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Encyclopedia > Christian Worldview

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The Trinity
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Christian worldview refers to a collection of distinctively Christian philosophical and religious beliefs. The term is typically used on one of three ways:

  • Most commonly, a number of unique Christian worldviews held by those referring to themselves as Christian;
  • Alternatively, the common elements of all Christian worldviews;
  • Most rarely, a single "Christian worldview" on the full range of issues, in which all views differing from the "Christian worldview" are seen as "non-Christian" or "sub-Christian."


The multiplicity of Biblical worldviews

Christian worldviews are the worldviews held by Christians to be valid views on the world and life for their time. Christian worldviews vary enormously, just as in the different canons of the Bible and different literary sources we can see different "biblical worldviews." True, they all do incorporate the notion of a three-storey universe - the heavens above, the earth beneath, and the underworld - what Northrop Frye indicated as the central clusters of the system of metaphors in the Bible - mountain, garden, and cave. It wasn't until late in the development of the Bible that the notion of Hell appeared, rather than the relatively shallow concept of the Cave or Grave which we still see in the Gospel when the graves open and the walking dead appear between the time of Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus. Few Christian worldviews today include the occurrence or possible recurrence of such phenomena. But to accommodate the emergence in the later Apocalyptic literature and the New Testament distinction between the grave and the lake of fire, Frye gives an additional kernel for the fourth metaphorical cluster in the Bible: furnace. Herman Northrop Frye (July 14, 1912 - January 23, 1991) was a Canadian literary critic, one of the most distinguished of the 20th century. ...

In other respects than the three-storey universe, there are great differences among the biblical worldviews, and these change from canon to canon, both among Jews and later among Christians. For instance, the Sadducean community to which most Temple priests belonged in Jesus' day, accepted only the first five books of the vastly enlarged Hebrew Bible of today. The Sadducees accepted only the Pentateuch, or the Five Books of Moses - and they had no concept of Resurrection, no Apocalyptic literary genre like the Book of Daniel in the Hebrew Bible of Jews of other worldviews, no Book of Esther (which doesn't even mention the Lord). In Jesus' day, the various schools of Pharisees accepted different sets of books from the Histories, the Wisdom Literature, and the Prophets. The Conservative Jew and sociologist Irving Zeitlin in his very important book, Jesus and His Times, shows the wide diversity of peoples in Palestine in Jesus' day, the wide diversity among Jews as the majority group, and the wide diversity among Pharisees the largest class of learned non-priestly males among the Jews. [1]. What's more whole sections of the Judaic population found the priesthood and the Temple to be false and unacceptable, and refused to go there to worship (this tradition goes all the way back to the Elohists in their refusal of the Yahwist Jerusalem Temple of Solomon). The work of Prof. Felix Just, S.J. Loyola Marymount University is far less adequate and manages to miss many of the most crucial points pinpointed by Zeitlin, but still demonstrates the diversity among Jews [2] and attends somewhat on another webpage to further diversities in the Palestine of Jesus' day among non-Jews and converts to Judaism. [3] Loyola Marymount University, also referred to as LMU, is a private, co-educational Roman Catholic university in the United States. ...

Differences in canons clue to differences in worldviews

These differences in canons among Jews in Jesus day represent in large part differences in worldviews. Likewise, the political affiliations and outlooks, in relation to Messianic ideas and nationalism, differed markedly among the Jews. Today, the main notion of worldview in North America is Protestant and in unlearned discourse the Protestant canon (where the Old Testament differs markedly from the Hebrew Bible of normative post-Second-Temple Judaism, differs as well as from the Ethiopic and the Roman Catholic canons) is aggrandized as the only canon, and then that canon-related Protestant worldview to which no writer in the Bible could possibly subscribe has become doctrinalized in terms of a kernelized Christian story of Creation, Fall, and Redemption. This schematic is derived from Herman Dooyeweerd who had a very different notion of worldview from those who use his schematic for a purpose he never envisioned; instead, this borrowed and uncritical derivation obscures Dooyeweerd's usage whereby he defined the Christian "religious groundmotive," in terms of the three points of this schematic. "Religious ground motive" does not equal "worldview" does not equal "doctrine" does not equal "philosophy" - but one can talk philosophically about a given worldview, about Christian worldviews collectively, and about worldviews in general. Herman Dooyeweerd Herman Dooyeweerd (1894-1977) was a Dutch juridical scholar by training, who by vocation was a philosopher, and the founder of a new approach called, the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea. ...

