About a week ago my cousin Ted drew my attention to an article written by a Professor of Mathematics (Emeritus) at the University of Oxford. In the article, the author, John Lennox, tells of an experience where “a brilliant scientist [was] trying to bully me into giving up Christianity.”
Finding himself at a dinner with an unnamed Nobel Prize winner he had some questions for the man.
“I tried to ask him some questions. For instance, how did his science shape his worldview—his big picture of the status and meaning of the universe? In particular, I was interested in whether his wide-ranging studies had led him to reflect on the existence of God.”
In response the author was invited into a study where he was asked if he wanted a career in science. When responding in the affirmative, he was told:
“Then,” [the Nobel Prize winner] said, “in front of witnesses, tonight, you must give up this childish faith in God…”
“I told the group standing around me that I found the biblical worldview vastly more enriching and the evidence for its truth compelling, and so, with all due respect, I would take the risk and stick with it.”
There were a number of items that stood out to me when reading the original post. Why was the unknown Nobel Prize winner unnamed? How is the percentage of Nobel winners who are Christian relevant to his story (only half of the Nobel Prizes are science related)?
But the item that jumped out at me most of all was his use of the term “biblical worldview”. Whatever does that mean?
Sure I had heard the term before. I even knew of people who had taken courses in the subject of “Having a Biblical Worldview”. But it had never struck me as much as when reading this article. Quite frankly, I could not really get a very good sense of what Lennox meant by the term.
So I went digging.
Here were some of the consensus ideas that I have derived from multiple sites which seem to define what it means to have a “Biblical Worldview”.
- The term is largely synonymous with having a “Christian Worldview”.
- The world is viewed through the lens of the Bible.
- The Bible is accurate and/or inerrant.
- There is absolute truth and it is defined by the Bible.
- The world was created by God.
- Salvation is through faith alone in Christ alone.
- Satan is real.
I must admit I was surprised by the inclusion of number seven on the list. There didn’t seem to be a lot of practical outworking from that. I have a suspicion that its inclusion stems from Frank Peretti days where his two books “This Present Darkness” and “Piercing the Darkness” combined to sell 3.5 million copies in the late 80s. I think the term “Biblical Worldview” came into prominence at that time.
“In Peretti’s works, the “Sovereign Hand of God” is moved in response to prayers of the “saints”-the faithful “remnant.” who refuse to be led astray by a society growing ever more irreligious. Education, government, the media, the ecological movement, and big business are, knowingly or unknowingly,swayed by demonic forces in the novels.” – Jay Howard “Vilifying the Enemy: The Christian Right and the Novels of Frank Peretti“
While I think that Frank Peretti’s influence deserves a whole post on its own, I want to focus more on items 2 through 5, and some issues that arise from these statements. These items are all related. This will be a brief interaction, but I encourage all of us to continue the discussion in the comments.
Let us start with number two.
The world is viewed through the lens of the Bible.
Describing the Bible as a lens is problematic. Paul says in Corinthians that we “see through a glass darkly”. To say that the Bible speaks with a single voice, that it is this lens that instantly brings clarity to all that is viewed, is not how the Bible works. It could be better described as a richly woven tapestry, adorned with different pictures, and opaque.
As Pastor Mike noted on Monday:
“Making the Bible the sole authority for the church has demonstrably not led to ecclesiastical unity formed around the clear teaching of scripture. Two groups may both hold to the authority of the Bible while coming to polar opposite conclusions with regard to how to interpret it. The Bible, as it has come to us, is just not that simple and easily understood. It is open to a plethora of interpretations, and the history of Protestant schism proves this convincingly.”
The Bible is accurate and/or inerrant
Michael Spencer has written at length as to why he doesn’t hold to inerrancy.
“Inerrancy looks, smells and feels remarkably like a philosophical imposition on the Bible, going beyond what the Bible CAN say about itself, and forcing those of us who believe in the authority and truthfulness of the Bible to take a “loyalty oath” that goes beyond what should be said.”
If someone wants to challenge you on this, ask them when Jesus was born, and do they hold to the Matthew time frame or the Luke time frame?
There is absolute truth and it is defined by the Bible
One commentator wrote that there is a danger in “Not believing your worldview is absolute. Not just right, but absolutely right.”
Michael Spencer would have responded this way:
“While the Bible is supposedly inerrant, none of those who interpret it are inerrant interpreters. That’s a problem. If there is a perfect compass, and you give it to a chimp, what have you got? A chimp with a compass.”
Believing that you have the “absolute truth” results in people being dismissive of other views: “ I believe X, I believe the bible, you believe Y, therefore you don’t believe the bible.”
It is this arrogance of holding that you have absolute truth that has led to so much schism as disunity in the church. There is also the danger of conflating “your view” with “God’s view.” In fact, many of my sources used the the “Biblical Worldview” and “God’s Worldview” as synonymous.
The world was created by God
For most definitions, this means the rejection of evolution. Science as a whole is rejected either implicitly or explicitly. (Though it is usually couched in very soft terms.) For many it means embracing young earth six day creationism:
Ken Ham in his post “What is a Biblical Worldview” writes:
“God created the heavens, the earth, and all that is in them in six normal-length days around 6,000 years ago. His completed creation was “very good”, and all the original animals (including dinosaurs) and the first two humans (Adam and Eve) ate only plants”
Again Michael Spencer chimes in:
“Creation “really” happened. That I am told by God about creation in a three thousand year old liturgical, poetic, prescientific story meant to assert Hebrew ideas over pagan ideas during the Babylonian captivity doesn’t take one thing away from the truth of Creation. Not one thing. Telling me I have to become a young earth creationist in order to actually “believe” this account is absurd. Saying that if I don’t become a young earth creationist, I disbelieve this account is simply unacceptable. Stronger words are really needed.”
John Lennox, the author of the post that spawned my post, says that he does not hold to a young earth. My question for both him and Ken Ham is: How can you both say you hold to a Biblical Worldview, when you disagree on what that mean.
Here are my final thoughts:
The biggest problem with the idea of a Biblical Worldview is the way it is used to promote an agenda. Those espousing Biblical Worldviews are those who are anti women in leadership, anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-evolution.
“In my past life everyone who used the term worldview basically did proof texting to say that their politics (almost always very conservative) is good, that the state should not help the sick and poor, that women should be subject to men, and gays are evil” – Klassie Kraalogies
A quick google search finds many articles written by leading evangelicals, like this one by Franklin Graham.
If you remember back to my conversation with Geoff as to what stood out to him in his interaction with me he wrote:
“You didn’t agree or disagree with homosexuality but you would not let the text of your religion be dissected and conveniently used to prove a point.”
And maybe that is why I reacted so strongly to the idea of a “Biblical Worldview”.
So those are my initial thoughts. Have at it. As usual your thoughts and comments are welcome. To also quote Klassie Kraalogies: “We get somewhere by talking and discussing and debating in a decent, friendly manner… “