Responding to Questions–Worldviews, Deism, Intelligent Design, ETC.

Posted: March 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

1.      There’s been a lot of talk about worldviews.  What in the world is a worldview and are they really that important?  If they are important, why is that the case? 

That is a great question.  There does seem to be a good amount of discussion around the idea of a worldview.  I am actually taking a class called “Worldview Analysis” at the present time.

What is a worldview?  A worldview is something that everybody has.  A guy named Francis Schaeffer once said something along those lines.  He was an intelligent guy, so it might be true!  Basically it is the idea that every person has a way in which they view reality.  It is a way, to break the word down backwards, that we view the world.  It is the way we think of how the world came to be, how humans arrived, what is wrong with the world, and where it is all going.  The way you answer questions like those determine what kind of worldview you have.

You can look way back to the 1800’s to a guy named James Orr to get an idea of where this talk of worldview’s comes from.  Orr thought that the Christian faith could give the most coherent answers to the questions that people were asking in the face of events like the French Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, and WWI.  People living had lots of questions about life, existence, faith, and many other things.  James Orr said that viewing things from within the framework of the Christian story provided the best answers.  Guys like Gordon Clark, Carl F. H. Henry, Abraham Kuyper, Harman Dooyerweerd, and that guy Francis Schaffer I mentioned earlier, would say similar things. 

Is a worldview important?  Well, the guys I just mentioned thought so.  They devoted a lot of time and energy to helping us understand different worldviews, especially the Christian one.  But, that doesn’t really prove that a worldview is important.  These guys could have just been wasting their time.  But, I don’t think they were. 

A worldview is important because it determines how you live and how you view reality.  If you have a wrong worldview, if you view reality wrongly, then you will live wrongly and wind up in the wrong place when you come to the end.  If you view the world as nothing but matter, without any reference to the spiritual or miraculous, you give up God and Jesus.  And when you come to the end you stand before a holy God and get nothing but wrath.  If you believe that God created the world and then left it alone (Deism), not being involved in it at all today, then you can’t believe in Jesus as the Son of God who came into the world to die for sinners.  Why not?  Because that would be God involving Himself in the world, and your worldview says that doesn’t happen.  So, as you can see, the way you view the world affects so much of life.

The study of worldviews is also important when it comes to doing evangelism.  If I understand the way a person perceives the world I can be better prepared to share the faith with them.  I know what questions to ask them and how to punch holes in their arguments.  I know how to talk about their specific worldview from a Christian perspective because I have studied their worldview or others like it.  This is simply Christians taking “every thought captive” and tearing down “strongholds” that people have built against the gospel of Jesus.

So, a worldview is the way you view reality.  And yes, worldviews are important because they determine how you live, where you go, and they help us to point people towards the gospel of Jesus Christ.

2.      I’ve heard that the Bible teaches that we should not think through difficult issues.  Is that true?  If it is true, which verses in the Bible discuss the mind?

It is absolutely false to say the Bible discourages us from thinking about difficult issues.  The Bible calls us to think.  A recent book by a popular evangelical author, John Piper, recently came out to call Christians to think.  The title of the book makes this clear…it’s called “Think” (and I highly recommend it). 

If we look at the Bible itself we will find that thinking, wisdom, and knowledge are put in a positive light.  Proverbs 1:5, “Let the wise hear and increase in learning…”, and verse 22 of the same chapter says, “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?  How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?”  These verses paint a positive picture for the use of the Christian mind.  In fact, we are called to “love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). 

If we are to love God with our mind, then we must be ready to use them.  We will encounter various passages in the Bible that will be hard to understand.  We will need to labor mentally to grasp what God has revealed.  God is infinite and we are finite.  He is unsearchable, and we will never exhaust knowledge of Him.  Questions about His sovereignty, His will, His being, and His person(s) will require us to continually, through eternity, think and learn and grow.  And this is right and good.

We must “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3) which means will need to think as we encounter questions and objections.  If we are to love God, we need to know God, and this will take thinking about who He is and what He has said.

As we go about on mission, making disciples of all peoples (Matthew 28:19-20), we must be ready to encounter opposing worldviews.  We must be ready to discern how to do ministry in different contexts, and we must be ready to share the gospel with clarity and accuracy.  All these things require us to think. And the Bible is pro thinking.

Christians have historically loved sharp minds.  Somehow we have come to think that reason and faith are exclusive of one another.  But this is not, and has not always been, the case.  The 19th century brings a shift. 

In the 19th century we have a few things that were happening.  The philosophy of guys like David Hume and Immanuel Kant are creeping in.  Miracles are questioned and the ability to know absolute truth is questioned.  The Bible is put on the defensive.  Darwin publishes the Origin of Species, again, the biblical record questioned.  And finally, the rise of Biblical Criticism as scholars begin to question the text of Scripture. 

