- Not Every Story is Based in Reality
- How Homosexuality Became Normal in the West
- How Evolutionists Explain Poverty
- Lies Enslave, Truth Transforms
- Human Evil, Cosmic Consequences
- NURTURING: The Wonder of Being There
- Personal God, Personal Creation
- The Implications of Moral Freedom
- Work, Save, Give: The Protestant Ethic
- Three Ways God’s Universe Makes Sense
- HOME SCHOOLING: Why It Makes Sense Today
- Christianity is True Even If You Don’t Believe It!
- Moral God, Moral Universe
- What Do Singapore and Apple Have in Common?
- God’s Laws, the “Secret” to Life
- Time Matters: Present, Past, Future
- The Doctrine of the Trinity Matters in Real Life?
- Two Fronts in the War of the Century
Are you seeing reality as God made it?
Every culture has a dominant worldview that shapes its beliefs, institutions and practices. After a class in Sierra Leone completed a microbiology course, one student told the teacher, “I know that you taught us about polio, but do you want to know how people really get it? It’s the witches! They are invisible. They fly around at night and bite people’s backs!”
The African students were blind to the scientific explanations of disease. The teacher, educated in the materialist West, was blind to the personal nature of evil and the impact of the demonic.
Your worldview does more to influence your flourishing or poverty than does your physical environment or circumstances. Three worldview archetypes—biblical theism, secularism, and animism—capture the vast majority of worldviews in society.
Biblical theism, aka Judeo-Christian theism, holds that because God exists, so does objective reality, established by God. Reality, this worldview asserts, is ultimately personal because it has been established by the ultimate Person.
In contrast, secularism sees reality as ultimately physical. By definition, this model denies the existence of a spiritual or transcendent reality.
Animism says that the physical world is “animated” by powerful spirits that ultimately control the destiny of people and nations. It views reality as essentially spiritual. The physical world, according to this framework, is maya, or illusion. Animism’s corollary belief, determinism, provides little motivation to treat disease, fight for justice, feed the hungry, clothe the naked or protect the preborn.
Not every worldview corresponds with reality
No one can consistently operate within either animism or secularism, simply because we all live in the reality God has created. The more closely we conform to reality (the world God has made as opposed to a world we imagine), the closer we are to the healthy, flourishing life God intended. The more closely we adhere to nonbiblical worldviews, the farther we are from objective reality, and the closer to death and destruction. “For those who find me [wisdom] find life and receive favor from the Lord. But those who fail to find me harm themselves; all who hate me love death” (Prov. 8:35–36).
A worldview is a set of assumptions held consciously or subconsciously in faith, about the world’s basic makeup how the world works. Every worldview asks the same questions. It’s the answers that differ. Our answers determine the kinds of cultures and societies we build. Some answers lead to destruction, enslavement, and poverty, others to flourishing, freedom, and development.
Worldviews spread horizontally. They begin with individuals and spread to their disciples, who take the message to the community, the nation, and the world. “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,” Christ told his disciples, “and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Artists and philosophers
It has been said that if you want to know how members of the next generation will order their lives, examine contemporary music or art. The arts carry ideas (including worldviews) through the culture. But the ideas don’t originate with artists. They usually begin as religious doctrines, philosophical abstractions, or scientific theories. This ideas are then transmitted into the culture via music, literature, and the arts (see fig. 1.8). This movement of ideas penetrates every sphere of life, shaping the values, social structures, and institutions of a culture.
Eventually the ideas become institutionalized in a society’s laws, politics, and social and economic structures. In this way, ideas ultimately affect the mindset, behavior, and lifestyle of the populace.
Ideas also diffuse through time. Today’s advent of modern information technologies pushes ideas at breathtaking speed, for good and ill.
Nietzsche and the “death” of God
In 1883 German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche pronounced the death of God. For Nietzsche, to deny God was not merely to cease being religious. It was to jettison everything based on his existence. If God is dead, man is dead. Truth and morals, communion and community are dead as well. Life is absurd!
But Nietzsche knew it would take time for the common man to feel and experience the death of God. The philosopher wrote:
At last he [the madman] threw the lantern on the ground, so that it broke in pieces and was extinguished. “I come too early,” he then said, “I am not yet at the right time. This prodigious event is still on its way, and is traveling—it has not yet reached men’s ears. Lightning and thunder need time, the light of the stars needs time, deeds need time, even after they are done, to be seen and heard. This deed is as yet further from them than the furthest star—and yet they have done it.”[i]
- Darrow Miller
This DM&F Classic blog post is excerpted from the book Discipling Nations. For the entire text go here.
[i] Friedrich Nietzsche, The Portable Nietzsche (New York: Viking, 1954), 125. For an excellent critique of Nietzsche, see Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live without God (Dallas: Word, 1994), appendix B, section 1.