2. The Essential Christian Worldview What is Truth? Why are We Alive?
You have a worldview. Many of you might deny that you have a worldview, but you have one. If you say, “Hey, all I want to do is party, I don’t have a worldview, and don’t need one,” then that is your worldview--the Bible describes that way of thinking as “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may die.” Philosophers would probably call such a view of life “hedonistic nihilism,”(now there’s a couple of $50 words!)--which means “have a good time and don’t care about anything.” Your worldview might have been shaped by religious belief and tradition, by occultism and superstition, by humanism and rationalism, by what you learned as a child from “Sesame Street” and “Mister Rogers,” or by what you hear and see now on “Phil” and “Oprah,” but you have a worldview. Your worldview may be clearly thought out or almost totally subconscious, it may be base or noble, it may be sensible or wacky--but you have a worldview. What is more, your worldview is very important to you. It governs the way you think and live; it guides your decisions about everything you do.
If you are a professing Christian, you have an obligation to think out your worldview. You are pledged by your covenant with the God of the Bible to learn His ways and to follow Him (John 10:27). If you are going to follow Christ, then you need to be aware of how God wants you to view the world, and you need to learn to live by His worldview.
Historically, the Christian Worldview has been determined by the answers to two questions: What is Truth? Why are we alive? These are the two most basic questions that can be asked about human existence. Of course, for us to even ask these questions flies in the face of the common modern worldviews, which deny the existence of Truth, Purpose, and Direction in the universe. For us to say, “these questions make sense,” presupposes the Christian Worldview.
What is Truth?
The accused stood before the Roman governor, who had the power of judge, jury, and executioner. This powerful ruler was accountable to no one on earth but Caesar himself, and his only thought was how to handle this thorny situation in such a way as to please Caesar and advance his own cause. Pontius Pilate was a typical Roman politician--skilled, devious, educated, and thoroughly cynical in his approach to life--he would have made a good 20th century American corporation man. Pilate, no doubt, was not in a fine mood. For Pilate, as for all Roman rulers of Judea before and after him, this time of the year was always a tense one, which is why he had left his normal residence in comfortable Caesarea by the Mediterranean Sea and traveled to this miserable, grim city of Jerusalem--a place full of trouble and troublesome people. The Jews were gathering for one of their interminable religious festivals where they worshipped their strange oriental God, their uniquely solitary deity who was so jealous that He wouldn’t even let them make an image of Himself. It was the Passover, the chief of their feasts, so Pilate was in Jerusalem, where he did not want to be, and he was awakened very early in the morning at the summons of the Jewish religious leaders, to handle the case of this prisoner, Jesus. Pilate had already sent Him to Herod, trying to avoid making the decision, and that wily old fox had deftly sidestepped the issue and landed it back in Pilate’s lap. So here they stood, an inscrutable Jewish prophet, and the Roman governor.
John 18:33-37 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?” “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?” Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” “What is truth?” Pilate asked. (NIV)
We know the rest of the story. Pilate, who really had nothing against this solitary prophet, tried everything he could to worm out of the situation, but when faced with a political threat to himself, “. . . If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar.” (John 19:12), he turned him over to the executioners. Pilate’s words to Jesus, however, ring in our ears, because they sound so current, so “now.” “What is Truth?” Pilate, the cynic, probably had no idea of the answer to his own question--he most likely wasn’t sure there was such a thing as truth, and so it is with many, if not most of the world’s people today. We live in a civilization that will admit the existence of “little truths,” and technological facts. For example, we know that 2+2 = 4, that elements have certain chemical and physical properties, and that bodies in motion behave in a predictable way. However, our civilization officially denies the existence of ultimate Truth--the concept that Francis Schaeffer called “true truth.” For the Christian, however, Truth exists, and it is ultimate, rational, and real.
Your first step in developing and using a Christian worldview is to realize “Thy Word is Truth.” (John 17:17). What a gift you have as a believer! The rest of humanity gropes in the dark for answers about the most basic questions of life, and you have them all, bound up in one book--the Bible. You can know where mankind came from, how we got to be where we are today, and what the future holds for us. You can discover principles and laws that will tell you what is right and what is wrong. If you want to know Who God is, what He is like, and what He wants from you, you can find that out in the Bible--the Bible can even guide your steps in getting to know Him personally. The history of God’s dealing with mankind is founded in literal, historical events--they really happened, and they are recorded for us in the Bible.
