The Christian Worldview

Introduction

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). 

Conclusion

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

Book Review: The Sovereignty of God [A. W. Pink]

Introduction

Throughout the introductory chapter of Pink’s Book, The Sovereignty of God, this question rings loud and clear: Who is regulating the affairs on this earth today? Pink offers us two options, God or the Devil. Written in the early part of the twentieth century, Pink points to the many troubles and crises happening at that time that led people to question whether or not God is in charge. Particularly germane to Pink’s time was World War I, and he would see World War II before he died. 

Pink’s Context and Ours

Arthur Walkington Pink (1886-1952) was educated at Moody Bible Institute. He is known for his stand as a Calvinist, hence he is by God’s providence, the man to pen this book about the sovereignty of God. The introductory chapter, along with the solemn question Pink poses, lays the foundation for what is to unfold in the following chapters. Times are still challenging today as they were in Pink’s day. There are events going on in the world that no doubt lead people to question whether or not God is in control. Many raise the question as to God’s very existence. Is our time any less troublesome than Pink’s? At the moment we are watching an invasion of Ukraine by the Russian military. Christians in many parts of the world are being put to death for their faith. Due to our foreign policy, we have been engaged in one military conflict after another since Vietnam. Woodrow Wilson wanted to bring democracy to the world via military intervention. Today the so-called War on Terror has proved as fruitful as democratizing the world. Free speech is under attack at every turn. The Constitution has been shredded in the name of compassion. Today in the U.S. we face a thirty-one trillion dollar debt, leading people to wander just how long the dollar will hold up before it collapses totally. And there is no end in sight of the road to entitlements coming out of DC, but primarily coming out of the taxpayer’s pocket. We are a country that sacrifices the unborn to the whims of people who want their freedom without any responsibility. It would be easy for someone to look in on these events and cultural mores and question: who regulates the affairs of the earth today? Pink, however, takes us to scripture to read and hear what it says about the character and attributes of God. In Pink’s presentation, either we live by sight or we live by faith. What does Scripture tell us about the one true sovereign God?

Sight or Faith

Pink tells us that walking by faith signifies certain ways of living. It means our thoughts are formed, our actions regulated, our lives molded by the Holy Scriptures . . . It is from the Word of Truth, and that alone – that we can learn what is God’s relation to this world. Pink stated that the troublesome times of his day were coming to fruition just as the Scriptures predicted. As believers in Christ, we should not be surprised that the world is turning away from God. Believers in Christ are in the world but are not of the world. The world system will continue to grow more and more antagonistic toward the Christian faith. . . . let it be said that the scriptures predicted just what we now see and hear . . . What is needed now as ever before, is a full, positive, constructive setting forth of the Godhood of God.

The Structure of the Book

As stated the introductory chapter lays the ground work for what is to follow in the next twelve chapters. This opening chapter states the major postulate on which the entire book is built. Because God is God – He does as He pleases, only as He pleases, always as He pleases; that His great concern is the accomplishment of His own pleasure and the promotion of His own glory; that He is the Supreme Being, therefore, Sovereign of the universe. Based on this postulate, Pink contemplates the exercise of God’s sovereignty, first in Creation (Chap. 2). Then he explores how God’s sovereignty relates to God’s Governmental Administration over the works of His hands (Chap. 3). In the next two chapters, Pink explores the difficult and controversial areas of God’s election for salvation (Chap. 4), and the reprobation of the wicked (Chap. 5). Pink then explores what he calls God’s sovereignty in His operation on and within men (Chap. 6). Pink then explores two more difficult areas as he looks to understand God’s sovereignty as it relates to the human will (Chap. 7) and human responsibility (Chap. 8). This is an area where even Calvinists find disagreement. Given God’s sovereign control of all that occurs, what is the relationship of God’s sovereignty to prayer (Chap. 9)? Given the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, what should be the Christian’s attitude toward such teaching (Chap. 10)? The Sovereignty of God is a truth revealed to us in Scripture for the comforting of our hearts, the strengthening of our souls, and the blessing of our lives. The next two chapters deal with difficulties and objections to the doctrine of God’s sovereignty (Chap. 11) and then the practical value of the doctrine of God’s sovereignty (Chap. 12). The book closes with a conclusion that summarizes all that went before along with an exhortation for believers in Christ to seek and attend to sound doctrine (Chap. 13). 

Conclusion: Practical Value of the Doctrine of God’s Sovereignty

Although not a pragmatist, Pink believes that sound doctrine has practical value. The penultimate chapter explores what he considers to be the practical value derived from the doctrine of God’s sovereignty. Pink delineates ten areas for the believer that will be strengthened by a proper and deeper understanding of God’s sovereignty. For purposes of bringing this blog article to a finale, I’ll simply list those ten areas. God’s Sovereignty 1) deepens our veneration of the Divine character; 2) is the solid foundation of all true religion; 3) repudiates the heresy of salvation by works; 4) is deeply humbling to the creature; 5) affords a sense of absolute security; 6) supplies comfort in sorrow; 7) begets a spirit of sweet resignation; 8) evokes a song of praise: 9) guarantees the final triumph of good over evil; 10) provides a resting place for the heart. As stated in the opening of this article, A. W. Pink penned The Sovereignty of God for those who have placed their faith in Christ for their salvation, those who hold to the Five Fundamentals of the Faith. For many Christians today, this will not be considered light reading, nor did Pink intend it to be so written. I urge all believers who look with hope toward the dominion mandate as put forth by R. J. Rushdoony, to not only read this book, but to read and reread it, bringing good and solid study to it. We are called to love God with all our mind. Sound doctrine is not valued that much today in many pulpits. But if we are to love God with all we are, we cannot remain ignorant of good, sound teaching. 