Worldviews are a universal of human existence

Worldviews always embrace the world as it exists in one's time, but only in relation to how the world is pictured by this or that person, this or that community or institution, and includes the feedback factor of whatever actions the group wishes to make or is in the process of making toward achieving their perceived goals in their setting. A worldview may be passive and quietist, until some encroaching terrible event overtakes the community and impacts it into a response, where the worldview ante must give way for part of the community at least, thrusting the other part to make strenuous efforts toward a new stance in the midst of everyday-life (the quotidian existence of members of the community). That overarching fact is true also of Christian worldviews from country to country, culture to culture, and age to age. It is inevitable that a large community with its institutions and organizations will introduce elements into its particular worldview that reflect the vicissitudes of its level of knowledge as these change throughout history, but will also contain numerous ideological elements specific to the particular time, place, and culture. Worldviews have to do with the less-than-infinite knowledge, horizons of opportunity, aesthetic sensibilities, and many other factors configured into the background and atmospherics of a community's life in the historical process of its life, subculture, and relations to the broader mainstream culture.

Language factors in worldviews: the case of Palestine in Jesus' day

Another worldview factor has to do with language. On this subject a quotation summarizing an original text © Pauli Huuhtanen and Nils Martola (Kirjapaja 1997, Finland) is in order: "The mother tongue of Jesus was Aramaic. This Semitic language spread from the 7th century B.C. onwards as the administrative language of the Persian Empire as far as Egypt and ousted most other languages of the Near East," including Hebrew. "In Judaea, Hebrew survived alongside its close relative Aramaic as a spoken language up to the first half of the second century A.D," when Hebrew was definitively displaced by Greek among the middle and upper classes after the translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek (the Septuagint, which varies considerably from the Hebrew Bible and contains many books that were not canonical to most Jews at the time of translation). It is the Greek Septuagint that is quoted by Paul in his Letters in the New Testament, not the Hebrew Bible in any of its differing canonizations. Aramaic by this time was spoken among the poor and farmers in Palestine, but was largely eclipsed among the cultured. "It is unclear how widespread was a knowledge of Greek in Palestine in the time of Jesus." But by the time of his death, the Greek-speaking synogogues of Jerusalem and other large cities were well attended by Christians like Stephen the Martyr who died at the hands of Saul the Narrow-School Pharisee, Grecized Jews native to Jerusalem and other parts of Palestine, [4] as well as pilgrims and converts who spoke mostly Greek. "... [G]overnment was impossible without a mastery of Greek. Relations with Jews living outside Palestine also required a command of Greek, for in Egypt, for example, the Jewish population seem to have known only Greek." And there Philo the Jewish philosopher who read the Septuagint and worshiped in a Greek-speaking synagogue wrote his defense of the Pentateuch as the Jewish philosophy, using Plato's allegorical method of interpretation, to prove that canon superior to anything the Greeks had to offer in philosophy. Philo was a Sadducean Jew. Philo Alexandrinus was born circa 20 BC and died circa 40 AD. If Jesus went to Egypt at a very young age, as the Gospel says, Jesus could have been living a few blocks from Philo while the Sage was writing philosophy and attending to the Jewish community's relations with the government of Alexandria, a city where all the Jewish biblical canons, sects, and worldviews were represented and the city's Jews were not only speaking Greek but also presenting Bible stories in dramatic performances. ¶ "The need for a knowledge of Greek in Palestine was also increased by the Greek cities of the country. Among the different social classes the command of Greek was, however, variable. The urban upper class probably had a full command of Greek, but language skills lessened as one moved to the villages." [5]

