Is Worldview Important for the Local Congregation? Regent College, Vancouver Michael W. Goheen
Worldview and Academic Setting • Term ‘worldview’ introduced into English speaking Christianity end of 19th c. • Just after mid-20th c. term very popular • Primarily in academic circles • Local congregation?
George Barna poll: 12% evangelicals knew what a worldview was 12% give adequate definition 4% said they needed to know anything about it!
More seriously . . . • How many Christians understand the implications of the gospel for whole lives? • How many Christians understand religious beliefs shaping their culture?
“I didn’t realize until I took the worldview course, how much I try to make Western culture and the Biblical worldview fit together. I realize more and more that they are actually opposite and against each other. Yet I must live in this culture because I am a part of it. Many times I struggle with how to do it.”
“Why did I not hear about modernity and its affect [sic] on me before? I really never knew how much modernity shapes my life until I came to university. It was always called ‘worldly’ but I never knew what that meant. Modernity affects all of my life and I wish I had known.”
Newbigin speaks of . . . “ . . . the deep-seated and persistent failure of the churches to recognize that the primary witness to the sovereignty of Christ must be given, and can only be given, in the ordinary secular work of lay men and women in business, in politics, in professional work, as farmers, factory workers and so on.”
People in Local Congregation? • Businesswoman in business driven by profit motive • Ph.D. student in postmodern university • Worker in humanistic psych hospital • History teacher in public school • Athlete in professional world of greed • Politician in liberal government
Living Faithfully in Culture The problem of leading a Christian life in a non-Christian society is now very present to us. It is not merely the problem of a minority in a society of individuals holding an alien belief. It is the problem constituted by our implication in a network of institutions from which we cannot dissociate ourselves; institutions the operation of which appears no longer neutral, but non-Christian; and as for the Christian who is not conscious of his dilemma—and he is in the majority—he is becoming more and more de- Christianized by all sorts of unconscious pressures; paganism now holding all the most valuable advertising space (T.S. Eliot,1946)
My story • Taught worldview studies in university for 15 years • Journey began as pastor of local congregation • Theological deepening • Gospel of the kingdom • Cultural mission of church • Communal nature of idolatry
My story • How can I equip congregation for callings? • How can I equip congregation to live faithfully in world? • Adult education—resources? • Two ‘toolboxes’ of resources: worldview tradition (Kuyper) and missiology (Newbigin)
Resources to . . . • See biblical story and gospel as public truth • To analyse cultural beliefs • To understand the dynamic of ‘being in the world but not of it’ • Study literature, education, current issues
Biblical starting points • Gospel of the kingdom
Good News! • God’s intention to restore the whole creation and the full scope of human life to again live under his rule • Rich and comprehensive doctrine of creation • Scope and power of sin • Comprehensive scope of salvation • Present battle for entire creation
Narrowing of Salvation The early Christian belief [i.e.,Scriptural belief] that the Fall and Redemption pertained not just to man, but to the entire cosmos, a doctrine already fading after the Reformation, now [under secularism of 19th c.] disappeared altogether: the process of salvation, if it had any meaning at all, pertained solely to the personal relation between God and man (Tarnas).
Biblical starting points • Gospel of the kingdom • Comprehensive mission of the church
The Spirit thrusts God’s people into worldwide mission. He impels young and old, men and women,to go next door and far away into science and art, media and marketplace with the good news of God’s grace. . . . (CT, 32)
Following the apostles, the church is sent– sent with the gospel of the kingdom to make disciples of all nations, to feed the hungry, to proclaim the assurance that in the name of Christ there is forgiveness of sin and new life for all who repent and believe– To tell the news that our world belongs to God. In a world estranged from God, where millions face confusing choices, this mission is central to our being, for we announce the one name that saves. (CT, 44)
The rule of Jesus Christ covers the whole world. To follow this Lord is to serve him everywhere, without fitting in, as lights in the darkness, as salt in a spoiling world. (CT, 45)
Biblical starting points • Gospel of the kingdom • Comprehensive mission of the church • Communal nature of idolatry
Incomparably the most urgent missionary task for the next few decades is the mission to ‘modernity’... It calls for the use of sharp intellectual tools, to probe behind the unquestioned assumptions of modernity and uncover the hidden credo which supports them... - Lesslie Newbigin
Culture: Common way of life rooted in shared core of religious beliefs
Biblical starting points • Gospel of the kingdom • Comprehensive mission of the church • Cultural idolatry • Spiritual battle for all creation
Origins of worldview tradition • Important lectures by Abraham Kuyper and James Orr • Orr, Kerr Lectures, Scotland, 1891 • Kuyper, Stone Lectures, Princeton, 1898 • Deep sense of need to protect the Christian faith from a hostile cultural worldview • Made popular by a whole host of writers (e.g., Francis Schaeffer)
Common Commitments of Kuyper and Orr • Christianity has an comprehensive and unified view of the world rooted in gospel • Modern worldview threatening gospel: • Another comprehensive and unified view of the world • Fundamentally religious • Embodied in forms of social and cultural life • To some degree antithetical to Christianity • Christianity’s only defence against the power of modernism is to develop an equally comprehensive worldview.
