Theology 101

What is the Christian Worldview & Can It Change?

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Editor’s note: Hugh Whelchel was recently featured in an interview with Praxis Circle. Below are a few highlights adapted from that conversation, which you can watch in full here.

Do you use the term “worldview?”

I use it all the time; everyone has a worldview. It’s funny, particularly that people are so quick to call out your worldview and don’t realize that they have one too. It’s interesting that most of us have not thought through the implications of our worldview very much.

I think that’s the key here, that first we need to understand what it is and what the implications are. And then really we need to step back and say what should it be? Is there a right worldview and a wrong worldview? Or does everyone have one and it’s kind of up to their own design, the way they want to? 

Unfortunately, that’s what the culture is telling us now. It’s much like the end of the book of [Judges] when it says, “There was no king in Israel and everyone did what was right in their own mind.” I mean, that’s kind of where we are today! And it’s unfortunate because I’m going to suggest there is one worldview that’s right. Unless you get onboard with that, you’re going to have problems. 

(Watch this part of the interview here.)

What is the Christian worldview in a nutshell? 

That’s a good question. When I think about that, I think about a story—it’s actually a scene from a story—at the end of Lord of the Rings. It’s actually a scene they cut from the movie so it wasn’t in the movie. Frodo and Sam have been rescued by the giant eagles and brought back to the home of elves to be taken care of. And Sam wakes up for the first time and Gandalf is at the foot of his bed. He looks, “It’s Gandalf!” He says, “I thought you were dead!” Then he looks down and says, “Oh, I thought I was dead!” Then he looks at him and asks him a very interesting question. He says, “Is everything bad going to come untrue?” Is everything bad going to come untrue? And Gandalf nods his head and says, “Yes.”

And you know, that’s at the very core of our Christian worldview. This idea of creation-fall-redemption-restoration. That God is putting everything back the way it’s supposed to be, that there’s this process taking place, that we’re to be a part of that process.

One of the things that concerns me sometimes is that when we truncate that four-chapter gospel, we put the focus on man and you hear people say, “If you were the only person alive, Jesus would have died for you.” Well, yeah, maybe. But it’s about more than that. Jesus didn’t come just to die for you. He died to return the entire creation back to the way it’s supposed to be. You’re an important part of that, but the purpose is to put the whole creation back to right. 

This is why Paul talks about “the whole creation groans” in expectation of what God’s going to do. They were punished, the whole creation has been punished because of Adam and their sin—unjustly maybe, but they were punished nonetheless. 

So there’s this sense that everything’s going to be put back. That has to be at the very center of any understanding worldview, that there’s this process going through, this is where we’re going. As Sam says, “Will all bad things be turned untrue?” It’s going to be reversed. I think that’s the piece we miss sometimes. We just straight into our theology and we fight about these little pieces. 

I had an interesting conversation with someone the other day and said, “I just want you to hear this story.” We have a little book on the four-chapter gospel called All Things New, and there are some questions in the back that a lot of people use for bible study. This guy is at a college so he has about ten or fifteen kids going through this bible study. And one of the girls was so excited that she said, “I’m just so excited about the new heaven and new earth! It’s never been explained to me this way.” 

She was going to a class and she started talking to another friend about this. And this other girl said, “What are you talking about? I’ve been at church all my life and I’ve never heard anything like this.” And she started explaining it to her and she said, “Well, this makes all the difference.” They went and spent about two hours together and she gave her life to Christ because she could see that something was going on, where something is changing, where something is happening. 

I think that’s really a critical piece in any discussion you have [about Christian worldviews]. And I don’t hear that piece being talked about very much.

(Watch this part of the interview here.)

Can the Christian worldview evolve, change, adapt, or reinvent itself?

That’s a tough question because it means you have to go back and say that the Bible doesn’t change, theology doesn’t change. It’s right and there’s an understanding of the way it’s supposed to be. We can misinterpret it but scripture doesn’t change. 

Do the times change? I think they do. So as the times change do we need new tools, different tools? One of the things people ask me all the time is, “We never hear you talk about dominion. It says in Genesis, ‘They had dominion over you’ and you never talk about that.” I said, “No I don’t.” 

It’s there. It’s important. But dominion is a tough word, particularly for twenty- and thirty-somethings, college kids. I said, “I just don’t want to go have that fight. I don’t need to go have that fight. I can talk about subduing because that gets to the source of what’s going on. So why go fight that thing with dominion?”

I think there needs to be some thinking through about the issues like that. How can we make the conversation as important as it needs to be and yet not make it adversarial? I think that’s an important thing. I hear of some people starting to do that. There are some great new ways of sharing the gospel, particularly using the four-chapter gospel model or framework, that are very good. 

The gospel doesn’t change but our situations change and we need to be adaptable. Here’s one thing I heard a woman say one time: “Christianity is the only religion in the world that can contextualize any situation.” I think that’s very interesting. And the illustration she gave was Islam. You go into a mosque in Mecca. Then you go into a mosque in Fairfax, Virginia. They’re exactly alike. You go into a church in Fairfax, Virginia, where they’re preaching the gospel. You go to a church in the middle of Africa—completely different, but it’s the same gospel.

The ultimate contextualization is the incarnation. God became man—that’s the ultimate contextualization. That’s a piece we have to understand. And in some places contextualization is a dirty word but I think it shouldn’t be. We need to understand what the limits are, but I think it’s an important piece that we need to think more about, particularly as we talk about worldview.

(Watch this part of the interview here.)

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