In my reading this week, I stumbled across an article about one man who was a ‘Christian,’ but had several experiences that led him to reject the faith (and all religious faiths except for materialistic atheism).[1]

He shared how he came to ‘know Christ.’ He was raised in church and committed his life to Christ at eight years old. He describes how he remembered his mother explaining the Gospel to him, how it made sense, and how he felt a great sense of belonging after giving his heart to Christ.

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            Later in his story, he describes how disagreements among people about what God wanted started him on the path to reject God. He observed that, so many times, secularists solved problems exactly the way that Christians did and that experiences were similar between the two groups. His assumption was that God always gave someone direct instruction, but how could this be if Christians disagreed on what God wanted them to do? While he did not seem to take into account that God might actually give people the freedom to plan and discern what a best course of action may be, and while he did not describe his thoughts on other agents pulling at our thoughts and ideas, we can see here that our experiences seem to inform our beliefs.

Here is what I know: there is either a God or there is not. It seems to me that no matter what I experience, the truth is true. So, then, I would do well not to interpret reality according to my own experiences. Instead, I should interpret my experiences according to reality. This being said, it seems nonsensical to claim any belief system to be false because of my own experiences. I must first discover what is true and then interpret my experiences according to that truth.

Do we not realize that two people can have similar experiences and interpret those differently? One person will see God working while the other will see coincidence. Two bodies of evidence can also be presented and two people interpret those bodies of evidence differently. One person will see Darwinistic Evolution and one a literal six-day creation. One will see an old earth and another a young. When we interpret reality according to experience or evidence, we may arrive at some level of truth but our interpretation of our own experience or of evidence presented to us does not determine reality. What is true is true whether or not we have arrived at that conclusion.

If our experiences do not determine what is true and if our interpretation of a body of evidence does not determine what is true, what does? What determines truth? How do we discover that truth for sure?

If there is a God, then truth is found in Him. If there is not a God, then truth is found in the natural world. So, men and women who believe there to be no God have looked for truth by finding evidence and increasing their experience. When they interpret the evidence they find what they believe to be truth, but this truth has been derived from experience and evidence, which are both things that cannot determine truth. While they might have arrived at some sort of correct interpretation, their experience and their interpretation have no bearing on what truth actually is. In essence, there is no basis by which the atheist or the agnostic can reasonably claim to know the truth. Their non-belief in God forces them to interpret the evidence according to their own presuppositions. If truth is found in God, though, belief in Him is the eyeglass through which we need to interpret our experiences and the evidence we see in the world. Not only this, but we must believe in God for who He is in order to interpret reality well. Perhaps the greatest challenge of our day, then, is choosing the correct worldview; because this determines the way we will interpret any experience or body of evidence.

Thus, I will present to you the Biblical Worldview. It is the worldview given in the Bible. The Bible is a collection of histories, poems, songs, prophetic books, and revelations. The original manuscripts were written over a period of about 2000 years with more than 40 different authors all telling the same story. It is the most historically and archeologically supported set of documents through all of recorded history and in the modern world. Where textual critics have examined the text, no significant errors have been found between the earliest and best manuscripts we have and good modern day translations. Many of the prophecies in the books of the Bible have come true. There is extra-biblical evidence that supports the life of Christ as presented within the text of Scripture. The Bible is both coherent (internally consistent) and consistent with the external world (meaning the external world can be seen to fit with the Bible and the Bible can be seen to fit with the external world).

What is the Biblical worldview? Why should we choose a Biblical worldview over all of the others that are available? What is the Christian faith?

 

1 John 1:1-2:2 (HCSB)

What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have observed and have touched with our hands, concerning the Word of life — that life was revealed, and we have seen it and we testify and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us — what we have seen and heard we also declare to you, so that you may have fellowship along with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

Now this is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in Him. If we say, “We have fellowship with Him,” yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say, “We don’t have any sin,” we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

My little children, I am writing you these things so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father — Jesus Christ the Righteous One. He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world.

 

Joy

John begins his letter to believers by reassuring them that he and the other apostles have only told what they have heard, seen, observed, and touched concerning the Word of life (Jesus Christ).[2] He claimed that this life was revealed to them as they followed Jesus. He also stated that they shared this revelation as it was given. I want to unpack this just briefly:

If there is a God and God created the world. The world would have to be perfect.

