Thursday, December 16, 2010

Why is Worlview Important?

Worldview-Introduction DNA 2010

The big questions in life that people ask for thousands of years: “Where do we come from? Who am I? Where are we going?”

Have you ever looked up on a starry night and wonder, “Why on earth are we here for?” Or perhaps, you wake up in the morning, open your eyes and look at yourself in the mirror and think, “How do I know I’m not wasting my life? What is the point of living if everything, absolutely everything ends in death?” No matter how advanced medical technology becomes, in about two hundred years from now, everyone in this room today will no longer be alive. No one can escape from this. If death is the final destination, and that’s all there is to it, then what difference does it make?

And the moment you begin to ask these questions at some point in your life, you begin to think about the ultimate issues that all religions and philosophies throughout the centuries have tried to understand. Consciously or unconsciously, every one has a mental map of what the universe is like and a vision for what life is all about. Whether you realize it or not, the way you answer these big questions reveal your assumptions, your ideas and your views of the world. It’s your worldview.

"A worldview is, first of all, an explanation and interpretation of the world and second, an application of this view to life. In simpler terms, our worldview is a view of the world and a view for the world." You know, without my glasses, I can’t see very well… everything is blurred. I wear glasses so that my vision can be refocused to see more clearly. Similarly, our worldview is like a pair of contact lenses through which we look at life, our own selves, the world and what is ultimately real.

OK fine… but why should we spend time understanding worldviews? Is it important at all? Isn’t it just some philosophical stuff that has no connection to real life?

Today I would like to give you FOUR reasons why intentionally working out the Christian worldview can be both practical and important. How you answer these big questions in life will have great impact on the way you live the Christian life.

Reason No.1: We need to understand the Christian worldview (or how the Bible answers these big questions) because it is part of loving God. It is the discipleship of our mind.

Who can tell me – What is the greatest commandment? It is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our strength, with all our soul and with all our mind. This is the great and first commandment that sums up the entire law. True Christian spirituality involves our whole being - heart, head and hand. Our feeling, thinking and doing are all involved in loving and following God.

If we do not love God with all our heart, what happens? Well, our spiritual life will be all head knowledge but there is no real passion, desire or joy in it. We merely analyze God but we don’t worship Him. And if we do not love God with all our strength, then no practical fruit comes out of our beliefs. It’s NATO - “No Action Talk Only”. But what happens if we do not love the Lord our God with “all our mind”?

If we do not care for our mind, we may run around with lots of meetings, programs and activities (giving an appearance of vibrant spiritual life) but we don’t stop and reflect “Why are we doing this? Is this biblical? We may do things right but are we doing the right things?” Or we may also run the danger of emotionalism – that means, having lots of misguided passion, having lots of zeal but without wisdom. Sad but true, I’ve come across some sincere but seriously misguided people who slither on the floor like snakes, roar like tigers, bark like dogs because they mistakenly believed that is what God wanted them to do. Truth without emotion produce dead orthodoxy but emotion without a true vision of the greatness of God produces a shallow frenzy. But God is looking for worshippers who worship both in spirit and in truth. Passionate feelings for God rooted in sound doctrine about God will express itself in songs, shouts, tears, silent awe, confessions and obedient lives. We love God with our mind by letting our understanding of life and of the world to be shaped and informed by what God has revealed to us in Scripture. We learn to think biblically and theologically with God’s gift of our intellect.

Reason No.2: Understanding the Christian worldview equips you to discern what is right and beautiful from what is ugly and wrong in our culture.

You see, when a medical doctor and I look at the same skin problem, we “see” radically different things. The trained doctor can observe more because with years of study, her mind is filled with relevant medical concepts that enable her to look for the right things and tell me whether it’s a cancerous or not. Whereas I can stare at the sore all day and not see what she saw. Believe me, this ability to discern is something very practical. It can make a difference between life and death. Similarly, if your mind is equipped with biblical concepts like creation, sin and redemption, you are able to look at life and the world and see things that others don’t even notice. You can see beyond surface appearance in world events, movies, books, culture or people and discern truth from error, right from wrong, beauty from ugliness.

