Taking Apart a Worldview
First published in February, 1998, this BreakPoint commentary reminds us of the utter necessity of confronting and dealing with sin.
How important is it to understand another person’s worldview—someone’s conception of the world, of human life, of reality? It took a former communist to remind me of the answer: It’s absolutely essential.
A few months ago I traveled to Eastern Europe to meet with Prison Fellowship volunteers in a number of countries. One stop was Bulgaria. At the prison in Sofia, we dedicated a prison hospital, provided by Prison Fellowship Holland, and a new prison chapel that had been built by Bulgarian Christians.
It was a glorious occasion. Bulgaria’s national press corps were in attendance, along with the minister of justice, a former Communist and an atheist.
During the dedication ceremonies I told the crowd that crime was a moral problem. Thus, the chapel was vital in dealing with crime, because it would address the restoration of souls.
The minister of justice, who had stood indifferently through most of the proceedings, now stared intently at me as I spoke. Later, he invited me to drop by his office. A remarkable conversation followed.
“Mr. Colson,” the justice minister said, “you speak of crime as a moral problem. What do you mean? Is that a sociological statement?”
I told him that crime was caused by sin—by people choosing to do wrong. He looked bewildered and shook his head. “Oh, no,” he said. “Crime is caused by economic factors.”
At that moment I realized I was face to face with an absolutely alien worldview. As a Communist, this man had been steeped in dialectical materialism—the philosophical underpinnings of Marxism. That is, that economics determines how we behave. That’s the way he saw reality and life.
I realized that before I could even begin to witness to this man, I would have to engage in what the late Francis Schaeffer called “pre-evangelism.” So during the next 90 minutes, I took apart this man’s most basic suppositions, piece by piece. I talked about human sin—the evidence of it in the tragedies of the twentieth century. I talked about the fact that people are motivated by spiritual forces, not by economics. I talked about the relationship of morality to crime.
It was fascinating to watch his expression change as I challenged his view of human nature and of reality. Finally-after an hour and 20 minutes—I was able to openly share what Jesus Christ had done in my life. At that point the minister could understand it; it was as if a dark cloud had lifted.
My experience in Bulgaria is a metaphor for what Christians face—not only in foreign lands but here at home, as well. You see, if people believe there is no such thing as sin, then talk of a Savior makes no sense. If they believe that man is in charge of his destiny—that he can create utopia—then to their minds they make the law, and there is no such thing as a law above the law.
That Bulgarian bureaucrat reminds us that what stands between many people and the Lord is a worldview that cannot accommodate the essential truths of the faith. Until Christians understand this, it will be next to impossible for us to communicate with the modern, secular mind.
Because the man, whether in Bulgaria or America, who does not believe in sin will not believe in a Savior.
You should get a copy of Cornelius Plantinga’s book, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, from our online store. Dr. Plantinga can help you to understand better the devastating effects of sin. You should also read the article, “Slaves to Sin,” by T. M. Moore.