Perhaps you’ve seen the survey conducted by the Barna Research Groups, which determined that only four percent of Americans have a biblical worldview. Even more alarming, only nine percent of born-again believers in America have a Christian worldview. Probably you’ve see the devastating results of a secular worldview: broken families, wasted lives and ineffective Christians.
It is important that we have a good handle on what a worldview is so that we can grow in our own commitment to the truth, and to help those we love to grow in their commitment as well.
"Although most people own a Bible and know some of its content, our research found that most Americans have little idea how to integrate core biblical principles to form a unified and meaningful response to the challenges and opportunities of life." – George Barna
A worldview is the framework from which we view reality and make sense of life and the world. For example, a two-year-old believes he’s the center of the world, a secular humanist believes that the world is all that exists and a Buddhist believes he can be liberated from suffering by self-purification. Someone with a biblical worldview believes his primary reason for existence is to love and serve God.
Whether conscious or subconscious, every person has some type of worldview. A personal worldview is a combination of all you believe to be true and what you believe becomes the driving force behind every emotion, decision and action. Therefore, it affects your response to every area of life: from philosophy to science, theology and anthropology to economics, law, politics, art and social order — everything. It is the interpretive “lenses” we use for understanding what we believe is real. From our personal worldview spring all of our actions and thoughts, and it is in unguarded moments when we can really see what we believe to be true.
For example, on Sunday morning the pastor asks for a show of hands of everyone who believes that God is the Provider of everything that we have or need now and for the rest of our lives. However, like many of the others who raised their hand, let’s suppose you struggle with anxiety and worry. The important question then is, "Do you really believe that what you believe about God being the Provider is really real?" Worldview speaks about these core beliefs.
A biblical worldview is based on the infallible Word of God. When you believe the Bible is entirely true, it is the foundation of everything you say and do. That means, for instance, you take seriously the mandate in Romans 13 to honor the governing authorities by researching the candidates and issues, making voting a priority.
Here is the big problem. Non-biblical worldview ideas don’t just sit in a book somewhere waiting for people to examine them. They bombard us constantly from television, film, music, newspapers, magazine, books and academia. Because we live in a selfish, fallen world, these ideas seductively appeal to our flesh, and we often end up incorporating them into our personal worldview — often without even knowing it.
For example, most Christians would agree with I Thessalonians 4:3 and other Scriptures that command us to avoid sexual immorality, but how often do Christians fall into lust or premarital and extramarital sexual sin? Is it simply because they are weak when tempted. Or did it begin much earlier, with the seductive lies from our sexualized society?
If we don’t really believe and live the truth of God, then our witness will be confusing and misleading. Most of us go through life not recognizing that our personal worldviews have been deeply affected by the world. Through the media and other influences, the secularized American view of history, law, politics, science, God and man affect our thinking more than we realize. We then are "taken captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ." (Colossians 2:8)
However, by diligently learning, applying and trusting God’s truths in every area of our lives, we can begin to develop a deep comprehensive faith that will stand against the unrelenting tide of our culture’s non-biblical ideas. If we capture and embrace more of God’s worldview and trust it with unwavering faith, then we begin to make the right decisions and form the appropriate responses to questions on abortion, same-sex marriage, cloning, stem-cell research and even media choices. Because, in the end, it is our decisions and actions that reveal what we really believe.
It will take a monumental effort to change the course of our society, starting first with our own understanding of God’s truth. So, we have launched one of the most ambitious initiatives in Focus on the Family’s history, Focus on the Family’s The Truth Project™. Through this DVD-based, 12-week home study, we hope to initiate transformation in the lives of thousands. We also expect that many will desire to lead these studies, and we are prepared to train and support facilitators, whom we are calling change agents, through training events, resources and a robust Web site, www.thetruthproject.org.
In 1991, President George H. W. Bush appointed Del Tackett — now president of the Focus Leadership Institute — as the director of technical plans at the White House for the National Security Council. During this time of serving as the White House's liaison to federal agencies, Del often noticed three murals — memorials to America's foundations — in the Capitol's rotunda. The first was the landing of Columbus, the second the Christian baptism of Pocahontas, and the third the Pilgrims as they paused for prayer on their leaky ship Speedwell with the Bible open, eyes uplifted to heaven.