The first principle is: There IS such a thing as Truth, it is propositional; it is recorded in God’s Word, it is to be the focal point of our lives, and it is personified in Jesus Christ. Contrary to the teachings and beliefs of human philosophers and occult religionists, Truth exists. Truth is propositional, that means it is something we can put into word, phrases, and sentences that make sense. Truth is recorded in God’s Word (John 17:17). We can find the answers to life’s questions in the Book of Books. Truth is meant to be the focal point of one’s life. We are to know the Truth and to live it.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
Truth is personified in Jesus Christ (John 14:6) Only hours before His encounter with Pilate, Jesus had said, “I am the Truth.” In Him, we see the Truth of God walking in a human body ( John 1:14,18). If you want to know Truth face to face, know Christ.
The second major principle of THY Word is Truth is that Biblical Truth is objective “TRUE” Truth. Unlike liberal, existential forms of the Christian faith, Biblical faith teaches that the events recorded in the Bible are reliable historical facts.
If you look at the apostolic-type sermon, Acts 7:1ff, Acts 13:16ff, Acts 10:34ff, you find that the preaching of the apostles was grounded in the historical truths of the Bible. This is consistent with the preaching of Moses and the prophets of the Old Testament--they were not mystics or philosophers, they preached and taught about God, who is, who acts, and who communicates through personal intervention in, and providential guidance of the history of human events. As the apostles recorded the gospel records, they were careful to stress the reality of what they were writing about the Life and Works of Jesus.
Luke 1:1-4 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
John 20:30-31 Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
John 21:24-25 This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.
Paul in teaching on the resurrection in particular, stressed the eyewitness accounts of it, and the importance of its factuality to the Christian faith.
1 Corinthians 15:1-14 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them-- yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed. But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
Why Are We Alive?
This is another basic question about the universe. Why are we here? What do the various non-Christian philosophies say about the purpose of human life? To begin with, most deny there is such a thing as a purpose. Purpose implies a conscious, personal, active, involved Creator, and Existentialism, Nihilism and Humanism deny that basic assumption. A far more dangerous philosophy that is becoming very popular is the New Age Movement, which says, among other things, that our purpose is to “become one with the universe.”
Another common belief system, The Self Esteem movement, wants us to feel good about ourselves. This movement is represented by popular psychology and psychiatry (including, unfortunately, many “Christian” therapists). Self Esteem is also a foundational belief of various 12-step recovery groups, who have a religious taste to them by use of the concept of “my higher power.” As with any error, there is a grain of truth here--as creations of a Holy God, we are worthy of a certain dignity. But we are fallen; we are rebels. Without salvation through the blood atonement of Christ Jesus, we are not OK! If I help you with some sort of mental and emotional good feeling and heal your anguish about life, etc., and do nothing to bring you to the Cross for forgiveness, I have done nothing for you that will last!
What does the Bible say about the Purpose of Human Life? It teaches that the human race is a special creation of a personal, loving God ... and our purpose as a race and as individuals is to glorify Him, to be conformed to the image of Christ Jesus His Son, and to live with Him forever.
The human race is a special creation of a personal, loving, God. Evolutionary “science,” on very fragmentary evidence, has concluded that our race oozed up from some ‘primordial soup’, crawled out onto the shore, eventually became apes, and then progressed to our current form. This is contrary to the teachings of Scripture (and disagrees with the hard scientific facts, too--see reading list at the end of this chapter). The first chapter of Genesis plainly teaches that God created everything ex nihilo (from nothing), that He simply spoke it into existence (God said, “let there be … and there was …”). In Genesis 1:26-28 Moses outlines God’s creation of the race, then in Genesis 2:7-25, he gives a detailed account. The race of Man was personally created by a personal God--for a purpose, for a reason. That reason is given in one of the most beautiful and profound statements in the Bible:
Revelation 4:11 “Thou Art Worthy, Oh, Lord, to receive Glory and honor, and power, for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are, and were created. (KJV)
We were created for His pleasure--simply because He wanted it that way. Well, if that is the reason we were created, what is our purpose?
The verse just quoted tells us God is worthy of Glory, so as His creatures we should glorify Him. The truth is that all of the human race will bring glory to God, but not all in the same way. Philippians 2 says (speaking of Christ),
Philippians 2:9-11 “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (KJV)
God has decreed that every knee will bow to His Son, including those under the earth, which is a Biblical reference to Hell. We were created to glorify God, and every human being will. Some will do it as they rejoice in heaven over the salvation of Christ, and some will do it as they suffer the just eternal punishment for their sins.