So, with the rise of hard questions, we have guys like Charles Finney come onto the scene and fail to address these questions intellectually.  They, instead, recommend believers not to think about their faith…just believe!  Emotionalism rises and intellectualism declines.  A move away from theology begins.  So, pastors quit thinking and are unable to provide guidance.  Christians can’t answer the tough questions so they retreat.  We create our own schools, stop asking questions, coming up with answers, and basically stop thinking.

The result?  A church culture that is largely anti-intellectual.  This means a church culture that does not effectively contend for the faith.  A Christianity that is a mile wide and an inch deep.  This should not be.  The Bible calls us to think.  We use our minds to understand God, our world, opposing worldviews, and how to effectively reach people with the truth of Jesus Christ.  Christianity requires the use of the intellect, not the abandonment of it.

3.      Ok, so some Christians want creationism taught in public schools, but they call it “intelligent design.”  There’s not really a difference between the two, right?  If there is a difference, what is it?

No, there is a difference.  The two are not necessarily the same.  Those who are advocating for intelligent design in our schools may hold to something other than creationism.  It is important that we understand the difference.

Intelligent design says that there had to be some type of intelligence behind the creation of the universe.  It looks at the evidence, the science, the way the world is and says that it is not plausible that there was nothing and then something by randomness or chance.  There had to be a designer that stood behind what we see.  Now, this assertion does not necessarily say that it was the Christian God that created.  It simply asserts that there was an intelligent designer.

Creationism is different.  At least Christian creationism asserts that it is the God of the Bible who stands behind creation.  It says that God created ex nihilo, or out of nothing.  There was nothing and then, by the creative act of God, there was something.  He spoke and it was.  Now, whether or not it took Him six days or whether there was a gap, and it took longer, is largely a debate that happens between Christians. 

So, intelligent design and creationism are different.  One asserts something more than the other.  The ID camp says there is a designer, but doesn’t’ say who that is.  Christian creationism says that the God of the Bible is that designer who stands behind creation.

4.      I have heard some arguments in the past that some of the founding fathers of the United States were deists.  What do deists believe?  Are they just Christians called by a different name?

It is true that some of the founding fathers of our nation were deists.  If you read the documents they produced closely, having somewhat of an understanding of what deists believe, then you can see some of the deism coming through their writings.

Men like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Stephen Hopkins, and Thomas Paine were all deists.  These men played a significant role in the development of our nation and all held to deistic beliefs.  Let me give you a quick rundown of what deists believed.

It’s important to note that deism begins to develop as scientific advances are made.  When Isaac Newton makes his advances in science, we begin to see people explaining the way the world works apart from reference to God.  If we can explain things scientifically, why do we need God?  Before Newton, how do you explain gravity?  You appeal to God, like Augustine did.  God reached in and moved things or held them down, etc.  But now, with the findings of Newton, we can explain things naturalistically.

Deists come along and say that God is the one who created the world as a closed system.  It’s a machine that works as He wants it to.  He gets it going and then lets it go.  He is a hands-off Creator.  The first person to really set this out, and use the term deists, is Lord Edward Herbert of Cherbury.  He gives us the 5-points of Deism: God exists, God is worship worthy as Supreme Being, piety and virtue characterize religion, repentance takes away sin, and justice demands punishment/reward.

So, these things begin to gain some traction with men like Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Toland, and others.  As they do, and the movement grows, you have different groups of deists emerge.  Some say God created and is not involved at all, others say that God governs natural events, with others saying that God governs natural events and expects moral behavior.  Some even say that God governs nature, expects moral behavior, and there is an afterlife based upon your morality.  So, there is a variety even within this stream of theology.

Basically, with the rise of scientific discovery, those who hold these views explain the universe in largely naturalistic terms, leaving God outside.  He puts us in the box, sets things in motion, and grabs a bowl of popcorn, puts His feet up, and watches without getting involved…at least too involved.

Are these persons believers?  I don’t think so.  If you believe God doesn’t involve Himself in human affairs then you can’t take the Cross seriously.  The Bible tells us that Jesus is God and that He came to seek and to save the lost.  It tells us that Jesus gives Himself as a ransom for many.  But, if this is true, then we have God intimately involved with His creation.  But that can’t be from the standpoint of deists.  And if that can’t be, then we are left to living morally to earn heaven, if you are the type of deists that believes in an afterlife.  This means that there is no gospel of Jesus.  And if there is no gospel of Jesus then there is no faith.  And without faith, there is no salvation.  We are dead in our sins before a holy God.  And that means when we stand before Him in judgment, we have no hope.

Deism says God created and turned the world lose, choosing not to involve Himself.  This is not consistent with the Christian worldview that says God created, sustains, guides, and governs all of history.  And part of that history is the sending of His Son to live the life we could not live and die the death we should have died.  So that if we believe in Him, we should not perish (John 3:16).

I hope these answers have helped.


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