Recently I came across an internet forum that was started by a college student who was struggling with whether or not a literal interpretation of the Genesis account of creation was true. It seemed to me that this was causing a bit of doubt to enter his mind.
A number of people responded to him who had various takes on this topic. Some were telling him that, “Yes, a literal interpretation of Genesis was a correct interpretation.” There were others, however, who were trying to espouse a scenario in which he could keep his faith but still believe in Naturalistic evolution.
Of course, I had to throw my two cents worth in, as well. I shared, though, from a worldview perspective, beginning with the point that a Biblical position and a Naturalistic approach simply were not compatible. It is possible for a person to throw out both, but you can’t, with consistency, combine both. Reality is only structured in one way and hybrid approaches are internally contradictory.
As a Christian, I am convinced that the evidence is clear. The Christian faith represents the truth about the nature of reality. It reflects the way things really are. It expresses the truth about who God is, what he is like, what he wants out of us, the nature of man and how we can know God in a personal relationship.
If what the Bible teaches is, indeed, true, what Christianity asserts is a literal, objective truth. It is true whether we recognize it or not, whether we believe it or not, and whether we understand it or not.
As human beings, we have to interact with that truth, and various people deal with that in different ways – including Christians. Some Christians are not confident at all about their faith, so they keep it completely to themselves. Others are not confident about what to say in order to share or defend their faith, but boldly claim it anyway.
But I believe God wants Christians to deal with this in a different way. I am confident that he wants us to express that truth to a world that doesn’t know or denies it. And he wants us to do it in a particular manner – intelligently and confidently. We can only do this when we have built a knowledge foundation that allows us to have that confidence. So, just what does this foundation look like?
The first component of the foundation is a general understanding of worldview. Traditionally, this is not a topic that has been a part of the information base that Christians have worked with. In fact, it is a relatively recent addition to the mix. The reason this is so is that this kind of knowledge was not necessary in previous times because of the makeup of American society. While there has never been a time in modern America where a huge majority were faithful and committed Christians, there was a time, up until the mid to late twentieth century, when most Americans at least held a common belief that the God of the Bible existed.
Sadly, this is simply not the case any more. Now, we live in an increasingly pluralistic society where Biblical beliefs are a minority position. It used to be pretty much that the only people who had to deal with those who held other worldview beliefs were missionaries who lived in other, non-Christian, countries. Previously, Americans didn’t need the missionary tool box of skills. But now they do. And an understanding of worldview provides that knowledge. If Christians today are serious about their witness in the world, an understanding of worldview will be a necessary part of that package.
Understanding the components of our Christian worldview is actually a traditional component of training in Christian circles. After all, what we are talking about here are the basic teachings of the Christian faith. What is missing, though, is putting that training in the context of a general understanding of worldview. This context allows us to not only know what we believe, but why we believe it.
Again, in past times, this “why” component was not nearly as critical. That is because there was not much opposition to deal with. Now that there is fierce opposition, a mere knowledge of what we believe is not sufficient. We must also know why. As such, we need to grasp a Christian understanding of faith in the context of a general understanding of worldview. The result of not having this kind of knowledge is very evident as we see our young people falling away from their faith in record numbers because they don’t know how to answer the challenges that are put in front of them in our post-Christian culture. If Christians today are serious about their witness in the world, a knowledge of the Christian faith in the context of an understanding of worldview will be a necessary part of that package.
Relationship with God
A third component of a solid faith foundation relates to how our knowledge base is translated into daily life. It is very easy to think of God in impersonal terms. And that is certainly a serious problem. But an even greater problem is maintaining a personal interaction with God in the midst of a society that doesn’t recognize the personal nature of God.
The Christian worldview asserts that God is a real person who can be known in a real personal relationship – in the same way that we can have a personal relationship with other human beings. But many Christians simply don’t know how to do that. This is something that has to be retrieved. If Christians today are truly serious about their witness in the world, mastering our personal relationship with God is a critical skill to develop.
How to Share a Witness
The fourth and final component of a solid faith foundation for Christians relates to our ability to share an effective witness to our faith in Jesus Christ. We need to be able to share who God is and how other people can know him personally. This is much harder now than it used to be because we have so many more people whose established faith position is based on a different worldview foundation. This causes them to not only have different doctrinal beliefs, they have an entirely different understanding of how reality is organized.
In terms of Christian witness, this means that we have to have a different kind of understanding of the nature of witness and a new set of skills to effectively share the gospel. It used to be that we could start with an assumption that people already believed in God. And almost without exception, all modern witnessing methodologies start with that presupposition. But that assumption is simply not true for an increasing number of people in our day. Thus, we need a broader foundation for our witness. Not only do we need to know the actual message of the gospel, we also need to understand other people’s worldview foundation along with the doctrines of their faith. If Christians in our day are truly serious about their witness in the world, mastering the worldview and doctrinal beliefs of those we want to share with is absolutely critical.
What Do We Do When We Have the Foundation?
Business as usual will not do in our day. We must take it up a notch. And this is exactly what an understanding of worldview will do for us. It gives us the tools to be an effective witness in our increasingly pluralistic world. It actually does two very powerful things for us. It allows us to live personally in the presence of God and to be confident in sharing a witness about Christ.
When it comes to an understanding about the true nature of reality, the Christian faith has it right. But the fact that we claim to live in that truth does not necessarily mean that we are expressing it in our lives in a way which allows us to be faithful in our witness for Christ. We have to start by doing our due diligence. We do this by establishing a knowledge base which allows us to understand our own faith as well as the faith of others. Then, we have to take it to the world with confidence and actively share it. Without both of these components we cannot do the work that God has called us to – no matter what we claim to believe. God has given us a revelation which expresses the truth. He has given us himself to empower our lives. Now, it is up to us to take those gifts and live it out in life.
© 2011 Freddy Davis