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.
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.
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).