Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Is there a "Christian Worldview"? I think so...

When people start talking about 'worldview' I cant help but join in the discussion. Benjamin Meyrs has asked the question Is there a "Christian Worldview"? He notes how it has become fashionable to speak of a "Christian worldview", but that the concept itself "drastically undermines the nature of faith". He states that the faith can exist "alongside and within a great diversity of worldviews", while at the same time reamining "something wholly other, something radically distinct from any such worldviews."

Jim West has followed on with a post affirming that there needs to be a "Chrsitian center" and it that "the failure to recognize a "worldview" and its inherent necessity is the most profound weakness of present day theology". I am inclined to agree with him.

What I think is happening though is that the term "worldview" is being used by all and sundry with no agreed upon defenition of what it actually is, which might be the reason for Jim's apparent hesitancy to use the term "Christian worldview"). What constitutes a worldview? I essentially follow N. T. Wright's outline in The New Testament and the People of God.

And so to offer a defenition in the hope of some clarity - "Worldviews" are the presupositional, normaly pre-cognitive framework through which we percieve external reality:
“There a four things which worldviews characteristically do, in each of which the entire worldview can be glimpsed…worldviews provide the stories through which human beings view reality… from these questions one can in principal discover how to answer the basic questions that determine human existence: who are we, where are we, what is wrong, and what is the solution? (p124; he later added a fifth, 'what time is it?') …[these stories and answers] are expressed… in cultural symbols… worldviews include a praxis, a way-of-being-in-the-world.” (p125) “Worldviews are thus the basic stuff of human existence, the lens through which the world is seen, the blueprint for how one should live in it, and above all the sense of identity and place which enables human beings to be what they are.” (p125)

Taking this defenition of worldview, it is clear that Christianity constitutes a worldview. Myer asks further however:
"Even if we did suppose for a moment that there is such a thing as a “Christian worldview,” how would we decide what kind of worldview this is? Is it the primitive worldview of ancient Israel? Or the apocalyptic worldview of the historical Jesus? Or the more Hellenistic worldviews of Paul and John? Or the Neoplatonic worldview of the fourth century? Or the Aristotelian worldview of the medieval church? What would be the criteria for choosing one of these worldviews over others?"

What I propose (and this will be part of my paper) is that the biblical story is to act as our controlling story or "worldview-story" (p135). In this way we dont have to arbitrarily choose between the worldviews of the various authors/characters and are able to still affirm the bible's place in defining the Christian worldview.

This worldview-story must be distinguished from all the other stories we tell ourselves, as the story which which gives a prespective and meaning to all of history and life. As Richard Bauckham explains:

“To accept the authority of this story is to enter into it and inhabit it. It is to let this story define our identity and our relationship to God and others. It is to read the narratives of our own lives and of the societies in which we live as narratives which take their meaning from this metanarrative that overarches them all.” (Scripture and Authority)

The "Christian worldview", I propose, at its most fundamental level is defined by the biblical story, which in turn provides answers to the five fundamental questions concerning life and the world. The details which constitute this story are of course open to varying degrees of debate. This I leave for another post. But we must be clear that beliefs about whether homosexuality is right or wrong (for instance), or the structure of church leadership, are not part of the worldview as such. It is when issues such as these are said to part of the "Christian worldview" that the confusion emerges. And I suspect that "worldview" has sometimes been used as a tool to force positions upon people or to condemn people over issues which arent truly so central and intergral to Christianity as supposed, and which are genuinely debatable.

No comments: