The Biblical Worldview
Hint: A three-storey universe has nothing to do with it.
by Everett Wilson
July 23, 2011
The first person who told me I had a world-view was a fellow student at Hastings College. We shared the same high school and college and later the same vocation—he as an Episcopal priest and I as a minister of the Evangelical Covenant Church. At that time I was not trained in philosophy, but he was, and meant it as a compliment. To have a world-view when you are twenty years old—that is, to have a perspective from which you observe not just specific phenomena but as much of the world as you can take in and see how it belongs together —is a minor achievement, but a real one. You can see both the forest and the trees. You can see Hamlet as more than a disturbed kid in a snit about his mother's appalling behavior. You can see the earthworm you're dissecting in biology lab as a fellow creature that once was alive and is now dead for your convenience.
My intellectual life, which has always been modest in extent, has developed from, and is centered in, a biblical world view. This may evoke from readers with an intellectual life even more modest than mine such questions as, "You mean you believe that the earth is 6000 years old?" or "You mean you believe that the universe is built in layers, like a cake?"
No, I don't mean either one. Those questions are about primitive cosmology, I think, not about the world-views of ancient thinkers, including the biblical patriarchs, prophets, and apostles.
When Jesus walked through Judea and Galilee teaching his disciples, both he and they had a biblical world view. They were all Israelites, rigorously educated in the synagogue before they were old enough to enter their trades. His assumptions and theirs were the same; his message was new, but the world-view was not.
Their assumption are also mine, because they make sense in our world just as they made sense back then.
First, When the world ends, everything will come out right; in the meantime, don't expect much. They lived in an occupied country, under the tyranny of Rome. What they had, and the Romans didn't, was the Word of God in the Old Testament, and the Son of God speaking the Word of God in their midst. The point is not whether you believe this; it is that they did, and it changed the world—not by offering hope for this present world, but by offering hope in this world for a world that was certain to come. There was no point in offering eternal hope to the present world, because it is passing away. It does not reflect eternal truth and the people who trust in it will pass away with it.
Second, God knows what he is doing and why. God doesn't have to experiment, or guess, or figure out what he can afford to do. "Forever," says the psalmist, "Your word is settled in heaven." He knows the end from the beginning. He certainly knows what is temporary and what is permanent. Because human beings are temporary, all our earthly labor is temporary; everything we work with is subject to death, destruction, human dishonesty, and natural disaster.
How does God get around that? God made us in his image, the Bible says, but of earthly stuff, not God-stuff. We have nerves, brains, reproductive organs, blood, and water, muscle and bone. Our whole lives long, from conception until the ultimate decay of our bodies, we are makers of messes—often, we are messes. We are members of the animal kingdom, flesh and blood—and St. Paul says flatly in 1 Corinthians that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.
But kingdom people are born twice; that's how they become kingdom people. You cannot even see the kingdom of God, much less enter it, unless you are born again, said Jesus to Nicodemus. Peter enlarged on that in his letter to the churches: "We have been born anew, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, by the living and abiding word of God." In our physical birth, we are born into the animal kingdom, destined for death; in our spiritual birth, we are born into the eternal kingdom of God, to live forever and ever. Not everybody; but everybody who wants to.
You don't believe it, perhaps. Again, I am not describing what you believe. I am describing what Jesus taught and his disciples believed—which is the biblical world view of the New Testament.
Third, Nobody can keep God from doing what he wants. From the first page of the Bible to its last, we know that if God is in a battle, he is going to win it; if he plants a field, he is going to get a crop. Jesus loses nobody he names as his own. In one parable he says that at the end of the age, his angels will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. Then they will gather in the people of the kingdom without missing one.
Finally, if God says something is going to happen, it will happen. Ever since he made this promise, those of us with a biblical world-view have hoped that it will happen sooner than later. We want deliverance because of the surplus of pain in this world. The certainty of future victory doesn't heal the intolerable pain of this moment.
Our only answer to this challenge is that the surplus of pain is as temporary as other evil. The parable about the harvest ends with the angels of God rooting out all causes of evil. Then, Jesus said, the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their father.
About the Author:
Not only does Everett Wilson have a biblical world view; he also wonders if there is any other as realistic.
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