Worldview 102 – The Influence of a Sacred Belief System photo by Tanvirul Islam
A few weeks ago we published Worldview 101. The response prompted us to take the discussion to the next level. This series of posts will unpack the Apostle Paul’s teaching on the importance of a people’s sacred belief system. We see this in Paul’s letter to the Romans, i.e. 1:18-32.
My life has been engaged at the intersection of two seemingly unrelated subjects: worldview and poverty (AKA culture and development).
As a university student my heart was broken for the plight of the poor and hungry. My mind was challenged by the importance of worldview. My heart and mind were “married” in my 30s when I began working for an international nonprofit and saw the profound relationship between a people’s culture and their poverty.
For years I have loved Paul’s teaching on worldview. It so clearly impacts the direction of our everyday life and behavior. This short blog series will explore the apostle’s teaching on the impact of worldview.
When the truth of God’s existence is replaced with a lie, negative consequences follow.
Every philosophy and religion needs to answer four basic questions:
- Origins: Where did we come from? Why are we here?
- The problem: What went wrong?
- Restoration: How do things get fixed?
- Ultimate purpose: Where is history going?
Paul begins his letter to the Romans by answering the 3rd question:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” 1:16-17
Jesus Christ—His person and work—is God’s provision to restore all things that were broken in the fall. This is how things “get fixed.”
Every worldview answers basic questions
Then, in 1:18-32, Paul steps back and speaks to the second question, “What went wrong in the first place?” He answers such questions as,
- How did things get so broken?
- How could things have gone so wrong?
- Why is there so much pain, loneliness, suffering, and overwhelming darkness?
The Darwinian narrative, which has impacted most people who received a Western education, theorizes that we came into existence through some kind of cosmic accident and have inexorably evolved upward since then. Human beings are basically good. Evil does not exist.
In contrast, God’s narrative explains how we were created in His image, gloriously human – female and male, to create godly culture, and how because of our rebellion we have devolved, we have declined rather than advanced. Evil is real and manifests itself in the human heart.
I am reminded of a scene in the sixth book of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia– The Magician’s Nephew. Aslan warns the Talking Beasts to treat the other (mute) creatures well, or they will cease to be Talking Beasts. They will become less than they were intended and created to be.
Lewis captures the germ of the biblical narrative. Because of human unrighteousness, we have lost some of our humanity, functioning more like “animals.”
Paul speaks to this very issue. What happens when a person or a culture exchanges the truth of God for a lie? What happens when the worship of God is exchanged for the worship of created things?
As we have written before, there is a universal pattern: BELIEFS -> VALUES -> BEHAVIOR -> CONSEQUENCES. As the Apostle Paul argues, the brokenness of our world is the consequence of a faulty sacred belief system.
The left column of the graphic below captures a series of blog posts in which we will unpack Paul’s argument. We will see the tragic consequences unfold.
The graphic gives an overview of Paul’s worldview argument. Note the link between the belief system of a people, the corresponding values derived from the belief system and finally the behavior that comes from the value system. Note to drive this home, Paul repeats the pattern three times:
- 25, 25-27, 26-27
- 28, 28b-31, 28b-31
And what is the result of this behavior? It is individuals, families, communities and even nations being broken, living in poverty and enslavement. If you have been confronted with the brokenness in your own life, look no further than Paul’s analysis of worldview to understand the root of the problem.
If you are a person who has a heart for those who are broken and impoverished, take hold of Paul’s deep worldview analysis of the root of the problem.
Why are people poor and hungry? Why does corruption and injustice flourish in so many parts of the world? Look no further than the sacred belief system of the people.
- Darrow Miller