  1. God, by definition, must be perfect
  2. A perfect God cannot make mistakes
  3. If a perfect God’s creation were imperfect, there would be a mistake
  4. God’s creation is currently imperfect
  5. Therefore, either there is no God or the world was created as perfect and somehow became imperfect

If the world is currently imperfect, then human reason is also currently imperfect. This means that we can choose the wrong worldview. If we want to better understand what it means to have a worldview, we might examine the following sketch:

Worldview Illustration

Looking at this sketch, we will see one of three things. We will either see a sketch of bunny, a duck, or some combination of the two. If you see a bunny, it is because you have interpreted the left side of the sketch to be ears and the right side of the sketch to be the nose. If you see a duck, then you have interpreted the left side of the sketch to be a beak and the right side to be the back of the head. Our interpretation of this image depends directly on how we look at it. How we look at this image for the purpose of this illustration represents our worldview. Worldview is the way we view the world and always determines what we see when we look at our experiences and evidence that is presented to us. So a person who does not believe anything other than the material world exists will not see immaterial forces at work because it does not fit his or her view of the world.

The fact that human reason is imperfect also means that if we hope to have the correct worldview, that worldview has to be revealed to us. We can’t hope to make an accurate guess if we are imperfect, and anyone who claims to be perfect is most likely not being very truthful.

If the world was created perfect and somehow became imperfect, there must be other agents that can freely make decisions. The Bible actually claims that these agents are people and that they chose to rebel against God (Genesis 3). If God is perfect, any rebellion against Him by free agents necessarily creates imperfection.

In John, chapter 1, we see the eternal Word, who was with God and was God from the beginning, come to earth to reveal the truth in an imperfect world and to restore those who would believe to perfection by giving everlasting life as a gift. If the world is imperfect, this seems to be the only way that a perfect God could ever be revealed: that is He revealed Himself.

This is the claim that John makes here. Jesus Christ revealed God and eternal life to us and we are simply telling you about Him. There are a couple of things I learn, here:

  1. People are created with a great degree of freedom.
    1. This is something that the man in our story from earlier did not take into account.
    2. If there is freedom, then God is not a micro-manager. He actually allows us the privilege to plan and to discern and to imagine. While He will sometimes provide direct instruction, He will also allow us to choose. This may be the case when good Christians disagree on God’s direction. In this case, we can freely choose a direction so long as we remain faithful to God’s call on our lives. We can work together to develop a plan that honors God and God gives us the freedom to do that.
  2. We cannot determine anything about God unless it is revealed to us by God.
    1. Our experiences cannot prove or disprove the existence of God or the validity or invalidity of any worldview. Doubting does not make God less real.
    2. Our interpretation of any body of evidence cannot prove or disprove the existence of God or the validity or invalidity of any worldview. If anyone believes in Dawinistic evolution, this belief does not make God less real.

 

Finally, John claimed to share this information so that his audience might fellowship with him in Christ and so that they might have joy! While people are always trying to prove that they are correct, superior, more beautiful, stronger, better, richer, funnier or more entertaining; the message of Christ is meant to bring joy and genuine fellowship. This is good news and it means we don’t have to compete with one another in life because in Christ we are all on equal ground. The world yearns for this, but for some reason it denies the only message that genuinely promotes it: that message is the message of a Biblical worldview.

 

Truth

            It is no wonder that John referred to God as the light. In a Biblical worldview, then, truth is something that actually matters. God gives us the freedom to investigate. In fact, if truth is found in God’s character, then the more we investigate the more we can know God and the more accurately we can interpret our experiences and the great body of evidence before us. If God has revealed truth in His word, then our daily Bible study is important as we strive to live well. If God has created the world, then we are encouraged to investigate the world. In a book I read recently, The Outer Limits of Reason by Dr. Yonofsky,[3] it was described that belief in the existence of God leads those referred to as Deists to not investigate the world around them. The accusation is that people who believe in the existence of God will wonder why something is the way it is and simply say, “Because God made it that way,” and not investigate. When I read the passage above and when I read the first chapter in the book of Romans and when I read many of the Psalms, I see quite a different account. Those who hold a Biblical worldview are actually encouraged in Scripture to investigate and to discover. If we do not, we actually live in darkness and not according to the light, and God is light.

Truth is so important for the Christian faith. If we are not striving toward truth, we live in darkness, even some who claim to be Christian. If we interpret reality by our own experiences or by our interpretation of the evidence, then we are not genuinely striving toward truth. Sadly, this means that most people live in darkness. We must not assume we are always correct and we must be willing to admit when we are wrong. Furthermore, we can know that we have the freedom to seek truth. We don’t have to give into dogma (an idea proclaimed to be unquestionably true by any group) and we don’t have to force others to think exactly as we think.

