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World Views Introduction

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A. Why We Need This Study

We’ve been studying discipleship on Sunday mornings lately. And one of the characteristics of a disciple is that he makes more disciples. And making disciples involves witnessing.

It used to be that most people believed there was a God, that the Bible was God’s word. They believed in heaven and hell and unfortunately, most believed that good people went to heaven and bad people went to hell. If you showed them something in the Bible, they tended to believe it was true because the Bible was “the good book” and thought to be true. And so, you could walk them down the Romans Road or tell them of the Four Spiritual Laws. The usual hurdles to someone believing the gospel were apathy or ignorance.

I was listening to a really good lecture on postmodern evangelism by Tim Keller from the John Piper website. He said the main issue with evangelism in the past was that people knew something about Christianity but it wasn’t personal. They believed in sin, but they had to be shown that “ they” were sinners. So, we came up with programs like Evangelism Explosion, and gospel presentations like the Four Spiritual Laws or the Romans’ Road. The purpose was to encourage people to “do what you know.” They had a Christian intellect, a Christian conscience, but not a Christian heart.1

That has all changed. Now, most don’t believe in God. They don’t believe the Bible is the Word of God. There is little agreement on issues of morality and sin. Now, if you try to present the gospel to someone, you’re more likely to have them say, “That’s just your opinion.” Or “That may be true for you but not for me.”

If you don’t know how to answer statements like these, engaging your neighbor, co-workers, and strangers in a conversation about God, Jesus, life after death, etc. can be frustrating – to say the least – and maybe so scary that you just don’t do it. I certainly don’t have the gift of evangelism. But every once in a while I get up enough courage to try. Several years ago, after one such attempt on an airplane, the person used a similar line on me – something like, “I’m glad you’ve found something that works for you….” and that ended the conversation. I was stumped and didn’t know how to respond.

J.P. Moreland tells the story of how he dealt with that situation. He was witnessing to a student in a dorm room and when the student said, “That may be true for you, but not for me. You can’t force your morality on other people.” JP Moreland thanked the student for his time and when he left the room, he picked up the guys’ stereo and headed out the door. The student said, “Hey, what are you doing? You can’t do that!” Moreland pointed out that the student was trying to force his morality of not stealing on him, … to make a long story short… the student admitted his inconsistency. A few weeks later, the student became a Christian.

What has happened to our culture? The predominant world view is changing. That’s what this series is about. We’re going to study the major world views and how they answer the big questions of life. We are going to examine the different answers and evaluate if they make sense. Hopefully, at the end of this series, you will be better prepared when someone says, “Well, that may be true for you, but not for me.”

We have the strategic advantage because we have the truth. We are going to win the war in the end. But we need some tactical plans for winning battles along the way. We are not going to be learning techniques for arguing. We are going to try to understand the root differences between the world views. Then the inconsistencies will be apparent and easily brought up in conversations with those who hold them.

Some of you may be thinking that we just need to present the gospel and let the Holy Spirit do the rest. While it is true that salvation is a work of the Spirit in the heart of an individual and no amount of logic can convince a person to believe in Jesus, the Bible does actually speak to this issue. 1 Pet 3:15 says we need to be ready to give a defense for what we believe. Paul argued logically with the philosophers in Acts. If we can show someone that they are being illogical or living inconsistent with their belief system, then sometimes that is the first step in them searching for the truth.

Example:

In 1978, when I was a junior in high school. I had a friend named Tim who was a Christian Scientist. He approached me one day and tried to convert me to Christian Science. I’d just finished writing a paper about cults in America. (Imagine doing that in an American History class these days.) So, I knew something about what he believed. My response to him was, “Tim, you wear glasses and braces and your mom is in a wheel chair.” If everything in life is just a product of our imaginations, why would you imagine crooked teeth, bad eyes and you mom imagine not being able to walk? It seems that you don’t even believe your own religion….” He didn’t have an answer for that.

Then in about 1993 or 1994, I was walking across the Dallas Theological Seminary campus and a tall blond headed guy came up to me and said, “Hampton Keathley, do you remember me?” I recognized him and said, “Tim, what are you doing here?” I was remembering that the last time I saw him, he was a Christian Scientist. He said, “You remember that conversation we had in high school? It got me to questioning my beliefs and here I am…”

So, the bottom line of why we need this study is so that we can understand the various world views and can interact with our culture and be an effective witness for Christ. We need to be able to answer honest intellectual questions, but at the same time realize that no amount of logic will convert someone if they are not intellectually honest and seeking the truth.