‘If the battle is to be fought with honour and with a hope of victory, then principle must be arrayed against principle; then it must be felt that in Modernism the vast energy of an all-embracing life system assails us, then also it must be understood that we have to take our stand in a life system of equally comprehensive and far- reaching power.’ (Abraham Kuyper, Stone Lecture 1).
Kuyper’s primary concern . . . • All of life be lived under Lordship of Jesus Christ • “There is not a square inch of the entire domain of human life of which Christ the Sovereign does not say ‘That is mine!’ ”
Kuyper’s vision of cosmic Lordship of Christ challenges three assumptions: • Reality is segregated into two realms, sacred and secular, and gospel concerned only with the sacred
Kuyper’s vision of cosmic Lordship of Christ challenges three assumptions: • Reality is segregated into two realms, sacred and secular, and gospel concerned only with the sacred • Gospel transforms only individuals but not society • Enlightenment notion that public life is religiously neutral
Importance of Tension The deeper the consciousness of the tension and the urge to take this yoke upon itself are felt, the healthier the Church is. The more oblivious of this tension the Church is, the more well established and at home in this world it feels, the more it is in deadly danger of being the salt that has lost its savour (Kraemer).
Starting point for book • Public truth of biblical story, comprehensive scope of gospel and church’s mission • Can worldview help recover this?
Worldview studies and structure of book • Biblical story and its most basic beliefs • Cultural story and its most basic beliefs • Tension of living at the crossroads between two stories
Critical Participants in Kuyperian tradition • Pietistic tradition • Missiology • Three neglected themes: • Suffering • Spirituality • Community
Resources for local congregation • To enable people to live whole of lives as witness to Lordship of Christ • To understand relation of gospel to various sectors of life • To understand the religious nature of culture
Need for . . . • Theological education equips leaders • Pastors who understand worldview issues
Pastors who understand worldview issues At the most sophisticated level we have to think of our task in a city like Madras to train our lay members who are playing key roles in the life of government, business, and the professions to become ministers of Christ in these secular situations. All of this is involved in our calling and ordination (Newbigin).
A True Pastor For the Christian layman who is really out in the world, really seeking to be subject for the Lord’s sake to the human institutions about which we are speaking, the political order, the economic order and so forth, really seeking to face the desperate difficult decisions that this involves, seeking to bear on his heart the obligation of his participation in these orders, to keep his conscience both sharp and clear, this man knows that he needs one thing: he needs a true pastor.
Need for . . . • Theological education equips leaders • Pastors who understand worldview issues • Congregational structures and adult education to equip for callings
There is urgent need for the Church to give higher priority to the formation of groups of Christian men and women in particular sectors of public life. These would include education, industry, commerce, politics, drama, the arts, the natural and social sciences, and historical studies. The groups would explore ways in which a Christian perspective can be developed in these areas, and ways in which this perspective can challenge and redirect contemporary practice (Newbigin).
Foundations of Our Lives • “Worldviews . . . are like the foundations of a house: vital, but invisible. They are that through which, not at which, a society or an individual normally looks; they form the grid according to which humans organize reality, not bits of reality that offer themselves for organization” (NT Wright) • Matthew 7.24-27