A “Biblical” Worldview

I remember being little and believing the images I saw on TV (whether from cartoons or commercials) that implied that heaven was right on top of the clouds. My grandfather died when I was 6 years old, and I would look long and hard up at the nearest cloud, convinced that my grandfather was just out of sight. That was part of the reality I imagined. That was part of my worldview.

“A worldview constitutes an overall perspective on life that sums up what we know about the world, how we evaluate it emotionally, and how we respond to it volitionally.” (emphasis mine) – Rudolf A. Makkreel, “Delthey, Wilhelm” in The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, 2nd ed., Robert Audi, gen. ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), p. 236.

Intellect, Emotion, and Volition. Sounds familiar. In the back of my mind these three things put together are supposed to form something. Pulling out notes from the first semester of my freshman year, I remember what that something was: Personhood. In other words, in order to classify someone as a person it needs to be demonstrated that is has intellect, emotion, and volition.

It’s interesting that a person’s worldview, accepting the cited definition above, impacts all three of these essential attributes. A worldview cannot be something that is merely known at the theoretical level, something that merely governs how we feel, or a behavior we engage in. It controls all three.

What then does it mean to have a biblical worldview? The term “biblical worldview” showed up often during my years as an undergraduate; it appeared in print on most (if not every) syllabi at the Christian university I attended. “This course is designed to assist the student to… articulate distinctives of a biblical world/life view and iterate biblical and theological truth into his or her personal life.”

I imagine a biblical worldview, if I may to baptize Makkreel’s definition, would be one where “the Bible sums up what we know about the world, how we evaluate it emotionally, and how we respond to it volitionally.” In other words, the person with biblical worldview believes that the Bible controls our conjectures and theories, our feelings, and our actions. Most Christians (including myself) would like to believe that it stops with the first clause. “I have a biblical worldview because I believe the Bible is true!” we think to ourselves. And if our courses help us believe the Bible to be true, then they have fulfilled their objective.

Of course, that assumes a “belief” that manifests itself neither in one’s feelings or actions, which arguably does not qualify as belief at all (“dead faith,” James would call it). Nevertheless, so long as we subscribe to a series of propositions, we have a biblical worldview. Or so we imagine.

But if our emotions do not conform to the worldview set forth by Scripture, can we actually have a biblical worldview? This is something that the undergraduate classes did not cover. How many of my classmates graduated from the college delighting in the way of God’s testimonies the way they delighted in riches (Ps. 119:14)? Can I, with the Psalmist, honestly say, “My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times” (v. 20)? Or, turning to the New Testament, do I truly “rejoice and be glad” when I am reviled, persecuted, and slandered for Christ’s sake?

The fact is, until I have in my heart the kind of love that is patient and kind, that does not envy or boast, is not arrogant or rude, does not insist on its own way, is not irritable or resentful, etc., etc. (1 Cor. 13), then I do not yet have a biblical worldview. In fact, there is only one of whom it can be said had on this earth a biblical worldview, and that is Christ Jesus. (No wonder he is called the “Word!”) How frustrated he must have been to be in a world where he was the only one who knew what was going on, the only one who had an accurate picture of reality. Even the teachers of Scripture didn’t know what he was talking about (Jn. 3:9).

A biblical worldview? I suppose it’s just another way of saying “conformed to the image of Christ” (Rom. 8:29), or having “the mind of Christ” in you (Phil. 2:5). I’d like to see that on a syllabus!

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Published in: on August 30, 2008 at 3:39 pm  Comments (1)