Does My Worldview Matter?

When my family and I lived in the Texas Panhandle for a few years in the late 1990s, we became accustomed to driving long, lonely stretches of highway without seeing another car for miles. For Pete’s sake, the closest Walmart was an hour away! The windshield of our Dodge Caravan would easily accumulate a few zillion suicidal bugs on trips down those desolate dusty roads. They were assisted to their fate by the perpetually blowing winds common to that part of Texas. A thick gritty paste would eventually develop on the glass, requiring us to utilize a little elbow grease and one of those nifty squeegee things at the car wash to restore a clear field of vision. If we didn’t take this necessary step, our ability to safely operate the vehicle was severely impacted, and the mess on the windshield would prevent us from taking in the unparalleled beauty all around us. The flat treeless plains in the Texas Panhandle provided a panoramic backdrop for some of the most breathtaking sunrises and sunsets on the planet. It would have been a shame to miss out on the vibrant red, blazing orange, and deep purple hues because of some bugs and dust.

Sometimes in life, our view of the world around us can become obscured, as if we are gazing out through a dirty windshield. We are tempted to peer through the lens of preferences, misconceptions, or everyday disappointments in order to shape our view of life. Other times life altering circumstances come hurtling at us like rocks kicked up off the road toward the glass, completely shattering the way we see the world. An unclear or inconsistent worldview can be incredibly disorienting, causing us to live life off balance and uncertain of whether or not our feet are planted on a sturdy foundation. For this reason, it’s worth taking some time to carefully examine the source of our worldview so that when challenges come, we can meet them with confidence.

In “The Universe Next Door” James Sire defines worldview as “…a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true, or entirely false) that we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic constitution of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being.” One’s worldview will answer questions like: How did I get here? What’s the meaning of life? What is right and wrong? Where am I headed? We all have a worldview whether we realize it or not. We live our day to day lives as if we believe certain things to be true, even when we may not be able to clearly articulate the specifics.

As Christians, our worldview should be rooted in the Bible as we allow it to encompass and guide all aspects of our lives. It provides a fully faceted answer to all the big questions in life by showing us who God is, what He’s like, and what He does. Scripture tells us that God reveals Himself to us both through nature and His Word. Paul says in Romans 1:20, “For his invisible attributes, that is, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what he has made. As a result, people are without excuse.” The natural world shows us things about God’s character that should guide the way we live. The Psalmist reveals in Psalm 19:1-2, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the expanse proclaims the work of his hands. Day after day they pour out speech; night after night they communicate knowledge.” We observe order, intentionality, beauty, and purpose in creation, and make the assumption that Someone bigger than us is responsible for it all. This Someone brings order to our lives, creates beautiful things for us to enjoy, and intentionally guides us to a greater purpose outside of ourselves.

God also reveals Himself to us through His inspired Word. It’s no coincidence that the longest chapter in the Bible focuses on delighting in God’s Word. Psalm 119, consisting of 176 verses, highlights attributes of God like His righteousness, trustworthiness, truthfulness, faithfulness, immutability, and eternality. The Psalmist reveals how God opens our eyes (v. 18) and turns our hearts (v. 36). God is defined as good (v. 68) and as the Creator who gives understanding (v. 73). Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.” Scripture provides the illumination we need as we journey along the paths of our daily lives. God’s Word is both a light that shines directly on each step we take, and a lamp that illuminates the farthest horizon to bring our lives sharply into focus.

When I received specialized training as an occupational therapist in low vision rehabilitation, one of the first and simplest concepts I learned was the effective use of lighting. I was taught that if the light comes from the wrong direction, it can actually be more harmful than beneficial. A light coming from behind instead of in front, beside, or directly above can be blocked or distorted, making completion of a task more difficult. The same is true of the perfect light of God’s Word. When imperfect people (that’s all of us) don’t give Scripture its proper position in our lives, we miss the benefits of understanding God’s character, and risk coming away with a distorted view of how He works His purposes in and through us. The work of the Holy Spirit changes us as the Bible points us to God and illuminates aspects of His character. The point is not for us to see ourselves within the pages of Scripture, but to see Him, and allow Him to transform us into who He desires for us to be. We discover in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

A truly Biblical worldview leads us to the conclusion that our value does not originate within ourselves, but comes from the One who made us. We are loved not because we are good, but because He is good. Our worth does not come from some external earthly standard, but from the One who is Himself the standard of all that is true and just. We don’t find our significance by looking within, but from looking above. A painting or sculpture is not valuable because of the materials that comprise it, but because of the artist who designed it. A story is not compelling because of the paper and ink on which it is written, but because it came from the mind of the one who crafted it. Paul says in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.” From the perspective of a Biblical worldview, the way we see ourselves in the world should be all about Him and the purposes for which He created us.