The efflorescence of worldview-talk among Protestant conservatives today

In the last two decades, a stunning increase in the use of the term "worldview" in North America can be traced to the evangelical Reformed philosopher H. Evan Runner of Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Runner was acquainted with the larger European philosophical usage of the term, and with the narrower expansion of its use in the Reformed community in the Netherlands. But when Runner launched use of the term in his evangelical Reformed community in North America, it was soon broadcast and picked-up by many who had no idea that the term had a technical meaning, and soon it devolved into a buzzword among evangelicals and fundamentalists, not least of all Rousas Rushdoony's theonomists. A new and vulgar meaning emerged where "worldview" was simply substituted for "doctrine" as an "application" of the Bible to "all spheres of life." The sociology of the dissemination of the term and of the phrase has led to a reversal to the extent where it has, in some quarters, come to replace Dooyeweerd's other technical term "religious ground motive" or simply came to function redundantly for fundamentalist biblicism, which is just one among many Christian world-and-lifeviews. Howard Evan Runner, often referred to as H. Evan Runner, (born January 28, 1916 in Oxford, Pennsylvania; died March 14, 2002) was professor of philosophy at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA from 1951 until his retirement in 1981. ... Calvin College logo Calvin College is a comprehensive liberal arts college located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. ... Religious ground motive (RGM) is a conceptual construct of the reformational philosophy of Herman Dooyeweerd. ... Biblicism is a description of notable and attentive concern for biblical text. ...

