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Archive for January, 2014

What it TAKES to Make a Worldview

This is the fourth post in a 5-part series (part 1, part 2, part 3) by Dr. James N. Anderson, associate professor of theology and philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary. He is the author of What’s Your Worldview?: An Interactive Approach to Life’s Big Questions.


In the first three articles in this series I introduced the concept of a worldview and explained why it is beneficial to think in terms of worldviews. In this article, I want to go into more detail about what a worldview is and what makes up a worldview.

Earlier I defined a worldview as an overall view of the world—specifically, a philosophical view of all of reality. Here’s a more technical and precise definition of a worldview:

A worldview is a network of ultimate beliefs, assumptions, values, and ideas about the universe and our place in it that shapes how a person understands their life and experiences (and the lives and experiences of others) and how that person acts in response.

But what exactly are these ultimate beliefs, assumptions, values, and ideas? What do they concern? In teaching on this subject I’ve found it helpful to use a simple acronym—TAKES—to break down a worldview into five basic areas or subdivisions:

  • Theology
  • Anthropology
  • Knowledge
  • Ethics
  • Salvation

With these five key areas in view, we can identify the basic ‘ingredients’ of a worldview. We can see what it TAKES to make a worldview. Let’s consider each area in turn.

Theology

Theology (from the Greek word theos) is most simply defined as the study of God. Every worldview has a theology; that’s to say, it reflects some kind of perspective on God. Its view of God may be very precise or it may be very vague. It may be explicit or implicit. It may be primarily negative in its perspective, focusing more on what God isn’t than what God is. But every worldview has a ‘take’ on God.

Some key questions we might ask of a worldview under this heading would be:

  • Is there a God? (The most important question of all!)
  • What is God like?
  • Is God a perfect being?
  • Is God a personal being?
  • How does God relate to the world? (According to some worldviews, God is transcendent and distinct from the world; according to others, God is identical to the world; still others take a position somewhere in-between.)
  • How does God relate to human beings in general?
  • How does God relate to me?

You might think that atheistic worldviews cannot have a theology because they deny there’s a God in the first place. But even atheistic worldviews have something to say about God, even if it’s only that he doesn’t exist! Moreover, when atheists deny the existence of God they still have some conception of what God would be like if he existed. (Otherwise, how could they know what they’re denying?)

Even atheistic worldviews, then, have a kind of theology, albeit a negative one. In fact, we can go further and observe that every worldview has its own ‘god’ in the sense that it posits some kind of ultimate reality (e.g., physical particles) and some kind of ultimate authority (e.g., science). What a worldview affirms about ultimate reality and ultimate authority functions as its theology.

Anthropology

Anthropology (from the Greek word anthropos: ‘man’ or ‘mankind’) is the study of human beings. Just as every worldview has its own theology, so every worldview also has its own anthropology. It represents a certain perspective on humanity, on our fundamental nature and purpose.

Some key questions we might ask of a worldview under this heading would be:

  • What are human beings? What kind of beings are we? (Are we creatures made in the image of God? Are we gods-in-embryo? Are we the unintended products of naturalistic evolution? Something else altogether?)
  • Where did we come from? (Note how this is closely related to the first question!)
  • Are we purely physical beings or embodied souls?
  • Are we special or unique in any way?
  • Do we exist for any particular reason or purpose?
  • Are we basically good, or basically bad, or something in-between?

Already you should be able to see how the first two areas of a worldview are closely connected. What we believe about God has significant implications for what we believe about ourselves, and vice versa.

Knowledge

Knowledge is widely viewed as a very useful and important thing. Knowledge is certainly more valuable than mere opinion. If I were to tell you that eating a whole raw cabbage every day would add a decade to your life, it would matter to you whether I really knew that to be true!

A worldview will typically have something to say about our knowledge: about what we can know and how we can know it. It will also have things to say on closely related subjects, such as truth, logic, reason, experience, intuition, and revelation. (All of these topics fall under what philosophers call ‘epistemology’.)