B. What is a World View?

Your world view is your concept of reality. It is your assumptions or presuppositions about what makes the world go around. Everyone has a world view even if they cannot explain what it is. But a world view is not just some academic, abstract, philosophical construct. It describes our search for answers to life’s most important questions.

Your world view affects the way you look at everything…life, death, politics, religion, parenting, education, etc. Some have likened a world view to a set of glasses through which you see life. Your world view glasses affect how you view certain events and how you respond to them. If your glasses have the correct prescription, then you will see the world accurately. If they are the wrong prescription, your view of the world will be distorted.

I’m reminded of an old country and western song by John Conlee called “Rose Colored Glasses.” The chorus went like this:

“These rose colored glasses, that I’m looking through,
Show only the beauty, cause they hide all the truth,”

His glasses were distorted. As in most country and western songs, the lady didn’t love him any more and he couldn’t see it.

Ronald Nash says, “A world view is a set if beliefs about the most important issues in life.”2 So that leads us to ask what are the most important issues or questions in life? After looking at a dozen books on the subject, it seems that there are several standard world view questions that are asked:

C. The World View Questions:

1. Why is there something rather than nothing? or What is the Origin of the Universe?

Does anything really exist? Is it all a figment of our imagination? If it does exist, did it always exist? Is everything that exists just result of time + chance? Or is there a supernatural being out there who created the universe?

2. Is there a God?

Is there a supernatural being that is above time and space? Is that supernatural being just a force, like in Star Wars, or Mother Nature? Or is there a personal God? If so, what is he like?

3. What is the Nature of Man?

Is man just an animal that has evolved differently? Or is he something special? Another part of the question is this: Is man basically good but society makes him do bad things? Or is man’s badness built in?

4. What is the Basis of Ethics and Morality?

We can’t really talk about man being good or bad without having some sort of personal opinion about what is good and what is bad. Where do we get our ideas of good and evil? From ourselves? From nature (survival of the fittest)? From society? From God?

5. Why is there evil and suffering?

The occurrence of evil in the world causes some to conclude that there is no God. The argument is that, if there is a God, then he must not be good or he must not be all-powerful, or he would not let all these bad things happen.

6. What happens after we die?

Do we just cease to exist? Do we get reincarnated and come back to earth as a cow or another person? Do we get absorbed into the cosmic consciousness? Or do we face God and judgment?

This is a hard one to “prove” to someone since we are talking about the future. So

7. What is the meaning of history?

Is history a meaningless series of events that just happen? Or is there some purpose to history? Why are we here?

8. How do you know that you know?

We have a truth problem in our society. Anyone who claims to know the truth is criticized as trying to impose “his view” on others. Our society preaches that there is no “truth.”

Is there such a thing as truth? How do you know what is true? Do you know stuff because of reason, experience, supernatural revelation, etc.?

D. The Major World Views

1. Theism

Theism is the belief that there is a personal God outside of time and space who created the universe out of nothing and is involved in events (supernaturally). He reveals himself to man through nature and through the Bible (Christians) or the Torah (Jews) or the Koran (Muslims). He sets the rules for mankind. And there will be eternal consequences for breaking the rules.

Deism is similar to theism. God created everything, but is no longer involved in creation. There is nothing supernatural going on. Praying is a waste of time. Famous people who believed this were Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine. It’s not real popular these days because folks who would normally be deists have substituted evolution as an explanation of the origin of the universe.

2. Pantheism

Everything is god. Everything material is an illusion. Humans are gods. Knowledge is getting in touch with the cosmic consciousness. One of the favorite terms you’ll hear from pantheists is “enlightenment.” History is cyclical and men are reincarnated until they realize their own divinity. This world view is the basis for Hinduism, Buddhism, Christian Science, and New Age teaching.

3. Naturalism

There is no God. The world and mankind just evolved. Men are just the product of their environment. Morality is decided by man. There is no purpose to history; it just happens. When you die, you cease to exist.

4. Pluralism

Naturalism has undergone a major change in the past 50 years. Enough of a change that it deserves its own category—Pluralism. Pluralism is very similar to Naturalism, but it’s sort of a cafeteria style world view. People mix and match various aspects of the other world views. It is extremely inconsistent, but that doesn’t seem to matter in a postmodern world.

The shift from Naturalism to Pluralism corresponds to the shift from Modernism to Postmodernism.

I’ve used the terms modernism and postmodernism a couple times already and some of you may be wondering what in the world I’m talking about. So, let’s define them.

