It is a violent world we live in. The approaching ten-year anniversary of 9/11 serves as a painful reminder of that. Terrorism, war, and crime are by no means the only manifestations of that violence. The other battleground, possibly the chief one of them all, is worldview.
You may have seen “worldview” defined in various ways. One of the most common explanations is that one’s worldview is like the glasses through which one looks at reality. Although reality is exactly what it is, the way we see it differs based on our various worldviews.
Here’s another way to look at it. There are multiple “truths” in the world. Above them all is the Truth, which is that which God knows to be true, in which He graciously allows followers of Christ to share. That Truth inevitably conflicts with all other “truths.” And that idea leads to my alternate definition of Christian worldview. A Christian worldview is one’s foundation of knowledge and attitudes, based in God’s Truth, from which one engages with and confronts every other “truth.”
I want to be sure my language on this is clear. Any so-called “truth” in conflict with God’s Truth is no truth at all; it is a lie, a manifestation of the one great Lie that tells us the God of the Bible is not the one God and King over all. The war between the Truth and “truths” is really the war between Truth and the Lie. But the Lie doesn’t come to us openly announcing, “I’m false, I’m deceptive.” It comes to us pretending it is true. For that reason, even though we know the battle is really the Truth against the Lie, sometimes it can be helpful to think of it as the Truth against “truths” that are not true.
Possibly the most insidious of all these “truths” is the one that says truths don’t conflict: that we can all live happily together with our various ideas of truth, that it’s impolite to suppose that any of us could really be wrong, and that everything is going to turn out all right for everyone in the end. It is a lovely dream, an attractive ideal, but nevertheless a deadly distortion.
Yes, we know that Jesus is the Prince of Peace who said, “Peace I bring to you,” and of whom it was said “he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” But he came to bring grace and truth, to bear witness to the truth. When he said, “Peace I bring to you,” he added, “not as the world brings peace.”
A commenter on First Things’s Evangel blog, where I spend some of my writing time, said this about the same-sex “marriage” debate (it could as easily have been any of a dozen other topics):
My central point is that, considering the fact that we cannot conclude with metaphysical certitude which religion is true (if any), a reasonable pragmatic solution, in order to keep the peace, is to allow people to go their own ways in these matters.
In other words, we don’t know the Truth and we can’t know the Truth, but we can at least try to coexist with our various “truths.” What popped immediately to my mind on hearing that was, how realistic is that? A small minority opened up the marriage-policy battlefield and turned it into a full flaming cultural conflagration. This commenter wants us to think that if we just let them “go their own way,” then all will be calm and quiet. Pardon me for being skeptical about that.
And what happens when such idealism meets really hard reality? “Full cognitive meltdown,” suggests one professor. I read this in our local newspaper in October 2001 (you can find the full article here):
The campuses, once citadels of opposition to military action, generally are quiet, in part, said author and commentator David Rieff, because this generation of students is hamstrung by the "politically correct" education it has received since kindergarten. "The nice kids have been taught that all differences are to be celebrated," said Rieff, currently a visiting professor at UC Berkeley, "and they're in full cognitive meltdown. Their homeroom teachers and guidance counselors never told them that there are people in the world who mean them harm."
To young people educated in this way, Rieff said, "it just doesn't make emotional sense that cultural differences could lead to war and not greater understanding." The events of Sept. 11 "have created a deep existential crisis for kids who grew up in a multicultural America in which no enthusiasm or cause excluded any other enthusiasm or cause and in which the very notions of tragedy and the irreconcilable were consciously rejected," Rieff said.
Islamic radicalism obviously conflicts with what its adherents regard as Western infidelity. But as Rieff eloquently noted, another conflict surfaced as a result of 9/11: a worldview conflict. A surprising truth (for some) came to light that day, which is that not all “truths” bring light. These students’ abrupt encounter with that reality forced in them a “deep existential crisis.” Indeed it should have, for they had been trained to believe a “truth” that was false.
How then should we believers live in this worldview-violent world? Above all, our attitudes and practices must reflect our own Christian worldview. It seems almost contradictory: We are to walk joyfully, peacefully, trustingly, knowing that we are the King’s adopted children, whom he has granted an inheritance of which we can never be despoiled. And yet we must also carry the armor and weapons of God, for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against powerful spiritual forces (Ephesians 6:10-20). “Prepare your minds for action,” says 1 Peter 1:13, “and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” We have a secure hope in Christ, yet we have work to do.
We live by our worldviews. Too many die by them, tragically, for there is one Truth that brings life; there is One who Himself is the Truth who brings life. Yet three days ago someone committed suicide on the street just a half-mile from my home. Ten years ago thousands died, all at one time. Every day someone else succumbs to the battle.
Your worldview is not just the pair of glasses you wear to see reality. It is the stance from which you fight. Confirm your mind in Truth and in hope and joy. Prepare for action. There are battles to be fought.
Tom Gilson is a Campus Crusade for Christ/Cru writer and strategist currently on assignment to BreakPoint. He blogs at ThinkingChristian.net.
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