I recently read a blog post by Stephen Altrogge entitled A Solid Worldview Won’t Save My Kids. I encourage you to read it and reflect on it for yourself, first.
One of my first thoughts regarding the title was, “I wonder if anybody claims that a solid worldview will save anybody?”
The title reminds me a bit about a common evangelical saying: “You can’t argue someone into the Kingdom.” This sentiment usually originates from the view that we should just simply preach the Gospel. K. Scott Oliphint has the most brilliant response to that line, that I have ever heard. He says something to the effect of, “True, but you can’t preach someone into the Kingdom, either.” His point is that only the Holy Spirit brings people into the Kingdom. The Spirit alone gives life. So, when I read the title to Stephen Altrogge’s article (then read the article), I responded Oliphint-style with my title: appealing to the affections won’t save your kids, either.
Moving on . . .
My next thought was, “If a person is not saved (brought to life by the Holy Spirit, cleansed of debt by Jesus’ work, and righteous in God’s sight because Christ’s righteousness is credited to your account), then they don’t have a solid worldview, period.” From God’s point of view (revealed in His Word), it is impossible for a person to have a “solid worldview” if they are not born-again. I’ll explain more, below.
I confess, I was a bit jealous upon reading this:
If you hang out in Christian circles for more than ten minutes, you’ll inevitably hear someone talk about ‘worldview’. Christian parents, particularly those in the homeschool / private school / unschool / charter school vein, are intensely passionate about giving their children a biblical worldview which helps their children understand themselves, the world, and all of history in light of Scripture.
I wish that was my experience. The majority of Christians I know are nothing like that. In our context, evangelicals are more likely to be fideistic, rejecting all ideas of systems and worldviews. “It’s not a system of thought, it’s a personal relationship,” etc. On top of that, Christianity is largely privatized and, along with the children, kept far away from the world and history (even church history). Then, Altrogge mentions Abraham Kuyper. I wish I had even known that name before I was 21. There are many conservative evangelicals that will have nothing to do with the “worldview camp.” Abraham who? Anyway . . .
And I’m in no way opposed to having a biblical worldview. I think it’s crucial.
That’s good. But then,
But the older I get, the more I realize that it’s not enough to give my children a biblical worldview. I’ve seen too many of my childhood friends grow up to reject the biblical worldview that was so furiously drummed into them as children. I’ve seen too many people make choices that they know are in direct contradiction to the worldview they embraced for so many years. I’ve seen too many train wrecks to think that worldview alone is enough.
This is interesting. The claim is that one can actually embrace a Christian worldview but then reject it. Has he just implied that one can have a biblical worldview without having a right relationship with God? Has the Christian worldview just been abstracted from saving faith in the Lord Jesus?
The Bible is about Christ, He said “they testify about Me” (John 5:39). So can someone actually embrace the biblical worldview without Christ Himself? The Bible says otherwise. It is impossible to rightly think about anything apart from Christ:
All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Him.
I am saying this so that no one will deceive you with persuasive arguments. For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see how well ordered you are and the strength of your faith in Christ.
Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, overflowing with gratitude.
Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elemental forces of the world, and not based on Christ.
When Altrogge talks about people making choices that contradict the Christian worldview, I don’t think he’s talking about Christians still sinning. Notice, he says “direct contradiction to the worldview they embraced for so many years” (emphasis mine). Past tense, implying that their present lifestyle contradicts the biblical worldview that they once held, but rejected. I don’t think he’s using “train wrecks” as an overstatement, either. Altrogge seems to communicate that it is possible for people to have actually “embraced [the Christian worldview] for so many years” then completely walk away from the faith. The train was moving, but it’s not anymore. However, if we belong to Christ, that’ll never happen:
I give them eternal life, and they will never perish—ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”
I contend that any person who supposedly embraced but ultimately rejected the Bible’s view on reality, knowledge, and ethics never actually did. The Christian worldview cannot be divorced from Christ. If you don’t have Christ, you don’t have a Christian worldview. And if you do have Christ, you’ll never reject His Word’s perspective on reality, knowledge, and conduct. In fact, knowledge itself cannot be divorced from Christ. Paul said that in Jesus all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are deposited. To attempt to know anything without reference to the Lord Jesus is to not know it truly, as it should be known.
