You’ve always been warned not to talk about religion and politics. Well, the term “Christian Worldview” gets thrown around a lot these days, and I’ve discovered that when it is used, few people really know what it means.
A Christian Worldview is a pretty simple concept. It is a term which defines the way people who have made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ live their lives. It is based exclusively on the Bible, as the written word of God, and its concepts relate to all areas of life. It is not always easy to discern, given the differences that occur when attempting to interpret and apply scripture. But Jesus reveals God to humanity, and through that revelation, along with the word of the prophets made certain in his coming, and his word interpreted by the apostles and writers of the New Testament. So it is up to us to find out what he wants us to know, and use every resource available to continue developing a Christian worldview that becomes enough of a part of your life to see the world that way, live your life consistent with what you see, and make the kind of difference that God desires for you to make.
What a “Christian Worldview” Isn’t
In American culture, many Christians equate the term with a specific and prescribed partisan political position. It’s not that.
I have news for you. Not everything can be made to neatly fit with politics. And in Christian faith, if we’re really honest, and we really do consult the scriptures to learn something or discern God’s will, there’s very little that can be fit into the political box. Colossians 2:8 warns us about being taken captive by worldly philosophy and empty deceit. And while there are Christians involved in politics (in several different political parties, mind you) the origins of most political philosophy is definitely not Christian. Be careful here. Too many Christians aren’t, and it gets them into trouble. “Do not put your trust in princes,” says the book of Psalms. I’ve discovered that prayerful consideration, on many occasions, leads me to a scriptural and spiritual conclusion that wasn’t exactly consistent with what I wanted it to be.
God promised to bless Israel when they were loyal and obedient, and he punished them when they weren’t, but the promises of restoring a nation to righteousness were made to them, not to us, and if you are placing your hope in restoring the righteousness of America, and ushering in revival by voting the right way, you are deceiving yourself and distorting the written word of God.
War and Human Conflict
This is a tough topic that is most often avoided in sermons, lectures and other means of teaching a Christian worldview. We are fascinated with images of a God who, because our country is so faithful (yeah, what?), will hold our coattails and cheer us on as we bomb cities and factories, and use war as a means of asserting our will, a.k.a. “protecting our interests abroad,” especially if it involves a non-Christian population, such as Muslims or Buddhists.
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. To the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. ” Romans 12:14-21 ESV
Wow. Take that and apply it to your attitude toward militant Islam, or better yet, to your fellow American “liberals” who don’t share your politics, and who you think are stupid ignoramuses because they don’t agree with you. This passage is a very pointed illustration of what it means to lack selfishness, and when you can get to this point, you can claim an understanding of the term, Christian worldview. Until then, you’re not there, yet.
About eight miles down the road from my house is a small town called “Harmony.” It was established by a group of Christians who lived communally, and believed they were literally putting into practice the Bible’s teachings about both getting along with others, and in communal living which led to economic and social equality which they also believe is a Biblical principle. Similarly, there are several other townships and towns in Pennsylvania that bear the same name, largely due to Quaker influence, a group which more or less followed the same literal interpretation of the scripture when it came to this particular issue. These are groups which, for most of their history, succeeded in resisting the social norms, and practiced their beliefs for generations, including successful resistance to mandated military service. The “Harmony Society” that established the town no longer exists, but their legacy lives on in their descendants, many of whom make up Mennonite and Amish communities in the area, along with the Quakers, who still exist, and who are still putting this principle into practice in their own way. How many other Christians are that consistent with this belief?
Money, Wealth and Prosperity
It may be a personal opinion, though I’ll claim that it is developed on theological framework, but one of the passages most Christian preachers pass over, and one which is uncomfortably tucked in a prominent place, is Acts 2:42-47. Usually, that text is used when a pastor wants to inspire his people to increase the attendance in church. But there’s a bit of discomfort for those who insist on a literal interpretation of scripture when it comes to this passage.
“Oh,” I’ve heard, “The Book of Acts is history. It’s not didactic.”
“And all who believed were together, and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. ”
There are several other places in the early portion of this particular book which make note of this practice, including a story about a couple who wanted recognition for being givers, but lied about what they had done. Oh, and then there’s Paul and his words to the Corinthian church about the offering that was being collected for the Jerusalem church during their famine.
“For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance should supply your need, that there may be fairness.” 2 Corinthians 8:13-14
Later on, Paul tells the Corinthians that their generosity would inspire the Jerusalem Christians by meeting their need, but the Jerusalem Christians response would be joy that would “glorify God.” And he calls that a “fair” exchange. The NIV uses the term “equality.” What kind of economy could operate on those kind of principles? Wouldn’t they go broke thinking that way? Isn’t that communism?
Well, that depends on your bottom line.
No Other Gospel
So isn’t it somewhat exclusive and arrogant to believe that what you believe about Jesus is the only way to be saved from sin and reconciled to God? Isn’t that intolerant?
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
“But even if we, or an angel from Heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:8-9.
This is a really difficult worldview concept to hang on to because there’s no mention here of different treatment for people who don’t share our beliefs. We’re still compelled, according to the scripture, to treat all people with respect, and not as enemies. That’s a separate concept, not changed or altered by this one. Putting those two things together is simple enough to understand, but pretty hard to manage.
The first time I heard this particular verse interpreted, the preacher was Dr. Walter Martin, author of “Kingdom of the Cults.” Dr. Martin was doing a presentation on Mormonism, and he outlined the specific teaching of the Mormon gospel, along with the author and source of the teaching. His citations for Mormon teaching all came from excellent research in discerning the application of passages from the Mormon church’s standard works, including The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price. Dr. Martin clearly delineated the stark differences between the Mormon gospel and the Christian gospel from which the verse in Galatians is drawn. Though much of the language is similar, the teachings and doctrines themselves are not compatible.
Deception, especially when it came to religion, was going on during the time that Paul wrote his epistle to the Galatians, as it was elsewhere in the Roman world, and people in the church were falling for it, lacking, in many cases, a proactive pastor and access to written scripture. There were those who sounded good, and who had latched on to something specific that made them sound like solid Christian preachers. But Paul put it in simple terms, defining the gospel as what he had already preached to the Galatian Christians, making it easy for Christians to have a standard by which the could determine whether preaching they were hearing was consistent with what they knew.
Don’t get me wrong, I love, and deeply appreciate the religious freedom that is part of being American. But religious freedom requires personal responsibility to know the scriptures and to be able to rely on the Holy Spirit to help discern truth. And frankly, determining that someone else’s religious beliefs, which do not stand up to the measure of truth of the canon of scripture, are incorrect is not being intolerant. Intolerance is an attitude that Christians shouldn’t have. You can evaluate other beliefs against the scripture, and determine that they are not true without being intolerant, and you can be tolerant, but not come to mutual agreement on a particular belief. It’s the attitude again, and it is selfish ambition that leads to conflict. Avoid that, and it will be hard to be critical of you and the way you are.
It’s certainly worth some thought.