Towards Developing a Christian World View

The Earth seen from Apollo 17.

The Earth seen from Apollo 17. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am developing a series of sermons on the topic of developing a Christian world view, and I will be sharing, or working through, some of my thoughts in this space as well. Before I get into the positive aspect of this process I have to do some “splainin” about why I believe we have lost a Christian perspective on life and perhaps some reasons for that loss.

First, it is important to note that a “Christian” world view is not synonymous with a particular time or cultural world view. That is to say an American world view or a Protestant world view or a Post-Modern world view are not the same as a Christian world view. To falsely equate the philosophy of a particular time or place with the timeless mind of Christ is the height of arrogance and stupidity. However, it is virtually impossible for a human to extricate him or herself from his or her cultural surroundings, so within the effort to discover and apply a “Christian” world view one must be extraordinarily careful to be self-critical. If we cannot remove ourself from our time and culture, at least we need to admit that fact before we make any mistaken conclusions.

Next, a world view is not the same as blind allegiance to some code or set of principles. I followed the strict guidelines of the FAA for about 10 years, but I would never have said that I had an “aviation world view.” So, we may obey certain principles, or even laws, of a given church and not come anywhere close to a Christian world view. This can be illustrated in the statement of the rich young ruler when he said that he had kept all of the Mosaic law from his youth, yet he clearly loved his money more than God, thus proving that he violated the very first commandment! (see Luke 18:18-30)

In my use of the term in this context, I am saying that a world view goes far beyond mere acceptance or adherence. In one sense it can be compared to a philosophy, but it even exceeds that. It is trans-philosophical, or in good post-modern lingo, it is meta-philosophical. A world view as I will use the term works like the air we breath. We depend upon it, but we rarely, if ever, notice it. We only consider it if it is fouled (smoky or stagnant) or there is something wrong with our nose or throat. The apostle Paul did not consciously set out to create a “Christian world view,” he simply lived one. So, in a sense, what I am proposing to do is counter-intuitive, but because I fear we no longer have what we claim to have, I believe we need to “clear our air” and either return to, or create, a healthy Christian world view.

Why have we lost a Christian world view? At least in America I would have to say that one of the chief reasons is that for too long we have equated “Americanism” with Christianity. If America did it, it was Christian, because we are a Christian nation. That kind of thinking led us to justify owning slaves, exterminating thousands of Indians and relocating the rest to reservations. That mentality led to some great achievements, to be sure, but it has also led to the acceptance of abortion and the targeted assassination of our political enemies. The Constitution is quoted as much, if not more, than the Bible, and often people do not recognize the difference. The Bible has been wrapped in the American flag, and a Christian world view has been replaced by a distinctly cultural one.

As I work through this process I may return to these thoughts again. In his commission to Jeremiah, the LORD made it clear that there would have to be some “uprooting, tearing down, destroying and overthrowing” before there could be any building and planting. So, according to that math, there needs to be twice as much plowing and furrowing as there is planting. I aim not to destroy critically, but to get to the root of the matter so that I can make the changes in my life that I need to make. If I can help someone else along the way I will count that as an additional blessing.

As always, please feel free to jump in with any thoughts, corrections or ideas.

About Paul Smith

Paul was born in Santa Fe, NM. He graduated from high school in Albuquerque, NM, and has lived and worked in NM, TX, OK, and CO. He is married to Susan and father to Kylee. Paul has a BS degree in Youth Ministry, a MS degree in Biblical and Related Studies and an M.Div. degree, all from ACU. In June 2015 he received the D.Min. degree from Fuller Theological Seminary. Paul has served as a youth minister, preaching minister, hospice chaplain, and as a flight instructor and professional pilot for a freight company.

Posted on April 5, 2012, in Christ and Culture, Spiritual Formation and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Yep, yes, yeah, Amen!

    I do a seminar on “Christianity and Culture” for Herald of Truth. Though some anthropologists are moving away from the concept of worldview, I find it very helpful. It’s so important that we see that ALL human worldviews are flawed, not just theirs but mine as well.

    I say in the seminar: “All cultures retain a hint of the heavenly culture; all cultures are affected by the fall.”

    Looking forward to your series.

    • As always, thanks Tim. And is it “worldview” or “world view?” Or does it matter? I have heard there is no such thing as a worldview, but to me that is kind of like telling a trout that there is no such thing as water.

      As for my series, I’m kind of curious to see where it will go too. I know that I have allowed myself to get sucked into some things that I have come to see are not really healthy. So, maybe I am just going to preach to myself, and if anyone else hears something good, then all the better. Paul clearly told the Philippians to “have the mind of Christ.” That is where I want to go. I hope you will share some of your thoughts along the way.

  2. I believe the term you might be looking for is “atmoshpere”, except, instead of being made of gaseous particles, you’re talking about an air of assumptions. When I wake up, I assume atmosphere. I can measure it. I can feel it. It will have a certain temperature, moisture content, and smell. And I know what to do when the conditions change (bring firewood inside, or grab an umbrella, for instance).

    So when you wake up: are people generally good, or bad? How does the political situation smell? How cold is the church? Do you feel His presence? Can you measure His love? (Some think they can, because why would God love me in my current condition? etc).

    That, IMO, is a worldview. Assumed and varied even for one person, but that person will walk in it and through it whether conscious of it or not.

    • Hmmmm, interesting thought, Brad. My initial reaction was that “atmosphere” might be too vague, but on re-reading your response you may have a valid explanation. I like the “air of assumptions.” We wake up as one gender or the other, with one particular skin color, one set of political beliefs or another, even as urbanites or suburbanites. Each of those frames our responses to various conflicts within the day.

      I’ll work on that thought some more. Thanks for stopping by and thanks for the input.

  3. I’ve seen world view and worldview. (Spell check on my computer doesn’t flag worldview) Don’t know that Paul Hiebert created the term, but he really popularized its use in missionary anthropology. He has an excellent book called Transforming Worldviews.

  4. I’m quoting you in a blog post this morning. You say things about the Christian vs the American worldview that I have been thinking for a long time but didn’t really have the words to illustrate. Thanks so much for your work on this.

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