Well, if you have graced me with reading the previous five essays in this series on establishing a Christian or Biblical Worldview, you may have noticed that they have been a little tough in tone. That was intentional. Because phrases like “biblical worldview” or “Christian worldview” are thrown around so often with no real sense of clarity, I wanted to clarify such terms and draw a line between a truly biblical or Christian worldview and a secular or humanist one. I wanted to make it abundantly clear that the Christian faith demands certain commitments: commitments to the Bible as God’s Word, to God’s monarchical rule, to a society that recognizes the centrality of human dignity and the family, and more. And while I have not gone into meticulous detail on how this worldview works out in a judicial framework or with other social/cultural/political issues, my point of defining this worldview has been to provide guidance for any number of present or future particulars.
To make and keep those commitments should place the Christian in conflict with the world in which they live. If they are not in some such conflict, then they are doing something wrong. There should be costs to following Christ, even in a nation that is considered to be broadly “Christian.”
The Grace that Abounds in the Christian Life
So, after all of that tough talk of conflict and dividing lines, is there anything positive that the Christian worldview has to offer? Well, yes, I am glad you asked! In fact, what the Christian worldview has to offer is so positive, its own positivity is frequently turned against it. This was predicted by Saint Paul and, among others and only as an example, spoken against by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In short, it is “cheap grace”, i.e. the abuse of God’s free gift of grace in the justification of loose living. Saint Paul asks, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2, ESV)
Clearly we live in an era not of deprivation, but of abundance, and even the church can be guilty of celebrating indulgence. Our abundance has convinced us that we can live lives wholly apart from God, on our terms, at our discretion, and by our own standards. So the Christian Church has the unenviable role of proclaiming a hard word first - as a pretext - for the good world that God wants for us. We have to first burst the bubble of autonomous man convinced of his own greatness and draw a line between himself and the Christ follower before we can access the benefits.
Unfortunately, what too many “churches” are offering is a meal comprised of only dessert. Christianity is merely sweetness and light, with few conflicts, except perhaps telling people they are too rich. Such cheap grace is not only killing the church (across Protestant and Catholic lines), it is creating confusion about how the fruits of the faith are actually achieved. That is, grace and peace and hope and joy and love are seen as fruits of Christianity that just sort of magically appear rather than fruits that are born as the result of previous commitments. Just as your payment at the end of a workday is the normal course of events, so the fruits of the Spirit are shared among the broken-hearted men and women who want them.
The Fruits of a Christian Worldview
So, assuming that the other commitments are agreed to be good and worthwhile, then what role do these wonderful fruits of faith have in the Christian worldview? Well, surely, they should be quite prominent! Indeed, the entire defense of our faith assumes that we are hopeful enough that someone dares to ask us just what makes us so happy: “…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…”(1 Peter 3:15, ESV) So, our hope should be so obvious that others will want to know its origin. And that is when we share the Christian Gospel.
But what is the real core of hope or peace or joy? When I am asked this question, my answer is simple: my hope is in an empty tomb. If Jesus was not raised from the dead, then, sure, I really have no confidence that any religious claims are true and I would be wise to be skeptical of them all. But because Jesus was raised from the dead, then I am, through faith, in possession of a promise that I too will be raised from the dead. Well, golly, if I am an eternal being, then it becomes much harder to see this life as pointless, no matter how hard it is. So I have hope.
And as a follower of Jesus, I am commanded - above all else - to love God and to love my neighbor. Love cannot be forced. It flows freely in the life of the Christian and it has a legitimate source: God himself. The scriptures say that “God is love” and Jesus says , “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15;13). Which, of course, Jesus did. Beyond cheap talk about love, Christians are in the throes of it. They cannot honestly consider themselves a Christian if they hate their neighbor. Christianity itself is a forcing function either to the abandonment of Christianity or a reconciliation of relationships. What society would not be better off with such an imperative and a God who “first loved us?”
Joy is not superficial or temporary happiness, but a deep contentment in spite of the fallenness of the world. Joy is what underlies a Christian’s personality. It keeps a Christian from getting too high or too low about things that don’t ultimately matter. Joy is what emanates when you know that you have been reconciled to your Creator and you know that your life matters. It is not hard to tell if a person possess joy or not, and a joyful person is often not in despair even when they have good reason to be.
Peace is similar to joy with the exception that it is something we are expected to share. Peace is the outworking of joy. Yes, it is something to be found in our hearts, but peacemakers are blessed. So to the extent we can, we are arbitrators of peace and we avoid quarreling. We obey the law and respect authority. In every way and at every level, Christians are promoters of peace, with a command to avoid fighting among ourselves, our neighbors, and, of course, other nations. No, Christians have not always perfectly obeyed this command, as the Crusades are the usual - but often trite - example of warfare in the name of Christ. But generally, the spread of Christianity has meant the spread of peace.
And finally, grace. Actually, this was touched on in the essay on the Law and Gospel of God. Only Christianity offers grace, because only Christianity has an incarnate God who pays the price for sin and saves us. Grace is, by definition, undeserved and unearned, and every religion except for Christianity - and arguably many flavors of Christianity - teaches that man is in the driver’s seat. While that may sound empowering, it is actually a dreadful load to carry. But because grace is receiving that which is undeserved, the Christian projects that grace into the world and among their neighbors. How wonderful it is to be a recipient of grace!
A Christian/Biblical Worldview Defined Now and for the Future
So, there you have it. While not exhaustive, I hope I have laid down some markers that more tightly defines what is meant by a “Christian” or “Biblical worldview.” Perhaps future essays can elaborate on more specific and debated questions like the death penalty or birth control or the application of Old Testament law. Issues like how/if one consumes popular culture, the use of borderline medical procedures, or whether public schools are still tolerable could all stand addressing. But none of those issues, however important, rise to the level of absolutes for what is commonly called the Christian capital “W” Worldview. Those who share a genuine Christian worldview will likely agree on the peripheral issues precisely because they agree on the foundational issues first.
For now, I hope to have offered some challenging limits and let the Christian know where they really need to stand if they bear the name of Christ for the world to see.
Photo Credit- yeahcatholic.com