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
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.
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, , 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/.
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.