For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be glory forever. Amen.
R O M A N S 1 1 : 3 6
The Christian world-and-life view. That is not a phrase, probably, that is intimately familiar to you. Perhaps you know it by the German term, Weltanschauung. No? That is no more familiar, is it? In fact, less? What is a world-and-life view—a Weltanschauung? Well, let me tell you first of all, you have one. Everybody has one. Many people just sort of absorb it as they go through life. They have not critically examined it; it has just become what they believe in.
A world-and-life view is a set of assumptions or presuppositions that determine the way we look at the world and our place in the world. These then largely determine how we consider everything that comes down the path.
What is your world-and-life view like? Is it a Christian world-and-life view, or is it a non-Christian/anti-Christian view? There is a Christian world-and-life view, and there are a number of other world-and-life views that are all arrayed against the Christian view. Chuck Colson and Nancy Pearcey ask, “What is the major challenge today? In the broadest categories, the conflict of our day is theism and naturalism.”1
In an editorial for The American Prospect, Clinton’s Secretary of State Robert B. Reich also wrote about the importance of worldview. Note who he lumps in with whom (namely, believers of all kinds are lumped in). Suddenly the Salvation Army becomes the equivalent of the Taliban.
The great conflict of the 21st century may be between the West and terrorism. But terrorism is a tactic, not a belief. The underlying battle will be between modern civilization and anti-modernist fanatics; between those who believe in the primacy of the individual and those who believe that human beings owe blind allegiance to a higher authority; between those who give priority to life in this world and those who believe that human life is no more than preparation for an existence beyond life; between those who believe that truth is revealed solely through scripture and religious dogma, and those who rely primarily on science, reason, and logic. Terrorism will disrupt and destroy lives. But terrorism is not the only danger we face.2
Reich is so wrong on many fronts. But consider this: Who has proven to be the great killer of all time? Atheistic states.3 The Fascists and the Communists killed tens of millions of human beings, and they claimed to believe in science and not religion. Reich is correct about one thing though— the root of the conflict concerns which worldview will prevail.
Naturalism has nothing to do with wildlife or vitamins. It has to do with the idea that nature is all there is—that there is nothing in the universe except matter (materialism). That is one worldview. The fact is, Colson says, that this, indeed, is what we use to explain most everything else. What is the most fundamental question? What does the universe consist of? Is it only matter? Is ultimate reality God or the cosmos?
You remember Carl Sagan, a very rabid evolutionist and naturalist, and his famous ten-part series Cosmos that aired on educational TV a number of times. In his first sentence he made this clear statement: “The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.”4 That is a worldview—a purely naturalistic, materialistic, evolutionary, atheistic worldview.
I say it is a worldview because it is an assumption. It is not the result of any scientific test. Sagan never saw that there was never anything besides the cosmos. He did not know that there was nothing beyond it. He most certainly did not know that there was no God, no supernatural element. What is the ultimate reality? Is it matter and the cosmos, or is it God and His revelation? Those two views have been in direct conflict for the last several centuries and are in our own time.
Chuck Colson and Nancy Pearcey in their book How Now Shall We Live? state:
A debilitating weakness in modern evangelicalism is that we’ve been fighting cultural skirmishes on all sides without knowing what the war itself is about. We have not identified the worldviews that lie at the root of cultural conflict—and this ignorance dooms our best efforts. The culture war is not just about abortion, homosexual rights, or the decline of public education. These are only skirmishes. The real war is a cosmic struggle between worldviews— between the Christian worldview and the various secular and spiritual worldviews arrayed against it. This is what we must understand if we are going to be effective in evangelizing our world today and in transforming it to reflect the wisdom of the Creator.5
A worldview, said Colson and Pearcey, “is simply the sum total of our beliefs about the world, the ‘big picture’ that directs our daily decisions and actions.”6 A worldview needs to be carefully considered and decided upon. Otherwise we will be subconsciously directed into making decisions and may not know why we are making them.
May I point out that every worldview is based upon faith. It is based upon some kind of assumptions or presuppositions that we probably have never proved. Many of them cannot even be proved. As one writer said, “Every human being has faith in something which affects his understanding of everything.” Scientists operate by faith. Some have had the candor to admit it; others would deny it vehemently.
We have seen in the last several centuries, since the French Enlightenment in the 1780s, the rise of rationalism. That is not to say anything about reason. We should be rational and reasonable, but rationalism is the idea that reason is the only source of knowledge and understanding, and it rules out entirely faith in God or in His Word. Rationalism, naturalism, materialism, and atheism are all based upon evolutionism.
Though the Enlightenment existed fifty years before Darwin, philosophers had struggled to get some kind of worldview together, but not with great success, until Darwin’s The Origin of Species provided for them a comprehensive worldview that made atheism palatable for the first time and something that could be talked about in public. This view has been promulgated in Western society for the last 150 years like few things have ever been.
At its core this worldview is atheistic, evolutionary, relativistic, materialistic, and secularistic (in that it is only of this world). The word secularism comes from the Latin word secularis, which means “the present world” or in other words, “life as conceived without any relationship to eternity or to God.” That is secularism. The Western world has become almost 99 percent secular.