Del saw other signposts of faith: the inscription "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free" above the CIA headquarters, the stone tablet of the Ten Commandments in the Supreme Court and the many Bible verses on the Library of Congress and on the steps of the Washington Monument.
One evening, Del stood in the state dining room in the White House and read the prayer that John Adams had carved into the marble over the fireplace. Everywhere Del looked a story was being told about America's foundation; it was a story he knew but had not heard acknowledged in Washington — an overwhelming testimony to the presence and leadership of Almighty God in the lives of those who founded America.
Del realized the founding men and women knew God was sovereign over all of life. They saw a larger story, understanding that underneath their individual lives was a deeper foundation, a deeper meaning, a deeper purpose. Del thought, These men and women knew God was real. In everything they acknowledged God's influence and involvement.
"My eyes were opened, and I hungered to know what a true Christian worldview was," Del says. "I spent years in biblical study and realized that a biblical worldview applies every aspect of life." He also realized many Christians did not understand this truth.
The chilling reality in America today: Christians view reality, truth and life not much differently from the culture around them, according to research from George Barna. As a result, Christians don't live much differently from their neighbors who do not know Christ. Divorce rates are similar, addictive behaviors are the same, and Christians struggle to find the answers to the same questions about significance and meaning in life.
To counteract this mentality, while still working in Washington, Del started teaching in churches what he'd been learning about faith. He taught that the truth of the Bible is applicable to every area of a person's life, to every sphere of society, to every aspect of creation. When he completed his assignment in Washington, Del moved to Colorado Springs, Colo., and started New Geneva Seminary along with a small group of other Christian leaders.
"The desire to teach Christian worldview motivated us to found New Geneva," Del says. "Our vision was to establish a seminary that was worldview oriented, producing leaders who would relate faith to all of life. As we did this, we were amazed at what happened in the lives of our students."
Today Del is working on Focus on the Family's The Truth Project, and he serves as the president of the Focus Leadership Institute, which emphasizes Christian worldview to its students.
"The Truth Project" is a DVD seminar that imparts truth and reintroduces believers to the context of Christianity in all its purity and power (see sidebar for details). On this project and in his teaching, Del covers three main truths that many Christians miss:
"When people awaken to the reality of who God is, they come to understand that God has spoken into every area of life," Del says. "They also see how they have mixed Truth with the world's the lies. "As a result, Christians develop discernment to live life without mixture."
With this education, people gain confidence that there are answers to all the important life questions. "They may not know all the answers, but they understand that God, as our Father, has not simply dropped us off on earth; He's given us the answers."
As more Christians realize the importance of living by a biblical worldview, Del believes Christians will have the opportunity to make a difference in the most important place of all — the hearts and minds of the people they care about.
As a young Idaho farm boy, I was hooked on Superman comics. I read every one of them and began to imagine that the stories were all very real. I can remember thinking that there must have been something in Superman’s cape that made him fly. So, I made one.
Naturally, the best place to test it was from the top of the chicken coop. I remember the certainty that filled me as I climbed to the roof. There was no hesitation, no second thoughts. I was going to fly. I knew it—I believed it. I also clearly remember my contact, first with the wood pile, then with the ground. This is when I discovered that it is possible to believe something strongly and be very wrong about it.
There are at least two ways we end up with false beliefs. First, we can misinterpret reality, as I did when I tried to fly. No matter how ardently I believed I could fly, an intense encounter with gravity showed me I couldn’t.
I have often heard the statement—and deeply regret making it myself—that "perception is reality." Nonsense. One who holds this position will find himself in many perplexing situations. You may perceive that it is not raining outside, yet after you retrieve the newspaper, you’ll sit in bewilderment, contemplating why you are soaking wet. You may perceive that the light is on and then wonder why it is so difficult to read at night. Or, more tragically, a young girl may look in the mirror and perceive that she is fat, then wonder why she is in a hospital bed, dying of malnutrition.
Is perception reality? No. I thought I could fly. I can’t. Sometimes, our perceptions or beliefs are totally false. And a false belief about what is real can make us do some very stupid things.
