In my post Why Students Fail, I ended by making the claim that one’s wordview matters. I also suggested that for some students, their worldview has an impact on whether or not they graduate from college and on what they get out of their education. This is the first of a series of posts that goes into more detail as to why your worldview matters and what your worldview entails. The book, How Now Shall We Live? by Charles Colson is a helpful introduction to this topic and I will be using it as a basis for this series.
What is a “Worldview”?
According to Colson, a person’s view of how the world works needs to answer three questions:
- Where do we come from?
- What is wrong with the world?
- What can be done to fix it?
It is interesting that the questions Colson suggests, presuppose his own worldview. For example, the third question assumes he believes we have a responsibility to try to fix what’s wrong with the world. I happen to agree with him on that point. In that regard, perhaps the first question represents the crux of a person’s worldview. How you answer that question will determine what questions are to be asked next. For example, if your answer to the question “Where do we come from?” is “We are products of evolution caused by the random forces of matter over time”, then it seems to me the next question would be something like “Is there any purpose to my life?” More than one philosopher has concluded that there is, indeed, no purpose, going so far as to suggest that the only logical course of action is to, upon realizing that fact, kill oneself. Of course, it makes me wonder how the same philosopher came to write a book about the topic!
What is a “Christian Worldview”?
Colson makes clear that he intends to answer the “worldview questions” from a Christian perspective as evidenced by what might be considered his “thesis statement” for the book:
For Christianity is, after all, a reasonable faith, solidly grounded in human experience. It provides a worldview that fits the structure of reality and enables us to live in harmony with that structure.
Charles Colson. How Now Shall We Live? (Kindle Locations 129-130). Kindle Edition.
Colson is not willing to let Christians “off the hook” simply because they claim to adhere to a specific belief system, however. In several different places he contrasts the “belief” side of Christian faith, with the “deed” side of Christian faith, which I have summarized below:
- justification by faith
- private belief
- prayer, worship, etc.
- saving grace
- God’s sovereignty over all
- life system
- redeem culture
- common grace
- counteracting results of sin
Colson’s recurring argument is that Christians tend to focus on the first list while neglecting the second list. If a Christian is to make a difference in the world, it will require action. A similar refrain is echoed in the Bible as follows:
… faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
James 2:17, NIV
Food for Thought
As one who follows Jesus, the introductory chapter of Colson’s book leaves me with some challenging questions:
- What is my own worldview and how is it affecting me?
- If it is my responsibility to bring to pass God’s common grace to the world, then what do I need to be doing to make that happen?
- What about the various other worldviews out there? Are they “just as good” as a Christian worldview?
I’d like to close with the timely words of an author who has influenced me greatly:
I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.
C.S. Lewis, Weight of Glory, “Is Theology Poetry?”