In the last post I introduced the concepts of a worldview, of integration and specifically of a Christian worldview. I assumed the Scriptures as the “bedrock” foundation of that worldview, without proof or examination. That is not to say this approach is fideistic, as there are good reasons for this assumption. But that has to wait (Commenters have jumped to conclusions here}.
I began to address the process of building a worldview for each discipline. One of the most significant obstacles however has been the continuing primary appeal of Christian practitioners of disciplines to general revelation as their foundation. Too, often they adopt (with little adaptation) the assumptions and conclusions of general revelation without much attempt to subject them to the scrutiny of special revelation. General revelation in the form of empirical evidence, observation, experience, is immensely valuable to a full understanding of both the physical and social world. However, Christianity’s revelation is Scripture, and should therefore act as the judge of general revelation in interpreting it. The Bible of course is not to be used as some sort of magic talisman. As I said above and reiterate here (forcefully) it must be properly interpreted. But then it acts to set the conditions under which general revelation can be admitted into a particular discipline as consistent with the Christian worldview.
Integration is not some balance between special and general revelation. Special revelation is the ultimate standard. But a couple of examples may help. Take the issue of the origin of the universe. Non-Christians and Christians can discover (and do) the same data, take the same measurements, calculate the same rates of change or changes, etc. They may even agree that the data is correct in the sense that it measures accurately or has been recorded accurately. But when it comes to how the data is interpreted, the story is different. This difference may come as one approaches the issue, with presuppositions, or after the data is presented, with differing interpretations emerging, or both. I am not here now (that is for later) to go into why the non-Christian interpretations may be wrong, only to say that interpretations differ if one applies special revelation versus general revelation and its naturalistic assumptions. Everyone will use some set of assumptions when it comes to the data that is the world (the “buzz” as some philosophers call it). I happen to assert unapologetically that special revelation and its resulting worldview represent the correct “lens” through which to view that world. Others are free to disagree, but they will be required to convince me. And, to repeat, there are good reasons to assert the primacy of special revelation. I will address those later. This blog is about a Christian worldview already accepted as true.
My view on special versus general revelation may disturb even some Christians who have placed a heavy reliance on the empirical approach to knowledge. I am here to allay their fears partially, but not completely. I have emphasized that general revelation and its method are valuable, but I have also emphasized that they cannot be the final judge for the Christian. One must be able to determine whether and why a conclusion of general revelation is true, and that requires a measure outside itself for a Christian worldview to be a Christian worldview. Empirical evidence cannot be self-attesting within the scope of a genuinely Biblical worldview. As someone said, “All truth is God’s truth,” but how does one know whether some alleged truth is in fact God’s truth.
One more point before we move to discuss the elements of a worldview in more detail. The concept of a worldview, including a Christian worldview, is broiader than just theology proper. I have already made that point, but it bears emphasis. Whereas theology establishes a basic foundation, the Scriptures as a whole speak to more than just theology proper. They speak in direct, but mostly indirect, ways to the entire range of human knowledge. Hence worldview cannot be encompassed within theology alone, though there is overlap. Nor is worldview philosophy. As valuable as philosophy can be, its premises have originated from human reflection on the questions of crucial importance. Thus, it cannot carry the load necessary to build a Biblical worldview, though it can support the Biblical principles with reason. And reason, properly used, is a God-given capacity possessed only by humans in order to reflect on whatever data it is given. It’s highest calling then would be to reflect on the data of the world but with a Biblical foundation as starting point, reasoning from Scripture rather than from man’s potentially autonomous reasoning.
This certainly leads to a debate over natural law as a “given” by God that can operate the give the “right” answers to the crucial questions. Natural law can act as such, but it has its limits (Romans 1, for example). This is of course a continuing debate and one that cannot be settled here. I will only add that while respect the natural law tradition on these matters, I am skeptical of claiming too much for it.
Now I address the basic questions briefly and superficially.
- What is real? This is the question of ontology. But Scripture, not philosophy is the first source of knowledge for this question. One looks for (and finds) texts that show that what is real is what God made, and He Himself presents Himself as a real being. These categories and realities have been created and ordered by God and generally cannot be essentially modified or transformed simply because one wishes to find an alternative reality or to construct one’s own or assume an alternative. This category also applies to abstract knowledge, such as mathematics, not because mathematics is taught in Scripture, but because Scripture has established boundary conditions regarding what can be considered a human construct and what God has established a preordained “laws.”
I will stop here due to length again, but will continue in a third part.