The second way we acquire false beliefs is through our culture, which tells us lies everyday. That’s why, when God came to earth as a man, he spent a great deal of time attempting to explain to us what is really real. "Truly, truly, I say to you ..." Jesus would exclaim over and over again, trying to get the people to believe reality in the midst of the lies that surrounded them.
Two thousand years later, we still reject his testimony. The lies of our culture are everywhere, seeping into our minds through a myriad of hoaxes: a television program insidiously tells us that the pleasures of the world bring happiness; music glorifies rape or murder or drugs; financial advisors tell us to create our own security, assuming there’s no God to provide for us. What is going on here? The reality is that the pleasures of the world leave only emptiness, drugs destroy lives, and money in itself can never bring security. The list goes on and on. And the consequences are horrific.
Our postmodern world is pulling each individual into a vacuum of self-centeredness, whispering, "It’s all about you." It’s all about your own pleasure, peace, prosperity, and comfort. It’s all about what you think. It’s all about your own self-actualization, your individual pursuit. It reminds me of the first lie that mankind heard in the garden: "You will be like God!" It is all about us, isn’t it?
In an interview with Diane Sawyer, 1Mel Gibson confessed that when he reached the top of the world, with all of its stardom, wealth, power, and luxury, he was the most miserable and depressed man in the world. He even considered committing suicide. Why? Because worldly success really is a big lie. Despite uncounted testimonies that misery lives at the end of that road, we continue to walk it. I am not saying that all material things are inherently evil. Many are the gift of God. But believing that they will bring rest for our souls is one of the great lies of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
This is why our worldviews are so important. More than just systems of academic propositions, they drive what we think, how we act and, in most cases, how we feel. I am not talking about our professed worldview—what we say we believe in a Sunday school class or Bible study. In those public forums, we are often more concerned about how others will react to our declarations than whether or not we truly believe them. We are talking about the worldview of our hearts—those things that we truly believe are real. If our personal worldviews are false, we will find ourselves jumping off chicken coops with crayon-colored sheets for capes, or starving ourselves to death in order to reach the "perfect" image.
It is a mystery to me as to how a truth claim becomes a part of our worldview. I don’t completely understand that process. But I do know this: if a teenager puts on her headphones and listens incessantly to a singer or rapper tell her that drugs are the path to joy, or murdering a cop is cool, or easy sex is just something people do for fun, eventually that gets into her heart and will be played out, somewhere, somehow. And when the lies in the heart get played out, someone usually gets hurt deeply.
I remember, many years ago, visiting the dentist. He asked me if I had brushed my teeth well. He sounded like my mother. I nodded my head confidently, for who doesn’t do their very best at brushing before a dental appointment? On this particular occasion, rather than simply smiling at me in affirmation, he handed me a little red tablet and told me to chew it up. This I dutifully did. After all, it is unadvisable to disobey one’s dentist or put him in a bad mood. When I had chewed the little red pill, he held up a mirror and asked me to smile. The horrible image is still embedded in my mind. The red pills were called “disclosing” tablets. They contained a dye which turned all the plaque bright red and therefore disclosed the reality of the gunk in my mouth. What an awful sight! My perception was that I was doing a good job of cleaning my teeth. The little red tablet had shown otherwise.
In the case of my dental visit, the consequences of being deceived about my brushing habits were merely a small cavity. But holding false beliefs about more consequential matters can bring deep pain and even the loss of our own souls.
The Truth of God is our disclosing tablet, reflecting His very image and testing us to reveal the false beliefs in our lives that need “flossing.” May we make it our prayer that God expose every false belief we hold and bring it into line with His truth. Only then can we experience the eternal life his Son came to bring us.
Focus on the Family is a primarily donor-funded ministry, and we are grateful for the generosity of our supporters, who enable us to provide these online resources.
Hey, I gotta question!" yelled a student from the back of the room. I was sharing the claims of Christ at a University of Massachusetts fraternity house when he interrupted me. "Yes, what is it?" I queried. "I think Jesus is great for you, but I know Buddhists and Muslims, and they're just as sincere as you are. And they think their views are true just like you do. There's no way a person can know his religion is the 'right' one, so the best thing to do is to just believe everyone's religion is true for them and not judge anyone."