Knowledge is personal, because it comes from the personal Triune God. Jesus Himself said He is the Truth (John 14:6). God’s revelation, both general and special, is covenantal. It is impossible to abstract any worldview from the personal knowledge of God (even anti-Christian worldviews, since they are based on suppressing the truth; Rom 1:18-25). If a so-called biblical worldview is not based on Christ, then it is no biblical worldview. Christian terms may be used, Bible verses may be quoted, but if your worldview is not according to Christ, then it is “philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elemental forces of the world, and not based on Christ.”
Stephen Altrogge continues,
Worldview is important, but it’s only one part of the equation. A biblical worldview helps a person think correctly. But we are not purely intellectual beings. We don’t operate solely based on ideas and thoughts. We are flesh and blood, with passions, desires, and longings. We feel things deeply and desire things strongly. Our intellects and desires are intricately interwoven, interacting with and informing each other.
A biblical worldview helps us think correctly so we can live correctly. And it helps us think correctly about “passions, desires, and longings.” Indeed we do feel deeply and desire strongly, just like Eve did in the garden. It was because our first parents didn’t submit their desire to what God had said, instead acting autonomously, that they fell. We must have a theoretical commitment to God’s authority, thinking as He has told us to, so that we can respond correctly to our passions and desires. And, thanks be to God, even our desires are being renewed: “For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose” (Philippians 2:13). Our whole person is being sanctified, mind and affections, body and soul.
I completely agree that our intellect and desires are intertwined. It is because we are inclined to sin that we refuse to acknowledge God or give thanks. John Piper nails it when he says: “The corruption of our hearts is the deepest root of our irrationality” (Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God, Kindle Locations 788-789). It is only when God does a supernatural work in us that we properly respond to what was always evident around us. But, I also think that having a Christian worldview is not merely cognitive. It’s more than assenting to a collection of abstract truths. First of all, it’s the result of already beholding Christ (1 John 3:1). It’s a result of being saved by the message preached,
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is God’s power to us who are being saved. For it is written:
I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and I will set aside the understanding of the experts.
Where is the philosopher? Where is the scholar? Where is the debater of this age? Hasn’t God made the world’s wisdom foolish? For since, in God’s wisdom, the world did not know God through wisdom, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of the message preached. For the Jews ask for signs and the Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. Yet to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is God’s power and God’s wisdom, because God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. . . But it is from Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became God-given wisdom for us—our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, in order that, as it is written: The one who boasts must boast in the Lord.
-1 Corinthians 1:18-25. 30-31
Notice how Paul links together Christ, wisdom, and believing the Gospel.
I whole heartedly agree with what Altrogge says next:
If I’m going to be an effective, godly parent, I need to appeal to my kids affections as much as their intellects. They need to see that the Bible makes sense, but they also need to see that Jesus is supremely delightful.
Frankly, I think a believer’s worldview is insufficiently Christian to the extent that they don’t see the beauty of Jesus. If a professing Christian doesn’t see Christ as supremely delightful, I would question what he thinks of Christ and would want to know his Christology. On the other hand, imagine asking someone why they find Christ supremely delightful, and they respond that it’s because He will never let them get sick or lack money and have whatever they want! Oops, that’s an idol, not the Lord Jesus. Ironically, people who subscribe to a false gospel, yet claim to value Christ, actually don’t (they worship the creature rather than the Creator), but we wouldn’t be able to make sense of that apart from the Christian worldview. Having a biblical worldview is necessary for biblical affection. John Piper points out how knowledge and affection reinforce and feed each other:
The fires of love for God need fuel. And the fires of love for God drive the engines of thought and deed. There is a circle . Thinking feeds the fire, and the fire fuels more thinking and doing. I love God because I know him. And I want to know him more because I love him. . . The main reason that thinking and loving are connected is that we cannot love God without knowing God; and the way we know God is by the Spirit-enabled use of our minds. So to “love God with all your mind” means engaging all your powers of thought to know God as fully as possible in order to treasure him for all he is worth.