Jesus told His followers in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Our culture applauds carving a broad and winding path through life, rather than traveling along the well-defined narrow way of God’s Word. Truth is defined as whatever feels best or is most convenient at the moment, rather than the truth embodied in Christ and revealed in Scripture. Often living “the good life” is celebrated as preferable to submitting to the One who is good. There is no doubt that it is becoming more and more difficult to live consistently within a Biblical worldview in the midst of a culture that answers the big questions of life much differently than we do. The views of Christ-followers are viewed as peculiar and intolerant. A culture that values rugged individualism and instant gratification simply can’t wrap its collective brain around a worldview that claims its followers are hidden within Someone bigger than themselves as they await a future glory (Colossians 3:3-4). But Jesus never promised it would be easy. Instead, He assured His disciples that He would be with them as they faced persecution, rejection, and hardship. Holding onto a worldview centered on God and His Word does matter and is of eternal significance as we strive to illuminate darkness and provide clarity in an increasingly confused world.

Book Review: Another Gospel?

Another Gospel? by Alisa Childers provides an honest look at the author’s journey through a profound period of doubt that ultimately led to the rebuilding of her faith. Her tone is gracious and thoughtful throughout the book as she provides her readers glimpses into deeply personal and often painful moments in the process. Through her compelling narrative, Childers reveals how she dug deep down into the roots of historic Christianity in order to unearth an authentic portrait of the Christian faith. She shows with incredible vulnerability how she painstakingly picked apart doctrines once held dear in order to arrive at the bedrock of truth. She writes in chapter one, “God either exists, or he doesn’t. The Bible is his Word, or it’s not. Jesus was raised from the dead, or he wasn’t. Christianity is true, or it isn’t. There is no ‘my truth’ when it comes to God.”

The author, a former CCM recording artist with the group ZOEgirl, is relatable as she admits to having a genuine, yet unchallenged, faith in her younger years. This ultimately left her susceptible to some very unorthodox claims by a pastor who described himself as a “hopeful agnostic.” The description of the struggles she faced shines a light on the critical need for apologetics training in the church today in preparing Christians to face challenges that are becoming more prevalent all the time. She provides insight into how the progressive Christian movement pushes back against foundational Christian doctrines like Biblical authority, reliability of the Gospel accounts, the reality of Hell, and the atonement.

Childers is equal parts authentic storyteller and meticulous researcher.  She provides keen insight into the roots of the progressive Christian movement and details its impact on today’s evangelical church. She is careful to include quotes by key thought leaders in progressive Christianity (Brian McLaren, John Pavlovitz, Rob Bell, Richard Rohr, Rachel Held Evans, and others) and contrasts their views with historic Christianity by quoting the earliest church fathers (Irenaeus, Clement, Justin Martyr, Augustine, Athanasius, and others.) In doing so, she demonstrates that progressive Christianity really is a different gospel altogether from what Christians have historically believed since its inception.

This book is a helpful tool for anyone seeking to navigate the often confusing landscape of the church today. Alisa Childers demonstrates the way in which beliefs that are completely antithetical to historic Christian doctrine can easily slip into the church in the absence of attention to Biblical literacy and without a carefully examined and reasoned faith. It provides a valuable review of essential, historic doctrines of the faith, while also serving as a warning for churches and individuals treading dangerously close to  embracing progressive Christian beliefs.

I wholeheartedly recommend Another Gospel? It is an uplifting and challenging read appropriate for several distinct groups of people. For those outside the Christian faith seeking to examine its tenets, it provides an overview of historic Christian doctrine and the evidence that undergirds it. For readers firmly committed to historic Christianity, it provides an affirmation of the faith they already hold dear. Honest doubters seeking answers will find that Alisa provides an empathetic response demonstrated through details of her personal journey which attests to the benefits of earnestly seeking truth. All three types of readers will grow to appreciate Alisa’s compassionate and reasoned responses to the challenges that she faced throughout her personal pilgrimage.