Listen to any talk show on television. This smoked plastic dome that has settled down upon the city of man does not allow him to see past death into the future. Is there a heaven? Is there a hell? He cannot know. Is there a God? “The dome is too smoky. I cannot see up to God. I cannot see out into the future.” That is secularism, and this nation and the Western world have been overwhelmingly secularized in a Darwinian, atheistic, materialistic life. This view is being promulgated in virtually all of the public schools in this nation, from kindergarten through graduate school. John Dunphy, in The Humanist, said some time ago:
The classroom must and will become an arena of conflict between the old and the new—the rotting corpse of Christianity, together with all its adjacent evils and misery, and the new faith of humanism, resplendent in its promise of a world in which the never-realized Christian ideal of “love thy neighbor” will be finally achieved.7
He says that a teacher must become as zealous as the most fundamental evangelist in propagating this faith to every student. Oh, they may learn about God and heaven in Sunday school, “but five days a week we have them right here in our schools.” That is the idea.
Maybe you didn’t know you had a fundamentalist-evangelist-teacher propagating atheistic humanism in your schools. What is this never-realized ideal of Christian love? What has it produced? It has produced not only the Enlightenment worldview that spawned the French Revolution, but in the twentieth century it also produced World War I, World War II, and Communism, which, according to the U.S. Congress killed 135 million people during peacetime—more than all of the wars of history. It has also produced behaviorism, Nazism, and Fascism. All of these are squarely based upon the evolutionary, atheistic view of humanism. That is the marvelous goal they supposedly are bringing to the world. It is not pretty, to say the least. Someone like Robert B. Reich, quoted above, may disavow this, but the facts speak for themselves. Ideas have consequences.
Humanism is just another way of talking about atheism. There was a time, years ago, when it was not politically expedient to be an atheist, and so, instead of that, they switched to humanism. Atheism says, “down with God”; humanism says, “up with man.” But in the end it is the same. Man is up there in the place of God, and God is down here, abased.
This worldview probably got its initial impetus from the pre-Socratic philosopher Protagoras, who made one statement that has been reverberating for over two millennia. He said, very simply, “Man is the measure of all things.” That seems to be very innocuous, but millions of people have died because of it, because ideas have consequences. That last statement seems more true with every passing year.
Christians have always believed that God is the measure of all things, that God tells us what is good and what is bad and what is right and what is wrong. God tells us where to go and how to get there. But that is rejected by humanism, in which man becomes the judge of all things. Man decides what is moral and what is immoral, what is virtuous and what is not, what is evil and what is good, what is right and what is wrong. That has led to catastrophic consequences in our world.
The Enlightenment period began with two ideas—great ideas, if they were true. The first one was the inherent goodness of man, and the second was the inevitability of moral progress—progress of every sort in the world. That was to lead to the Golden Age. At the beginning of the twentieth century, many were saying, “The Golden Age is upon us. It is coming. Every day in every way we are getting better and better.” Then came World War I, and the blood flowed in the trenches of France; then World War II—with Iwo Jima, Bataan, Corregidor, and all the rest. Then came the Cold War, and Communism spread across the world like a blight, killing millions.
Among the deaths was the death of the idea of the inherent goodness of man. How could such inhumanity to man possibly be true in a world where there is no bad boy and no bad man? If the torture chambers of the Nazis and the Gulag weren’t enough, in our day and age we can go to the Near East and visit one of Saddam Hussein’s torture chambers. Consider how people who displeased him were tossed into shredders and vats of acid. Man’s inhumanity to man.
The inevitable progress ended in a fiery crash, and the Golden Age turned into a bloody age, and the marvelous, romantic picture of humanism died. In his book Thinking Straight in a Crooked World, Gary DeMar describes well the humanistic mentality of Western man since the Renaissance—this belief in the inherent goodness of man and the inevitability of his progress.8
But the shocking revelations of the twentieth century pretty well burst that bubble. That was especially true in the latter half of the twentieth century, when it was apparent that the once proud dogmas of optimistic humanism were dead and buried and had been replaced by a mood of cynicism and despair. H. G. Wells, just before his death in 1946, wrote a book, The Mind at the End of Its Tether, in which he stated: “The end of everything we call life is close at hand and cannot be evaded.”9 Things looked very, very bleak, to say the least.
