Imagine this egg stands for Britain 200 years ago and the shell stands for what you’d have seen on the outside – for how people behaved. For example; almost all men and women who lived together got married to do so, almost all children were born within marriage, and hardly anyone divorced. And that’s because under the surface there was a shared worldview. In other words, a shared commitment to a particular story of who we are as human beings, and to particular fundamental beliefs, and that worldview was the Bible’s. So if the inside of the egg stands for the Bible’s worldview,that's what you’d have found if you’d dug under the surface.
But now imagine this other egg stands for Britain today, and in some ways, the shell looks similar.Yes, there are big cracks in it – like the plummeting marriage rate and the soaring rates of births outside marriage and of divorce, but there’s still quite a bit that looks Christian. Like our judicial system and health service, and so on. But the reality is that over the last 100 years, it’s all been hollowed out and under the surface, the shared Christian worldview has been deliberately displaced by secularism; but also, through immigration, by other religious worldviews – most seriously, Islam. And yet secular Brits still hold onto much of the Christian shell. For example, hold passionately to the idea of human rights – when in fact, if there’s no God who created us,
there is no basis for human rights.
So Christians today need to be clear what the Bible wordview is; and to understand the secular worldview; and to be able to explain how only the Bible worldview gives a basis for the things that, deep down, most people hold on to. So you could call this: Worldviews: Bible versus secular. And before we go further, let me lead us in prayer.
Father, please use this time to make us more clear about the Bible’s worldview,and to make us more confident in it, and in our ability to speak from it into others’ worldviews.In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen
Now I’m not going to try to summarise what these two worldviews say about everything. I’m just going to compare what they say about us: about what human beings are and what we’re here for, because that’s the big issue of our day, and the first big part of the Bible’s worldview is:
So if you have a Bible on you, please open it to Genesis 1.1. which says:
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
And that gives us purpose because we’re here by creation, to be part of God’s plan. We’re not here by chance and (as someone said) ‘simply for killing time before time kills us.’ Then look on to Genesis 1.26-27:
Then God said, “Let us make man [which means mankind, men and women] in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
So God created man[kind] in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
So that means we, uniquely, are created like God and able to relate to him, and that gives us unique value, because just like I value my children in a different league from how I value our dog, God values us above all he’s made. So God is the basis for the sanctity of human life. If he made you, I better respect and protect you, because I’ll answer to him for how I treat you. But this also gives us moral responsibility. Look on to Genesis 2.16-17:
And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden [in other words, you have great freedom], but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
In other words, you’re not free to decide for yourselves what’s good and evil, because that’s what the tree of the knowledge of good and evil stands for; it stands for the right to define good and evil – and only God has that right. And we’re morally responsible to him for living within his definition.
Which is what gives us that inescapable sense of ‘ought’ and ‘ought not’ in our consciences, but we are not just the product of creation. The Bible worldview says we’re also the product, secondly, of:
2. The Fall
Look on to Genesis 3.5-6. Here’s the original temptation to rebel against God, and eat from the tree of the right to define good and evil:
For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil [in other words, you’ll be ‘playing God’ yourselves, defining good and evil as you want’].” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.
Now that step of rebellion by the original human pair changed them and all human beings since into being rebellious against God by nature. As C.S. Lewis said: ‘A new humanity sinned itself into being.’ (The Problem of Pain) So one side of the human problem is that we’re rebellious against God (or fallen or sinful) by nature. We don’t live as we ought to because we don’t want to and can’t change that, but the other side of the human problem is that we’re under God’s judgement. And just like you might exclude a child from the room for defying your authority, or a school might exclude a student for defying its authority, the judgement we deserve is to be excluded from God and his kingdom.
So now let’s look at the Creation-and-Fall part of the Bible worldview versus the secular worldview, and see which makes more sense of human experience. So the secular worldview says we’re here by chance, not creation; we’re the product of a purely material chain of cause and effect – which you can trace back through evolution and the Big Bang. Which means we’re just part of that chain of cause and effect – just biochemical machines, programmed to do what our genes say. So what purpose do we have on that worldview? Well in The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins said:
We are all survival machines for DNA.
A monkey is a machine which preserves genes up trees.
A fish is a machine which preserves genes in water…
We are machines for propagating DNA.
It is every living object’s sole reason for living.
We are the throw-away survival machines of genes.
And then what value do we have on the secular worldview, because it really says we’re no more than a bundle of chemicals. As the philosopher C.E.M. Joad said:
What is a human being? Fat enough for seven bars of soap, iron enough for one medium sized nail, sugar enough for seven cups of tea, lime enough to whitewash one garden shed, magnesium enough for one dose of salts, phosphorus enough to tip 2,000 matches, and sulphur enough to treat one dog for fleas.
All of which would cost £45 – that’s your value. And then what moral responsibility do we have on the secular worldview? Because if we’re really programmed by our DNA, we have no moral responsibility. Which is where Dawkins basically ends up. He admits we feel like we’re making real choices.
But he says that’s because our genes have made us brains which give us that illusion. So, when I married Tess, I thought I was making a genuine choice to love her, but that was an illusion – it was just my genes manipulating me for their selfish ends. So that secular worldview has been deliberately worked into our society to displace the Bible worldview. And at one level, people have soaked it up, but at another, they’re not actually living it out.
