How do you see the world?
Developing a Biblical Worldview
by Josh Langer
Simply put, a worldview is the way a person views the world. A worldview is the summation of assumptions a person has, either consciously or unconsciously, about the world and how it works. We all acquire a worldview in many different ways (e.g. childhood experiences, culture, parent’s beliefs, etc.). Steve Wilkens and Mark Sanford note: “We don’t just think our way into worldviews, we experience them…for most of us, worldviews are not primarily systems of interlinked ideas and beliefs, but they are experienced, absorbed and expressed in the midst of life” (Wilkens 15). Our worldview helps us make sense of life and the world around us. It determines our decisions, our thinking, our emotions, and ultimately our behavior. A follower of Jesus Christ is vigilant and resolute to develop, or adjust when needed, his worldview based upon the Word of God.
Grant R. Jeffery writes in his book The Signature of God: “Although the Bible is attacked relentlessly, it still stands as the most accurate and authoritative book ever written. Evidence from historical inscriptions and manuscripts discovered in the last century proves that the Bible is divinely inspired” (Jeffrey 39). The Bible is the ultimate and most credible source for a biblical worldview, and only a biblically informed Christian worldview offers a coherent, accurate, truthful, and intelligible way of looking at reality.
Any worldview must address four existential questions: Where am I coming from? Why am I here? What’s the difference between right and wrong? Where am I going after death? At its foundation, a worldview stems from its image of God. Either there is one God (e.g. monotheism), or gods (e.g. polytheism), or nature is god (e.g. naturalism, pantheism), or man elevates himself to a supremely divine position (e.g. humanism, atheism). In his book The Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer makes this sagacious observation:
What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. (Tozer 1)
No worldview has ever been greater than its idea of God. In secular humanism, man is god. In Christian theism, Yahweh is God. Our idea of God informs all other aspects of our worldview. Genesis 1:1 introduces God (Elohim) as the triune Creator and the source of all life. Every worldview has to deal with the question of origin: Where do we come from? Through the biblical account of creation we are informed that every living being emerged out of the imagination of a wise, all-powerful, loving, personal, and creative God. We are also informed that humans are the only creation made in the image of God, and because of that, every human being is endowed with intrinsic value and dignity. We are different from the rest of creation. Trees and kittens don’t think about the “big questions of life”; humans do.
This leads us to the next question with which every worldview has to deal: Why are we here? The way we answer the question for what gives meaning in life will determine the way we live. We discover a biblical answer to the question of meaning in the Great Commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ And ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37-39 NASB). We find real and lasting meaning in this life when we live in right relationship with our Creator and with our fellow humans. How do we do that? That is covered in the question of morality.
How we answer the question of morality will guide our ethical behavior and our relationships. Unlike a relativistic worldview, a biblical worldview affirms the existence of absolute and objective moral values and responsibilities that guide every human being on this planet. The Apostle Peter acknowledged: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69 NASB). A follower of Jesus heeds God’s instructions, knows the eternal value of His words, and obeys His commands. In order to develop a biblical worldview one must love Jesus and everything for which He stands. As noted before, a worldview determines one’s actions. The Apostle Paul urges New Testament believers to “excel still more, and to make it their ambition” (1 Thessalonians 4:10-11 NASB) to live a certain way. The teachings of the Bible and the cruciform life and death of Jesus inform the moral behavior of someone who holds to a biblical worldview. “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5 NASB).
The final question confronting every worldview is the question of destiny: What happens after we die? Through the centuries, philosophy, drama, poetry, and the arts have unsatisfactorily attempted to give us a picture of what might wait for us on the other side of life. Atheism simply denies the possibility of any life after death. In a Christian worldview, death is not the end. For a follower of Jesus, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21 NASB). Purpose and hope fill the heart of a believer as he expectantly waits to be with his Lord and Savior, either after he dies or at the second coming of Christ. Then, “the dwelling place of God will be with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God” (Revelation 21:3 NASB).
Wilkens and Sanford insightfully observe: “Even when the fundamental outlines of our worldview hold up over a lifetime, the details go through modifications based on our psychological development, new events and relationships, exposure to new ideas or a number of other factors” (Wilkens 18). Within this changing world, it is comforting to know that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8 NASB). It’s simply wise to build one’s life and worldview on this solid rock of the ages. “Trust in the Lord forever, for in God the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock” (Isaiah 26:4 NASB).
Jeffrey, Grant R. The Signature of God. Colorado Springs: WaterBrook Press, 2010. Print.
Tozer, A.W. The Knowledge of the Holy. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1961. Print.
Wilkens, Steve, and Mark L. Sanford. Hidden Worldviews. Downers Groves: InterVarsity Press, 2009. Print.