The Importance of World-Views
One of the most important things that christians need to get sorted out in their thinking is the issue of world-view. By this I mean, what is it that we use as the filter to understand the world and our lives?
At the time of the Reformation this was expressed in terms of authority. What do we look to as the final source of knowledge, revelation and instruction for life?
In the Catholic Church the ultimate arbiter was the tradition of the church. The Reformers said “No, the standard is Scripture.” Therefore in Catholic teaching the Church is allowed to build on and extend the teaching of Scripture and where there is conflict the Church has the ability to definitively determine what is right. In Protestant churches the Bible is the ultimate authority.
However it is never that straight forward. For example, some of the Reformers argued that churches could only do that which scripture explicitly allowed, while others said that churches were free to do anything in good conscience unless it was forbidden by Scripture.
How we interpret Scripture is a whole realm in itself. Do we give priority to the Old or the New Testament. When Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Holy Spirit later confirmed that christians were no longer bound by the Law, what does this say about the authority of the Old Testament? How much do we take literally and how much symbolically?
Notice how many issues arise before we even start to read the bible!
The Creation Science people raise another, far deeper issue. Where do we look for ultimate truth?
We aren't talking about just Genesis here but much of what is culturally conditioned. Evolution is a case in point, but only one such issue in my opinion. Do we believe the bible is true when it says the world was created in just six literal days? Or do we have to bow to science and say well obviously science knows better than the Bible? Or do we have to find some way of accommodating the Bible to the findings of science?
If we do the latter, what we are saying is that human knowledge (science) trumps divine revelation (the Bible) as a source of knowledge. If we allow science to intrude in the realm of belief at this point, where do we stop? Cosmologists and quantum physicists also wrestle with god questions... although they insist on calling their speculations science.
The fact is that theories about origins are all forms of a religious belief with particular presuppositions and theological assumptions. For example, science believes that the universe is a closed system which is described by physical laws which can never be contravened. It explicitly excludes miracles or divine intervention. Science also assumes that what we observe now can be extrapolated indefinitely into the future and the past.
This is called a world-view. The scientific world-view is OK as far as it goes, because it does allow us to find out lots of information about the world.
Where science fails though is where there are discontinuities between what we can observe now and what might happen in the future (or going backwards in the past). For example, predictions were made in the 19th century that London would be knee deep in horse manure by 1930 (that was changed by the transport revolution) and that man would run out of food also by that time (this was changed by the on-going agricultural revolutions which have vastly increased land productivity).
If those relatively short term future predictions were radically overturned within 100 years, then it's not surprising that science can not really trace back the past over millions of years with any great certainty- despite the often hysterical claims from scientists.
The climate change hysteria is another example of this process of how a wrong world-view can lead to wrong results. The green movement has increasingly embraced animism over the last few decades. Animism is the belief that there are spirits living in every object. Human spirits are no more important than tree spirits or rock spirits. So to the green movement, human beings are a plague on the planet because we destroy so many things to keep our lifestyle going.
Over the last 400 or so years, the world has been warming up, because it has been emerging from a mini- ice age. Associated with this has been an increase in the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, largely from industrialisation over the last 50 years. Therefore, many people have jumped to the conclusion that it is the CO2 causing the increased temperatures. The fact is that in every other period of warming the CO2 in the air has increased even though human beings could in no way have been blamed for that. The CO2 seems to be a result of warming rather than the cause, but you will not hear this in the media.
The greens have jumped on this bandwagon because it seems to lend credence to their ideology. The Earth spirit Gaia is angry with us they will tell us (although not in so many words) and we have to shut down our economy to save the planet. Yay- let's all go back to subsistence agriculture.
In all of these cases a wrong set of presuppositions results in faulty belief and faulty actions.
Christians need to develop a consistent world-view that affects all of their behaviour and attitudes and which informs all of their attitudes. Such a world-view has to start with the following:
- Scripture is the basis of all belief
- God is in control
- God loves us
- God has a purpose for individuals and for humanity
What are the pre-suppositions behind your personal world-view? Do you consistently apply your world-view to every part of your life?