God is not honored by groundless love. In fact, there is no such thing. If we do not know anything about God, there is nothing in our mind to awaken love. If love does not come from knowing God, there is no point calling it love for God. There may be some vague attraction in our heart or some unfocused gratitude in our soul, but if they do not arise from knowing God, they are not love for God.
-Piper, John. Think (Kindle Locations 1145-1147,1153-1158).
If your worldview is not Christ-centered, if the affections haven’t been gripped by the “surpassing value of Christ” (1 Cor. 3) then it’s not a biblical worldview. Here’s what I mean (and this may seem too obvious to mention). If Christ is not supremely valued, then we’re not thinking of Christ as the Scriptures reveal Him: the climax of redemptive history, who saved me. A worldview is not a jumble of isolated bits of information. It is a network of interdependent doctrines. Within the Christian worldview every doctrine will be related to the person of Christ. The Christian worldview is based on the biblical narrative, redemptive history, not a disjointed list of beliefs. And it is covenantal. As Tim Keller says,
God’s revelation never comes in the form of textbook type information, but in the form of covenant. Why? Because the purpose of God’s truth is never to merely inform, but to know God in a relationship of love and service.
-syllabus for “Preaching Christ in a Postmodern World” p. 34
And that brings us back to knowledge being necessarily relational. The personal God, made man personal in His image, and in the context of covenant, gave His Word. From birth we are covenant breakers in Adam, knowing God but suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. But when the Holy Spirit unites us to Christ, we are made covenant keepers in Him, and we begin to understand reality, knowledge, and ethics rightly because we know God who created reality, is the source of knowledge, and whose character is the basis for ethics.
I must make a note of appreciation. I love how Stephen Altrogge does not split the faculties of man between mind, will, and emotions. He instead speaks of the intellect and the affections. I too believe this is the biblical view of man. Edwards thought so, and Tim Keller agrees:
One of Jonathan Edwards’ most enduring contribution is his ‘religious psychology’ in Religious Affections. Instead of accepting the typical Western division of ‘will’ vs. ’emotions’ (thus the division of the soul into three parts–thinking, feeling. willing), Edwards posited a division in the soul of only two faculties. The frrst was ‘the understanding”, which is our ability to perceive and judge the nature of things. The second he called ‘the inclination of the soul” to either like or dislike, to love or reject, what we perceive. Edwards calls this inclination the ‘will” when it is involved in action and “heart” when it senses the beauty of what is being perceived by the understanding. The ‘Affections” are what Edwards calls the most ‘vigorous and sensible exercises’ of this faculty. In the Bible, they are the ‘fruit of the Spirit’–-love, joy, zeal, humility.
The affections are of course filled with emotion, but they are not the same as ‘passions’. Affections are the action of the whole person when the inclination senses the beauty and excellency of some object. Then that object fills us with love and joy and propels us to acquire and protect it. The passions are also emotions, but more passing, superficial (and usually more violent) which can arise from a variety of fleeting causes, both mental and physical.
Edwards contribution is especially important regarding the unity of the faculties. He refused to suppose an opposition between the understanding and the affections. Gracious affections are raised up only when a person has a ‘spiritual understanding’ of the true nature of God. In other words, if a person says, ‘I know God cares for me, but I am still paralyzed by fear“, Edwards would reply, ‘then that means you really don’t know that God cares for you. If you did, then the affection of confidence and hope would be rising within you.’
