sand, which is little shifting stones.

This stone is the folly of God, which is also called His power and wisdom.  This “stone was cut out by no human hand” (Dan 2.34); He is “…a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes [in Him] will not be in haste” (Isa 28.16). For, “he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling…” (Isa 8.14a) depending how one reacts to Him (cf. 1Pet 2.4-10).

The only alternative to this cornerstone is a stone that is fashioned in the mind of man, rather than the Creator God (see Deut 32:1-47).3 

In order to illustrate that, I will pick on the Christian worldview.  I do this for two reasons. First, I have been told on more than one occasion that our nation was not formed by a biblical worldview because not all people who landed on our shores were Christians. Second, there have been times when I have been challenged “if Christianity were really true and you (I) really believed in the Bible, then why all the denominations?”

Don’t fret, I realize I’ve gone on too long as it is, so I’ll cover that stuff in the next post.

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ENDNOTES:

1 All Scripture unless otherwise noted shall be of the English Standard Version (ESV).

2 My recommendation is to read through the first couple chapters of 1Corinthians and mediate on the thrust of Paul’s argument from v.18 of chap 1 on to his closing at the end of chap 2. His whole argument is opposite to what many propose in Christian circles today.  He is not highlighting the wisdom of man, but is truly denigrating it in comparison with God.  It is not the person’s rational, reasoning intellect that brings them to the knowledge of the truth, but the Spirit’s aid. For if it was the other way around, then the intellectual elites of Jesus’ day would not have crucified him, but they did. Why? Because this wisdom “…is not a wisdom of this age or the rulers of this age…None of the rulers this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1Cor 2.6b, 8). God reserves the right to “[reveal] to us through the Spirit” (1Cor 2.10) to whom He desires.

3 Deuteronomy 32:1-47 provides the reader with the distinction between the two rocks that men are prone to trust in.  One Rock that made them, and is indeed a mighty foundation for all of life, whose Word is true.  The other rock is the foundation of “strange gods” (Deut 32.16, cf. v. 37), where men offer sacrifices “to demons” (v.17) as they worship what is in reality “no god” (v. 21) at all. In so doing they “provoked [the True Rock] to anger with the idols” (v.21), kindling his fiery anger “to the depths of Sheol” (v.22). “If they were wise, they would understand this; they would discern their latter end…for their rock is not as our Rock” (v. 29, 31), but they do not discern this because “their vine comes from the vine of Sodom and from the fields of Gomorrah” (v. 32). In other words, the rock that fallen men trust in is rotten to its root, and in the end all they are promised the true Rock’s vengeance (v.35).

Posted in Worldview Analysis

Uhm…What’s a Worldview?

The concept of worldviews was popularized by philosopher Immanuel Kant, and it didn’t take long for others to jump on board in secular/religious circles. While, some might laud Kant for this gem of a philosophical find, the fact is worldviews have always been in existence…even if people did not identify them in common parlance. Every person on the planet has one, but not everyone is aware of what one is.  Whether you deny it, are aware of it, or acknowledge that you have a worldview is of little relevance…there is no escaping looking at the world in which we live (reality as we see it) without one.  The human mind is organized in such a way that we adhere to propositional truth, yes even you relativists out there are stuck in the conundrum of believing in irrefutable truth(s) though you may spend most of your life denying it. And then, that propositional truth has a direct bearing on our living activity.

Well, maybe you’re wondering…

  • “What is a worldview?”
  • “If I have one, how does it function?”
  • “What is it founded upon?”
  • “What is it made up of?”

Or perhaps this last one…

  • “Why should I even care?”

Why should I even care?

Allow me to answer the last one first.  We are by nature communicable creatures.  Having meaningful conversation/interaction is only possible if we take the time to consider how others think.  Learning what a person’s worldview is enables the individual greater perceptional depth, and helps prevent (it does not stop) speaking past the other individual. If you are a Christian, then this is even more vital as you attempt to bear witness for Jesus Christ.2

What is a worldview?

Like a lot of things in this life, it really depends who you ask.  If I were writing a research paper, my prof would demand that I cite some other authority rather than give my opinion.  I’ve been performing at that level for many years now, and I am so thankful that is almost done.  A worldview used to be written this way: “world and life view.” This marrying of words into one succinct term has two concepts in mind.  The first is in relationship to how you think (i.e. a conceptual tool). The second is in relationship to how you live (i.e. a practical tool).  It seems that many people will lean heavily upon the first, but few consider the second.

What I’ll do, is give you my definition in the bullet point below, but if you would like to hear how others smarted than me have explained the concept, I’ll give you a few citations from various Christian philosophers in the endnotes section below.1

  • A worldview is… “Our conception of the world around us, stemming from an authoritative source that we submit to, affecting all areas of activity in our life.”

From a more technical aspect a worldview is a network of presuppositional fragments that when joined together offer you a conceptual lens to view reality as a whole, curbing behavior.  Therefore, all facts are interpreted, organized and assimilated into living one’s life.

How does a worldview function?

Well, it has already been hinted at that a worldview is more than a mere mental exercise. Worldviews not only shape the way a person thinks about reality, but how they live in that reality as well.  To say that a worldview merely addresses the thoughts of the person, but those same thoughts have no bearing on the activity of that person is naïveté.

Early on in my Christian education there was a debate in our systematic theology classes over which takes precedence: orthodoxy or orthopraxy?  Orthodoxy pertains to correct thinking; whereas, orthopraxy speaks of living.  Orthodoxy is rooted in doctrine and orthopraxy is rooted in practice.

