Worldview Made Easy

A launch into the study of worldview can often be overwhelming and complicated. Many works on the subject, from a Christian point of view, tend to focus on the particulars (things like the various individual religions, cults, new-age spiritualities etc); but in so doing, they miss the forest for the trees. Viz., They miss larger categories into which these individual expressions fall.  As a result, an enquiry into worldview quickly turns into a very complicated and detailed area of study; many (especially new Christians) will understandably give up before they have found what they were looking for.

This is a problem. Every Christian needs to try and get a good grasp on this subject. This is because an understanding of our own worldview (in relation to opposing worlviews) helps us to interpret everything around us. It helps us to come to terms with where we stand in relation to everything else (people, things, and ideas). Moreover, for the Christian who seeks to engage in meaningful evangelism, the enterprise is of critical importance. So, if you are one of the people that have tried to study this subject, and have felt that it has been too complicated for you, let me encourage you to keep on reading.

Michael Horton, in his “The Christian Faith: A Theology for Pilgrims on the Way”, (what a title for the two-age sojourner!) offers a very helpful approach to the subject in the opening section of his book. While it is not uncommon to find some sort of apologetic for the Christian worldview at the start of a systematic theology, Horton’s offering is particularly helpful. Also it makes the subject of worldview classification very accessible, memorable and manageable.

He shows that it is possible to understand any worldview in terms of one of three basic categories. Three big buckets; that’s all you need. The basic concept at the centre of each of these categories is the problem of ‘a stranger’. And the stranger, of course, is God.

If the central problem/concept is that God is stranger, then the central question is, “how should we respond to that problem?”. Here’s the rub: In every single worldview, there is essentially only 1 of 3 answers. If you can understand the answer/approach of that worldview, then you’ve essentially grasped the big idea behind that worldview.  And that is all there is to it. Beautifully simple.

If you are interested in exploring this further, look out for the next post where we’ll explore each one of these 3 answers/categories.  Or if you wanted to jump ahead and do that now, check out this episode of the podcast:

Ontology and the Importance of Philosophy

Ontology is an area in the study if theology that has a profound overlap with the study of philosophy. At the end of the day, however, it is a philosophical category. In this regard, it forms a case-study in showing the importance of the study of philosophy, along with theology, and to give careful consideration to the importance of philosophical thinking throughout the ages.

Ontology is the study of reality; the study of being. It seeks to answer some of the most important questions that we could ever ask: “What is reality? What is being?”. Without question, these are deeply intimidating ideas. Also, they might seem too high and lofty for our average down-to-earth lives. However, if we fail to wrestle with these ideas, at least at a basic level, it will harm our ability to have a cohesive worldview, not to mention a strong starting point for our understanding of God and theology.

One of my favourite books on Systematic Theology is written by Michael Horton, called “The Christian Faith” (he also wrote an excellent layman’s version called “Pilgrim Theology”). One of the reasons that it is among my favourite presentations of Christian doctrine is because of the way that he starts. He acknowledges the need to begin with ontology, and from that starting point, to build toward an epistemology (study/theory of knowing). We must start with the big questions: How do we understand God’s being? How do we understand our own being?

Think about the way that we sometimes browse backwards through photos on Facebook or Instagram; good memories from years ago. Aside appreciating the occasion itself, one of the things that often happens is that we notice how much we, or another person in the photograph has changed. And this is indeed, true. We have changed. The reality is that not only are we older than before, but we are not the same person that we were. This is true for everyone, all the time. This is in fact a profound ontological reality.

You never simply ‘are’. You are always ‘becoming’. Only God ‘is’. Indeed, this is nothing less than the ontological essence of his ‘God-ness’. To ‘be’, is to be God. While everything else is growing and changing and learning, God simply ‘is’. He was never ‘not’. He never learns anything new. He always has perfect knowledge. What a mind-blowing reality!

But it is not only theologians and philosophers that think these sorts of thoughts. It’s one of the first things that the most profound of philosophers — little children — ask their parents not very long after they enter into a state of consciousness. We all remember experiencing these questions ourselves; “Mommy, who made God?” The answer is that no one made God. God is uncreated. God ‘is’. He exists in a pure state of being. And unlike God, everyone and everything else is in a state of becoming.

