Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How a Church can Help its People Cultivate a Biblical Worldview

People have to make choices every day, whether it be what they watch on television, what they listen to on the radio, who to vote for, or what to wear as they are getting ready for work. They also make choices regarding how to raise their kids, what constitutes a happy marriage, and what church to attend. All of these decisions will be based upon what is truly believed. Consequently, beliefs are important, and having the correct beliefs are vital if one is to make the right decisions. Also, how one thinks and how one views the world deeply matters to God. As a matter of fact, one’s transformation is partly predicated on how one thinks. This is why Paul commissioned the Church at Rome not to conform to the thinking of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of their minds (Rom. 12:1-2). Later on, in his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul offers a similar plea, except this time he likens the exercise to engaging in warfare. He states, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5-6, NIV). Making choices are indeed something everyone has to do.

In light of this fact, it is important for churches to help their parishioners make choices that are based on a biblical worldview, which is the basis for cultural apologetics. To do this, churches must first lay the foundation for a biblical worldview by establishing itself as a church that exhibits five essential characteristics. The church must be biblical, epistemologically correct, counter cultural, apologetical, and relational. Each one of the aforementioned characteristics is essential if a church hopes to produce people who have a biblical worldview. After the foundation is laid, the paper will then move to outline practical ways a church can engage church members with worldview concerns, keeping cultural apologetics at the forefront of the church’s ministry.

The Church must be Biblical
How one views the Bible directly effects how one views the world or if one embraces a biblical worldview. Research shows that a majority of Americans do not hold an accurate view of the Bible. According to the Barna Group, “the “highest” view of the Bible – that it is “the actual word of God and should be taken literally, word for word” – is embraced by one-quarter of Mosaics (27%), Busters (27%), and Boomers (23%), and one-third of Elders (34%).” This means that (73%) of Mosaics and (66%) of Elders reject the idea of a high view of Scripture. Given such a cultural climate, and the deception and peer pressure that exists in rejecting such a proposition, the Church must see that it continually proclaims an inerrant view of Scripture. Paul affirms this idea when he says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17, NIV). It is God’s inerrant Word that assists in equipping the Christian to cultivate a distinct Christian worldview.

Yet, a creedal commitment to inerrancy, and thus a high view of Scripture, it is not enough. There must be an equal commitment to the sufficiency of Scripture. Inerrancy of Scripture is simply a foundation for the sufficiency of Scripture. One must believe it is absolutely true before faith in acting on those principles can be worked out in a person’s life. Thus, the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture must be both affirmed and proclaimed by a church who hopes to cultivate a biblical worldview among its people. A firm commitment among the pastoral staff and lay leadership must be cultivated for this to take place. Churches from denominations where the inerrancy of Scripture is a hot topic will experience added conflict when trying to honor this idea because one’s denomination gives credence to those who assume the unbiblical, errant position.

The Church must be Epistemologically Correct
Second, the church that cultivates a biblical worldview among its people has to be epistemologically correct. Epistemology is basically how one comes to know something. For instance, a person’s epistemological presuppositions directly affect how one views truth. Can two contradictory ideas both be true, or are they automatically deemed to be false? The answer to this question is rooted in one’s epistemology. Jay Wood is right when he says that “parents, folks at church, neighbors and laborers of every sort require prudence and understanding in sizing up the problems they face, … in determining the most appropriate response to a given problem.” The foundation of one’s epistemology is very important so how truth is to be arrived at because it is such a vital component to the Christian faith.

If one hopes to cultivate a biblical worldview one must believe that absolute truth exists and that truth is for everyone from time and eternity. It is vital to understand that Christianity is rooted in truth, and, therefore, is an essential component of Christianity. For instance, it is rooted in the truth of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Also, Jesus declared himself to be “The Truth.” Since truth is so important to the Christian faith, certain parameters must be established regarding the nature of truth. Parishioners must understand what truth is not, before they can comprehend what truth is. Truth is not what simply works, or something when proclaimed is done with good intentions or has the most data or is existentially relevant. It is not what feels good, which is one of the hallmark ethical positions of our time. A proper understanding of truth has two elements. Truth must correspond to reality and truth must be coherent meaning there are no contradictions. The latter point emphasizes the necessity of embracing the law of non-contradiction, which states that two contradictory propositions cannot both be true at the same time and in the same sense. Thus, a congregation must be taught these principles if it hopes to survive the onslaught of relativism that permeates our culture.