Ever heard something like this? It's hard to believe you haven't. What should we make of these ideas? How should we respond? I think there is a good response to this viewpoint and I hope to provide it in what follows. But before I do, we should carefully note what seems to underlie such a claim. The student was assuming that there are no objective principles that, if applied to one's religious quest, would help one make the best, most rational choice of religious options. In the absence of such principles, any choice is either purely arbitrary or totally based on emotion or upbringing. In either case, such a choice would in no way put a person in a position to judge someone else's choice as being wrong.
Are there objective principles to guide one in choosing a religion? Indeed there are. I believe the following four principles should be used to guide one in choosing which religion he or she will follow and, if properly applied, I believe they will point to Christianity as the most rational choice.
Principle 1: A religion's concept of God should harmonize with what we can know about God from creation.1
I will not develop the argument here — I want you to look into the matter for yourself — but a powerful intellectual case can be made from facts about the creation that a single personal God exists.2 This case claims that the existence of one personal God is the best explanation for (1) the existence and beginning of a finite universe, (2) the beauty and order of the universe, including the existence of biological information, (3) the existence of finite minds such as our own, and (4) the existence of objective moral law and the equality of human rights.
Please note that Principle 1 points to monotheism, not because the Bible requires it, but because monotheism is the best explanation of these facts about creation. Principle 1 leaves Judaism, Christianity and Islam in the running.
Principle 2: An adequate explanation of a religion's origin and success should have to appeal to divine activity.
One should not be able to explain a religion's origin and success simply as a result of brilliant human insight or philosophical wisdom. As important as these factors are, by themselves they do not indicate whether the religion is a human invention or a divinely sanctioned revelation. For example, Mohammed claimed that he received most of the Koran in a cave. Clearly, there is nothing about this aspect of the origins of Islam that escapes naturalistic explanation.
By contrast, at least two factors indicate that Christianity has supernatural origins. First, there is fulfilled prophecy. Jesus fulfilled numerous centuries-old prophecies and this fact cannot simply be the result of human wisdom. Such a fact defies naturalistic explanation. Again, I will not develop the argument here, but one should familiarize oneself with some of the Old Testament prophesies Jesus fulfilled, along with the evidence that he really did fulfill them.3 Second, based on the historical evidence that the New Testament documents are reliable, one can argue that Christianity is based on real miracles done by Jesus and his disciples, including his resurrection from the dead.4
If Jesus really fulfilled numerous prophecies, and if he really performed miracles and rose from the dead like the New Testament claims, then we need supernatural explanations for the origins and continued success of the Christian faith in a way that we do not need them to explain the origins of Islam and other world religions.
I believe Principle 2 leaves only Christianity and Judaism in the running.
Principle 3: A religion's diagnosis of and solution for the human condition should be more profound than its rivals.
A student of mine came from India to study at Talbot School of Theology. Having been raised a Hindu, he began an intense search for religious truth as a teenager. His search led him to study the religious texts of the world's leading religions. His search also led him to Jesus Christ. Why? He said that, by comparison, the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament towered over the others for their depth, profundity and power. While all religions have some truths in them, one should choose a religion that does the best job of diagnosing what is wrong with human beings and how their condition can be solved.
When one does a cross-cultural study of the human condition, one finds the following universal human experiences and desires: All humans (1) experience threefold alienation — they feel alienated from God, from other people (including those they love), and from themselves; (2) experience deep and abiding shame and guilt; (3) desire personal life after death in which their loves and ideals may continue to be a part of their experience; (4) desire that their individual lives have meaning and purpose; (5) desire a life of beauty and drama, to be a part of something big and important, to be part of the struggle between good and evil; and (6) experience the need for help and empowerment to live a life of virtue and character.
I believe that if one carefully compares the New Testament with other religious approaches (including atheism), like my student, one will discover that the religion of Jesus of Nazareth provides the deepest, most penetrating analysis of these six factors, along with the richest solution to these longings of the human heart.
Principle 3 points straight to Christianity.
Principle 4: Pick a religion in which one gets all of Jesus and not just a watered-down, distorted part of him.