[Pink, A. W., (2018). The Sovereignty of God. (Originally published in 1918). 2018 edition published by Digitalreads.com. All material and quotes in this blog article are taken from the 2018 Kindle edition.]

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D./December 14th, 2022

CHRISTIAN THOUGHT/BOOK REVIEW

Book Review: The Biblical Philosophy of History [R. J. Rushdoony]

Introduction

Because of modern approaches to historical research, we are accustomed to thinking of history as simply the reporting of chronological events whereby the historian holds neutral his underlying presuppositions that form the basis of any interpretation of historical events. History then is more or less a journalistic reporting of events without bias. Indeed, according to some historians, history should not entail an interpretive process that looks to understand the meaning of events. But can historians simply report events without any underlying presuppositions? The very facts they choose to chronicle involves a choice on their part of some material while bypassing other material. In his book, The Biblical Philosophy of History, R. J. Rushdoony provides a different picture of history. He challenges us with questions like, What is history? What are the underlying presuppositions of various historiographies (historical method)? Can there really be a neutral approach to history? On the basis of these questions Rushdoony then proceeds to proffer a Biblical philosophy of history. In his various writings, Rushdoony posits the contrast of a Christian worldview with other worldviews that he designates as humanism. Whether those worldviews entail Greek philosophy,  medieval scholasticism, Enlightenment rationalism, positivism, or existentialism, they have in common their antagonism toward a Christian worldview because at their core they are all humanistic in that they view man as the determiner of all things. A Biblical Philosophy of History is a work meant for those who believe in a historical Jesus, who offers salvation to those who place faith in Him as called by God. 

History and Meaning

A popular movement emerged in the 1960’s that had its roots in the 19th century and the writings of Frederich Nietzsche. The movement was a philosophical one and anti-theological one known as the God is dead philosophy. Following Nietzsche, theologians such as Thomas J. Altizer held that the era of Christian civilization had come to an end, and all morals and values generated by a Christian worldview had collapsed. Historically, then Christianity became nothing more than a myth to be reported in the annals of historical research. What this meant for human beings was that they were then immersed in the process of historicity, thereby the search for a transcendental meaning in history is a meaningless pursuit. In contrast to this philosophy, Rushdoony brings forth a Biblical Philosophy of History. Throughout this work, Rushdoony pits a view of history as grounded in Biblical truth against various humanistic philosophies of history, including the Greek view of history, medieval scholasticism, Enlightenment rationalism, the positivism of Comte, pragmatism, Marxism, Fabian socialism, scientism, and relativism. Rushdoony’s first chapter, with the same title as the book, lays the groundwork for the entire work. 

The Biblical Philosophy of History

In his opening chapter, Rushdoony goes straight to Genesis and the Biblical perspective of creation as the foundation to the Biblical philosophy of history. He delineates nine implications for historical understanding if we accept the Biblical claim of God as Creator. 1) The doctrine of creation asserts that the universe, time, history, man, and all things are the handiwork of a sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient, and triune God (p. 7). 2) This means that the meaning of history is to be understood primarily and essentially in terms of that God (p. 7). If God created time and history, then they are determined by Him. Hence, as human beings we are not immersed in time without recourse to any transcendental meaning. History is not caught in time but proceeds from eternity. 3) Creation is described by all of Scripture as a creative act of God, in six days, and thus it must be understood as an act, not of process (p. 7). 4) The Biblical doctrine of creation not only asserts that creation is the creative act of God, but also, because it is totally His creative act, creation is totally under His government (p. 10). 5) The source of energy and power is radically different in the Biblical faith from that in the humanistic creed. For the orthodox Christian, who grounds his philosophy of history on the doctrine of creation, the mainspring of history is God (p.12).God’s sovereignty and providential control give history meaning because history unfolds on the basis of His eternal decrees. 6) The Biblical philosophy of history is grounded not only on the doctrine of creation, but also on the doctrine of the infallible Scripture (p. 13). 7) The Biblical philosophy of history means that time does not come out of a primeval past, but from eternity (p. 15) 8) The doctrine of creation has reference to the nature of man (p. 16). Human beings are not caught up in the process of time and historicity; they are passive in their relationship to God, but active agents in relation to time and creation. 9) All factuality is . . . made personal, because it is the handiwork of the personal triune God, and it derives its meaning from His personal, creative act and eternal decree (p. 18). Rushdoony builds the theme of his book, The Biblical Philosophy of History, as he expounds on these nine principles while also contrasting the Biblical philosophy with humanistic philosophies throughout history from ancient Greece to the modern era. 

