When trying to understand worldview in general and the various worldview beliefs in particular, the word “theology” may come to the forefront with certain views more quickly than with others. Of course, theology refers to the study of God, and some worldviews have a more prominent place for God. As such, we tend to consider the place of theology in Animistic and Theistic belief systems very quickly. The topic may emerge somewhat in Far Eastern Thought belief systems, though perhaps not as prominently. And, of course, Naturalism denies the very existence of God, so we may think that theology isn’t really relevant here at all.
But actually, every worldview has some understanding about God – even if it is to deny his existence. And make no mistake, denying the existence of God is as much a faith statement as advocating for his existence. Thus, every worldview has a theological point of view. Understanding the place of theology is a critical piece in understanding any belief system.
How Do the Four Worldviews Approach Theology
Naturalistic theology does not acknowledge the existence of any kind of supernatural reality. As such virtually every Naturalistic belief system asserts, as a positive statement, that there is no God.
There are some individuals who will try and fudge this by appealing to agnosticism. They will say that even if there is a god it is impossible to know anything about him. But even with this hedge they speak and operate based on a de facto Naturalistic worldview as if God does not exist.
Animistic theology works off of the belief that there is a spirit world and that there are literal spirit beings which they acknowledge as gods. The theological understanding about these gods is that while they dwell in the spirit world, they also tangibly interact with the physical world. In a way, it is as if the spirit and physical worlds are parallel dimensions which occupy the same space. They believe that there is also a symbiotic relationship between the physical and spirit worlds. Thus, what humans do in the physical world affects the gods in their spirit world and vice versa.
Far Eastern Thought
The theology of Far Eastern Thought is Pantheistic and Monistic. That is, everything that exists is connected essentially with everything else (everything is divine and divinity is expressed in everything) and is substantively made up of the same essence (only expressed in different forms). The belief is that this does represent a reality that exists beyond the material universe, but asserts that it is not personal in any way – rather, it is an impersonal life force.
Based on this, they believe that there is no such thing as a personal God. Thus there is no one “out there” to know or even to pray to. Life, and all of reality, then, is seen to revolve around a mechanical process which is constantly moving toward unity.
Theistic theology understands there to be a transcendent God who created the material universe for his own purposes and continues to sustain its existence to suit those purposes. The real issue of theology based on a Theistic approach, then, relates to who this God is. Simply acknowledging the existence of a creator God does not give us the information we need to understand him. Thus, Theism in general can only posit the existence of God, not give any significant information about him. To get at an understanding of God in any Theistic system, it is necessary to deal with each belief system individually.
How the Christian Worldview Specifically Approaches Theology
Christian theology is based a Theistic worldview foundation. As such, it asserts a supernatural creator God who created and sustains the material universe. More specifically the God who is acknowledged by the Christian faith is the one who is revealed in the Bible.
This Biblical understanding of God begins with the assumption that he is an actual person who is responsible for creating all of material reality. As a particularly central part of that creation, God created mankind in his own image for the purpose of personal fellowship with himself.
To facilitate a personal relationship with himself, God has made a special effort to reveal himself to mankind. This revelation by God has been done in two different ways.
The first form of revelation is commonly referred to as General Revelation. General Revelation is God’s revelation of himself through nature. This aspect of revelation is not able to give us the kind of specific knowledge necessary to know who God is and what he wants out of us. But it does provide us with evidence of his existence and insight into the kind of being he is.
By observing nature, we come to understand that God is a being who is purposeful and who is a creative designer. We can also gather that he is a God of order and is intelligent.
We see all of these properties in the various aspects of the material universe. We see it in the cosmos, in biology, in the chemical world and even in human nature.
The second form of revelation is generally called Special Revelation. Special Revelation refers to information that we gain about God through his intentional communication to mankind. By it we obtain specific knowledge that would be impossible to gain simply by observing nature.
In the Christian faith, Special Revelation comes primarily from the Bible. God has deliberately spoken to certain people throughout history who have written down his communication. These writings have been compiled in the book we refer to as the Bible. The kinds of things God has revealed in Scripture include who he is, what he is like, how we can know him and what he desires out of us.
Who is God?