Why is this? Because “modern man has simply come to realize the logical implications of his foolish autonomy,” said Gary DeMar, “and is beginning to pay the price.”10 Jean-Paul Sartre, the French existential philosopher, was right. This fact of the logical consequences of man’s foolish flight from God ought, indeed, to make man happy, gay, and joyous. That was the promise. But what was the reality? Even the unbeliever Sartre observed, “[It] ought to give him nausea.”11
Do you remember the Death of God Movement? That too is part of this. It is interesting that man didn’t realize that when he was throwing things at God, he was throwing boomerangs that would come back and hit him in the head. God is very much alive, but non-Christian man is in a state of morbid decay and despair. He comes closer and closer to nihilism and despair as he becomes more self-conscious of the logical consequences of his view. Author Gary DeMar put it this way:
There is at the present time then, a radical disintegration of the non- Christian man as he reaps the harvest produced by the seed he has sown. After many years the crop is approaching full maturity, and the ingathering is proving a most unpleasant time. He has laid up treasures on the earth, and the sphere of his ultimate values, the place of his only reward and enjoyment. His values are dead on the vine, being merely the dictates of social and personal convenience. The ethic of evolution, the survival of thefittest, has yet to take its full toll. The world has still to see the full maturing of Marquis de Sade’s “natural behaviour” based on the principle of “what is” is right. The simple equation—matter plus time plus chance— has yet to reveal and yield its full horror.12
The Bible says, “All who hate me love death” (Proverbs 8:36). In a non-Christian world today, a culture of death has been developing. It is not God who has died; He is very much alive. Rather, it is man who is dying. The facts of history are very discouraging, and the logic of materialism is crushing him.
Modern man longs for death. We have in many of our schools in America today classes on suicide. The French philosopher Albert Camus said that the only philosophical idea worth consideration today is suicide.13 Ernest Hemingway embraced it, Camus endorsed it, and thousands have followed in their train. Preoccupation with death is a distinguishing mark of our time. Indeed, when you have the death of hope—and materialism and humanism are hopeless views of life—that leads directly to the hope for death. Many people have discovered that life in the humanistic world, the atheistic world, is not worth living.
Samuel Beckett, the playwright, said:
How am I, an a-temporal being imprisoned in time and space, to escape from my imprisonment, when I know that outside space and time lies Nothing, and that I, in the ultimate depths of my reality, am Nothing also?14
How far removed this is from the Christian view that we have been made in the image of God, that God has placed eternity in our hearts, that God has given His own Son to redeem us from our sin and has prepared for us a place in paradise forever and ever. We have a glorious calling in this life: “to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever” and to be coworkers of Christ in the redemption of the world. Life has meaning, and life has purpose. Life has a glorious future, while none of the godless worldviews offer anything but despair at the end.
The director of the British Humanist Association (note well—this is not some Christian minister’s opinion. This is the opinion of one of the world’s leaders of the humanist movement), H. J. Blackham, said that “the most drastic objection to humanism . . .” is what? I would love to ask a bunch of college students that question, wouldn’t you? Remember the glorious picture of what humanism was going to produce over against the “rotting corpse of Christianity”—the new, the glorious, the vibrant picture of humanism was to captivate the minds of people. Well, here’s what one of the world’s leading humanist says: “The most drastic objection to humanism is that it is too bad to be true.”15 Wow!
Bertrand Russell summed that up very eloquently when he said:
That man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving [evolution]; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all of the labour of the ages, all of the devotion, all of the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins—all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, and on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.16
There is the humanist’s world-and-life view of the world. It’s not a pretty sight, to say the least. The most powerful objection against humanism, says the humanist, is that it is just too bad to be true.
I have heard a particular objection many times when I have proclaimed the gospel; people have said to me, “Oh, that’s just too good to be true.” What a marvelous contrast that is to “too bad to be true.” But mirable dictu, marvelous to tell, the gospel, as glorious and wonderful as it is, is true. It is truth itself. It is the truth of God. It has been established by all manner of empirical evidences, and it stands against all of the onslaughts of unbelievers.
Theologian Hermann Dooyeweerd once talked about God’s sovereignty in terms of different spheres of existence. God is sovereign over different aspects or spheres of life. With thanks to Mr. Dooyeweerd for this concept, we want to look at different spheres of life.
We want to explore in this book a Christian world-and-life view by considering six great spheres that every Christian should be vitally interested in and should be working to Christianize. They are:
• the world,
• the nation,
• the school,
• the church,
• the family.
Every Christian church should be endeavoring to do what it can to strengthen each of these great spheres.
Listen to what the great Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper had to say about Christ’s sovereignty over all the spheres of life—not just spiritual things. He believed in the sovereignty of the Triune God over the whole of the cosmos in all of its spheres and kingdoms; the Triune God is sovereign over everything—not merely over the church but over every sphere of life. Here are Kuyper’s own words about the second person of the Trinity:
The Son is not to be excluded from anything. You cannot point to any natural realm or star or comet or even descend into the depth of the earth, but it is related to Christ, not in some unimportant tangential way, but directly. There is no force in nature, no laws that control those forces that do not have their origin in that eternal Word. For this reason, it is totally false to restrict Christ to spiritual affairs and to assert that there is no point of contact between him and the natural sciences.17
Thus it all belongs to Him. This is my Father’s world. He is Lord of all.
What is your worldview? Have you embraced Christ? Have you invited Him into your heart as Lord and Savior of your life? Do you know why you are here and what you are to do and where you are going? Do you have an everlasting certainty and hope in your heart of paradise, or are you looking at nothing but the darkness of the grave? The Christian world-and-life view is glorious beyond our full understanding. I hope it is yours.