What Is My Worldview? (Part 1) – Rich Cloud, PPCF Chairman
The focus of this current article (Part 1) will be on examining the concept of worldview and to outline the importance of understanding our life experiences within a Christian worldview perspective. While not every unique worldview will be considered, the primary ones, which directly concern the foundational understanding of Biblical Creation, pro & con, will be addressed in this current article.
Initially, the approach will be to outline why one’s worldview is important and then to provide a straight forward definition of what a common worldview would encompass. Next, multiple worldviews (Secular, Christian, Deep Time Creation-Christian, Biblical Creation-Christian) will be described and their primary application focused through the dual lens of biblical apologetics and science. At the end of this article, a brief outline for the content of Part 2 will be provided.
Defining Worldviews – Why?
I suspect that many people have not given much thought or consideration to the “big picture” idea of what their personal worldview might be or what it might contain as they live out their day to day lives. Likely for most, their approach to life would include a grouping of events and thoughts and circumstances which they have encountered and which have helped to make them into the person they have become. It usually requires a sudden challenge to one’s life experience for each of us to begin to then reflect on these deeper issues of: Where is my life headed and why; who have I become as a person and why; and how should I proceed to deal with this new challenge or the next step that I find directly in the path before me?
A key reason for this article is not for this to become an intellectual exercise nor just another article about worldviews. Instead I would like for each person who reads this article to consider “why do I believe what I say I believe”. Also, this challenge would ask: What is the foundational basis for what I truly believe about how things “are as they are”? Thus, my intent is to have the reader spend some time examining his or her own beliefs and attitudes and thus, the “whys” of the actions he or she might take. Along with this examination would be the need to evaluate the basis of how we each contemplate the key questions of who we are and why we are here. All of us need to at least consider at some time these “bigger questions of life” and to recognize that ultimately, we each face these questions as we encounter what life has for us.
Therefore, my hope is that the reader will recognize or begin to recognize the importance of how one thinks about the viewpoints addressed in this article, plus other concepts expressed on this website and by this ministry of PPCF. I believe that the ideas discussed here and in other articles should not only help to inform us about our general Christian worldview but also how one should view the ultimate truth, authority and inspiration of God’s Word. From this approach, I believe the outcome from this article and the challenges to be addressed in the second article (Part 2) will provide a good starting point in how one seeks to know, understand and apply Biblical Creation truths to one’s foundational understanding of God’s Word.
The Basis of All Worldviews
Lee Anderson provides an excellent overview of worldviews in a paper he contributed to in a recent book by Dan Faulkner, The Created Cosmos1. In it, he used two quotes from well-known Christian authors that provide a simple outline of what a worldview (any worldview) would entail.
“A worldview can be defined as a set of beliefs about the most important issues in life. It is a conceptual scheme into which an individual consciously or unconsciously places or fits everything he or she believes, and by which that person interprets reality.” Ronald Nash (my emphasis)
“A worldview functions as a framework through which a person attempts to make sense of every aspect of information encountered in life and by which determinations are made about meaning and value.” Norman Geisler (my emphasis)
While both men are distinctly Christian authors, the expressed nature from their individual perspectives, when defining the meaning of worldview, clearly reveals a desire for any person to know and understand answers to the biggest questions of life, which ultimately impact everyone. These simple definitions give a basis to further reveal a desire by everyone to know the purpose behind life. Both quotes highlight a truly common view that each one of us should seek to discover the meaning of life. Thus, from these two simple, yet complementary definitions, we recognize the common attempt by each and every person to explain the nature and purpose of living, and in turn each person’s desire to know and understand what makes life meaningful, so as to enable and inform the way by which each person thinks and reasons and acts.
From this overarching view, we can consider the fact that all worldview perspectives would fit within a common approach to discovery – about how to understand both the biggest and the smallest questions we encounter. By this process, various worldviews can be understood to encompass a wide range of understanding. For example, even secular (humanistic) views would also utilize a similar approach for determining the “ultimate” meaning of our existence. Likewise, various religious beliefs would incorporate a “big-picture” worldview explanations for this same meaning. While the approach for these discordant views is essentially the same, the outcome for various worldviews will be indeed be quite different.
It is apparent that these differences are and must be due to major differences in one’s foundational beliefs. Therefore, the remainder of this the current article will focus on examining four distinct worldview perspectives which speak to the foundational issues of biblical creation, both pro and con.
