I had coffee with a couple of Christian friends the other day. I have known both of these men for quite some time and can say without reservation that each is highly committed to his walk of faith, active in church life, and devoted to both family and God. Although both share the same faith, their respective worldviews on what it means to be a Christian are truly like oil and water.
Brad is an arch-conservative, near-fundamentalist who views things in a fairly black and white focus, with few shades of gray. Jesus was God’s only begotten son, the Bible is God’s inerrant word, and holiness is the primary aim of the Christian life, largely in preparation for the next world. Tim, on the other hand, is about as liberal as you can get. He was born into, raised in, and remains involved with the Episcopal Church. He is open-minded to other religions, sees value in humanistic psychology, and sees the Bible as only marginally relevant to Christian life. In Tim’s eyes Jesus was a great Jewish rabbi who lived, taught a remarkable message, was crucified and died. He does not believe in the Resurrection, the miracles, and firmly holds that the notion of Jesus being the son of God was an invention of the first generation of Christians.
As you can imagine, when we get together the conversations can get a bit animated.
Our recent conversation reminded me of the importance of our worldview. It is our worldview that serves as a matrix through which we view our lives, interpret events, make decisions, and how we act in certain situations. The unfortunate reality is that many of us spend little time reflecting on our worldviews and even less time attempting to clarify points where we may be confused. After meeting with my friends a few days back, I decided to take a bit of time to formulate again just what it is I believe in, especially in regards to my walk of faith. I have done this on several occasions and each time I find it to be an enlightening experience.
Whenever I make a commitment to clarify my worldview, I begin with prayer. I ask the Holy Spirit to guide me in the right direction, give me clarity of thought, and aid me in arriving at conclusions that are both true and applicable to my daily life. I also pray for protection from deception arising from any source, be it the enemy, the world, or my own personal history. I next spend time getting quiet so I may more clearly hear the voice of the Spirit and I make sure I have a pen and notebook handy in order to jot down things that I might later forget.
When I review my worldview, I find I need a matrix through which I can break things down into manageable units of information. For the first session, I use the following categories. You may find these helpful or you may even be better off developing your own. I pray about and reflect upon the following, writing down the significant details of each:
What manner of being is God? What is he like and how does he interact with the world, including myself?
Who do I say Jesus is? (I use present tense as I feel he is still alive). Was he the Son of God, a great teacher, a human rabbi, etc.?
What is my view of the Bible? Was it of divine origin or the product of human minds? Is it the infallible Word of God? What place should scripture hold in the life of a Christian?
Is church attendance important? Can I do without being a part of a local congregation?
What about Satan? Is he a real entity or just a symbol of my own lower nature? Where does evil come from?
What was Jesus’ most important teaching? More than anything else, what does he want from me?
Who or what is the Holy Spirit?
Did all signs and wonders, miracles and such, as well as speaking in tongues cease after the Apostolic age?
How and why was the world created?
What is the nature and purpose of humanity? What are we here for?
What happens after we die?
Is there such a thing as “ultimate truth,” or is all truth relative?
Obviously, there are many more questions to be asked, but those outlined above give me a framework from which to work. After spending several prayerful sessions reflecting upon these questions, I next try to put the answers down in my journal in some meaningful, coherent way. I find that clarifying my worldview helps me in so many ways, especially in making major decisions in life.
One thing I discovered over a period of several years is that my worldview is like a living organism in that it is growing and changing. Areas that were once murky are now clearer. On the other hand, I have found that some things I firmly believed in before have become less certain. God has a remarkable way of arranging our lives so that we can grow and learn.
By engaging in this practice I also learned another valuable lesson. I found out that I just may be wrong about some things. Just because I believe something to be true, doesn’t necessarily make it so. Our world in general, and the Christian faith in particular, are both far too complex for me to assume I have a complete understanding of anything. In short, consistently clarifying my worldview led me, by God’s grace and gentle hand, to a greater sense of personal humility. As a result, I am less likely to be argumentative and more likely to be open-minded with others. This alone has been a tremendous blessing.
I would encourage you to spend time clarifying just what it is that you believe. Sometimes we think we know what the content of our belief system is, only to be surprised when we slow down and take a look.
© L.D. Turner 2008/All Rights Reserved