Has there ever been a Christian worldview?

An interesting question, don’t you think?

The definition of worldview
According to Wikipedia, a worldview “is the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing natural philosophy, fundamental existential and normative postulates or themes, values, emotions, and ethics. The term is a loan translation or calque of German Weltanschauung, composed of Welt, ‘world’, and Anschauung, ‘view’ or ‘outlook’. It is a concept fundamental to German philosophy and epistemology and refers to a wide world perception. Additionally, it refers to the framework of ideas and beliefs through which an individual interprets the world and interacts with it.”

What is a Christian worldview?
A Christian worldview “is identified primarily as a set of doctrines or a system of beliefs” [1]

Francis Beckwith offers a definition of worldview. He says,

What we mean is that the Christian faith is a philosophical tapestry of interdependent ideas, principles, and metaphysical claims that are derived from the Hebrew-Christian Scriptures as well as the creeds, theologies, communities, ethical norms, and institutions that have flourished under the authority of these writings. These beliefs are not mere utterances of private religious devotion but are propositions whose proponents claim accurately instruct us on the nature of the universe, human persons, our relationship with God, human communities and the moral life. [2]

Christian thinker James W. Sire defines a worldview as “a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true, or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic construction of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being.” He suggests that “we should all think in terms of worldviews, that is, with a consciousness not only of our own way of thought but also that of other people, so that we can first understand and then genuinely communicate with others in our pluralistic society.” [3]

The impact of a Christian worldview
This construction of a Christian worldview creates a Christian faith that is dualistic and reductionistic. It reduces the Christian faith primarily to a set of ideas, principles, claims and propositions that are known and believed. The goal of this is to create ¢â‚¬Å“correct¢â‚¬ thinking. This relies on the description of Descartes: thinking things that are containers for ideas. This generates a rationalistic view of self where we are not only reduced to thinking things but are seen as things whose bodies are nonessential containers for our minds. This also creates our dualistic approach: There is a distinction between our bodies and minds and neither affects the other. [4]

Humans, however, are fundamentally desiring creatures. We are what we love, and our love is shaped, primed, and aimed by liturgical practices that take hold of our heart and aim it to certain ends. Humans are primarily lovers, not thinkers or believers.

Being a disciple of Jesus, therefore, is not primarily about getting the right ideas and doctrines and beliefs into the mind in order to develop the correct behavior. It is a matter of being the kind of person who loves rightly ¢â‚¬“ who loves God and neighbor and is oriented to the world by the primacy of that love. We are made to be such people by our immersion in the material practices of Christian worship.

There are two correlates to a cognitive emphasis of humanity. First, the focus on a Christian worldview as beliefs and doctrines marginalizes or ignores the centrality of distinctly Christian practices that constitute worship – arguably the single more important thing a Christian does. Second, it marginalizes the body and all that makes up the body, including imagination. The focus on the cognitive reduces the need for a community. In fact, there is no need for the body. The body focuses on practices and rituals, what Christians do. Worldview as beliefs and doctrines focus on what people believe, on an assent to ideas and thoughts, not actions.

In my next post, I will look at an alternate concept to worldview thinking.

[1] James K.A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation (Cultural Liturgies), 31.
[2] Francis Beckwith,To Everyone an Answer: A Case for the Christian Worldview: Essays in Honor of Norman L. Geisler as quoted in James K.A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation (Cultural Liturgies), 31-32.
[3] James W. Sire The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog, 5th Edition, 15-16
[4] Smith, 32.

David has been a systems thinker most of his life. He has started three businesses as well as designed and developed systems and processes in existing organizations. He has a Doctorate in Leadership and has also done additional post-graduate work in communications.

He has also pastored 3 churches and loves to think about, write about and podcast about scripture, theology, and leadership.

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