The Structure of the Book

Given the nine implications for the Biblical Philosophy of History from the premise that God is creator, Rushdoony takes Christian readers on a journey of how these implications relate to what Orthodox Christians hold as basic truths of Scripture. Hence readers will delve into what it means for history if we accept what Romans 9 says about inescapable truths seen in creation. What does the Incarnation and the Virgin Birth mean for our understanding of history? What does regeneration of the believer mean for our understanding of history and our place in history? Rushdoony takes Orthodox believers into these discussions and others. Two appendices to the book delve further into historiography and Rushdoony’s plea for the need of Christian scholarship in this area, as one means of Christian Reconstruction where all spheres of life are taken captive for the name of Christ.

Conclusion

As stated, The Biblical Philosophy of History is written straightforwardly for the Reformed Orthodox Christian. It provides the believer with a firm foundation for why we should study history, whether we pursue it as a professional, a student, or a layperson. History has meaning and purpose. The Christian interpretation of history is at odds with all humanistic approaches to understanding history, if indeed there is any understanding to be had from humanistic presuppositions. 

[Rushdoony, R. J. (2000). The Biblical Philosophy of History (originally published in 1969; reprinted in 2000). Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books.] [All page numbers refer to the Kindle edition.]

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D./November 14th, 2022

BOOK REVIEW/CHRISTIAN THOUGHT

Morning & Evening: A Daily Devotional Through the Writings of C. H. Spurgeon

Introduction

Alistair Begg has provided a wonderful service through his updating of Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening. Begg recast the daily devotional from the King James version of the Bible, which Spurgeon would have used in the late nineteenth century, to the English Standard Version (ESV). As a believer who studied Scripture beginning in the 1980’d, I”m of course familiar with the New American Standard Version (NASB). Recently, I purchased the ESV Study Bible. Although there is nothing wrong with the KJV, the language is strange and awkward at times to twentieth century English speakers. So I appreciate Begg’s updating of Spurgeon’s devotional, as well as his updating Spurgeon’s use of the 19th century English language for twentieth century readers. However, this devotional is not about various versions of the Bible. In his rendition, Begg has maintained the power of Spurgeon as a preacher, as well as his love and faith in our glorious and powerful God.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Spurgeon lived a short life of 58 years from 1834-1892; but in that short life span he displayed quite an impact for Christ on the Church. He was only twenty years old when he began preaching. For thirty-eight years he held the pulpit at New Park Street Chapel, later known as the Metropolitan Tabernacle. Without hyperbole, he was probably the most popular pastor of the 19th century. He credited his conversion to a snow storm that blew him off course where he was headed to Methodist church, leading him instead to a Baptist Church. After hearing the sermon there, he stated that he had to rethink his entire approach to Christianity. Although he never completed a specific degree, he strongly believed in learning and became an avid reader, especially of the Puritan Divines. His personal library totaled some 12000 volumes.

Spurgeon became known as a powerful preacher and writer whose words pierced the soul of his readers. The strength of his writing springs from the pages of Morning and Evening. What comes across in these devotionals is Spurgeon’s worshipful love of God, who he presents in all his splendor, glory, power, and providential sovereignty..The impact of Spurgeon’s short life is seen in the fact that when he died in 1892, some 60000 people lined the streets as his body lay in state. On the day of his funeral, as the hearse transported his body from the Metropolitan Tabernacle to the cemetery, approximately 100000 people lined the streets during the funeral procession. Flags flew at half-mast, and many London businesses closed.

Spurgeon’s life was not without other contributions to society. He established as alms house and an orphanage in London, as well as a Pastor’s College that is still open today. He preached his last sermon in June of 1891 and died January 1892.

Morning and Evening

As the title makes clear, Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening is a daily devotional that readers engage for a full year. The devotional provides a morning and evening reading each day. This devotional is most definitely geared to the committed believer. Spurgeon’s theology comes through loud and clear extolling the character of God, his just judgment, his free grace, and his lovingkindness. Human effort to please God finds no place in Spurgeon’s writings. The power of his preaching and oratorical skills grab hold of the reader’s soul and will not let go. Many will find joyous tears brought forth by some of the passages that Spurgeon supplies. I definitely recommend this daily devotional for serious and committed Christians. If you are a new Christian, engage this work as well. You’ll find that Spurgeon’s passion for God will take you into a deeper and worshipful understanding of the Triune God. But make no mistake about it, In picking up this work, you’ll read the thoughts of a passionate evangelical, one who believes in the inerrancy and power of God’s word, and a Calvinist who extols the providence of an omnipotent, omniscient, and all-wise God. The work is Christ-centered, and lifts up Jesus Christ as the Son of God, born of a virgin, who died and shed blood for our sins, and was raised on the third day as a sign of God’s good pleasure. Alistair Begg, once again, has provided an amazing service to the church in his rendition of Spurgeon’s daily devotional.

Reference

Sourgeon, C. H. (2003), Morning and Evening. [Updated and Revised by Alistair Begg]. Wheaton, IL; Crossway Press.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D./October 14th, 2021

BOOK REVIEW