Modernism: Prior to the Renaissance everyone believed in God and the supernatural. But around 1500 several things happened. Gutenberg developed the printing press which made books available to the masses and learning grew exponentially. Martin Luther began the Reformation, the Renaissance began with the whole new emphasis on art, science, humanism, etc. Reality was what you could see and measure. The myth of progress captivated the world. Man came to believe that science would solve all the problems of mankind. Science would discover the cure for all diseases, control the weather, end poverty, bring about world peace, etc. There were World Fairs touting the marvels of the modern age. This period, called “Modernism,” lasted from the 1500’s to 1960’s. Incidentally, lots of folks believed in post-millennialism as a direct result of this. They thought we were in the millennium and Christ was coming back at the end of it. But that’s another lesson.

Postmodernism: But after the Second World War, people were disillusioned. (Including the post-millennialists) The war to end all wars (WWI) didn’t. WWII and the holocaust happened. It was obvious we weren’t going to bring about world peace. Science wasn’t curing very many diseases. In fact, cancer was becoming more and more prevalent. People recognized that science wasn’t solving man’s problems. Science hadn’t brought about a utopia of progress uniting the human race like it promised. In fact, modernism was rather weak on relationships. People were just cogs in the machine. So, society began rejecting modernism (science) and moving toward something we call “postmodernism.” The name “post”-modernism means “after”-modernism. People are now looking for something else to explain reality. Since naturalism has rejected the existence of God, we have moved from science (with its truth/facts) to existentialism which is basically experience, spirituality, and pragmatism (whatever works).

This shift from modernism to postmodernism is a process, and our generation is right in the middle of it and as such, we are all a little of both.

I think one of the best ways to illustrate this is by comparing older commercials with new ones. Old commercials had guys in white lab coats touting the virtues of various products. Why were they in white lab coats? Because it made them look like scientists and led you to believe that what they were claiming was a scientific fact. Postmodern commercials, on the other hand, consist of beautiful and or rugged looking individuals having a good time in exotic locations. Compare the old Coke/Pepsi “taste test” commercials with the more recent ones. The “taste test” was supposedly a scientific measurement. More people preferred Pepsi. Now you are inundated with multiple images of folks having a great time drinking Coke. Or you’re encouraged to just “Be a Pepper,” etc.

Let’s get back to our discussion of the major world views.

The following Chart gives a basic overview of how each world view answers the world view questions.3

 

Theism

Pantheism

Naturalism (Modernism)

Pluralism (Postmodernism)

God

Personal

Impersonal

Non-existent

Non-existent

World

Creation

Spiritual

Evolution

Evolution

Man

Like God

Is God

Like Animals

Like Animals

Immortality

Resurrection

Reincarnation

Annihilation

Annihilation

Reincarnation

Destiny

Glorification

Absorption

Extinction

Extinction

Authority

Divine Revelation

Spiritual Enlightenment

Human Reason

Culture

Truth

Absolute

Personal

Objective/Science

Relative/Cultural

Evil

Rebellion/Sin

Illusion

Ignorance

Culturally Defined

History

Linear

Cyclical

Chaotic

Re-Defined

E. Discussion

I mentioned at the beginning that your world view affects how you look at everything and gave some examples:

How would one’s world view affect your view of education?

  • · If truth is absolute, then 2 + 2 = 4. If it’s not, then 2 + 2 = whatever the group decides. And we’ve actually heard some of this type of stuff in the modern education system.
  • · You might teach evolution as a fact of science and creation as a religious belief.

How would it affect your political views on subjects like separation of church and state, abortion, gay marriages? When you hear these issues discussed on TV or radio and you ask yourself, “How can someone believe that?” The reason is because of their world view.

  • · Your view of the nature of man and your source of truth will affect your opinion on those issues. For example: Homosexuality is something that happens to you at random (evolution). It’s ok because your culture has decided it’s ok (pluralism). But we’ll discuss how the naturalist, who thinks Homosexuality is the result of random evolution is not being consistent because, since he subscribes to the belief in the survival of the fittest, Homosexuality would result in extinction of the species.