Some key questions we might ask of a worldview under this heading would be:

  • Can we know anything at all?
  • What can we know about God?
  • What can we know about the universe?
  • What can we know about ourselves?
  • What is the best kind of knowledge to have?
  • How do we know what we know? (Or to put the question another way: What are the sources of knowledge? Divine revelation? Reason? Intuition? Science? Sensory experiences? Mystical experiences?)
  • Are there any limits to our knowledge?
  • What are the best ways to improve and expand our knowledge?

Ethics

Just as every worldview has a distinctive take on truth and knowledge, so it has a distinctive take on goodness and morality. To borrow from the title of a book by Francis Schaeffer: every worldview has something to say in answer to the question, “How should we then live?”

Some key questions we might ask of a worldview under this heading would be:

  • What is the highest or ultimate good? (God? Love? Knowledge? Pleasure? Power?)
  • Is morality real or merely illusory? Are some things really right or wrong?
  • Is morality objective or subjective?
  • Are there any moral absolutes?
  • If morality is always relative, what is it relative to? (The individual? The community? The species?)
  • How do we know what is right or wrong? (Note the connection here between ethics and knowledge.)
  • Why should we try to be good anyway?
  • Are we ultimately accountable to anything or anyone for the way we live?

Salvation

Last, but not least, every worldview has a “salvation story” to tell. When Christians hear the word ‘salvation’ we tend immediately to think of it in terms of the biblical gospel: salvation from sin, death, and hell through the atoning work of Jesus Christ. But here I’m using the term ‘salvation’ in a more generic sense. Under this heading I’m referring to what a worldview says or implies about the basic human problem and the solution to that problem.

Everyone thinks there’s something wrong with the world. (Do you know anyone who thinks the world is just right in every way?) Even those who deny in theory the reality of good and evil find it hard, if not impossible, to apply their theory consistently in practice. For example, they’ll often want to say that we will be better off once we recognize the non-reality of good and evil—but that seems to presuppose our current situation isn’t as good as it could be! Everyone thinks our lives could be better in certain ways than they are now, and when pressed they will tend to generalize or boil things down to one general problem.

Some key questions we might ask of a worldview under this heading would be:

  • What is humanity’s most basic problem?
  • What (if anything) is the solution to that problem?
  • Are there multiple solutions?
  • What part (if any) do we play in solving the problem?
  • What part (if any) does God play in solving the problem?
  • What are the prospects for the problem being solved?

All Interrelated

It’s important to see that these five areas—Theology, Anthropology, Knowledge, Ethics, and Salvation—are closely interrelated. What a person believes in one area will inevitably affect what they believe in other areas. What you believe about God has implications for your view of human beings: our nature, origins, purpose, and destiny. What you believe about God and human beings will in turn influence your views on what we can know, how we should live, what our basic problem is, and how that problem can (and should) be solved.

One final observation. While everyone has a worldview, relatively few people are aware that they have a worldview and fewer still have critically reflected on their worldview. People generally don’t have well-defined beliefs or convictions in the five areas I’ve outlined here. They’ve never even considered most of the questions I’ve listed here, let alone taken the time to formulate coherent answers to them. Nevertheless, if they were asked those questions they would be inclined towards certain answers rather than others. Even where people lack distinct beliefs about ultimate matters, their thoughts, actions, and interpretations of the world nevertheless reflect various unconscious assumptions and dispositions. And the more they are prompted to consider these fundamental issues, the more worldview-aware they will become.

Read Part 5.


James N. Anderson (PhD, University of Edinburgh) is associate professor of theology and philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, and an ordained minister in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. He is a member of the Society of Christian Philosophers, the British Society for the Philosophy of Religion, and the Evangelical Philosophical Society. He is the author of What’s Your Worldview?: An Interactive Approach to Life’s Big Questions (excerpt).


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Introducing the ESV Economy New Testament


 
Published in 2010, the ESV Economy Bible has quickly become one of Crossway’s bestselling Bibles, due to its affordable price and suitability for outreach. We’re now pleased to introduce the  ESV Economy New Testament, designed to serve churches, ministries, and other groups looking for an affordable way to share God’s Word with others.

