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A worldview is an overall belief system that governs a person’s way of thinking and living. Biblical Christianity is our worldview. Other worldviews conflict with ours to a greater or lesser extent. But identifying and critiquing competing worldviews can be a challenge.
Unfortunately, worldviews normally don’t clearly announce, “Hi, I’m naturalism” or “I’m atheism” or “I’m Buddhism,” etc. Rather, they come in bits and pieces. They come to us in individual assumptions — ideas, principles, or teachings assumed to be true within a worldview or religion. These assumptions can be very subtle. They can also be combined with other assumptions that may be true, making detection of the false more difficult.
An example would be “tolerance.” There can be something good about tolerance (we may have to patiently put up with another’s poor behavior or misguided beliefs). But over the last decades, tolerance has been promoted as an absolute obligation that insists on affirming certain ways of thinking and behaviors that are actually false, immoral, and contrary to the biblical worldview. We Christians can affirm many assumptions and behaviors to be good or fine, but there are many we would call wrong and evil because of the truths of Scripture and natural law. This tolerance assumption (resulting in Christians being called “intolerant” and “bigots”) is part of the worldview often known as postmodernism, which has numerous other assumptions in conflict with our Christian faith. Such assumptions are found in all false worldviews.
Another challenge is that false worldviews and their assumptions often have religious implications that masquerade as purely secular. Spiritual dangers can come from places unexpected: school policies and values (public and private), various educational disciplines, respected professors, corporation policies, social media, novels, movies, governing officials and policies, Supreme Court decisions, etc. It does not matter where they are found. What matters is they are out there, promoted, and contrary to the Bible’s teachings.
What Do We Do?
It is important to recognize assumptions when they surface. A red flag may go up where we ask, “Is this true?” We then need to follow the approach of the believers in Berea: Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so (Acts 17:11). John the apostle told his readers to “test the spirits to see if they are from God” (1 John 4:1). Jesus said, “Sanctify them by the truth, your word is truth” (John 17:17). The bottom line is God’s inspired and infallible Word determines truth and therefore what is not in keeping with truth — what is false.
To put it another way, Christians, congregations, pastors, and synods need to be firmly grounded in biblical truth. Current notions, movements, and ways of thinking should not be assumed to be good just because they are popular, seem to make sense, promote something called “justice,” appear to be beneficial, have “science” behind them, feel right, coincide with someone’s experience, or collaboration has occurred. Every idea and belief that comes across our paths as Christians must be tested by the Word of God. We should plead therefore that God grant us pastors, teachers, professors, congregations, and a church body where love and wisdom reside.
We can also ask some basic and helpful questions while holding to the right answers — questions and answers that can solidify in our minds Christian truth and thereby help us recognize false worldviews and their assumptions. Here are several examples of such questions (with the Christian answers summarized in parentheses):
- Is the natural world all that exists or all that can be known? Are there supernatural beings? (There is one true God, and only one — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit — creator of all things, visible and invisible, who has made Himself known along with many things of His creation.)
- Are there absolute truths and real knowledge that can be grasped by human beings? (God has given us our reason, senses, and conscience by which we can come to know many facts and certain truths about the world, ourselves, and even God, but the ultimate and final authority is the inspired and inerrant Word, the Bible. It is this Word that declares what is true and false regarding beliefs, religion, worldviews, history, science, teachings, morality, behavior, and lifestyles. This source alone gives us the needed knowledge about ourselves and God in order to be saved.)
- Who is man? (He is the most unique of all created beings, who alone was made in God’s image. He has a soul and a sense of destiny beyond this life. He is a rational, creative, aesthetic, moral being; he is of infinite value.)
- What is man’s real problem? (We have all inherited the original sin of Adam — an innate, desperate sinfulness and displayed whenever we violate the Ten Commandments in deeds, words, and thoughts, resulting in separation from God and death.)
- What is the solution for man’s problem? (Jesus Christ, whose perfect life, substitutionary death, and bodily resurrection fully acquired forgiveness of sins and eternal life for all, which is received freely and only by faith in Jesus alone and for whom believers now live.)
- Who is Jesus Christ? (True God and true man, who never sinned, performed real miracles, was killed by crucifixion, rose bodily from the dead, ascended to his Father’s right hand where he now reigns, and will return on the last day to judge the living and the dead.)
- Is the Bible merely a “religious” book? (Though it is religious in that it is the authority for the Christian religion, it also contains records of major events in history, records that are shown to be reliable and trustworthy. For example, the separate records and numerous eyewitnesses to the resurrected Christ, something these witnesses were willing to die for. No other religion has such reliable historical support.)
- Are there any institutions in this life that help us and should be regarded as sacred? (God — and not man — has created for this life the institutions of marriage, government, and the holy Christian church.)
- Is there anything beyond life? (All people upon natural death will enter either eternal life or eternal damnation.)
Though some worldviews do not deal with all these questions, every worldview deals with some of them. One can apply these questions (and others) to assumptions and ways of thinking that are found in the world today. If those assumptions offer contrary answers, one is dealing with a false worldview and a lie.
To put this in perspective, imagine someone (like our child or grandchild) placed in an environment where assumptions are openly or subtly promoted but never explained to be a part of a worldview — where assumptions are never challenged, where no alternative answers are provided, where one is not asked to think critically whether they might be right or wrong. For example, think of being in a class where only evolution is allowed or in a setting where transgenderism is affirmed and contrary (biblical) beliefs are condemned. What could happen?
The fact is deceptive worldviews are promoted more often than we realize. And what happens is truth and the message of the Savior never get a fair hearing — faith in Christ is not an option, or faith in Christ can be lost. This is why St. Paul said, See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ (Colossians 2:8). And why St. Peter wrote, In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).
And most importantly, we hold to the powerful Truth of our worldview — the gospel — that, amid all these threatening worldviews, pierces like a sword into our hearts to strengthen and preserve us in our faith in Christ.
-Rev. David Thompson