As believers, however, we have a special place in bringing Glory to God. We are to begin glorifying Him by our life as we live it now.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 10:31 “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”… “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (NIV)
The Bible has specific instructions in many places on how to run our lives. It tells us how to run our marriage, our business affairs, our employed lives, and how to conduct ourselves in society and in the church. Our purpose in life as believers is to learn to follow Christ in such a way as to bring Glory to God. A step beyond that concept, however, is the marvelous truth of the final goal of God’s working in our lives. We are to be molded into the image of Christ.
Romans 8:28-29 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (NIV)
1 John 3:1-2 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (NIV)
It is our destiny and reward as believers to be conformed to the likeness, the image, of Christ. We won’t BE Him, as a pantheistic New Ager might say; we will never have His attributes of Omnipotence, Omniscience, Omnipresence, and Immutability--but our actions and our countenance will be like Him.
The final part of the purpose of our existence is to Live with God forever. Oh, what a joy, to live in the presence of God eternally, to have no sin or human troubles to worry us, and to enjoy sweet fellowship with Him!
Now that we have said all this about a purpose for our lives, what are the practical implications of that purpose? How do we take this doctrine and apply it to our lives? This marvelous truth has important implications for all of life’s decisions. We cannot live as if we are independent and free to do whatever we might decide to do. If we are Christians, we don’t own ourselves.
One passage quoted earlier (1 Cor 6:19-20), said that we are “… not your own; you were bought at a price.” We are not, as an old song said, “riding the trail alone.” Paul reiterates this principle in 1 Corinthians 7:23, “You were bought at a price, do not become slaves of men.” All believers are priests (1 Pet 2:5, 9), and are to serve God in every area of their lives. In our family, God is to rule ( Eph 5:33-6:4); our work habits are to be those He wants us to have ( Eph 6:5-9). In our civic duties, we are to exhibit His rule in our conduct (1 Pet 2:13-18, Rom 13:1-8). Indeed, as Paul tells the Colossians, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” (Col. 3:23)
When all of this is taken together, a balanced Christian life will emerge. We will not be either lazy or workaholics; we will have an ordered family with a loving atmosphere; we will serve God in every way. This is how life is to be lived--our life is not separated into our “private, religious life” and our “secular” life. The life of a Christian is to be one seamless tapestry, with all parts working together under the direction of the Holy Spirit, by the rule of God’s word, following God’s Son for the glory of the Triune God.
But what about when things get rough--what are the implications of this teaching in times of trial? How can God “get the glory” when His children go through trials and tribulations? There is now a movement claiming to be Christian which says that God always desires for us to be happy, prosperous, and healthy in this world. This movement, called The Word of Faith Movement, or simply The Faith Teaching, unrealistically and cruelly makes all our problems the result of lack of faith on our part. It assumes that God can do nothing without our puny personal faith. As we will learn in chapter 3, God is sovereign, that is, He rules the universe, including determining the circumstances of our lives--(Dan. 4:34-35; Job 42:1-6). So, if we are in a difficult circumstance, God has caused or allowed it to take place. Trials, therefore, are part of His purpose for our lives, and we are to glorify Him in our trials.
There are several elements to this whole concept that are beyond the scope of this book, but some things you can look at to begin to understand this principle are: (a) This world is not our natural home--we are strangers and pilgrims here (Phil. 3:20, Heb 11:13-16). (b) God’s chastenings are an assurance of sonship (Heb 12:5-13). (c) It is normal for the world system to hate believers; when attacked and under trial from the world, we are following in Christ’s footsteps (1 Pet 2:19-24; John 15:18-6:4). (d) God can and does deliver His people from trials--but not always (Heb 11:32-39). Therefore, our proper attitude in times of trial is to be that of the “three Hebrew children.” These youths, captured by a cruel conqueror and pressed into the service of the enemy king, were faced with a choice: worship heathen idols or be fired (with real fire) Their answer is a masterpiece of theology and practical faith.
Daniel 3:16-18 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (NIV)
God may deliver, or it may be His pleasure not to deliver--we still serve Him, whatever the case. Christian, your life has meaning and purpose--you are to glorify God in all things.
See Appendix 3 for study questions and projects for Chapter 1.