HUH? In the past couple of years, that has been my go-to response as I witness self-identified Christians and self-identified Christian ministry leaders respond to the pandemic. Many of those responses were not consistent with my core values and worldview as a Christian and Christian leader. This reality first impacted me was when I read that “Christian” churches in our state had filed suit against our governor. They opposed her exercise of emergency executive authority due to the pandemic. Fortunately, our state’s Supreme Court upheld her legal right to exercise those executive powers.
While pursuing context for my “HUH!” reaction, I came across a recent survey by George Barna. An article entitled Do American Christians Actually Have Biblical Beliefs? Barna’s ‘Revealing’ Findings.
This survey divided the Christian community into these subgroups.
-Self-identified born-again Christians
-Self-identified evangelical Christians
-Theologically born-again Christians
Data from this survey reveals that while 69% of American adults identify as “Christian,” only six percent have a biblical worldview. “These findings,” says Barna, “show that Americans are not taking obedience to Jesus seriously.” He concludes. “The research should lead us to be cautious when interpreting political data.”
Barna continues, “‘Christian’ has become somewhat of a generic term rather than a name that reflects a deep commitment to passionately pursuing and being like Jesus Christ.”
Other insights from the survey:
“Regarding the ‘Theologically born-again’ group, forty percent say there is no absolute truth.”
“People whose beliefs identify them as born-again are far more likely to rely on Jesus as their only savior than their self-identified counterparts.”
“Among the ‘Integrated disciples,’ twenty-five percent say there is no absolute truth.”
Barna concludes, “The survey results clearly demonstrate how careful you have to be when interpreting data associated with a particular segment of people who are labeled as Christians. Political polling, in particular, may mislead people regarding the views and preferences of genuine Christ-followers simply based on how those surveys measure the Christian population.”
As I perused the survey’s insights, what most registered with me was that 69% of American adults who identify as “Christian,” only six percent have developed a biblical worldview.
I was first encouraged to develop a biblical worldview at Westmont College, a small Christian Liberal Arts college near Santa Barbara, California. Westmont’s motto is, “Christus primatum tenens” —”Christ holds first place.” Professors constantly challenged students to integrate their faith with the study of each academic subject.
One of my goals in preaching and teaching the Word of God over the past several decades was to provide the necessary fodder to aid members of the Body of Christ to develop a Biblical Worldview.
Building a worldview is a progressive process reviewed and updated over a lifespan. We observe and interpret reality through the grid of a worldview. Everyone has a worldview. It is critical to identify the raw material that makes up one’s worldview.
I visualize the structural blueprint for my Biblical worldview in this way:
THE FOOTING = Genesis chapter 1
The beginning is an excellent place to start. Notably, so much raw material is packed into the first chapter of Scripture.
There is a God.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)
There is a spiritual realm.
“The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:2)
God created the material universe.
“Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3ff)
God created man in His image.
“So God created man in His image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27)
As His image-bearers, man is to exercise dominion over creation. Understanding creation is a prerequisite for stewarding creation. The scientific method is the path toward that understanding.
“Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28)
All that God created is good.
“Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” (Genesis 1:31)
The teachings of Jesus, God incarnate, related in the Gospels are the foundation for my biblical worldview. Jesus summarizes some of His core values in a message popularly referred to as the Beatitudes.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:3–12)
My “Huh?” moments over the past two years are based on my understanding of Christianity. Christianity is a movement of people who follow Jesus Christ’s example of a lifestyle of service and sacrifice. As Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13) The pandemic provided a golden opportunity for Christians to practically demonstrate service and make sacrifices for the welfare of humanity.
THE MAIN STRUCTURE
One’s theological system and doctrinal interpretation of Scripture shape a worldview. For example, The Christian tradition, which nurtured me in my childhood and youth, viewed the future negatively. That tradition held that world circumstances would worsen until Jesus’ return. I changed my understanding of Scripture through study and now see the future positively. The Kingdom of Jesus will continue to expand, and world circumstances will continue to improve. At some point in the future, Jesus will return. My doctrinal shift affected the grid through which I view reality. For example, whenever I hear of a global tragedy, I remind myself That the growth of Jesus’ kingdom, for the most part, is stealth. It is often well under the radar of popular media.
The “Huh!” Experiences since the inception of Covid are rooted in my biblical understanding of a Christian’s submission to legitimate government authority.
“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” (Romans 13:1)
“Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—” (1 Peter 2:13–15)
The irony in Peter’s admonition is that the Roman government of his day persecuted the church.
Life experience should affirm a worldview. A worldview needs to be tested by reality. A worldview inconsistent with reality distorts the perception of reality and may hide certain aspects of reality from one’s awareness. For example, we have had the privilege of international travel and ministry to churches in other nations. We have also developed a network of Christian colleagues in other countries. Data gleaned from these realities confirm the continued stealth growth of Jesus’ Kingdom, thus confirming my perspective of the future.