A good worldview is a very practical thing. When I don’t know the way to STM Seremban, having a good map helps me decide whether to turn left at this junction or right at that traffic light. The map itself is not STM but just a smaller model of the real thing. But if the map is accurate, it can be very useful. In the same way, having an accurate mental map of reality guides your navigation through difficult decisions in the world.

Because what we believe to be true has a powerful influence over how we should live. For example, if we view human life as just a biological machine, we won’t be terribly inclined to treat it with much dignity or respect. It’s just a machine. If it breaks down, there’s no big deal. But if we see human beings as more than biology but also a person made in the image of God with infinite worth, it compels us to treat life as sacred and other people with dignity and respect. Sound theology is practical when it connects to life and flows from the head to the heart and to our hands. True knowledge and living experience should enrich each other.

Nowadays, information about anything under the sun is just a Google search away. We cannot totally isolate ourselves from ideas… even dangerous ideas or deceptive philosophies out there in the market. And if we do not submit our thinking to God’s revelation, then obviously our minds will be easily influenced by worldly ways of life. We may still call ourselves Christians but we absorb notions about wealth, about sex and about success from Lady Gaga music videos, popular movies, novels or Youtube without even knowing it. Our thinking will be shaped by the patterns of this world, all those big words like hedonism that says (Life is short. Grab all the fun you can get), or consumerism (I shop till I drop because my social status depends on what I buy) or pragmatism (Whatever. As long as it works, I don’t care how you do it), and all sorts of other ‘ism or worldviews about life.

But the Bible says: “Do not be conformed to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewal of your minds”. It doesn’t say “Be transformed by the removal of your minds”! So we don’t need to remove our brains in order to be a Christian. In fact, renewing our mind with God’s truth and kingdom values is crucial to our holiness. Jesus says we are light of the world and salt of the earth, But if the salt loses its saltiness or gets mixed up with worldly values, then it is no longer of any use. The way we handle money, success, relationships and power should point the way to a radically different way of being human. For example, the popular culture often makes success, money or sex into an obsession or an idol: “I must have it!” But if we are equipped with a Christian worldview, we will march to a different drum beat. For example… Because sex is a precious gift from God to express a lifelong, exclusive love between a man and a woman, we do not cheapen it but rather celebrate it in the context of an exclusive, self-giving commitment. That means abstinence outside of marriage and faithfulness within marriage.

Regarding power and money, the Christian worldview defines success not as the wealth we accumulate but in terms of serving others. That means a radically generous sharing of our time, energy and resources to social justice and the needs of the poor, the immigrant, and the physically weak. So Jesus’ Kingdom turns the world upside down and inside out: You must die to live. You must lose to gain. Weakness is strength. Joy in the midst of suffering. Love those who persecute you. Pray for those who hate you. It is not the strong or the violent who will inherit the earth, but the meek. If our minds are renewed with a biblical worldview, then we can begin to transform culture instead of conforming to culture.

Reason No 3: Understanding the Christian worldview helps you to be an informed ambassador for Christ to your friends and family (gospel witness).

I wonder if your friends have asked you questions like, “Why do you believe in God? What do you think is the meaning in life? What happens after we die? Why do you believe the Bible?” How would you answer them? Would you say, “Don’t ask so many questions, just believe-lah!”? Last year I met an American lady on a tour bus in Vietnam. She works as a scientist for a research program, trying to find a cure for cancer. As we talked, she told me that she envies her Christian friends for their faith. She says “It’s so easy for them but it’s hard for me to believe because as a scientist, I’ve been trained to think critically and ask questions first”. So I encouraged her, “Sometimes people ask questions not because of unbelief, but because they are serious about the truth”. Then I recommended her a book by a famous Christian scientist as she tried to understand evolution and hope it’s helpful to her.