In many ways, people are still living the shell of the Bible worldview; still wanting purpose that secular answers don’t give, still acting like human life is uniquely valuable, still living like we do have moral responsibility. So what’s going on? Why is the worldview pushed by the secularisers, being subverted by a deeper one that seems ‘hardwired’ into us? The Bible would say: because purpose, value and moral responsibility are ‘hardwired’ into us – they’re real, because God is real. One helpful thing we can do as we see family and friends and colleagues still living the shell of the Bible worldview is to ask them why they believe in the purpose or value or morality they do, and to explain how we see those things making better sense (in fact, only making sense) on the Bible’s worldview. So creation and the fall are the first two big parts of the Bible worldview. But there are two others. And the next is:
3. Salvation begun in Jesus
So under ‘The Fall’, we saw that the human problem is that we’re rebellious against God (or fallen or sinful) by nature, and that we’re under God’s judgement. And those are the two things we need saving from. And the Bible worldview says God has acted to do that through the death and resurrection of his Son, the Lord Jesus. So to save us from his judgement, God gave Jesus to die on the cross. 1 Peter 2.24 says:
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree [i.e. the cross]
Which means he bore responsibility for our sins, and bore the judgement they deserve from his Father in our place – so that on the one hand we could be forgiven our sins, but on the other hand justice would be done and seen to be done on them. So the Bible worldview says: our guilt for moral failure is real because it’s guilt before God. But wonderfully, that guilt can be taken away by God through forgiveness through the cross. Whereas the secular worldview really has nothing to offer in the face of moral failure and guilt. It can only say the guilt isn’t real and that it just needs counselling away.
So the cross is the next big part of the Bible worldview, and the next is Jesus’ resurrection and return to heaven – from where he can now change us through his Spirit. And that’s how he can save us from our rebellious (or fallen or sinful) nature, because it’s no use God acting to save us from his judgement if we don’t want to be forgiven and back in relationship with him. So we need him to change us, and Titus 3.4-6 says how:
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour
So the Bible worldview says that by nature we’re people who don’t want God, who rebel against the thought of God running our lives. Which means we need him by his Spirit to regenerate and renew us at the very centre of our beings, so that we do want him in his rightful place again, because we can’t ‘un-rebel’ left to ourselves. Only God can change what we fundamentally want, and give us back the freedom not to sin and to live as we ought.
Whereas the secular worldview says, ‘No, freedom is simply expressing who you are, acting on your desires. The only ‘ought’ is that you ought to be yourself. Why would you want to change and be anything different?’ Which assumes that everything we are is what we’re meant to be, and that everything we desire is good, but the fall says: that’s not the case. So that’s salvation begun in Jesus. Which reminds us that a huge difference between these two worldviews is over what the human problem is and therefore what we really need. As someone said:
If our greatest need was education, God would have sent a teacher.
If our greatest need was standard of living, he’d have sent an economist.
If our greatest need was health, he’d have sent a doctor.
If our greatest need was leadership and law-making, he’d have sent a politician.
But our greatest need was our sin, so God sent a Saviour.
But if we’re trusting in Jesus, our salvation is only begun. And the last big part of the Bible wordview is:
4. Salvation complete in Jesus
Listen to Romans 8.22-24:
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. [In other words, this fallen creation is longing to be made completely right again.] And not only the creation, but we ourselves [that’s people trusting in Jesus], who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.
So that’s saying, our present experience of salvation is only partial. It’s only the firstfruits of God’s work of making us completely right again.
A few weeks back, the first plum came off our plum tree (which is laden this year), and I brought it in and showed the family. And we got excited, not just at that single plum, but at what it represented, because it was the firstfruit – the sign and guarantee of much more to come. And Romans 8 is saying:
our present experience of salvation is just the firstfruit of much more to come. So yes, we stand before God forgiven now, but one day we’ll stand face to face before him in glory, and yes, he’s given us back our freedom not to sin now, but one day we’ll be completely sinless. Because beyond this life, God will bring those who are trusting in Jesus through a resurrection like his which fully and finally makes us right again.
And here’s the starkest contrast of all between the Bible worldview and the secular worldview. Because the Bible worldview says, ‘Beyond death, the best is yet to come. Death and resurrection will be the final re-making of you.’ Whereas the secular worldview says, ‘No, there’s nothing beyond death. It’s the end of you.’But again, how many people really live that?
Why is it that a recent UK poll found that nearly half those questioned believe in life after death? Why is it that people routinely talk about loved ones who’ve died as ‘there looking down on them’, or ‘in the next room’?
Why is it that eastern religion invented the idea of reincarnation? Why do we seem hardwired to believe in something after death? Well, again, the Bible worldview can explain that. As Ecclesiastes 3.11 says, it’s because ‘God has set eternity in the human heart’. In other words, he made us to be part of his plan, which will outlast time. Which is why C.S.Lewis wrote:
Have you noticed how we are continually astonished at time? ‘How he’s grown!’ we exclaim, or, ‘How time flies!’ It’s as if the passing of time surprises us. It’s as if we don’t really feel at home in time. Which is as strange as a fish being repeatedly surprised at the wetness of water. Unless of course there is, after all, something about us that doesn’t belong in time, and whose real home is beyond time.
So let’s be unashamed of our own confidence that there’s life after death – thanks to Jesus’ resurrection. And let’s listen for the hints that people around us believe in something after death and gently engage them as to why.
So that’s a very sketchy summary of the Bible worldview. It’s:
- Salvation begun in Jesus – through his death and resurrection
- And salvation complete in Jesus – when he comes again, to wrap up history, and to judge, and to bring those trusting in him into a new creation finally made completely right.
And if you know of a worldview that makes better sense of who we are, or that offers a better solution to the human problem, or better reasons for believing it’s true, then let me know.