The Economy New Testament combines the benefits of a pocket edition with a type size that is easy to read. It also features a 30-day reading plan and explanation of the plan of salvation.

ESV Economy New Testament Overview from Crossway on Vimeo.

Download a PDF sampler of the interior

We pray the Lord uses the ESV Economy New Testament to bring many readers to salvation!

 

 

January 30, 2014 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Bible News,ESV,News,Video | Author: Lizzy Jeffers @ 8:49 am | 0 Comments »

Video: The Impetus for A Loving Life

In the video below, Paul Miller discusses the impetus for his new book, A Loving Life: In a World of Broken Relationships.

Also, be sure to check out Justin Taylor’s interview with Paul Miller and download a free excerpt from the book.

| Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Book News,News,Video | Author: Matt Tully @ 8:30 am | 0 Comments »

Why Think of Worldviews?

This is the third post in a 5-part series (part 1, part 2) by Dr. James N. Anderson, associate professor of theology and philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary. He is the author of What’s Your Worldview?: An Interactive Approach to Life’s Big Questions.


In the second article in this series I elaborated on the significance of worldviews in our lives. The last of my five points was that one of the most fruitful and effective ways to engage with non-Christian religions and ideologies is to think of them in terms of the distinctive worldviews they reflect. In this article I want to develop this point further by giving four specific reasons why it is beneficial for Christians to think in terms of worldviews.

1. Thinking in terms of worldviews helps us to understand why people see the world as they do.

Why do some people think that the scientific evidence for Darwinism is utterly overwhelming while others find it wholly unimpressive? Why do some consider abortion to be an abominable practice while others think banning abortion would be a violation of basic human rights? Why do some people view the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks as despicable terrorists whiles others praise them as heroes and martyrs? Why were some people outraged by Phil Robertson’s recent comments about homosexuality while others applauded them as plain common sense?

The basic explanation for these widely divergent viewpoints is that people have fundamentally different worldviews. Once we understand what a worldview is, and how it affects a person’s thoughts and actions, we’re much better placed to understand why they tend to think and act as they do.

2. Thinking in terms of worldviews helps us to make meaningful comparisons between different religions and ideologies.

How do you compare Islam with Existentialism or New Age Spirituality? How do you compare Mormonism with Buddhism or Marxism—or with biblical Christianity, for that matter? Once we recognize that all these ‘-isms’ and ‘-ities’ represent different worldviews, and can identify the basic components of each worldview, we’re in a position to “line them up” and make meaningful comparisons between these different religions and ideologies.

3. Thinking in terms of worldviews helps us to make reasoned evaluations of different religions and ideologies.

Just as worldview-thinking helps us to make meaningful comparisons of different religions and ideologies, exposing their fundamental commonalities and differences, so worldview-thinking can help us to make reasoned, principled evaluations of those religions and ideologies.

Once we’ve identified an underlying worldview, we can then evaluate it by applying various theoretical and practical tests. Is it internally consistent? Does it live up to its own standards or is it self-defeating? Is it unnecessarily complex? Can it account for things we take for granted all the time, such as our capacity for logical thought and our ability to make meaningful moral judgments? Can it explain some of the fundamental things that just beg to be explained, such as why anything exists at all?

Can the worldview be lived out in practice? Does it address our existential needs? Does it provide the foundation for a meaningful, purposeful life? Does it offer comfort in the present and hope for the future?

4. Thinking in terms of worldviews helps us to have constructive conversations with unbelievers.

In order to have a constructive conversation with another person about any topic of importance, you need to have a good understanding of their basic outlook on life and what ultimately motivates their beliefs and responses. For the same reason, it’s best if the other person has a good grasp of your basic outlook on life and what ultimately motivates your beliefs and responses. Furthermore, to have a really fruitful discussion you need a clear view of the most central and fundamental points of agreement and disagreement between the two of you, and some notion of how to evaluate your differences in a principled way.

