By now I hope that this series has not become or is viewed as a boilerplate summary of a commonly used phrase, but instead is seen as a direct challenge to our conventional thinking. To hold a Biblical or Christian worldview should be counterintuitive and oppositional to the world, and if holding such a view does not place a Christian in conflict with false ideas and the people who hold them, they are doing it all wrong. After all, those who do not hold a Christian worldview are certainly in conflict with Christians and their beliefs in the world today. Why would the same not be true for us?
The Christian worldview is held and kept by discipline on the Christian’s part. This view will be easily lost if the Christian does not make discernment part of his daily work or does not carefully evaluate all of the information presented to him. Just like someone on a diet must constantly evaluate what they eat and purchase, the same applies to a discerning Christian who actually dares to understand and consistently apply his worldview. Keeping a Christian worldview requires a Christian to constantly say “no” to specific ideas and propositions, not because Christians seek to be ignorant, but because a functioning worldview – by definition – acts as a filter.
Establishing a Foundation for the Christian Worldview
In this third of six essays, I want to highlight a particularly Lutheran emphasis on the Christian worldview: Law and Gospel. Just so my definitions are clear and simple, the Law is what we should do and the Gospel is what God has done for us. My intention is to make two things clear, the first of which is that only the Christian worldview offers the Gospel at all. All other worldviews, by definition, only offer a legalistic view of the world. So when other worldviews speak of “grace”, for example, they are stealing from the Christian worldview or benefiting from the “common grace” shared by all residents of planet Earth.
The second point of clarification, is that the conventional wisdom in most congregations today that the Law/Gospel distinction exists to isolate and disparage the Law while celebrating the freeing nature of the Gospel, is a myth. One I hope to destroy. Luther, for example, never sought to denigrate the Law, but distinguish it from the Gospel. That distinction had been destroyed by centuries of medieval theology.
To appreciate the Law/Gospel reality of the Christian worldview though, understand that the Gospel itself is only efficacious for Christians. All other worldviews are legalistic where obedience is demanded, lest the gods or your god or Nature punish you for disobedience. Sacrifice may keep the gods at bay and paying a Carbon Tax may keep Mother Gaia from sending Category 5 hurricanes this year. Or perhaps the god of social justice will bring about utopia when enough wealth has been redistributed and Allah will reward you for living a moral life. As I hope is obvious, even worldviews that do not have an explicit religious foundation have a law and expect obedience to that law. The rewards for doing so are a better world and the consequences for disobedience are apocalyptic.
Christianity, on the other hand, offers grace to the believer because God Himself has become flesh and bore the wrath of the God who has the right to judge. And grace is actually more than “unmerited favor”, it is “demerited favor” in that God actually died for us “while we were yet sinners”, i.e we have been found opposing God. Our position toward God is not a neutral ignorance, but hostile rebellion. Therefore, it isn’t just that we do not deserve favor; we have acted in a way that has earned God’s rebuke. And yet, our sin is not counted against us because of the grace, or Good News of Jesus’ sanctifying death and resurrection for the believer.
So, only Christianity says that God is well aware of our disobedience, and offers Himself as the sacrifice to atone for it. Therefore, whenever another religion uses the word grace, it is at best God looking the other way or it is another definition of grace altogether.
This has had obvious and incredible effects throughout the ages. To be saved by God in spite of our sin and without even the ability to earn such grace, breaks the heart of man and introduces him to a pride-killing humility, kindness, and love towards his neighbor. It leads to a mutually-beneficial outlook and a desire for harmonious living. The Gospel bears fruit in the lives of Christians and in the communities in which they live, which is why schools, hospitals, orphanages, and adoption have organically risen from Christian cultures.
While other worldviews may be interesting, informative, or helpful in tracing the outlines of successful living, only the Christian worldview can truly offer grace.
Misconceptions of the Law and the Gospel
Now, with all of that said, it can easily become the case that Christians develop a negative view of the Law. We are defined by the Good News of Jesus, after all, and thus some will assert that he Law hampers us. It keeps us from blooming, it hinders our truest self from succeeding, or worse “the law accuses” and is used by legalists to shame us. Now however, we live under a “covenant of grace” and live according to the “law of Christ.” Therefore – many Christians believe and teach – that the Law no longer applies to the Christian. Some will even say this includes the moral law, for even it has been abrogated by the death of Christ.
While it is true that Jesus has fulfilled the law and that those who trust in Christ are rightly called saints and their sins will not be counted against them, the moral law of God most certainly remains in effect. Christians are commanded to “love God and love your neighbor as yourself”, a basic summary of the two tables of the Ten Commandments. And how do we love others – that is, by what standard – if not God’s revealed Law? Remember, we have already established that a Christian worldview is defined and limited by the Scriptures. So, the revealed Law of God is at least the guardrails for a moral life.
But it is so much more. The Law is what leads to a prosperous and joyful life. This is self-evident. Do you want a world with more adultery, murder, theft, and lying, or less? While Christians have certainly abused the Law in the past, they have in far more instances revered God’s Law and been restrained from the kind of violence, theft, and adultery that have perennially destroy families and civilizations now and in the past. It is so easy to point out the excesses of the medieval legalism or a strict Evangelical preacher, but the general agreement that the Ten Commandments are good is a blessing on any culture fortunate enough to have imbibed them.
The Bible says that the Law is good, that those who follow it will be blessed (Psalm 1) and the Law of God is “perfect” (Psalm 19.) And yet, how often is God’s Law treated as the boogeyman that has been done away with, slayed as it was by Jesus? But this is not what happened when Jesus lived a perfect life and died on the cross. The Law did not stop being perfect and it did not stop serving as the only possible guide for civilization.
Carrying Forth Law and Gospel and Leaving All the Rest Behind
It remains true that to have a Christian/Biblical worldview, we need to understand what the Law and the Gospel are, how they are different, and how they are both good. It is important that we do not turn the love of God into the Gospel; that is the Law. And it is important that we do not turn God’s grace into something we can earn. Those are two classic confusions of Law and Gospel.
But the sloppy, sentimental messaging that emanates from far too many congregations – Protestant and Catholic alike – is because of the false belief that “all we need is love.” (That is actually total legalism!) So long as the Church or Christians weaken the uniqueness of the Gospel or soft-peddle the applicability of the Law, they are not promoting a Christian worldview. Rather, they are promoting just another form of soft, pagan legalism, freeing the Christian of nothing, and hollowing out God’s authority in the process. It is at least an offense to God and a lost opportunity to boot.
Photo Credit: Lutheran.fandom. com