Worldview analysis as the proper OR at least an extremely useful starting point for Preaching

An extended reflection on last week’s reading

PETA, London Underground.

As overquoted as ‘cogito ergo sum’ [1] is, you will struggle to find a single soul (Solipsists as rare exceptions) who disagrees with the Latin phrase even though what it means has been misunderstood, misused and critiqued countless of times. The philosophical deliberations of the human mind is undoubtedly unique, whether ‘thinking’ in general as a characteristic of humans as higher animals is distinct or common to All [2] living things, the philosophical/scientific jury remains in bitter deliberation. Sketching out exactly how Man is different to animals is problematic, to Descartes, they (Animals – Cats, Dogs, Catfish e.t.c.) ‘eat without pleasure, cry without pain, grow without knowing it, they desire nothing, fear nothing, know nothing‘ [3]. You could hear the shrieks from PETA supporters.

Bible believing christians though will (should) always insist on the uniqueness of man in the created world we both occupy.

Christian objections to worldview analysis
Pearcey and Schaeffer (The former derives her ideas from the latter) paint with broad brush strokes. Their approach leaves a lot unsaid but considering that what it is they’re doing is tagged ‘Worldview’, it is to be expected. Even so, a view from the ISS is just as beneficial as one from the Bonneville saltflats.
The one issue I have with ‘Total Truth’ is the omission of Kierkegaard. To successfully track how philosophy found its way to Big Bad isms of our day – Relativism, Pluralism, Postmodernism – we have to talk about Søren. Schaeffer has 10 pages (Out of 120) on him in the classic book ‘Escape from Reason’, Pearcey fails to mention him even once. I even checked the glossary at the back of the book to see if I missed him, but there was nothing whatsoever.
The other main common objection is the fear that if we spend so much time on Worldview analysis we might end up doing on little preaching or worst still, none at all ! Although most see and agree that the immediate benefit is the correction of false ideologies, shaping culture and thereby fulfilling the original ‘dominion’ mandate in Genesis. Some may doubt whether this command even still stand, bearing in mind what happens in Genesis 3, the goal should then be redemption of humanity through the preaching of the gospel to all nations.

If you’re not the Billy Graham type making a general call from a podium or megaphone outside Oxford circus station, the usual way Christians have done personal evangelism is to arbitrarily bring up the subject of Jesus (‘Jesus Juking‘ is its more innovative cousin). Although when it comes to people you’re likely to never meet again, you just might be stuck with that one option of bringing him up by any means necessary.
The alternative available to you has been called by some Gospel Fluency or Gospel Presence [4]. The idea is that if a Christian’s thinking is wholly and completely shaped by what Gods has to say about life, its will simply ooze out of his/her being and not in the wrongfully attributed Assisi quote – ‘Preach the Gospel at all times, Use words if necessary’. It is instead a swimming against the current of the age that makes the members of that other school pay attention to these salmons which in turn allows a coherent, applicable, contextualised, straight to the point words to be shot, lovingly to the heart of whoever wants to listen. And because you’ve taken the time to understand where who you’re talking to is coming from, it allows a genuine affection to shine through even when hell is mentioned.

Case in point – Alvin Platinga
The Christian philosopher is mentioned in ‘Total Truth’ and is clearly respected by colleague who are Atheists. In the middle of a recent interview with Gary Gutting (Who is a professing Catholic), you have this statement that seems arbitrary in a conversation titled ‘Is Atheism Irrational’:

Think about it: The first being of the universe, perfect in goodness, power and knowledge, creates free creatures. These free creatures turn their backs on him, rebel against him and get involved in sin and evil. Rather than treat them as some ancient potentate might — e.g., having them boiled in oil — God responds by sending his son into the world to suffer and die so that human beings might once more be in a right relationship to God. God himself undergoes the enormous suffering involved in seeing his son mocked, ridiculed, beaten and crucified. And all this for the sake of these sinful creatures. [5]

Its an excellent example of a nothing up your sleeves, no bait and switch, tricks or juking approach to gospel presentation. It allows the day’s conversation between you and ‘Bob’ to be as less awkward as humanly possible. Although this is not a guarantee, Christianity is weird, get used to being seen as an oddball.

Even with a re-generate heart, Christians, still and will sin. We still hold onto dangerous and incompatible ideas. The task then, is not to get to a saving faith that we already posses in Christ Jesus but a ‘renewal of the mind’. Continually realigning our thinking and actions to meet with the thought and actions of the one who has called and saved us. This is called Progressive Sanctification.

Notes and References
1. ‘I think therefore I am’ was actually a later aphorism to summarise Descartes’ thinking. He proposed that doubting everything, except one’s own existence is a necessary starting point for philosophical enquiry.
2. Some will go as far as extending this to Plants as well. An example being Dominic Pettman’s book – on Plant-Thinking: A Philosophy of Vegetal Life : A Philosophy of Vegetal Life. For a good review, see here.
3. This quote is actually by Nicolas Malebranche who was nevertheless inspired by Descartes’ writing. For more on this see here.
4. Gospel Fluency is attributed to ‘Jeff Vanderstelt’. For more see here. Gospel Presence is attributed to ‘Douglas Wilson’. For more see here.
5. ‘Is Atheism Irrational‘ by Gary Gutting. The Stone, New York Times Online. February 9, 2014.


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