In last month’s blog article, I reiterated what I want this blog to be about (you can access that article here). I’ve also written about the dominion mandate as put forth by R. J. Rushdoony and those who work with the Chalcedon Foundation. I do not believe we can sufficiently exercise the dominion mandate without a fuller grasp of what a Christian worldview entails (see my blog article The Need for a Christian Manifesto here).
The P & R Publishing Company has provided a wonderful service, providing Christians with the Basics of Faith Series, written from a Reformed Christian perspective. The series comprises booklets that, although short, provide a well-grounded discussion of Biblical doctrine with such titles as: What Is Faith? What is Grace? What Is a Reformed Church? And there are many others in addition to these titles. Periodically I will review these booklets here on this Contemplation blog. This month’s blog article will focus on the booklet authored by Philip Graham Ryken, What Is the Christian Worldview? To fulfill the dominion mandate, as believers we must understand that our belief in Christ impacts the way we live fully in all spheres of life. Being in Christ means we hold to the Christian worldview. When we as Christians engage the world, our worldview comes with us. As it does, it bumps up against other worldviews. Specifically our Christian worldview is antithetical to non-Christian worldviews. We then are called to cultural engagement on various levels. A consistently held Christian worldview shapes our thoughts, guides our words, and motivates our actions (Ryken, p. 7).
What Is A Worldview
A worldview, also designated as a world-and-life view, is a structure of understanding that we use to make sense of the world (Ryken, p. 7). The worldview we hold is grounded in our presuppositions, regardless of how aware we are of the presuppositions by which we engage the world. Our worldview undergirds how we look at life, interpret the universe in which we live, and how we orient our soul. Heart, mind, and soul are important Biblical concepts (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Matthew 22:37-40). Ryken states that a worldview is a well-reasoned framework of beliefs and convictions that gives a true and unified perspective on the meaning of human experience (Ryken, p. 7). Hence our worldviews address how we make meaning of life? Why are we here? Where are we going? What are the values we hold and why? Is life meaningful or just a happenstance conglomeration of events and experiences? Ryken sets forth the purpose of his booklet in that he wants to help people think from a Christian perspective, delineating some of the practical implications of holding a Christian worldview. In particular, how does a Christian worldview help believers understand: 1) God as the creator (creation); 2) the ugly truth that we turned away from God (the Fall); 3) God’s plan of salvation for His people (Grace); and 4) the future preeminence of Jesus, the Christ (Glory). These four areas of exploration form the outline of Ryken’s booklet.
The God Who Is There And Is Not Silent
As an immature believer, I attended a Francis Schaeffer seminar in Fort Worth, Texas in 1979. It truly solidified for me the place of and the important use of the mind in Christian life. I had heard and experienced that among conservative Christianity, there was little room for the mind and deep thinking. Schaffer’s seminar directly opposed the caricature of the shallow-thinking Christian. When I read Ryken’s title for this section of his booklet, it brought back good memories of that seminar. Our Christian worldview is not merely a collection of disconnected concepts that we loosely call Christian. It is grounded in the being and character of God. One’s understanding of who God is from a truly Biblical perspective is foundational to all we otherwise believe. The existence of God is the basic premise to which everything else holds together. God is the creator and sustainer of the universe. He is also our creator, with an important difference between us and the rest of creation. We are created in God’s image, Imago Dei. This puts our worldview at odds with other religious and secular worldviews, be they Hindu, atheism, or secular-humanism. As such our worldview calls us to pursue and learn as much as our finite minds will allow us guided by the Holy Spirit about the numerous attributes of God. A discussion of those would require countless blog articles just to tap the surface of the Biblically-based attributes of God. Suffice it here to say that it is important to our worldview to know that God is totally sovereign, He is triune (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), and He has designed everything to manifest His own glory. God has revealed Himself in His Word, which is Scripture. It is only by this revelation that we come to know Him. John 1 tells us that Jesus Christ is the Word, logos. Hence a Christian worldview is a Christ-centered worldview (Ryken, p. 15). As our Creator, God gave mankind a mandate over the creation.
