CHRISTIANITY AND WORLDVIEWS MODELS OF ENGAGEMENT Angus J.
CHRISTIANITY AND WORLDVIEWS MODELS OF ENGAGEMENT Angus J. L. Menuge Department of Philosophy Concordia University Wisconsin CELT 10/22/2019 What is a Worldview? Worldview: A systematic way of viewing all reality, including answers to three main questions: 1) What is real? (Ontology)
2) How do we know? (Epistemology) 3) How should we live? (Ethics) 2 Worldviews Color Everything A worldview is like a pair of colored glasses. Every fact is interpreted through our worldview. We cannot avoid having a worldview. 3
Worldview Examples Scientific Materialism Matter is all that exists (ontology) Science is the only way to know (epistemology) Value statements are expressions of emotion (ethics) Postmodernism There is no objective Truth in reality (ontology) There are only interpretations (epistemology) We are free to choose different narratives (ethics) Eastern Mysticism
All is one; the world of experience is maya or illusion (ontology) We find the truth (all is one) by meditation (epistemology) We should seek enlightenment (ethics) 4 Christian Engagement How should Christians engage other worldviews? 1) Remain in, but not of, the world: I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. (John 17: 15-16) 2) Do not be taken captive by anti-Christian ideas:
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (Col. 2: 8) 5 A Worldview According to Christ A Christocentric view of reality, knowledge, and ethics For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authoritiesall things were created through him and for
him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Col. 1: 16-17) Christ is the logos, the reason why things exist, the ultimate ground of all our knowledge, and the guide for our action. 6 Models of Engagement Two Bad Models 1) Christ of Culture (accommodation) 2) Christ against Culture (separation)
Two Better Models 3) Christ above culture (synthesis) 4) Christ the transformer of culture (transformation) The Best Model 5) Christ and culture in paradox (dialogue) 7 Christ of Culture Accommodation Aims to show that Christianity can simply embrace the
worlds ideas and ideologies E.g. Christian socialism, Christian capitalism, Jesus as CEO, Jesus as social justice warrior, etc. In this way, it is claimed, Christianity remains relevant as the culture changes. 8 The Emergent Church 9 Christ of Culture
Critique 1) Some ideas directly contradict Christian teaching e.g. Materialism, Postmodernism, and Eastern Mysticism. So it is incoherent to accommodate them. 2) Shows a lack of Christian critical thinking and discernment. 3) Alienates faithful Christians who object on scriptural grounds to capitulating to the worlds ideas. It appears manipulative, an attempt to coopt the Christian conscience. 4) It is too faddish, too much of the world (worldly) 10
Christianity And Screwtape (a senior devil) advises: What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call Christianity And. You know Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order, Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Psychical Research, Christianity and Vegetarianism, Christianity and Spelling Reform. Substitute for the faith itself some Fashion with a Christian colouring. (C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, XXV, italics mine) The faith is reduced to a means to a worldly end.
11 Christ Against Culture Separation Withdraw from the worlds ideas Tertullian (c. 155-240, rejected philosophy altogether) Tolstoy (1828-1910, allegiance to Christ means rejecting military service and pledges of allegiance) The Mennonites (pacifists who live separately without modern technology) 12
Christ Against Culture Critique We are called to remain in the world, so we can love and serve our neighbor in our vocation and witness to him/her: Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. (1 Cor. 7: 20) Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6: 12) 13
A Failure of Engagement Retreating from the world abandons those left in the world to captivity: To be ignorant and simple now--not to be able to meet the enemies on their own ground--would be to throw down our weapons, and to betray our uneducated brethren who have, under God, no defense but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen. Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered. --C. S. Lewis, "Learning in War-Time," in The Weight of Glory and Other
Addresses (New York: Macmillan, 1965), 27-28. 14 Christ Above Culture Synthesis Seeks to combine Christianity with the worlds best ideas Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) attempted to synthesize scriptural teaching with Aristotelian philosophy Theistic evolution attempts to synthesize scriptural teaching with modern evolutionary theory
15 Christ Above Culture Critique This approach either: Absolutizes the relative: Elevates the ideas of finite, fallen humans to the same infallible, inerrant world of God Or: Relativizes the absolute: Demotes scripture to just another human worldview
level as the Marrying scripture to any human worldview is liable to end in disgrace and divorce when the worldview is discredited E.g. Aristotelian physics and cosmology is false 16 Christ the Transformer of Culture Transformation Faith can transform and redeem the worlds ideas: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is
the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12: 2) John Calvin (1509-1564) This approach suggests we look for a distinctively Christian approach to each area of learning 17 Christ the Transformer of Culture Critique Not all ideas have to be transformed: There is no such thing as Christian arithmetic! It may be coercive and hurt the Christian conscience:
This approach may encourage theocratic impulses and desire to impose Christian perspectives on people the The struggle for authentic Christian engagement must be pursued individually, in each persons vocation 18 Christ and Culture in Paradox Dialogue
Christians engage in authentic struggle (critical dialogue) with the worlds ideas. St. Paul (c. 5 c. 64) Augustine (354-430) Luther (1483-1546) 19 Bad Models of Dialogue Agenda-driven dialogue Starts with a lack of humility
Fails adequately to understand either a biblical worldview or the other worldview (or both) Leads to distortion of theology or a simplistic dismissal of a human worldview Unequal dialogue partners The dialogue begins with adequate expertise in only the human worldview or only the biblical worldview 20 21
A Better Model of Dialogue An authentic Christian dialogue must begin with: 1) Faithful obedience to Christ 2) A humble desire to understand both the biblical worldview and the human worldview better 3) A desire to avoid both of the two extremes: A) uncritical embrace B) premature dismissal 22 Here we Stand
In Christ, we have a place to stand, a place of refuge: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Heb. 13: 8) In him, we have a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul (Heb. 6: 19) Human worldviews are not our place of final refuge We are free to explore other worldviews critically: We should not marry them We should sift them, accepting what is helpful for our vocation, rejecting what is contrary to a biblical worldview, and remaining neutral when we are unsure
23 Recommended Resources Ashmon, Scott A., ed. The Idea and Practice of a Christian University: A Lutheran Approach. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2011. Benne, Robert. Quality With Soul: How Six Premier Colleges and Universities Keep Faith with Their Religious Traditions. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2001. Heck, Joel D. and Angus Menuge, eds. Learning at the Foot of the Cross: A Lutheran Vision for Education. Austin, TX: Concordia University Press, 2011. Holmes, Arthur F. Building the Christian Academy. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2001. Hughes, Richard T. The Vocation of a Christian Scholar: How Christian Faith Can Sustain the Life of the Mind. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005.
Korcok, Thomas. Lutheran Education: From Wittenberg to the Future. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2011. Marsden, George M. The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997. Menuge, Angus, ed., Christ and Culture in Dialogue: Constructive Themes and Practical Applications. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1999. Moreland, J. P. Loving God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1997. Niebuhr, H. Richard. Christ and Culture. New York: Harper and Row, 1951. 24
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