Last week, I wrote about a Christian perspective on life, and how that viewpoint was radically different than that of the world around us. Because the way most of us see the world around us has shifted over the last 500 years, our default is to no longer see life through the same lens as those who originally read the Bible, the original audience. We are far more modern, or secular, than we would probably like to admit– not by choice, but simply because the philosophical framework upon which our lives are built, the water in which we swim, changed so gradually over the centuries that we didn’t notice.
There have been many wondrous and beneficial revelations over those same centuries, and the solution is never to return to the past; rather, we are called to take what is best of this modern world in which we live and filter it through the biblical, ancient, yet still very true perspectives on God, humans, life, and meaning. This is what it means to have a biblical worldview. How can we regain this framework, this lens of looking at life, particularly when most moderns never really had it? This process is what Christian education, at its best, aims to accomplish, and why it’s so worthy of your support.
Regaining a biblical perspective on life takes intentionality–we won’t get there by default. Our default way of thinking is that of the world around us: secular, modern, seeking explanations to life that leave God and His Kingdom out of the picture. We have to think and feel about our lives in whole new ways, and I think it involves the following practices and disciplines of thought and feeling:
First, we have to view all of life through the framework of God’s story. The great story of the Bible is that God created man perfectly in His image: highly complex, with many characteristics that were similar to God, such as the ability to reason, to love, to live in community with others, as social, responsible, relational, moral, aesthetic beings. He created them as male and female, one for another, together reflecting God’s nature. By man’s disobedience, he fell into a state of sin, broken and in rebellion to God. This condition affected not only humans, but all of creation, rendering it all fractured and distorted. People were wrecked, and institutions, made up of people, were also defective. Humans needed reconciling to God, and couldn’t achieve it on their own, so God provided by sending His perfect Son, fully God and fully man, the only one who could serve as a sacrifice and pay the penalty for man’s sin. This sacrifice satisfied God’s justice and mercy simultaneously and completely, allowing humans to be restored to their full relationship with God.
As God’s redeemed image bearers, His saints, His Church is called to be a signpost of righteousness, pointing to the Kingdom of Heaven, bringing healing and restoration and making disciples on the earth. Christ will return in glory to restore all of creation to its perfect form, to judge the earth and regain its former glory, and establish His people as co-rulers over the New Earth and New Jerusalem.
This great story serves as the framework, the context for viewing all of life. History isn’t a series of random event, or cyclical, but operates according to this grand, narrative arc. This metanarrative explains why humans are as they are (created perfect, in God’s image, as a special creation, with dignity, value, and worth, male and female, one for another), how they got where they are now (broken as both individuals and as institutions- governments, families, organizations, schools, and churches, and subject to all sorts of sin and evil), and the source of their hope (the redemption that comes from Jesus Christ, the new way of living from the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, and the redemption of the world to come). Most of the big questions we face in life can be viewed through this great story by asking: How did God create and intend it to be? What went wrong and is going wrong? How can we be used by God to help restore it, make it right, or at least point to the goodness that can one day be? Viewing life through this framework gives life ultimate meaning and reality.
Second, we can spend time in solitude and in nature. In addition to reading God’s Word and in prayer, spending time quietly alone in nature is essential. God reveals Himself to humans throughout His creation. Most of us are so very busy running around filling our schedules, trapped in our devices, and checking our to-do boxes that we never actually take the time to listen to God’s voice in the silence. God wants to speak to us way more than we want to listen, but we have to carve out the time and space in our lives to let Him do it. He wants to teach us who He is and who we are through the world around us, because He has made us one for another. Listening to creation around us, its lessons and its words God has for us, helps restore us to our natural, created role as part of God’s creation, and brings the peace we crave so deeply in this fractured world today.
Third, reading the Bible with an eye toward the enchanted realm is a way to truly regain a biblical perspective. It’s amazing how, as modern, secular people, our eyes gloss over brushes with the supernatural in the Bible, incidents like Jacob wrestling with what most believe is a preincarnate Jesus, God appearing, standing before and speaking to Samuel as a boy, and angels and demons making regular appearances. Scripture is full of heavenly beings, God and others under his authority, appearing to Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and Moses, and many of the prophets. The story of God dealing with man is full of these encounters, and when one reads Scripture through these eyes, looking for these appearances instead of passing over them or avoiding them, it’s paradigm-changing.
We don’t just want to be prepared for the world we live in now, but the world we will live in for the rest of eternity. And, Scripture (Rev. 21 and 22) tells us that the world will live in then looks a lot more like this enchanted realm than what we see now. Further, this realm is going on all around us, with angels and demons and heavenly beings fighting for and over us, over nations, and over culture. Earth is the battleground for a heavenly battle, and what happens in each realm resonates in the other. I know it all sounds fantastic, but this is the way God’s Word reveals it to us, and the reason we don’t understand better than we do is because our minds are not yet transformed. This is why we need to read Scripture with eyes that see the world around us as it truly is.
The final thing we must do is make room for mystery. As secular moderns, we want to explain, to rationalize, to systematize. As Jen Pollock Michel observes, “We’ve come to an unassailable confidence that mystery, by dint of inquiry and scientific effort, can be wrestled and pinned down and made to cry uncle…the great modern lie is one of infinite human autonomy and control.” But, God cannot be put in a box, despite our greatest energies.
Satan is binary; he always presses us to think in terms of either/or: you are this, or you are that. You are one of us, or you are one of them. He seeks to both divide and devour. God is a triune God, existing as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He often provides the third way. He is a “both/and” God, and calls us into the mystery, the paradox of both/and. As Pollock notes, the incarnation asks how can we be both spiritual and fleshly, and how can such an evil people also be bound for glory? How can we be both people of God’s Kingdom, who are focused on eternity, and live such worldly lives? How can God show grace, and in so doing, be both severely judgmental and infinitely merciful, fully and completely, all at the same time? And, how is it possible that we can grieve, and hope, and experience joy, all at the same time? How are such things possible in Christ?
We are a people of paradox, of mystery, because we are children of a God who will not be defined by human categories. And, we see as God sees by opening our minds to the third way. In fact, a biblical worldview, made possible through Christian education is the third way- both the voices of the past and God’s unfolding revelation through the ages, coming together to make us equipped for a world in desperate need of God’s salt and light.
Jay Ferguson, Ph.D., Head of School at Grace Community School, writes regularly on his blog, JaysBlog.org