Worldview and "Thinking Christianly" Part 2

    As we said in the previous article in this series on World View and “Thinking Christianly”, a main task for Christian scholars is helping to redeem the hearts and minds of our friends and academic colleagues…and even our enemies. What we wish to continue to address here is devoted to mainly one aspect of that, the redeeming of minds. It hardly goes without saying your contributions here can also help generations of Christian scholars to come; they could stand on your shoulders to discern the goals to aim for and the tasks to accomplish in the future. Don’t sell yourself short.

   The redemption of the mind is of obvious relevance for those whose vocation is practiced in an academic culture, that has institutionalized reflective thinking and the life of the mind. The redemption of the mind is closely associated with learning to "think Christianly" about everything. One area we would urge you not to neglect in your Christianly thinking is your academic discipline. Is there an aspect of your academic discipline where your Christian faith and theology have relevancy or overlap?



   The late Dr. Francis Schaefer once said:

“Most people catch their presuppositions from their family and surrounding society, the way that a child catches the measles. But people with understanding realize that their presuppositions should be *chosen* after a careful consideration of which worldview is true.” Francis A. Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture

   In our last posting on “worldview” and thinking Christianly (again, which you can see here), we attempted to outline a strategy for thinking through the lens of a Christian worldview to see the landscaple of the academic disciplines, one at a time.  It was an attempt to see the project from “30,000 feet” and then telescope in.  It was focused on theology and three philosophically plausible areas relevant to all noetic organization: epistemology, metaphysics, and axiology (ethics, included) and encouraging Christian scholars in all the disciplines to be sure they are familiar with what Christian philosophers have thought regarding these areas.  It makes sense to do that because the individual disciplines are subject to second order questions that are philosophical in nature.  That is, there are questions to be entertained from a Christian point of view in the philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, philosophy of time, philosophy of language, philosophy of aesthetics and others that may, like the influence of theological doctrines, affect your understanding of your scholarly work as a Christian.

   The next step is to take what is learned from that part of the project and see if there are integrative undertaking in your particular discipline where these are relevant.  For instance, philosophy of science is very relevant to integrative projects in STEM, and philosophy of art and aesthetics seems highly relevant to many projects in the humanties. There are probably many other “ philosophy of”—second order questions—that can be asked of each of the disciplines individually, and that’s where your homework comes developing a Christian philosophical perspective of these issues and integrating that with the relevant theological doctrines.  That kind of work can make a real difference in terms of leaving a legacy to the next generation of educated Christians. How does a Christian think about philosophy of law, or philosophy of religion, or what types of questions are relevant in psychology—perhaps, what is a person? All that without neglecting the question, what does theology have to say about that?

   We also encouraged you as a scholar to better understand your Christian faith at a higher level than what Sunday sermons and Sunday school deliver.  That exhortation was not meant to disparage sermons and Sunday school. As helpful and useful as they are, they will not do for the serious work of a Christian scholar who wishes to contribute to the cause of Christ at the highest levels in academic work. Obviously what we’re talking about is not easy, it is just that high level work on theological integration and academic work demands that.  Knowing and understanding what a Christian worldview analysis can do, can make this task more realizable.

     The remainder of this article will be devoted to saying a few historical things about the term “worldview.” First, David K. Naugle in his highly thought of book, Worldview: The History of a Concept, had this to say about its influence in Protestant Evangelicalism:

“Conceiving of Christianity as a worldview has been one of the most significant developments in the recent history of the church.  Whether it is understood theologically ”as a theistic system exhibiting the rational coherence of biblical revelation,” to use Carl Henry’s phrase, or embraced as the overall narrative of creation, fall and redemption, Christianity as a worldview has risen to considerable prominence in the last one hundred and fifty years…"

   Second, he goes on to say that two important primary sources of the Protestant Evangelical tradition found their headwaters with John Calvin (1509-64) and they were the Scottish Presbyterian theologian James Orr (1844-1913) and the Dutch “neo-Calvinist theologian and statesman Abraham Kuyper” (1837-1920).  Orr’s life and ministry was in the midst of the intellectual fallout from the ideas of the Enlightenment in Europe and its eventual affect on cultural Europe. As Europe became less Christian and more secular, according to C.S. Lewis, it came to be known as post-Christian.  One main thing to see during this period was the rise of “modernist religion” or what we call today liberal Christian faith.   

   What Orr thought was at stake was not only historical Biblical doctrines, but also a “whole manner of conceiving of the world and of man’s place in it, the manner of conceiving of the entire system of things, natural and moral, of which we form a part.”(Endnote 1).  Orr referred to his German mentors in theology by calling this systematic viewing of doctrine and world and life view as Weltanschaunng.  It was through his theological and intellectual heirs, Gordon Clark and Carl F.H. Henry, that this tradition came to North America.

   Abraham Kyper, the Dutch theologian, journalist, educator and statesman followed Calvin’s visionary lead which “…centered upon the sovereignty of the biblical god over all aspects of reality, life, thought and culture…” and was captured in Kuyper’s inaugural address when he said, “…there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’”  

   It is in the spirit of James Orr and Abraham Kuyper that we challenge the best among ourselves—namely you—to dig deep and leave a legacy to the next generation of Christian scholars who will take the baton from you, to further this integrative project of thinking Christianly.



Endnote 1: See David K. Naugle’s, Worldview: The History of a Concept. MI: Grand Rapids, Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2002. We think this is a very important book for Christian scholars including those who are non-philosophers to get a deep grasp of the history of the concept in important Christian religious traditions. It also includes theological reflections on worldview and philosophical reflections on worldview. © Academic Connections, International