But to a lot of people like her, when you wish something is true but suspect that it actually doesn’t exist you need faith. And when you know for sure that something isn’t true and you still believe in it, then you must have very great faith indeed. But biblical faith is not wishful thinking, but based on facts. Although faith is beyond reason, it is not against reason. It is not blind faith or intellectual suicide. True faith involves knowledge, agreement and trust. For example, I can examine that this is a chair, it has four legs. That’s knowledge of the facts. But knowing alone is not enough, I must agree that yes, this chair is strong enough to support my weight. But knowing and agreeing alone won’t do me any good unless I put a personal commitment to rest my weight on that chair. So faith has both objective facts as well as personal trust. You need to know the facts of the Christian faith, you need to be convicted that they are true and reliable, and you need to put your personal trust to embrace and practise these truths. Our hearts, head and hands are all involved in the act of faith.

Therefore, our feeling, doing and thinking should also be involved when we witness to our friends. The apostle Peter says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15-16). The command to be ready with an answer for seekers or skeptics’ questions is for the whole church. It is not reserved to an elite group of scholars or intellectuals. All of us are called to be prepared to give our friends a reason for the hope that we have in Christ. To do that, we obviously need to know something about what we really believe and why we believe the things we believe. In other words we need to know the Christian worldview of life.

For example, you may be playing Counterstrike with your friends one day and he turns around and asks you, “Eh, what is the meaning in life, ar? The Bible got answer or not?” How would you answer? If you don’t know, never mind, go home, look it up in books, ask your pastor, do some research and get back to him. But if he asks same question 2-3 times, and your answer is always “I dunno” then it just shows that this is not important even to you so why should I bother? If you understand what the Bible says about the big questions in life, you will be able to use this opportunity to present the gospel effectively. A Christian worldview enables you to compare the answers from other worldviews and show why the biblical answers are much more compelling and satisfying.

Reason 4: Understanding Christian worldview helps you to connect your faith with every area of life

A school teacher once drew a vertical line on the blackboard. On the left, she drew a heart and on the right, she drew a brain. “The heart is what you used to worship God at home. But in my class, we are going to study science with our brains so we shouldn’t mix them together.” The heart is what you used in a relationship with God but the brain is what you used while studying science, computers, economics and history in school. Like it or not, this worldview called dualism is very popular even among Christians.

There is a separation of the heart for spiritual stuffs and the mind for secular stuffs. When that happens, no wonder our faith has so little impact on how we do our work or studies in the world. And no wonder our ‘daily activities’ outside the church has very little to do with God or the gospel. It happens to some young Christians I know that the more they study and work in science, for example, the further they feel apart from God because they have separated the mind from loving God. The famous Christian scientist Kepler once said that when we discover scientific laws in nature, we are actually thinking after God’s thoughts. What true knowledge we discover in biology or physics or chemistry are clues that point us to the wisdom of God and leads us to wonder and worship. All truth is God’s truth.

When was the last time you were encouraged to think Christianly as a student of law, business, information technology or education? We need to develop a Christian mindset for every area in life. A Christian mind is not simply thinking about topics like prayer, worship, bible study or spiritual warfare. Whatever our calling is, we need to learn to think and live “Christianly” in areas specific to what we do – be it in media, education, business, technology, politics or the arts. In humility and boldness, we should creatively integrate our faith with our vocation. What does it mean to be a Christian artist?

If you are a businessperson, you are an “ordained businessperson”. You have been summoned by God to serve Him in that specific sphere of activity. Or, if you are an “ordained lawyer”, you are called to prayerfully explore how your discipline can be used to serve justice and order in society. Or if you are an “ordained artist”, you could create art as a spiritual act of worship and reflect the beauty of creation. With great power comes great responsibility (Spiderman). A Christian worldview allows you to be faithful to your calling and the gifts that God has given you in the marketplace.

Consciously or not, all of us already have some basic ideas about how to look at life and the world that guide our actions like contact lenses through which we see everything else.

The only question is “Is our worldview biblical or not? Do we have a Christian worldview?” It is important for us to examine our worldview together in light of God’s word.

Gordon Fee: why must we choose between ‘fool on fire’ or a ‘scholar on ice’? Lord, help me to be a “scholar on fire”. Not everyone is called to be a scholar, but it is my prayer and hope that we should all be disciples of Jesus whose minds continually grow in knowledge and hearts continually burn with passion.


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