OK, Karen

“May I speak to the manager?” The now ubiquitous “Karen” meme probably brings the preceding phrase to mind when you hear my name. According to Wikipedia, being called a “Karen” is “a pejorative term used for a woman perceived to be entitled or demanding beyond the scope of what is considered appropriate or necessary.” Viral videos of “Karens” behaving badly have flooded the internet and vilified those who fall into the same demographic as me. There is also apparently a stereotypical “Karen” coiffure, which happens to look a lot like the way I style my hair. To be fair, many of the infamous “Karens” have been caught engaging in outrageous acts of defiance and over the top behavior.

My friends and family have had fun with this phenomenon, and I’m ok with it because they have invested time in getting to know me. They realize that I am not represented by the caricature of what my name has come to mean. The culture at large, however, has no problem invoking what happens to be my name with ever increasing mean-spiritedness. It is more than a little annoying, but one positive outcome is that it has caused me to reflect on the value of a name. Proverbs 22:1 says “A good name is to be chosen over great wealth; favor is better than silver and gold.”

I am quite sure when my parents named me in the late sixties, they had no idea of the havoc that would be wreaked by “Karens” in 2020.  When my husband and I named our sons, we went to great lengths to ensure that their names were both meaningful and appropriate to the times. We chose to give them contemporary first names that would easily identify them with their generation, and traditional middle names that would carry on the family heritage. We also considered whether or not their names could be twisted into cruel nicknames by playground bullies, or if their initials could be used as unintended acronyms. We placed value in calling them by their given names, rather than resorting to nicknames, to avoid a struggle my husband has dealt with his whole life. We gave them their names with the expectation that they would wear them proudly and represent our family well as they went out into the world.

Scripture emphasizes the importance that a name carries. The first job assigned to Adam was to name the animals. God Himself changed the names of His people to mark turning points in their lives. Abram became Abraham as a reminder that He would be the father of many nations (Genesis 17:5). Sarai became Sarah to indicate her role as a princess from whom kings would come (Genesis 17:15). Jacob became Israel to commemorate his struggle with God (Genesis 32:28). Saul became Paul as a reminder of God’s transforming power in his life (Acts 13:9). Names also often conveyed something about the person. Jacob’s firstborn twin son was named Esau because he was red and hairy. His second born Jacob was so named because he “grabbed the heel” of his older brother at birth. Moses, the leader of the Exodus out of Egypt, was named for the fact that he was “drawn out of the water.” Names are meaningful in scripture.

Our names are valuable to us, so we go to great lengths to protect our reputations and uphold “our good names.” How much more carefully then should we handle God’s name? Because His name is closely associated with His character, we malign God’s name not only when we use it as an expletive, but also when we reduce Him to a caricature of who He truly is. God’s name and character should be as zealously defended as our own names.

While we can never comprehend God completely, a journey through scripture reveals how His names paint an ever expanding portrait of His character. Consider just a few of these names, and think about how we might guard His name better within our culture. El Elyon, the most high God, is worthy of our worship. While voices around us say that with enough introspection we can be our own gods, we know that only in Him do we find the satisfaction our souls long for. El Shaddai, the LORD God Almighty, is our Sovereign who rules unwaveringly over His creation. The world may shout that God is dead, but we can be confident that He maintains control despite the chaos spinning all around us. Jehovah Shalom, the LORD Our Peace, is not a cosmic bully waiting to dole out punishment when we slip up. Instead He demonstrates perfectly righteous anger toward sin, and provides gracious reconciliation for all who accept His gift of salvation. Jehovah Jireh, the LORD who provides, cannot be reduced to a mere genie in a lamp. He owes us nothing, yet He lovingly chooses to pour out blessings for our good and His glory as He sees fit. I am thankful that I can draw closer to my Creator through these names, and dozens more, that He reveals in His Word.

Thankfully, I don’t find my identity in a hashtag, meme, or viral video. No matter how others may misuse my given name, God has given me an identity in Christ that cannot be changed or corrupted. When I accepted by grace through faith the free gift of salvation, Jesus exchanged my sin for His righteousness. I was reconciled to God, adopted into His family, and now identify with Him. It’s up to me to consider daily if I am representing God accurately to the world, or giving those I encounter a distorted view of Him. Just as my children identify with the names they were given as members of our family, I identify with Christ and carry His name with me wherever I go. As I go, I do so with the realization that I don’t need to speak to any earthly manager. I have an abiding relationship with the ruler of the universe, and that is more than enough for me.