So, the real question: does all this Worldview 101 stuff really matter in the life of the average Christian? Or is all this talk of esoteric sounding things like "Naturalism" and "Monism" just academic shop talk for self-styled intellectuals? Isn't Christianity simply about loving Jesus with all my heart and trying my best to live for him? How much intellectual, worldview stuff do I really need in order to do that?
Well, a lot actually! As I mentioned before Christiany is much more than just a relationship between myself and God - it's a worldview. The relationship that Jesus enables me to have with God through his death and resurrection becomes the grid through which I learn how the whole world works, and how I fit into it. In other words, Christianity teaches that God doesn't just reconnect me with himself. He goes on to explain all 4 worldview questions: where I came from, what's wrong with the world, what he's doing to fix it, and what the purpose of my life is in relation to all that.
But many Christians today haven't realized that their own faith is a worldview. For various reasons depending on faith tradition, Christians of all stripes tend to see their faith as a purely personal and private matter. The Faith is understood to be dealing with the individual and God, having little or no relationship with the world around us. Instead, American Christians increasingly adopt a secular framework for understanding life, and trying to make their sacred beliefs fit in to that framework. And the results are beginning to show.
Here's a current example: we evangelicals are typically the most theologically conservative group in the nation, holding the Bible to be the innerant message from God which is the final authority on all matters of life. Yet a recent survey from the Pew Research Center indicated that 57% of American evangelicals now say they don't believe Jesus is the only way to God, despite clear Biblical statements to the contrary. 57%!! That's more than half! Shocking, isn't it!?! Actually, such news shouldn't be shocking. For several years now, respected pollsters at The Barna Group have been telling us that less than 10% of Christians (and less than half of all Protestant pastors!) have a biblical worldview.
But how do we explain so obvious a contradiction amongst evangelicals? How can so many Americans simultaneously claim the Bible is absolutely true and life's final authority, yet deny some of it's clear teachings? Personally, I think explaining the contradiction is pretty straightfoward. First, very few Christians understand biblical theology at all. And no wonder - apparently most of their pastors don't either! One wonders how the sheep are supposed to get fed if the shepherds don't even know where the grass is.
But there's another reason that I think is even more responsible: we American Christians have largely accepted the mental framework of our secular culture, and we then filter what Bible doctrine we learn through that framework. In other words, rather than adopting a Biblical worldview we've unwittingly accepted a secular worldview and then tried to understand our faith through that grid. And it's not working.
The Pew survey above is a great example. As mentioned previously, the prevailing worldview in America today is Postmodernism, with its concept of Tolerance. Many American Christians base their worldview on Tolerance. So when the Bible seems to say something that goes against Tolerance, the more deeply held idea will win out. Put another way, I can choose to look at Tolerance through the lens of the Bible, or I can look at the Bible through the lens of Tolerance. Apparently, 57% of American evangelicals choose the latter approach.
And that is why worldviews matter. If I'm not aware of the ideas prevalent around me I will absorb some of them uncritically into my own personal worldview. And some of these ideas are contrary to Scripture. The Christian life is a call to serve truth in a truth-denying world (as Jesus did before Pilate), to serve people in a self-absorbed world (as Jesus did in the Upper Room), and to live for God in a hyper-individualistic world (as Jesus did in Gethsemane). But we can't live Jesus' life apart from Jesus' teachings.
Worldviews matter because we'll never be able to live like Jesus until we learn to think like Jesus. And we'll never learn to think like Jesus until we learn to identify our own individual worldview, and then allow Jesus to begin supplanting it with his own. Only then we will experience what the apostle Paul described as putting off the old man and putting on the new man, with the result that the whole man looks more and more like Jesus every day.