Christian worldview vs. the Gospel of Jesus Christ

One of my main concerns with the whole concept of “Christian worldview” (which has become quite a trendy thing in the past few years) is that it seems to imply that Christians by default have a different (i.e., better) understanding of the world and reality and that out of that understanding flows a superior ethical framework by which we can make ethical decisions, knowing what is right and wrong, doing the right and declaring to others when they are, and when they are not.

This troubles me because there is an underlying self-assuredness (one might well call it arrogance) that I find at odds with the sort of life I see Jesus calling his followers to in the Gospels, the sort of life lived out in Acts and the rest of the NT. What I see there is always more of a limited understanding and a dependence on obedience to the command of God, the leading of the Holy Spirit, to know what is right to do. More than once in Acts, Paul tries to go in one direction, but the Spirit sends him in a different direction. The sermons in Acts focus almost exclusively on the basic story of Jesus. The epistles give us more teaching content, but most of them deal with specific issues relating to their initial audiences. We can glean truths from them, but we have to be careful doing that outside their context. For example, Paul sends Onesimus back to be a slave under Philemon. Paul tells Philemon to receive him back in love, but he still sends him back. We could easily read this as Paul approving slavery (this IS how this was read in the antebellum South), but that is making more of it than Paul likely intended, and a bad distortion of the overall way Jesus established.

Don’t get me wrong, I am firmly committed to the foundational teachings of the Christian faith (e.g., those laid out in the Apostles’ Creed). But we affirm belief in those long before we understand what they mean. Believing itself is an act of obedience, a trust in the Spirit of Jesus to lead us into all truth. But how can the Spirit lead us into truth if our worldview already has it all figured out? How can we walk as disciples in obedience if our worldview enables us to make ethical decisions on our own? Do you notice how close this puts us to the original sin of Adam and Eve? To the extent that a “Christian worldview” lessens our dependence on the Holy Spirit to lead us into truth and teach us to walk in obedience, we should reject it as just another attempt to make ourselves gods, which is what all religion is. Which is sin. Which is why God hates religion.

The (in)famous rebuttal to this is that Christians are always supposed to be ready to give an account for the hope that we have (1 Pet. 3.15). Many Christians immediately take this to mean we need to have everything figured out, be able to explain it all, which is where the whole Christian worldview concept came from, just a nicer, more philosophically tame version of apologetics. But this gets it all wrong. Giving an account for our hope doesn’t mean explaining the whole story of the world. It means one thing. Telling them about Jesus. He is the reason we have hope. This brings us right back to Acts, where all they talk about the whole time is Jesus. What Jesus did while he was on earth. What Jesus did when he met Paul on the Damascus Road. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Our hope is in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The opposite of all religions. Especially the Christian one.

the importance of the body

The other day I tweeted that I have noticed a troubling trend among my theology students: too few understand or even speak of the resurrection of the body. Most will acknowledge it after I point it out, but by default they tend to discuss the afterlife in terms of a body-less existence. Here are a few more thoughts on that.

In neglecting the teaching of the resurrection of the body, I think we show how little we appreciate the importance of the body – the human body – in the Christian faith. Christianity (especially in its north American Protestant-evangelical form) has become too much of a cognitive religion, more about thinking (we call it believing) the right things, less about doing things that demonstrate trust (what the Bible means by believing) in the Lord. This brings us much too close to the ancient heresy of Gnosticism. In this form of Christianity, we are less able to account for the fact that most acts of sin are bodily acts (e.g., adultery, lust) or involve physical objects (e.g., stealing, coveting).

We are also unable to account for the fact the Jesus required his followers to engage in acts that were primarily physical in orientation, e.g., feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick or imprisoned, laying hands on the sick and healing them of physical ailments. These are things Jesus did and set his followers to doing. Some of them we still do, but we often fail to understand the spiritual import of such acts precisely because we have severed the connection between the physical and spiritual in our thinking. They were not separate in Jesus’ thinking. Feeding the hungry was not some side project for Jesus, he set it as one of the fundmental criteria on which we will be judged – as in eternally judged.

Visiting those who are sick or in prison is not just a nice thing to do, it is a fundamentally spiritual act. Laying hands on someone who is sick and praying for them is a physical act that invokes real spiritual power to gain a phyiscal result. Does that even make sense to us? Or has the physical been so divorced from the spiritual that we cannot even imagine such a thing happening? Is this perhaps why we don’t see it happening?