What is a Secular (Science) Worldview (SSW) about Origins?
A secular worldview will largely utilize the same method of approach as all other worldviews to these same “meaning of life” questions of Who, Why and How. But this opposing viewpoint versus the Christian perspective, for example, will result in a significant difference in the outcome, which is believed. Thus, this difference in worldview perspective is considered unbridgeable when compared to the perspective of both the Christian Worldview (CW) and the Biblical Creation Worldview (BCW), both to be discussed later. This secular view, by how it looks at evidence and life, and especially how it examines the evidence of Origins, would in nearly all cases be totally foreign to the BCW perspective.
Within the SSW perspective (its conceptual scheme or framework) of Origins, this general view accepts only natural processes (continuously ongoing via mostly uniformitarian views – the same operation for both the past & the present) and allowing solely empirical approaches to seek knowledge and truth (i.e., testable results today). Thus, any explanations about life and reality by this view are required to originate out of only non-supernatural actions and processes. The basis of these explanations can only accept current observations and present-day evidence as it exists and is happening today and by which it can be evaluated today.
From this reasoning, as applied to all past events and occurrences (origin of the universe, earth, life, etc.), the evidence must therefore be explainable by these same naturalistic-based processes. From this overarching viewpoint and worldview come a variety of concepts (or models) which define this secular approach to Origins. These terms include: non-supernatural, only natural; primary uniformity (uniformitarianism) for past actions; only empiricism; only deep time; only evolution; and for many, an acceptance of atheism.
From the above, it is apparent that the assumptions and conclusions reached about the origination of all past evidence, both life and non-life, and which is now to be evaluated in the present, will directly result in a distinct interpretation that is based on viewpoints grounded in secular and non-biblical Origins.
What is distinctive about a Christian Worldview (CW)?
John MacArthur defines a Christian Worldview as follows:
“A truly Christian worldview, simply put, is one in which the Word of God, rightly understood, is firmly established as both the foundation and the final authority for everything we hold true (ones faith and practice)... When we begin with a right view of Scripture, the Bible itself ought to shape what we believe from start to finish.”2
Thus, the above quote outlines the foundational basis for the CW as being “firmly established” in God’s Word, and further, it holds to the concepts of “foundation… final authority... hold true”, where the accepted basis of truth is provided via God’s Word. MacArthur is expressing the need to look first to Scripture as the means to what we believe and hold as Truth, but to not simply stop there. He goes on to say that God’s Word also needs to be an ongoing lens of how we are to not just start, but also to continue to inform everything we do, say and think throughout our life experience.
Thus, God’s Word is not just a suggestion or principle that we can use to bounce ideas off or to manipulate into our viewpoint, but it is the plumb line to follow. It needs to inform how we fully apply our every thought, everything we encounter and every action we take. This overriding approach and perspective of how we consider all aspects of life is clearly counter to the secular view point described in the previous section.
However, while this quote gives a clear point of focus about our ongoing approach to living, this specific worldview concept does say very little about nor is it specific to the concept of Origins. While some claim that a specific view of Origins is not critical and may even be outside the concept of as Christian Worldview, this failure to apply the subject of Origins to the Christian Worldview (Creation, Flood, etc.) will call into question the true meaning for many passages of Scripture. This will not just impact what is revealed in the early chapters of Genesis, but also it can and will affect one’s view regarding many other critical passages, which describe creation, God as Creator and even the doctrine of salvation.
I will now move onto the Deep Time Creation-Christian Worldview (DTCW) perspective to outline its overall understanding and effect upon the larger Christian Worldview perspective.
What is a Deep Time Creationist-Christian (DTCW) Worldview?
At my last count there are as many as 15+ distinct DTCW perspectives3 within what could be viewed as “old earth creationist” thought. It seems odd to me that an all-knowing God, who has inspired the writing of such an important passage in Scripture as the fact of Creation, should choose to reveal this doctrine of Creation in text that could be understood in so many ways. Unless, of course, this is actually not the case and that simply some have chosen to apply their own ideas to change the meaning of the text (to 17 possibilities?). Thus, this could raise the question: “Am I choosing to apply an understanding outside of Scripture to these words or am I allowing the words to speak to me?”
Each of these views entail a wide range of attempted “solutions” to the question of how God created. But while the “solutions” may be different, they all encompass, as a foundational basis, a “deep time” perspective. When examining each of these views, all generally contain at least these three key elements to a lesser and greater degree, which then become incorporated within their individual understanding, while fully accepting the concept of “deep time”.
These three elements are listed as follows:
Accepting this general view, as being historically correct, is the idea that past history contains significant long ages of time. This extended time of millions and billions of years can be understood by the evidence which exists and these views accept what is currently taught by secular science as being correct about the time line & associated timeframes of History. Thus, evidence is only interpreted within this overlying viewpoint.
Secondly, these multiple Christian-based views accept the what, the when and the how of this secular history as being the true and correct basis of understanding past history within this deep time. For these views, the extent of this acceptance does vary. Some viewpoints accept significant aspects to most of what is taught. In other cases, essentially all of what is taught is accepted as being factually true. Ultimately, the common explanation of the evidence is given so as to coincide within this deep time view.
Thirdly, the text of Scripture is usually (to always) not viewed as being a truthful record of historical fact when the concept of Origins is examined. Generally, the early chapters of Genesis (1 to 11) are viewed to be, at best, an outline or a vague summary or a framework or an indefinite poetic to figurative description or of variable to open-ended meanings for key words or a mystical view of God as Creator. Thus, the meaning held is one which excludes the passages in Genesis as describing a factual account. In some of the more discounting views, the content of Genesis is simply recognized as being in error or false.
Depending on how one accepts the basis of these key elements to inform their respective DTCW viewpoint, the result can impact many other perspectives about how one would interpret other portions of Scripture. This perspective can often raise questions about Biblical truths and doctrinal teachings, and in turn this may begin to influence perspectives that question other concepts and truths of Scripture.
What is a Biblical Creation Worldview (BCW) about origins?
The initial starting point for this view must be firstly based & principally applied according to what God’s Word actually says. One could describe this as taking God’s Word “at face value”. This understanding would clearly incorporate the viewpoint provided in the section on CW by which every Christian should seek to recognize the intention of God’s Word to record truth in its entire content. This worldview would also accept God’s Word as authoritative in how we must live. It accepts Scripture as originating from God, i.e., God being the Scripture's ultimate source. Further, this view recognizes His Word as being the ongoing measure of all that we do or say.
In a previous article which I wrote and titled Four Key Principles of Biblical Creation Teaching at PPCF, I provided four key points of information about Biblical Creation which define and form the concept of teaching Biblical Creation. I will not repeat them here, but I do want to highlight these key points and briefly comment on how these relate to BCW.
God would only create in accordance with the character and attributes He has revealed about Himself in Scripture. These concepts about God describe Him as just, righteous, holy and truthful. He would clearly speak (His Word) and act (acts provided in Creation account) in these ways. At some level, each one of the 15+ DTCW worldviews go against the very essence of both who God is and how He would create all things.
God’s Word provides a recorded historical account of Creation and describes the factual record of people, places, times and events as real, historical facts. This history in no way coincides with the proposed secular view of history.
Direct age data in Scripture and known-confirmable secular dates provide a measured outline of time, which calculates to some thousands (~6000 or so) of years, not millions or billions of years. The “Deep Time” viewpoint discounts the truth of these passages.
Scripture is the final arbiter of truth when it comes to Origins. The foundational basis of Origins comes from Scripture and thus Scripture gives the outline and record to follow when seeking to understand issues of science as these are related to Origins. Attempts to reverse this and to apply secular science to now provide an understanding of Scripture lessens the value and truth of Scripture to the point of whatever.
Coming in Part 2
In Part 2 of What is My Worldview, I will expand on the concept of Worldview by addressing a number of important questions which everyone’s worldview needs to answer. These questions will hopefully set the stage of understanding not just one’s worldview and approach to living, but these same questions are intended to also address the true meaning about the character and nature of God.
I hope this article has been helpful in understanding and applying your worldview to the question of Origins.
Till next month.
1 Lee Anderson, Scripture as the Controlling Factor in Christian Worldview Development; appendix to The Created Cosmos (by Dan Faulkner), p. 319, Master Books, © 2016.
2 Anderson, p. 320.
3 These 15+ DTCW perspective will be examined in greater detail in a future article.
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