How Should We View Our World?
World View: A way of looking at or thinking about the world so as to make
sense of things, to know how to act or respond in any situation, and to know
one's own place, responsibility, and significance in the world. (My own
Nearly everyone has a world view, whether they realize it or not. Most of
us, in our own limited way, try to 'make sense' of things. We may not attempt
to understand the vast universe in all of its detail and complexity, but we do
feel the need to understand our own world of experiences, relationships and
duties. We need a sense of identity, a knowledge of who we are and what we
should be doing in our world.
But many of our world views are inadequate and too limited in scope. Many
of our beliefs and attitudes, if submitted to critical analysis, would be
found to be based on prejudice, cultural conditioning (being 'raised to think
this way'), or unreliable information. And there are probably many important
topics and issues on which we don't even have a certain opinion. We don't
know what to believe or feel about some things, so we just sort of 'play it by
ear' and hope that we never have to make up our minds.
But the fast-paced world in which we live today doesn't wait for us to
deliberate before it demands from us important moral, social and spiritual
choices. Decisions must often be made immediately, and we may be caught in
the dilemma of not knowing what is right, yet nevertheless having to respond.
Often the easiest route is to allow the circumstances to push us in one
direction or another, or to follow majority opinion. Many young men and
women, for example, who have never seriously thought about how they feel
concerning war and its moral status, could in the future suddenly face a
military draft. Circumstances are definitely in favor of simply submitting to
the draft (the current registration laws also help in that direction) -- it's
considered 'unpatriotic' to refuse to fight for one's country. So, a great
many people's decisions will be easy, as the world around them will 'squeeze'
them 'into its mold' (the paraphrase that J. B. Phillips gives to Romans
All this is not to say whether war is always wrong (I don't feel certain
myself), simply that such important decisions as whether or not to participate
in violent combat resulting in the deaths of many human beings should be based
on firm and reasoned convictions -- not on blind faith in public or majority
opinion, the wisdom of the politicians, or on the ease of following the path
of least resistance.
We who are Christians believe that we have access to a reliable source of
guidance. God has revealed himself and his will in the writings of the Hebrew
scriptures and through the life and teachings of Jesus Christ as reported and
expounded upon in the New Testament. Why is it, then, that Christians often
seem to be as much in the dark on moral and social issues as non-Christians?
Part of the answer surely lies in weak and sinful human nature. For
example, Although Christians know the forgiving, renewing mercy of Christ,
they're not immune to sinful attitudes toward other social and racial classes
or apathy regarding others' sufferings.
But another part of the answer lies in the fact that although Christians
have the resources available to develop the most adequate of world views, they
either fail to work on such a development or that which they do construct is
based on faulty methods of Biblical interpretation. The New Testament, for
example, does not sanction second-class status for women or blacks, but some
Christians have been guilty of using scripture passages outside of their
proper contexts to rationalize and support prejudice and discrimination.
Neither does Genesis chapters one and two indicate how God created the
universe, but some Christians have used these passages as scientific documents
to argue against the theory of evolution. The Bible, when understood
properly, does not conflict with scientific knowledge, although it may
conflict with unsound theory.
It also seems at times that some Christians are too "heavenly minded." To
many Christians salvation and redemption is a matter of "pie in the sky when
you die," or when Jesus returns, whichever comes first. And, "though I won't
set a date (for no man knows the exact hour), look for Him somewhere near 19--
(insert arbitrarily chosen year here)." Many such Christians understand the
Gospel as a matter of being saved from eternal judgment and being assured of
eternal life after the grave. Nothing is said about this present life, except
that we should live in joy because of our future reward, and that we should
always live right so that we won't miss the "rapture" if Jesus should return
today or tomorrow. And, since he will be returning any time now, we should be
primarily concerned with getting everybody "saved" beforehand. There's no
time for long-term commitments to social and moral causes which are probably
This is also an adequate perspective, both Biblically and morally. Christ
did command us to announce the Good News to every creature (Matt. 28, Mark
16), but he also made it clear from his example that we are to be likewise
concerned for people's physical needs. He constantly went about healing
physical illnesses, and two of his greatest miracles had to do with feeding
Young Christians who are presently involved in developing a world view
need to approach their task carefully, critically, and in a sincere attempt to
understand what is necessary for an adequate perspective. With this in mind,
I'd like to suggest a few guiding principles.