-Tim Keller, syllabus for “Preaching Christ in a Postmodern World” p. 149
The reality is: the mind can only stand against the affections for so long before it gives out. If my kids are going to stand against the allure of sexual impurity, I can’t simply tell them about all the negative consequences of premarital sex. I need to also dazzle them with the all-satisfying beauty of Christ. If my kids are going to stand against materialism, I can’t simply tell them that money is the root of all evil. I need to also show them that Christ is the pearl of great price.
My question is: aren’t those glorious truths part of the biblical view of things? The implication seems to be that “all the negative consequences of premarital sex” and “that money is the root of all evil” is what the intellect/worldview department gives, while “the all-satisfying beauty of Christ” and “that Christ is the pearl of great price” is limited to the area of affections. I hope that implication is unintended. I haven’t lost sight of his point: he’s saying both need to be done. However, remember the title of the article: “A Solid Worldview Won’t Save My Kids”, and how he asserted that a worldview is limited to the intellect. In my thinking, if these things weren’t grasped then the worldview was incomplete. Also, the intellectual side of things in these examples seems to be moralistic. Does worldview reduce to moralism? It shouldn’t. From a truly biblical worldview, we present neither moralism nor relativism, but the Gospel as a third way (in that it is distinct, not a compromise between the two). Where’s the Christ centered motivation? Why is He beautiful and more valuable? That should be easily answered from our worldview, if it is Scriptural.
I’ll apply a different approach to Altrogge’s first example: If we view things according to Scripture, we should say that on your own you will fail to be pure, which is why Christ stood fast in the face of all temptation, for you. Christ is your substitute, whose purity is imputed to you. Unless you see that, you won’t be able stand against sin. Only if we first realize what Christ has done for us does He become more attractive and our idols less attractive. That is how the Christian worldview includes the affections. This again shows how central Christ is to having a Christian worldview. We don’t have a Christian worldview if we are not Christocentric.
Conveniently, Tim Keller deals with Altrogge’s second example, materialism. This citation immediately follows the above citation.
If Edwards is right, then there is no ultimate opposition between ‘head and ‘heart”. We must not assume, for example, if our people are materialistic, that they only need to be exhorted to give more. That would be to act directly on the will. Through guilt that may help that day’s offering (!), but it will not change the people’s life patterns. Nor must we simply tell stories of people’s lives being changed through acts of generosity. That will simply act directly on the emotions. That will raise ‘passions’ and also temporarily help the offering, but it will not permanently change the people.
If the people are materialistic and ungenerous, it means they have not truly understood how Jesus, though rich, became poor for them. It means they have not truly understood what it means that in Christ we have all riches and treasures. It means their ‘affections’ are clinging to material things–their souls are inclined toward riches as a source of spiritual security, hope, and beauty. They may have superficial intellectual grasp of Jesus’ spiritual wealth, but they do not truly grasp it. Thus in preaching we must re-present Christ in the particular way that he replaces the place of material things in the affections. This takes not just intellectual argument, but the presentation of the beauty of Christ.
-Tim Keller, syllabus for “Preaching Christ in a Postmodern World” p. 149
On a side note, the Bible does not say “that money is the root of all evil” (as Altrogge said). First Timothy 6:10 actually says: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (emphasis mine).
The Gospel is how the beauty of Christ is presented, and how the affections are apprehended. This is touched on (the Resurrection, not substitution) as Altrogge continues:
Family devotions can’t be just about information. They also need to be about inspiration. I want my kids to know that there is good evidence that the resurrection is a historical reality. I also want my kids to know that Jesus is real, and he lives within me, and he gives me supernatural power, and he gives me more joy than anything else.
This is where presuppositionalism kicks in with its superior strength. It’s impossible that the biblical account is false. We are not merely left with a probable or most likely view of things. We have certainty. The Christian position is not that Jesus is probably real, or that he probably lives within me. God’s Word is infallible and we have certainty in the self-attesting Christ of Scripture. “The one who has the Son has life. The one who doesn’t have the Son of God does not have life. I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:12-13). Ironically, to be properly presuppositional is to be Christocentric.