As a congregation is attuned to the aforementioned principles, they are the equipped to move on to the two essential ingredients of setting forth an adequate epistemology – undeniability and unaffirmability. Norman Geisler proposes “that undeniability is the test for truth of a worldview and unaffirmability is a test for falsehood of a worldview.” When Geisler speaks of undeniability, he means that anything that is undeniable is true. In other words, it must be factually conclusive, and in a biblical worldview all of the facts must derive from God’s word. Thus facts find their genesis from God’s perspective, and if God said it, it is true. Conversely, when Geisler speaks of unaffirmability he means “when a statement itself provides the information to defeat itself.” For instance, if someone says there is no such thing as truth, this statement is nonsensical because it is a self-defeating statement. The mere utterance of this statement assumes that what the speaker says is true, therefore the statement is self-negating. As a correct paradigm for truth is established, the congregation can be equipped to withstand the wiles of deception.

The Church must have a Counter-cultural Mindset
Third, the church must establish a counter-cultural mindset. James affirms this mandate warning that “a friend of the world is an enemy of God.” God expects his children to be sanctified unto Him. A non-Christian worldview is rooted in an idolatrous attempt to erect either an idol or some idea that militates against the knowledge of God. Therefore, one must resist the temptation to be enamored by the allurement of this world, and seek to incline one’s heart to God and not acquiesce to the culture.

The story of the Aaron and the golden calf, and Moses’ subsequent reaction, provides an example for how the Church is to handle the demands of culture. When Moses went up to the top of Mount Sinai to receive a Word from God, the children of Israel were clamoring that Moses was taking too long and demanded that Aaron make for them foreign gods. Unfortunately Aaron succumbs to their demands and has the Children of Israel take off their gold jewelry and proceeds to construct for them a golden calf to worship. The golden calf was not to replace the Lord but was to be worshipped alongside him. After doing this, God becomes indignant and commands Moses to go back down the mountain to deal with the situation. Upon coming down from the mountain Moses sees what had happened and immediately throws down the tablets in disgust. He confronts their unfaithfulness and tells them that they have committed a great sin that was highly offensive to God. Aaron chose to ride the cultural wave and acquiesce to its demands, whereas Moses refuses to do so and chooses to counter the culture with obedience to God’s truth.

This story provides a great juxtaposition of two people who responded to the demands of culture quite differently. Aaron allowed the people to walk in stride with the culture while Moses commanded the people to reject the demands of culture and embrace God’s commands. A church would be wise to follow the advice of Moses. In the battle for the Church to embrace a Christian worldview, a church must take a counter-cultural stance because this world is governed by a completely different view of the world.

The Church must Apologetical
Fourth, if a church hopes to instill a biblical worldview in its members, it must be apologetical. In a world where skepticism of Christianity reigns in American culture, the church must be equipped to have Christian answers to effectively counter the world’s system. The pastor, with his pulpit responsibility, is afforded a tremendous opportunity to assist his congregation and equip them with a Christian worldview. This can be done by apologetical preaching. What apologetic preaching seeks to do is relate truth to the issues of everyday life. This is done by doing an exegesis of culture coupled with an exegesis of the biblical text. Thus, with this approach, “the preacher comes with an understanding of the Word with an understanding of the world to which it is addressed”. Since this is the world in which we find ourselves, the burden that preachers carry to minister the gospel effectively has changed. Now, “the burden of the preacher, then, is not just to understand the nuances of Scripture through the study of language, context, and history, but also the nuances of the culture in which we live by observing advertising, news, fashion , music, entertainment, and decisions in law or government”. Thus, churches should offer the Christian response to these of issues. Given the problem of religious pluralism alone, there are many situations the pastor has been called by God to address.

The Church must be Relational
Last, if a church hopes to cultivate a biblical worldview in its members, the church must be relational in its approach. This means that to formulate spiritual growth in Christians there has to be both an individual and corporate dimension concerning spiritual growth. Growth is a process and the Church is to nurture this process for its parishioners. Encouraging people to nurture their own growth by encouraging people to pray, meditate and study their Bibles is very important. Believers are called not to just edify themselves but to edify one another as well. The church then is to supply opportunities for people to be able to edify one another. Through the spiritual gifts of others as well as the cultivation of relationships helps to nurture growth. Paul makes some important statements to reinforce the importance of the Body edifying one another by offering words that give instruction and bring insight and encouragement.

Also, with the context of biblical relationships, one learns how to think and act like Jesus. Learning to think like Jesus is much more than just addressing the cognitive dimension of spiritual growth. Larry O. Richards offers marvelous insight into this idea when he says, “… the making of disciples is an interpersonal and transactional process, involving teacher and learner in a wide range of real life experiences. The support and nurture of God’s life within seems to require a life context … a transactional relationship between persons.” To limit the cultivation of a biblical worldview to just hearing the preaching on Sunday morning or a discipleship class is to retard one’s ability to cultivate a biblical worldview. It also must be cultivated in the context of relationships through personal experiences. Thus, we learn to imitate those who are acting out a biblical worldview for us.

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