In his Special Revelation, God has revealed himself to be a certain kind of person. It is essential to understand this revelation because it becomes the foundation for our relationship with him. If we don’t know who or what kind of person God is, it becomes impossible for us to interact with him. In fact, many of the people who so stridently object to the God revealed in the Bible, cite reasons which indicate that they really don’t understand what the Bible teaches about him. So just what kind of person has he revealed himself to be?
In examining the Bible, we see that God is personal. That is, he is a person with whom we can have personal interaction. There are many religions, even Theistic ones, which posit an impersonal God who is “up there” but who doesn’t interact with his creation on a personal level. The Bible, though, reveals a God who is personal and who has taken intentional measures to reveal himself, even to the extent of providing a means for intimate relationship.
Holy and Righteous
The Bible reveals God to be holy. Holiness is a reference to his moral perfection. God does not have any kind of moral blemish in his being whatsoever. His holiness is so complete that he cannot even allow fellowship with that which is not holy (that which is morally imperfect). This trait is not merely a reference to his deeds, but characterizes his very person.
As a holy person, he acts with perfect righteousness. Righteousness refers to the fact that he is bound to right any wrong that exists. The matter of his righteousness gets very personal for us when we realize that any sin which we commit is an offense against him that must be righted. In fact, sin is a capital offense and requires the penalty of spiritual death – eternal separation from God. Because righteousness is an actual element of his character, this wrong must be satisfied. There are no exceptions.
In spite of the fact that we, as humans, find ourselves in a position of deserving spiritual death because of the sin associated with our lives, God does not want to give us this death penalty. In fact, he created mankind in his image for the very purpose of personal relationship. He created us and deeply loves us as a father loves his child.
Because of this, he designed a means by which our sin problem could be satisfied. Since he is perfectly righteous, the penalty for sin had to be paid. But rather than making us pay it ourselves by eternal separation from him, he sent a Redeemer who was qualified to take the penalty upon himself. This Redeemer had to be a person who was not tainted by the sin which must be punished. As there has never been, and never can be, a natural human being able to satisfy this condition, God himself came to earth in the form of the man Jesus Christ and became the Redeemer. By his death on the cross, he substituted himself for mankind. That is, he took the death penalty upon himself. By his resurrection, he demonstrated that he had the power to accomplish this redemptive work.
He did all of this because of his great love for mankind. The only requirement is that individuals must intentionally accept this payment for sin by voluntarily giving their lives to God and committing to serve him as Savior and Lord.
One of the more profound elements of God’s revealed personhood is his existence as a Trinity. As a Trinity, he has revealed himself to be a single God who exists as three separate persons. In this, God expresses both unity and diversity within himself. He is certainly a single God, but at the same time is able to have fellowship within himself because he is three individual persons within his single existence. This is sometimes a rather difficult concept for us to grasp because there is no human analogy for this kind of Trinitarian being. In fact, if God had not revealed himself this way, it would be impossible for us to have discerned it. The three elements of his personhood are Father, Son (Jesus Christ) and Holy Spirit.
We see God’s revelation of himself as Father in the created order. He has created the material universe and continues to sustain it by his creative power.
The Bible reveals that as Son, God has existed from eternity as a part of the godhead. But in order to accomplish his redemptive purpose regarding mankind, he became the man Jesus Christ and dwelt for a time on the earth. During this time he revealed himself more fully to mankind by his teaching, then took upon himself the mantle of Redeemer. He did this by becoming the sacrifice for mankind’s sin through his death on the cross. Following his resurrection, he took his place once again in heaven where he continues his rule as a part of the godhead while serving as the intermediary between God and man.
The third person of the Trinity is the Holy Spirit. By his Spirit, God directly and personally indwells every human being who acknowledges Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. This is the way that we are able to interact with God on a personal level.
Something is true about the existence of God. He either exists or he doesn’t. If he does, he exists in some actual form and not in any other. Every worldview and every belief system within each worldview has a theology which attempts to answer the questions related to the existence of God.
Christian theology teaches that God has revealed himself to mankind through both General and Special Revelation. But it is the Special Revelation in the Bible which gives us the specific knowledge we need in order to know who he is and how we can know him. Armed with this knowledge, we are in a position to engage him in a personal relationship.
© 2010 Freddy Davis