Orthopraxy adherents argued how one lived was more important than what one believed.  This was used to safeguard any deviations from traditional orthodox thought (i.e. an excuse to stray a bit to the right or the left and not be held accountable for deviating).  Orthodox adherents argued the opposite that life is lived based off of one’s beliefs.  This too was used to safeguard any deviations from traditional orthodox thought (i.e. to be able to identify errors in thought, in order to protect others from wrong living).

Orthopraxy adherents were convinced that a faith based on absolute truths, propositionally stated, leads to a dull, heartless expression.  In their mind orthodoxy necessarily leads to a cold and calculated faith that lacks genuine warmth and love. Unfortunately, what they failed to realize in the debate (perhaps because they were in the majority?) is that the Bible does not present the two—head and heart—in an antithetical relationship.3 In Hebrew thought the mind pertained to more than just a dry rationalism/logic.  To speak of the heart biblically means the whole inner man; which encompasses a person’s mental and emotional acumen. The heart, is the inner spirit of man, the seat of his/her consciousness.

Sorry, but I need to deviate from the current path a moment on a rabbit trail; albeit, an important one.

The distinction in how one person’s heart functions versus another’s is determined by the Spirit of God. Does He (the Holy Spirit) dwell there, then that man will not be consistently cold and calculated in the faith lacking love; for such a heart is filled with the love of God and is therefore equipped to love God with his/her whole heart, and their neighbor as themselves.

That individual will bear the following qualities as an outpouring of God’s love in his inner being:

  • “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal 5.22-24).4

Whereas, the opposite is true for the heart that is not empowered by the Holy Spirit:

  • “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7.21-23).

The reason this is true, according to our Lord? Using a fruit tree as an analogy, he says the following:

  • “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6.43-45; Gal 5.19-21).

Back to the path…

A worldview functions in two ways: 1) how one thinks, 2) how one lives. The two cannot be separated.

Worldviews are foundationally based: What are they founded upon?

When I diverged on my little rabbit trail, we see now that the rabbit knew where he was going. The issue concerning worldviews is a foundational one.  Remember in my definition I stated that a worldview “[stems] from an authoritative source that we submit to.” All worldviews make a final appeal to the cornerstone of their faith.  I realize that might cause some readers to pause. Perhaps you believe you do not have faith.  Well we can talk about what you might mean by “faith,” but the fact remains that all people have faith, just like all people have worldviews. This is demonstrated by your submission to what you deem authoritative. In other words, what you trust in.

Contrary to popular opinion faith is not a “blind-leap,” or a wishful “hope.”  We are not talking about blowing out birthday candles here.  True faith, properly defined is an internal and external commitment to a variety of beliefs based upon a metaphoric cornerstone—i.e. foundation. In my next post, we will begin to unpack this more fully.

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ENDNOTES:

1 This is not an exhaustive list, but should suffice for providing the reader with a wide spectrum of scholarly thought:

  • Norman Geisler and Peter Bocchino: “a worldview is analogous to an intellectual lens through which people view reality and that the color of the lens is a strong determining factor that contributes to what they believe about the world…[this] philosophical system…attempts to explain how the facts of reality relate and fit together.” Unshakeable Foundations: Contemporary Answers to Crucial Questions about the Christian Faith (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2001), 55.
  • Mark Bertrand: “A worldview is an interpretation of influences, experiences, circumstances, and insight…an interrelated series of interpretation…a method of interpreting…The task of every worldview is to see the world as it is, to correct your vision. The test of a good worldview will be whether it brings reality into sharp focus or leaves things blurry.” (Re)Thinking Worldview: Learning to Think, Live, and Speak in This World (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007), 26, 27.
  • Greg L. Bahnsen: “Each worldview has its presuppositions about reality, knowledge, and ethics; these mutually influence and support each other. There are no facts or uses of reason which are available outside of the interpretive system of basic commitments or assumptions which appeal to them; the presuppositions used by Christian and non-Christian determine what they will accept as factual and reasonable, and their respective presuppositions about fact and logic will determine what they say about reality.” Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended (Powder Springs, GA & Nacogdoches, TX: American Vision & Covenant Media Press, [2008], 2011), 28, Adobe Digital Editions.
  • Vern Sheridan Poythress: “Many basic assumptions about the nature of the world fit together to form a worldview. A worldview includes assumptions about whether God exists, what kind of God might exist, what kind of world we live in, how we come to know what we know, whether there are moral standards, what is the purpose of human life, and so on.” Inerrancy and Worldview: Answering Modern Challenges to the Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 21, PDF e-book. Italics in original.

2 Art Lindsley opines, “It is good to be able to state the other person’s position to his or her satisfaction not only so that you might more effectively counter it but to be fair. We value the dignity of people made in the image of God.” True Truth: Defending Absolute Truth in a Relativistic World (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 50.

3 Dennis P. Hollinger identifies “three types of faith: head, heart and hands. [When] taken alone, these types are deeply flawed and inadequate, for thought, passion and action separated from each other are in conflict with the way God created us. Such a separation is inconsistent with what Jesus demonstrated in his own life.” Head, Heart & Hands: Bringing Together Christian Thought, Passion and Action (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 15. While much can be said about what Hollinger has written, I think it is an over analysis on his part to separate the “head and heart,” in light of how Scripture views the two.  All that is necessary for a complete faith (i.e. holistic) is an understanding that the heart’s (the seat of the human spirit) commitment to God and His Word enlivens both the mental/emotional capabilities of mankind in order to exercise godliness in living.

4 All Scripture unless otherwise noted shall be of the English Standard Version (ESV).