Creation – The Way We Were
Ryken (p. 16) points out that theologians have commonly organized the Christian view of the world into four stages of redemptive history: Creation, Fall, Grace, and Glory. Having already spoken of God as the Creator, His act of creation answers the question why is there something rather than nothing? Such a view of a Creator distinct from His creation is diametrically opposed to New Age paganism, pantheism, panentheism, and materialistic naturalism. John 1 speaks of Jesus, the Christ as the creator of all things. Hence, as stated the Christian worldview is a Christ-centered worldview. The relationship of the Creator to His creation is of bedrock importance to the Christian worldview. Stamped with the Imago Dei, we are rational, creative, moral, and spiritual beings. We do not exist for ourselves. We are made so as to manifest the glory of God. We were created to fulfill the dominion mandate and to glorify God in all that we are and all that we do. We glorify God with our praise and worshipping. We glorify God with our bodies. (This foundational belief opposes many of the man-made philosophies that view the material as bad or evil, while the spiritual or ethereal is good or moral). We glorify God through marriage and the family. The mandate to populate the world goes back to Genesis and the creation event. Likewise, we are called to glorify God in our work and our rest. The dominion mandate, or what Ryken calls the Creation Mandate, is a major way of living by which we glorify God. Everything we do represents God’s rule on earth. Hence Christians should vigorously embrace the sciences, the arts, and the areas of trade and business. Along with the Creation Mandate, Ryken proffers the Cultural Mandate (p.24), revealing God’s glory through the creative works we do in all spheres of endeavor. This mandate was given to Adam and Eve in the Garden.
The Fall: Paradise Lost
Whether or not we like it, we are fallen creatures. We are tainted by the corruption of sin. All we have to do is look through the pages of our lives, recognizing those areas of which we are not proud, whether it has to do with individual actions or how we interacted with others. Evil entered the world through an historical event. Yet we are in Adam’s loins, and we are tainted and thereby at enmity with God. Sin brings guilt, alienation, estrangement, corrupted minds, corrupted bodies, family problems, and carelessness with our environment. We live in a time of great evils, from the slaughter of the innocent through abortion and euthanasia, to the snuffing out of innocent life through an immoral and there by failed foreign policy. Is it no wonder that many people view life as miserable and meaningless? Ryken states, the best explanation for the tragedy of humanity is the biblical doctrine of sin (p. 31). Although Paradise was lost, all is not lost.
Grace: A Work in Progress
Our fallen nature pulls us to live in a self-serving sense rather than living in the manner whereby all our life pursuits bring glory to God. In other words, unless we submit to the Holy Spirit to guide our sanctification, we will circumvent the Creation and Cultural mandates. These mandates, while calling us to live according to the gifts and talents with which God has gifted us in the providential circumstances we now find ourselves, calls on us not to live to ourselves, but to God. Such a life can only come about through the grace of God. First, there is our salvation, accomplished totally by His calling. Second, there is our sanctification, accomplished by the Holy Spirit who indwells us. We possess a natural tendency not to live in the way God wants us to live. As God is the author of creation, He is also the author of our redemption. The Christian worldview calls for a faith-based view of salvation (sola fide). This is the grand theme of the Scriptures: salvation in Jesus Christ (Ryken, p. 32). In addition, the Christian worldview puts forth the Incarnation of Jesus, the Christ. Because Jesus is fully man, as well as fully God, He can sympathize with the difficulties and temptations that come our way. The covenant of redemption asks one thing of us: to believe and trust what Jesus, the Anointed, has done. The Christian worldview calls on us to add no works to the cross of Christ for our salvation – sola fide, solus Christus, soli Deo Gloria. God’s solution for the Fall of humanity is in the person and work of Christ (Ryken, p. 33). Through the grace of God, both for our salvation and sanctification, we are learning to think Christianly in every sphere of life. The Holy Spirit is gradually working in me to restore the knowledge of God, myself, and the world I lost through the fall. . . The formation of a Christian worldview itself is a gift of God’s saving grace – a gift that is given only to those who trust the written and incarnate Word of God (Ryken, p. 34).
Philip Graham Ryken provides so much more in this forty-five page booklet. In the last few remaining pages, Ryken speaks to the Great Commission as part of the Christian worldview. Evangelism and the Cultural Mandate are not an either-or option; they are a both-and calling from God (p.37). As I stated above, the booklets in the Basics of the Faith Series, are short and to the point, yet are full of profound truths for Christians who believe in the person and work of Jesus Christ. In this booklet, Ryken has taken us through the history of redemption, from our Creation to our need of Grace. Only if we embrace the Christian Worldview can we fulfill the dominion mandate that God has called us to fulfill. The booklets in this Series are written from the perspective of Reformed theology, based on Biblical evidence. For future blog articles, I will be writing other reviews of booklets in this Series. I hope this short review will whet the appetite of believers in Christ to delve into the Basics of the Faith Series.
Ryken, P. G. (2006). What Is The Christian Worldview? [Basics of the Faith Series]. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.
[Philip Graham Ryken (b. 1966), is an American theologian, Presbyterian minister (PCA), and academic administrator (Wheaton College). He obtained his BA from Wheaton College in 1988, Master of Divinity from Westminster Theological Seminary in 1992, and his Ph.D. in historical theology from the University of Oxford in 1995. He is currently the eight president of Wheaton College, and a member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals].
John V. Jones, Jr. Ph.D./March 14th, 2023
BOOK REVIEW/CHRISTIAN THOUGHT