 

Genuine Living

            John not only wrote these things that we might have joy and that we may have fellowship with one another in Christ, but also so that we might not sin. When we take it upon ourselves to determine reality based on our own experiences or our own interpretation of the evidence, we actually sin before God. John did not want to see his audience sin, especially in this way. If reality does not depend on our own interpretation of either evidence or our experiences, then we are selfish if we try to define reality according to our experience and interpretation of evidence.

Thus, according to a Biblical worldview we can be honest about our experiences. We don’t have to over-spiritualize everything like the man I mentioned at the start. We struggle with discovering God’s plan. When we disagree, we can work through that disagreement honestly knowing that God has given us freedom to move in a good direction without micromanaging every detail. If God does not micromanage, neither should we. This means that we do not have to glorify our idea of what church should be or even what the Christian life should be. What we glorify is what honors God, and there may be many things we can do in the freedom that God has given us that glorify Him. If youth are a little crazy but without sin, we can be understanding and patient with them as we love them and teach them about this great God! If adults seem a little controlling, but without sin, youth can understand that and still strive to respect their elders even when they don’t agree. This is possible because we do not live life based on our experiences or our interpretation of evidence presented to us.

Again, it is only by this way of living that we can think clearly about our experiences and about evidence we find in the world.

When teenagers have a bad experience at home, with a teacher or with friends; this experience does not determine the type of world we live in and we do not have to base our entire lives on that experience. When we have a bad experience at work, with a boss, with children, with family, in a church, at school, with pets or anywhere in this world, we can know that our experiences do not determine reality. Instead we can rightly interpret those experiences in light of the truth of Scripture. If Scripture is right, then God works wonders in spite of our bad experiences and in spite of our suffering. If Scripture is correct, then God is working all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28)!

 

Forgiveness

            Despite all this, I find it so hard to strive toward God without using my own experience and my own interpretation of the evidence to guide me. Sometimes I forget that it is God alone who can reveal Himself and God alone who can guide us in the light in order that we might make good interpretations of reality. John proclaimed this promise, that we have a great advocate when we do sin. Christ’s forgiveness is always there because God does not depend on us!

Here I find that there are two versions of the Christian faith. The first and the most popular is cultural Christianity. This faith is based on experience and dogma. Salvation is more about a holy experience. If you say that you have been saved, but don’t strive to follow Christ by living according to what He revealed to us, then you are only a cultural Christian. It is the cultural Christian that says, “I love Jesus,” but then fails to honor his or her parents. It is the cultural Christian that says, “I love God,” but then does not strive to respect elders. It is the cultural Christian that proclaims, “I have life,” but does not care for children. It is the cultural Christian who states that he or she has faith but does not strive to actually live by the words in Scripture. The cultural Christian’s rules are based on experience and dogma. Those who have faith like this do not know Christ. The person who has a Biblical faith and worldview strives toward truth. He or she is not guided by experience or dogma, but allows Scripture to guide his or her interpretation of experience and evidence. The person who has a Biblical faith believes that Christ has been raised from the dead and confesses with his or her mouth that Christ is Lord. This means that Christ is the boss. He is King!

If we say we are saved because we have only had a spiritual experience, then we are not saved. We actually have to declare that Christ is our Lord, because God does not depend on us. When we believe in Christ, we are forgiven. When we doubt, we remember that our experience does not determine reality. Our doubt does not determine God’s absence or non-existence. When others over-spiritualize everything, we remember that God has given us freedom. Remember that there is one truth and one worldview by which we can accurately interpret what we see, hear, feel, smell, touch, and experience. If it is not a Biblical worldview, there may be no hope for us. If it is, and I believe it is, then we have every reason to live well, to investigate, to love, to celebrate, to pursue truth, to treat others equally and with respect, to create, to plan, to discern, and to practice the freedom that we have been created with. God is so good, and this is just the beginning of what a Biblical worldview and a genuine Christian faith entails.

 

[1] http://infidels.org/library/modern/testimonials/hobbs.html

[2] The first chapter of John’s Gospel refers to Jesus as the eternal Word of God

[3] Yanofsky, Noson S. The Outer Limits of Reason: What Science, Mathematics, and Logic Cannot Tell Us. MIT Press, 2013.

 

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