In this we see a good example of the importance of the study of ontology, both in terms of philosophical and theological categories. A right understanding of ontology, or the nature of reality presents a wide-lense starting point for any truly Christian theology: a distinction of creator and creature. It’s not difficult to see that if this is not properly in place, and properly thought through, we will quickly go off course.

Imagine if we failed to define the God-ness of God in this way? We might be lead to think that God is growing or changing in the same way that we are, such as is often presented by teachers of open-willed theism. On the other hand you might be led to believe that man, given long enough, could himself become like God. These are dangerous ideas. And it is only through a study of this philosophical category that we will come to see the ways that these ideas not only misrepresent the Scripture, but also the very nature of reality itself.

Secular Reflection

After delving into some of the ideas behind the title of this blog, we’re moving on to talk about the type of content that I hope to update it with. Yesterday, I mentioned that this is where the subtitle comes in: “Meditation on the sacred. Reflection on the secular”. We looked at the first sentence last time. In this post, let’s look at the second.

Reflection on the Secular

When I use the term “secular”, I use it as an umbrella term. In its broadest sense, it refers to the world that surrounds the sacred; inclusive of both the common and the profane. And while I feel no sacred calling to meditate on the secular, I do feel the ongoing need to reflect meaningfully upon it (as a tolerated sojourner, this is where the idea of reciprocal toleration really comes to the fore).  Put as simply as possible however, here is that part of my journal, web-log (or…blog) which serves to record my engagement with the world around me.

Regarding the nature of this engagement then, quite contrary to “my meditation on the sacred”, here I promise no focus or regularity whatsoever. I’ll only write on the secular every once in a while. When I write, I’ll ignore all blog-post length conventions. I’ll cover everything from the random details of my personal hobbies to the ongoing social and political rants in my head (well ok, maybe not political rants. But you get the point). Basically, when it comes to my reflection on the secular, it’s going to be a bit of a free-for-all; as it should be.

Theological-devotional material will serve as the clear mainstay of this blog.  The rest is of a secondary focus to me. At the high points, I hope that these reflections will demonstrate that the study of theology not only leads to a deepened devotion, but also a deepened reflection upon the world around us. However, even at the low points, these entries stay significant if only in that they provide the remainder content of my web-journal. That’s what this is: just “another web-journal of the great Christian journey”. And in that sense, even the worst of these posts will aim to do well in that they serve to record both the heavenly and earthly life of this dual citizen, and tolerated sojourner.

Sacred Meditation

Moving on from those ideas and issues pertaining to the blog-title, the next step is to think about the blog’s content itself.

So, what exactly do I want to write about, anyway? Well, hold your horses little pilgrim, I’ll get there when I’m good and ready.  First I need to say a bit about the greater categories. And this is exactly where the sub-title comes in: “Meditation on the sacred. Reflection on the secular”.

In this post, let me say a bit about that first sentence:

Meditation on the Sacred

By the term “sacred”, I have in mind Sacred-Scripture. Holy Writ. The Word of God itself: set against the profane, and set apart from the common.

By “meditation on the sacred”, I mean “writing of a theological-devotional nature”. Not the dry and dusty stuff. Not the shallow, fluffy nonsense. Rather, a true and experiential theology.

While I’m not at all against the need to think about the sacred at an exclusively academic level, that is not what I want to write about. Firstly, I know my station; I’m not an academic. More positively however, my calling is to the pastorate: a calling to preach and teach the Bible in a way that resonates with the heart and influences the soul. And whatever the value of academic theology (and there is indeed great value), my task is to bring it to the people and make it battlefield-ready. Sacred mind-engaging, heart-stirring, theological meditation. As a pastor, this is what I am called to do. As a pastor therefore, this is primarily what I want to write about. I’ll strive for a balance between brevity and substance. My focus will be singular: to write in such a way that probes your soul and leads you into further meditation upon the Word.  In this regard, while I look forward to the benefits that writing will bring to me; my great hope (by the pure grace of God), is that these benefits are eclipsed by any scripture-extracted blessings that you might experience.