To begin with, the Bible states that God created the physical universe
(Genesis 1 & 2), and that man was given the responsibility of bringing nature
under to subjection to God's will and purpose (or, in Biblical language, to
"have dominion" over all of creation). Platonic dualism, wherein the material
world is considered an evil prison from which man must seek to be freed, has
had an unhealthy influence on Christian thought since the early Church ages.
But if God created the material world, then it is not bad in itself.
Otherwise, we would be attributing evil or imperfection to his character. But
it is what man does with the world that makes it a either a good or a bad
place, not the mere fact that it is physical (meaning to many, non-spiritual).
And because the universe is God's creation, because man is meant to
exercise dominion as a steward over it, we must make room within our world
view for a positive attitude toward the natural and physical sciences. The
scientific study of the world enables us to grow in our understanding of God's
way with nature and, very importantly, how we can more wisely exercise our
responsibilities as nature's stewards.
Science and technology has been misused to bring much harm to nature, but
the evil has been due to sinful man, not to science itself. Science has also
enabled us to develop such things as effective vaccinations against many
diseases, farming methodologies that tremendously increase agricultural
production (surely, feeding the world is not a bad thing), and surgical and
delivery room procedures that have greatly increased surgery and birth
survival rates. Christianity has nothing to fear from the sciences, for "all
truth is God's truth." If we don't speak out for the use of science and
technology for morally worthwhile purposes, they definitely will be used by
others to achieve immoral goals (as they often are now). We can't turn back
the clock and return to ignorance -- we need all the scientific understanding
that we can achieve in in order to survive on planet earth.
Neither should we have the attitude: "Well, Jesus will come soon and all
this mess will be over" in order to avoid dealing with problems. The Apostle
Paul also thought Christ might return within his lifetime. What if Jesus
doesn't return in this generation? What if the professional interpreters of
Biblical prophecy have somehow gotten off-track? Might we then through the
above attitude be guilty of having neglected our duty to our world?
Let's work against such a possibility. Christ became flesh, got involved
in the world in order to redeem it, and he said, "As the Father hath sent me,
so send I you." (John 20:21) The Incarnation is God's affirmation that his
will is to redeem the physical, material world, not simply to judge and
Another essential requirement for a wholesome world view is an adequate
concept of God's love and purpose for us. We Christians know that God loved
us so much that "He gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him
may not die, but have eternal life." (John 3:16) But God's love and will
encompasses much more than the forgiveness brought by Christ's death on the
cross. He also desires to restore us to a close, intimate relationship with
him, whereby our own personalities will be fundamentally changed and renewed,
and we will gradually become the whole persons that he created us to be.
But God doesn't love only those who choose to believe in Christ. "He
makes his sun to shine on bad and good people alike, and gives rain to those
who do good and to those who do evil." (Matt. 5:45) God loves and cares for
the needs of all people, whether they know his redeeming grace or not. His
care is much more than concern for their souls. He created the whole person
and he is concerned for human need at all levels of being: physical, mental
and social as well as spiritual.
As Christ's disciples, should our concerns be any less? He has called us
to love as he loves, to be his hands and feet, his body in this world. Our
world view must make room for a love broad enough to reach out to human need
wherever it exists.
Finally, we need to take a close look at how we can work for social change
on a larger scale. Not only do we need to influence individual lives through
close personal relationships, but we should follow the example of Old
Testament prophets such as Jeremiah and Isaiah, who cried out against sin and
injustice committed by their society's major institutions. The governments
and religious establishments of their days were often guilty of oppressing the
poor and favoring the rich, and sanctioning immoral practices and policies.
Should we in the Christian "dispensation" be any less involved than Jeremiah
in working for greater social and economic justice, and for a society openly
and sincerely committed to the things that please God and benefit all men?
Christ called his disciples the light of the world and the salt of the
earth. These analogies imply that our influence is to spread further than
just individual persons -- we are to affect our whole environment. We are
exhorted by Paul, in I Timothy 2:1-2, to pray for all those in governmental
authority; should our concern stop there?
As Christians, we should be aware that our responsibility doesn't end with
prayer for others' needs -- we are to do all we can to help meet those needs.
Surely, this should include things such as addressing the sins of large
corporations and institutions, as well as governments. Wherever society's
structure causes or supports injustice and human suffering, that's where
Christians need to be working toward change for the better.
The development of an adequate world view is a life-long undertaking, as
we will be continually adjusting and rearranging it as we mature in the
knowledge of who we are and what we are about.
Computers for Christ - Chicago
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