This principle may seem to stack the decks in favor of Christianity, so let me explain. Have you noticed that all religions, including some sects of Judaism, want to claim Jesus as one of their own? For New Agers, he is a channeler, for Muslims he is the greatest prophet, and so on. Now why is this so? I believe this is because Jesus is easily recognized as the greatest figure in human history. Given that most people do not want to line up against Jesus, why not pick a religion that has the best chance of presenting an accurate account of who he really was, what he actually did, and what he really taught?
To review, I believe Principle 1 limits the choices to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Principle 2 limits the choices to Judaism and Christianity, and Principles 3 and 4 point directly to Christianity itself. But don't take my word for it. I have refrained from including the arguments here so that you can find out where these principles lead.
If you agree that they are good principles for selecting a religion — and what makes them good is an interesting question in its own right — then start reading and studying so you can fill in the gaps I've left here. If you do this, not only will you gain a greater understanding of your own faith, you will be able help people see that choosing one's religion need not be an arbitrary step in the dark.
In the Christian church, the term “interfaith dialogue” often referred to evangelism programs created to reach out to other cultures with the gospel message. Today, however, the term is a bit more pluralistic in nature, and suggests embracing members of other religions for the purpose of finding common ground in the values and goals we share.
Interfaith dialogue isn’t actually new. In the 16th century A.D. Emperor Akbar the Great for example, encouraged tolerance in Mughal, India, a diverse nation with people of various faith backgrounds. In the early 20th century interfaith dialogue started to take place between the Abrahamic faiths: Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Bahai. And in 1965, the Roman Catholic Church issued the Vatican II document, Nostra Aetate, instituting major policy changes in the Catholic Church's policy towards non-Christian religions. The InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington was created in 1978, bringing together 11 historic faith communities to promote dialogue, understanding and a sense of community among persons of diverse faiths. And most recently, a group called The Interfaith Youth Core, formed by Eboo Patel, a proclaimed Muslim, introduces relationships based on mutual respect and religious pluralism.
This form of interfaith dialogue is also finding its way into some Christian churches, as those congregations work side by side with other religions on community projects and relief programs for the poor. According to Pastor Ken Silva, vice-president of Evangelism Explosion North America, a ministry that trains people how to share their faith in Christ, this could be a great opportunity for sharing the gospel.
“We need to bless others and that includes all mankind who are created in God’s image, there is god-stuff in everyone. We all need common ground. In the context of interfaith dialogue, love people, show an interest and ask permission to share. Not from the standpoint of confrontation, but sharing ‘why I believe.’ More as personal disclosure and not debate.”
Of course a great deal of debate has risen in the church on the issue of interfaith dialogue, mostly due to those who, in their desire to create harmony among various religions, are willing to compromise the essentials of their own faith. One such document accused of doing just that was A Common Word Between Us and You, a letter signed by 138 religious leaders agreeing on the two things that Islam and Christianity have in common. One excerpt from the document reads:
“The basis for this peace and understanding already exists. It is part of the very foundational principles of both faiths: love of the One God, and love of the neighbour. These principles are found over and over again in the sacred texts of Islam and Christianity. The Unity of God, the necessity of love for Him, and the necessity of love of the neighbour is thus the common ground between Islam and Christianity.”
But do we really share those foundational beliefs? One theologian taking offense to the letter was John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minn., and founder of Desiring God Ministries. Pastor Piper chastised several Protestant leaders for signing a document that, in his opinion, is disingenuous. In his reproof posted on Youtube.com he states, “When we speak of the love of God and even quote a verse from 1 John 4, and don’t take into account the very next verse where the love of God that sustains us Christians is the love of God that sent the Son, Jesus Christ, into the world as the propitiation for our sins, we are not being honest. They do not believe in the God we believe in. To talk in vague terms as though the love of God is a common standing place is to deceive, to be unclear at best. Jesus was clear; if you reject me you reject the one who sent me.”
Besides the Muslim faith, Christians may face similar challenges deciding how to find common ground with other religious groups joining the interfaith dialogue. Don Frew, who serves on the board of the directors of the Interfaith Center at the Presidio in San Francisco, and is the National Interfaith Representative from Covenant of the Goddess, one of the largest and oldest Wiccan religious organizations, writes in their online newsletter, The Witches Voice Inc. “Interfaith work is, in my opinion, the best hope for the future of the Earth. Neopagans, especially many from the Covenant of the Goddess, are active at the heart of the global interfaith movement. This is our opportunity to be part of the change we wish to see.”