When we enter into conversations with unbelievers over controversial topics, we should recognize that any significant disagreements we encounter will often trace back to more fundamental worldview differences. When that’s the case, the most responsible and constructive way forward will not be to try to ignore or bypass those foundational differences, but rather to acknowledge them and lay them out on the table for scrutiny. When we’re trained to think in terms of worldviews, we’re better equipped to challenge unbelievers at the root of their beliefs and actions rather than at the surface level; we’re able to expose the crumbling foundations of their houses rather than just the creaky floorboards.

Read Part 4.


James N. Anderson (PhD, University of Edinburgh) is associate professor of theology and philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, and an ordained minister in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. He is a member of the Society of Christian Philosophers, the British Society for the Philosophy of Religion, and the Evangelical Philosophical Society. He is the author of What’s Your Worldview?: An Interactive Approach to Life’s Big Questions (excerpt).


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Midweek Roundup – 1/29/14

Each Wednesday we like to share some recent links that we found informative, insightful, or helpful. These are often related to Crossway books, Bibles, or authors—but not always. We hope this list is an interesting break for the middle of your week, encouraging your faith and equipping you for life and ministry.


1. Carl Trueman reviews God in the Whirlwind by David Wells

This is a book all Christians should read. And, while generally positive in its proposals, it has sufficient pessimism (though David, as a good fellow pessimist, will no doubt tell me he is not such a one) that this Englishman still enjoyed it. Christianity in the West is shifting to the status of an annoying, perhaps even unwelcome, sect. The future is, humanly speaking, bleak. David’s books in general are a good argument for seeing ourselves as a large part of our current problem and this book in particular offers helpful thoughts on what must now be done.

2. Greg Gilbert offers some suggestions for evangelism in the workplace

Workplace evangelism gets a bad rap sometimes.  People assume that it has to be a tactless, awkward disruption.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  You can do good work, make your faith known, talk to your co-workers about their lives, and invite them to meet other Christians—and it can be as natural as simply becoming friends with someone.  As an ambassador of the Kingdom of Jesus, you should always be wise and winsome.  Look for opportunities to make it known that you’re a follower of Jesus, but don’t be arrogant or obnoxious about it.  Take advantage of openings in conversations and be willing to defend your faith when necessary, but do so in a way that attracts people rather than repelling them.

3. Nancy Guthrie explains how we can know heaven is real

People sometimes say these stories encouraged their faith or the faith of someone they know. But I think they actually diminish biblical faith by elevating claims of a supernatural experience over the substance of the Scriptures. Most of these claims of seeing into heaven focus on earthbound concerns and stunted human desires that lack what the Bible describes as the heart of heaven—the glory of God, the Lamb who was slain, on the throne of the universe. In embracing these stories we’re saying the Bible is simply not enough, that someone’s mystical experience is needed to verify or “make real” what God has said. But saving faith is putting all our hopes in who God is and what God has said as revealed in the Bible. It is being confident of what we can’t see (John 20:29Hebrews 11:1), not being convinced by something someone else supposedly saw.

4. K. Scott Oliphint explores the 10 tenets of a “Reformed apologetic”

As a new year begins, I thought it might be helpful, to some at least, to put some flesh on the bones of “The Ten Tenets” of a Reformed apologetic, as those tenets are delineated and discussed in Covenantal Apologetics. So, what I propose to do is to take a new Tenet each month, for ten (or so) months, and explicate, briefly, something of their substance and significance for a Covenantal approach to apologetics.

5. Collin Garbarino reflects on child sacrifice, old and new

How is American abortion so very different from what the Carthaginians did? Priests killed their children in a temple, and abortionists kill our children in a clinic. Carthaginian parents expected favors from their gods if they offered their children. They expected a better life. Why do we abort our children?

Americans abort their children because they believe they’ll have a better life. Maybe they want better health by not undergoing the rigors of pregnancy. Maybe they expect that their career opportunities will be better without a child. Maybe they just don’t want to shop at Costco.

Carthaginians killed babies because they wanted a better life. We kill babies because we want a better life. The only difference that I can see is that the Carthaginians sacrificed children to their gods, while we just sacrifice them to ourselves.

| Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Midweek Roundup,News | Author: Matt Tully @ 8:25 am | 0 Comments »