David Naugle, [6] chair and professor of philosophy, Dallas Baptist University, has cast much light on the word in his important book, Worldview: A History of the Concept (Eerdmans, 2000). Albert M. Wolters, a student of H. Evan Runner and D. H. Th. Vollenhoven wrote the first widely disseminated worldview-book in contemporary North America, Creation Regained: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985; Carlisle, UK: Paternoster Press, 1996). His student, Nancy Pearcey more in the line of fundamentalist Francis Schaeffer, has produced two worldview-books, one with Chuck Colson (How Now Shall We Live?) and more recently in her own write, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from its Cultural Captivity (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2004). James Skillen has reviewed the Pearcey and Naugle titles in a recent article, "The Question of a Christian Worldview Books by Nancy Pearcey and David Naugle" [7]. In summarizing the sweep of Naugle's work, Skillen brings us through the recent thinkers regarding worldview among evangelical Protestant Christians of different kinds to the philosophical tradition initiated by Kant: "Naugle, a professor at Dallas Baptist University in Texas, begins his book with an exploration of the tradition that so influences Nancy Pearcey and others, namely, the Protestant Evangelicalism of Abraham Kuyper, Carl F. H. Henry, Herman Dooyeweerd, and Francis A. Schaeffer. He then moves to the development of worldview thinking in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions. And that is just the beginning. For he then goes back to the first use of the word Weltanschauung (world and life view) by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, and its subsequent development by nineteenth and twentieth century philosophers and scientists, including Hegel, Dilthey, Nietzsche, Husserl, Jaspers, Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Marx, Engels, Freud, Karl Mannheim, Donald Davidson, Michael Polanyi, Thomas Kuhn, Peter Berger, Michael Kearney, and Robert Redfield. All of this is a massive and illuminating undertaking, covering 250 pages." [8] David Naugle is the author of Worldview: The History of a Concept. ... Dallas Baptist University is a Christian liberal arts university located in Dallas, Texas, USA. // Mission Statement The purpose of Dallas Baptist University is to provide Christ-centered quality higher education in the arts, sciences, and professional studies at both the undergraduate and graduate levels to traditional age and adult students... Howard Evan Runner, often referred to as H. Evan Runner, (born January 28, 1916 in Oxford, Pennsylvania; died March 14, 2002) was professor of philosophy at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA from 1951 until his retirement in 1981. ... Dirk Hendrik Theodoor Vollenhoven ( 1892- 1978) was with Herman Dooyeweerd the first generation of reformational philosophers, an intellectual movement with which Vollenhoven worked communally from his election in 1936 as President of the newly-organized group formed to advance the movement; the organization is now known as the Association for... Francis Schaeffer Francis A Schaeffer (1912–1984), a Christian theologian, philosopher, and Presbyterian pastor, is most famous for his writings and his establishment of the lAbri community in Switzerland. ... Charles Wendell Chuck Colson was the chief counsel for President Richard Nixon from 1969 to 1973. ... This article needs to be cleaned up to conform to a higher standard of quality. ... Portrait of Abraham Kuyper by Jan Veth Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) was born in the town of Maassluis and was a Dutch Calvinist theologian, scholar, and statesman. ... Carl F. H. Henry (January 22, 1913 - December 7, 2003) was an evangelical Christian theologian, who founded the magazine Christianity Today as a scholarly voice for evangelical Christianity and as a challenge to the liberal Christian Century. ... Herman Dooyeweerd Herman Dooyeweerd (1894-1977) was a Dutch juridical scholar by training, who by vocation was a philosopher, and the founder of a new approach called, the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea. ... The Roman Catholic Church, most often spoken of simply as the Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with over one billion members. ... Eastern Orthodoxy (also called Greek Orthodoxy and Russian Orthodoxy) is a Christian tradition which represents the majority of Eastern Christianity. ... His tomb and its pillared enclosure outside the cathedral in Königsberg are some of the few artifacts of German times preserved by the Soviets after they conquered East Prussia in 1945. ... Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (August 27, 1770 - November 14, 1831) was a German philosopher born in Stuttgart, Württemberg, in present-day southwest Germany. ... Wilhelm Dilthey Wilhelm Dilthey (November 19, 1833–October 1, 1911) was a German historian, psychologist, sociologist, student of Hermeneutics, the study of interpretations and meanings, and a philosopher. ... Friedrich Nietzsche, 1882 Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (October 15, 1844 - August 25, 1900) was a highly influential German philosopher. ... Edmund Husserl Edmund Gustav Albrecht Husserl (April 8, 1859 - April 26, 1938), philosopher, was born into a Jewish family in Prossnitz, Moravia (Prostejov, Czech Republic), Empire of Austria-Hungary. ... Karl Jaspers Karl Theodor Jaspers (February 23, 1883 - February 26, 1969), a German psychiatrist and philosopher, had a strong influence on modern theology, psychiatry and philosophy. ... Martin Heidegger Martin Heidegger (September 26, 1889 – May 26, 1976) was a German philosopher. ... Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951), pictured here in 1930, made influential contributions to Logic and the philosophy of language, critically examining the task of conventional philosophy and its relation to the nature of language. ... Marx is a common German surname. ... The term Engels could refer to more than one thing: Friedrich Engels, German socialist Engels, Russia, formerly known as Pokrovsk This is a disambiguation page — a navigational aid which lists other pages that might otherwise share the same title. ... Sigmund Freud His famous couch Sigmund Freud (May 6, 1856 - September 23, 1939) was an Austrian neurologist and the founder of the psychoanalytic school of psychology, a movement that popularized the theory that unconscious motives control much behavior. ... Karl Mannheim (March 27, 1893, Budapest - January 9, 1947, London) was a Hungarian-born sociologist, influential in the first half of the 20th century. ... Donald Davidson (March 6, 1917 – August 30, 2003) was an American philosopher and the Willis S. and Marion Slusser Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley. ... Michael Polanyi (March 11, 1891 - February 22, 1976) was a Hungarian/ British polymath whose thought and work extended across physical chemistry, economics, and philosophy. ... Thomas Samuel Kuhn (July 18, 1922 – June 17, 1996) was an American intellectual who wrote extensively on the history of science and developed several important notions in the philosophy of science. ... Peter Ludwig Berger (born March 17, 1929) is an American sociologist well known for his work The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge (New York, 1966). ... This article needs to be cleaned up to conform to a higher standard of quality. ... Robert Redfield (1897-1958) was an American anthropologist and ethnolinguist. ...

Resources: books & digital documents online

  • Jürgen Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action, Volume II (1981) - see sections on Worldviews and Worldpictures
  • David Naugle, Worldview: A History of the Concept (Eerdmans, 2000).
  • Ninian Smart, Worldviews: Crosscultural Explorations of Human Belief (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2000)
  • Joe Bransford Wilson, Religions as Worldviews: The Seven Dimensions of a Worldview Smart's schematic

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