Interfaith dialogue could also prove difficult when conversing with other groups that may claim devotion to the Christian faith like The Gay Christian Network, a nonprofit ministry which challenges biblical authority because it supports unrepentant Christians worldwide who have chose to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
Yet, Pastor Silva believes that being a part of interfaith dialogue doesn’t mean Christians have to compromise their own beliefs or change the gospel message. “Jesus never did that. You can love people, even immoral people, and not compromise your commitment to the truth. It’s important to maintain our moral integrity in the world in which we interact.”
Acts of Service
Service projects are often the driving force behind interfaith dialogue as both religious and non-religious groups work together to solve some of the world’s most challenging problems. Perhaps one of the most famous is the One Campaign (now merged with DATA) founded by 11 organizations, which included Bread for the World, International Medical Corps and World Vision. The organization, receiving a $3 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, unites Americans of all beliefs to help raise public awareness about the issues of global poverty, hunger and disease in the world's poorest countries.
Additionally, many states throughout the country have formed their own interfaith ministries in order to address the needs of local communities, none of them requiring adherence to any particular faith or doctrine.
At the local level, many churches are teaming with nonreligious relief programs that serve their community in the form of homeless shelters, children’s services and food programs. Jeremiah Fair, college pastor of Crossroads Church in Turlock, Calif., regularly leads members on community service projects alongside people from all religious walks of life. Pastor Fair believes there are many evangelistic opportunities working side by side with people of different religious backgrounds, and may in fact expose Christian believers, who haven’t taken outreach very seriously, to a lost and perishing part of our culture.
“The only way I can be an effective witness is to respect other people and their beliefs. I think this is going to make us more authentic; we don’t get to pretend anymore. If you’re going to follow Jesus you have to be serious, it’s not just something that’s part of our culture.”
Still, the challenge lies before us. How can the church join hands with those who may in fact despise our foundational beliefs? And how will those groups respond when we refuse to validate behavior the Scriptures overtly condemn?
Of course something that transcends all cultural differences is the love of God for a fallen mankind. People loved to be around Jesus. He attracted people of all backgrounds from Gentiles and Jews, to those involved in the occult. Some came for healing, others seeking answers to tough questions. Regardless, Jesus didn’t turn anyone away. He came that none should perish, promising eternal life to those who believed.
Pastor Silva believes that message needs to be part of the interfaith dialogue. “Let’s not forget what our call really is. If you don’t share the truth of salvation, have you really loved your neighbor?”
Do you see, do you seeAll the people sinking downDon't you care, don't you careAre you gonna let them drown?
-Singer Keith Green from “Asleep in the Light”
Church SpeakHere are the latest terms to bring you up to speed on the latest in pew talk.
Postmodernism- states that much of what we know is shaped by each linguistic community in which we live. Truth is not objective and absolute. It has been described as extremely complex, contradictory, ambiguous and diverse without a clear central hierarchy or organizing principle.
Emerging Church- the transformational changes in the way Christians practice their faith as a tradition, usually originating from the grassroots of both laity and clergy in mainline Protestant denominations.
Emergent Church- Usually refers to the Emergent Village, a group formed in the 1990s bound together by disillusionment with ecclesial institutions of the late 20th century. Emergents downplay core Christian values and the primacy of Scripture while favoring relationships and experiences instead
Social Gospel- the misapplication of Christian principles to social problems especially as it relates to poverty, inequality, racial tensions, war and most recently the spread of AIDS. The core Christian doctrines focus on such principles as the deity of Christ, the Trinity, sin, Christ's atoning sacrifice on the cross, etc. in an individual context rather than a societal one.
Pluralism- a condition in which numerous distinct ethnic, religious or cultural groups are actively seeking understanding across lines of difference and believe that one's religion is not the sole and exclusive source of truth, and that at least some truths and true values exist in other religions.
Interfaith Dialogue- embracing members of other religions for the purpose of finding common ground in the values and goals we share and the similarities between faiths.