Stephen Altrogge concludes:
Worldview is important, but I can’t rest with simply teaching my kids how to think. I need to also show them the surpassing joy of knowing Christ. I want my kids to understand at a visceral level that Jesus is sweet and sin is bitter. Good thinking is necessary, but good feeling is just as, if not more important.
As I said before, I don’t think one has the correct worldview if they don’t know the surpassing joy of knowing Christ. The Bible implies that you don’t know how to think if you don’t think according to Christ. One way or another, Christ is the ultimate point of reference (Colossians 1:15-20). Unbelievers do not know how to think, because they have not bowed the knee. And if you are a Christian who insists on neutrality, that it is possible to think about anything apart from Christ, shame on you and whoever taught you that. God commands us to “honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts” (1 Peter 3:15a). His Lordship is all encompassing. Christology affects epistemology. God in His Word has linked them together, so “let no man separate.” In reality, there’s no neutral way to think. We either think in submission to Christ or we do not. So, biblically speaking, if you’re teaching your kids how to think without showing them the surpassing joy of knowing Christ, then you’re not teaching them to think at all. They may be able to count, but they can’t account for counting, as Van Til would say.
“Good thinking is necessary, but good feeling is just as, if not more important.” If we agree with Edwards, your thinking is exposed as not “good” if your affections are not good. I agree with Edwards (above) that someone doesn’t really know or understand the Bible’s teaching (have a Christian worldview) if they don’t act accordingly. If they did, the affections would rise within them. Like Francis Schaeffer used to say, men have two creeds: what they say they believe, and what they do. And what they do exposes what they really believe. Your worldview is not Christ centered if it is merely “good thinking” or “good feeling.” Altrogge insists that mind and affections “are intricately interwoven,” but there still seems to be a dichotomy between “worldview” and “affections.” Ironically, a biblical worldview will include the united faculties of man, and apply Christology accordingly. Yes,”good thinking” and “good feeling” are necessary. But, good thinking and good feeling will not save you (in keeping with our title theme). Both the understanding and the affections are brought into submission to Christ as the Gospel is made effective by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. Christ saves, and only then can our thinking and feeling be “good.”
In conclusion, there is one sense in which I agree with the idea that a biblical worldview is not enough. What I mean by that is, you need to be born from above by the Holy Spirit (John 3:3). Ironically, the way the Spirit does this is by making effective the Gospel, which only retains its meaning within its redemptive-historical context. So, in another sense, the Christian worldview is enough, it is exactly what we need. God has revealed what we need to know about reality, knowledge, and conduct. Our most fundamental convictions, presuppositions, are provided by Scripture. And the core of the Christian worldview is the Gospel; said another way, the climax of the redemptive-historical narrative is Jesus Christ. Apart from the Christian worldview, the redemptive-historical narrative, the Gospel is without meaning, and Jesus Christ is without definition. If you have a Christian worldview, it must necessarily be Christocentric. To be Christocentric is also to be presuppositional, since Christ is the ultimate point of reference. And that is to be biblically based in all of our thinking, to interpret everything according to Scripture, which is ultimately about Christ. Therefore, if our worldview is biblical, then it is Christocentric, and Christ’s work for us is what grips our affections. Affections cannot be awakened to what is not known. If my “Christian” worldview remains merely cognitive, without my affections laying hold of Christ, then it’s not really Christian. If I have a Christian worldview, then I must say with Paul:
But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith. My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.
Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. Therefore, all who are mature should think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this also to you. In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained. Join in imitating me, brothers, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. For I have often told you, and now say again with tears, that many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction; their god is their stomach; their glory is in their shame. They are focused on earthly things, but our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subject everything to Himself.