We are inundated with advertising messages, news stories, TV programs, etc. which often reveal something of the speaker’s or author’s world view. Most people don’t even notice. Here are a some examples:

  • · A long time ago there was a beer commercial which said, “You only go around once in life, so go for all the gusto you can.” What world view is embedded in that message? Answer: The most important thing in life is pleasure. There is no life after death, therefore no responsibility. So, live it up now.
  • · I recently heard a news story where some school children had defaced or destroyed some school property. The teacher being interviewed said, “They are basically good kids, but they …come from under-privileged homes…” That statement reveals what that teacher’s view of human nature is. Man is basically good, but society makes them do bad things. That doesn’t explain why rich kids do the same kind of pranks. It is, therefore, a bad explanation of the cause of the prank. But it doesn’t matter if the teacher being interviewed is “wrong.” It’s just her opinion and there are no wrong opinions in a post-modern culture.
  • · Or think about all the commercials that tell us we “deserve” something. I recently heard a mortgage company ad say that even if you have bad credit, we can get you that home loan you deserve. Or the auto leasing company can get you that nice car that you deserve. What is behind those statements? I think it’s something more than just slick marketing. If people borrow themselves into bankruptcy, why are they no longer responsible for their actions?

We live in a pluralistic society which says that everyone’s opinion is valid. It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you are sincere. But is it really possible for one world view to teach that man is basically good and another one to teach that man is basically bad and both be correct? Or for one to teach there is no life after death and another to teach that there is? That is logically not possible. So, one’s world view may be accurate or inaccurate.

But how do we decide which is correct? How do we know what the truth is? That is one of the questions we will try to answer in our study. In fact, it is foundational to the whole process of choosing which world view is correct, so we will tackle that question first – next week.

F. Conclusion

We haven’t even opened our Bibles yet. The reason is I felt like we needed to lay out the problem first and define some of the terms we will be using for the rest of the series. In subsequent lessons, we’ll spend more time because we’ll be examining how the Bible answers each of the questions.

But the Bible does have something to say about why there are so many world views. Let’s read Romans 1:18-32.

  • · Does it sound like our culture?
    “Not only do they do them, they approve of those who do.” Stuff that was unthinkable or only done in secret 50 years ago is now done in public and even paraded as a badge of honor.
  • · What does this passage say about why there are so many world views?
    Answer: Man is trying his best to deny the existence of a Creator to whom he is responsible.
  • · According to our passage, Is truth knowable?
    It says that “God’s attributes can clearly be seen through creation.” So truth is knowable. Just because people “suppress the truth” doesn’t mean there is no truth.

Our culture is thoroughly secular. It has totally bought into naturalism and pluralism. Through public education, the nightly news, movies, radio and TV, we are constantly taught evolution, that man is no better than animals, that criminals aren’t responsible for their actions, that there is no absolute truth, etc. The Bible is certainly not viewed as authoritative. It is seen as just a collection of myths or fables.

Our goal over the next few weeks is to take each of the world view questions and see how each world view answers the questions and see what the Bible says is the answer. We will see if the Bible’s answers are more reasonable than those of the competing world views. We will also spend a week studying the reasons we believe the bible is inspired.

If you are not a Christian, then hopefully this study will help you evaluate your own world view and compare it to what the Bible says. One of the most prevalent attitudes today is that there is a division between Faith and Reason. One’s religion is a private matter and based on blind faith. Public issues on the other hand are based on science and reason. What this series will show is that Faith versus Reason is a false dichotomy. The question should be, “How reasonable is your faith?” Because you will see that all world view systems are based on certain assumptions that we take on faith. The pantheist assumes that the world is immaterial. He can’t prove that nothing exists. In fact, all his senses cry out that he is wrong. The naturalist assumes that God doesn’t exist and then comes up with explanations for things that don’t include God.

If you are already a Christian, then hopefully this study will help you develop a consistent Christian world view. And hopefully, you will understand why you believe what you believe and be able to defend your beliefs when subjects like morality and ethics come up.

One of the criticisms I’ve heard about studying other world views is that it makes it seem like Christianity is just one of the options. And some have said that their faith was shaken because of studies like the one we are beginning.

Last week I was talking with Matt and he mentioned Peter’s response to Jesus in John 6. After Jesus told everyone that he was the bread of life and that they needed to drink his blood and eat his flesh, many of his disciples left. Jesus turned to the 12 and asked, “You don’t want to go away too, do you?” Peter’s response was “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God!”

It seems to me that this applies to our topic. Whenever we encounter something in the Bible that is hard to understand, or our faith is at a low point. That is not a reason to abandon our faith. When we know what the other options are – pantheism, naturalism, etc. We know that the Christian world view doesn’t just have a different set of answers to life’s important questions – it has the “only” answers that make sense.

So, this series shouldn’t jeopardize your faith. It should strengthen it when you realize that the other world views aren’t valid options. Their answers are nonsense.

1 Jim Keller, The Supremacy of Christ and the Gospel in a Postmodern World. Audio message from desiringgod.org.

2 Ronald Nash, World-Views in Conflict. p. 16.

3 A modified version of a chart from Mindgames seminar by Probe Ministries.