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View Of The World: Here’s A Great Place To Start
First of all, a good discussion with respect to how our view of the world affects learning has to start right here: God knows Himself. He is light without darkness (1 Jn. 1:5). There are no hidden corners in His essence. He can never surprise Himself. He knows His own mind and purposes. And this God created heaven and earth.
When God made the world, He had no reference books, no helpers, no other gods beside Himself (Isa. 44:8). The universe is wholly His creation. This means that God’s knowledge and understanding of the universe is exhaustive and perfectly coherent. God doesn’t know most things… He knows all things. He knows each thing in its relationship to all other things. God knows the world inside out, from top to bottom, from beginning to end (Isa. 46:10). He is the only being who has this sort of knowledge and understanding. His view of the world is comprehensive and exact.
In addition, God has revealed Himself in His creation. The heavens do declare His glory … the passing days reveal His sovereign reign (Ps. 19:1-2). Every fact is a created fact and testifies powerfully to its Maker. Every tree, water droplet, photon, leaf, and star point back to God and find their meaning in His eternal purposes (Matt. 10:29-30).
Furthermore, God has revealed Himself in His written word, the Bible. The Bible is much shorter than, say, the Encyclopedia Britannica. Yet the Bible reveals all that we need to know about God’s purposes in creation and redemption (Deut. 29:29; 2 Tim. 3:16). Likewise, the revelation it contains is coherent, infallible, and authoritative. It is truth (John 17:17). We, therefore, have the ability to know God and His world truly.
View Of The World: Human Limitations On Learning
On the other hand, we are finite. We learn slowly, in bits and pieces, here a little and there a little. We also easily forget things we once knew. And we are sinful. Our unbelief easily colors our thinking, even when we are thinking about God’s truth. In short, our view of the world will never exactly be God’s … not now, and not even in eternity. We will never have his omniscience and infinite wisdom. And yet we must learn.
A mental model or map can help us understand and remember. This model may be an outline, a story, a series of questions, a list of propositions, a written summary, or a visual aid, like a timeline or diagram. The creeds of the ancient Church are excellent summaries of the faith that help us contrast it with all the religions and philosophies of the ancient world. The catechisms of the Reformation are very helpful and provide even more detail.
But does Scripture actually encourage us to shorten things up at times? Do we have biblical grounds for “summing up the truth” when appropriate? Let’s consider Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill as an example.
Paul On Mars Hill Teaching A Proper View Of The World
When Paul preached to the Greek philosophers on Mars Hill, he summed up a Biblical view of the world very quickly (Acts 17:18-34). He began unapologetically with creation: “God who made the world and all things therein” (v. 24). Then he underscored God’s sovereign authority: “He is Lord of heaven and earth.”
Next, Paul spoke of God’s transcendence: God doesn’t dwell need live in earthly temples; He doesn’t need anything from His worshippers (vv. 24-25). But then Paul shifts to the complementary doctrine of God’s immanence: God is the source of every good gift — “life, and breath, and all things”— and He has ordered the course and specifics of human history so that, in His time, men might “seek the Lord” (vv. 25-27).
Paul tells the Greeks that the way to find God is not solely in metaphysics—God actually is “not far from every one of us”—but in man’s ethical condition: all men are functionally idolaters who need to repent of their culpable misrepresentations of God (vv. 29-30).
Our View Of The World Affects What Christians See As Common Ground With The World
Consequently, men need to turn from their idols and seek mercy in the God who raised Jesus from the dead. For a day of judgment is coming (v. 31). Virtually everything Paul said here he quoted directly from Scripture.
Obviously, there’s a lot that Paul didn’t say. He didn’t explicitly mention the Trinity, though he certainly preached God as genuinely personal … even as “absolute personality.” He didn’t exactly preach the cross or justification by faith directly at Mars Hill, but that wasn’t his assigned topic. Rather, the Greek philosophers wanted to know about Jesus and the resurrection. Paul answered them by placing Jesus’ resurrection in the context of creationist theology—the transcendence, immanence, lordship, and sovereignty of the God who made the world from nothing.
Above all, it’s important to understand that Paul found no common ground with Greek philosophy here. Even more, everything Paul said about God was entirely at odds with the with the philosophers’ basic assumptions. And yet Paul could still point to the Stoic poets and find support in their words, if not in their underlying theology.
For even the Greek poets knew that idols were “foundational garbage” and that men were, in some sense … “the offspring of God.” Above all, Paul’s summary of theology was sufficient to draw a sharp contrast between his understanding of the world and that of the pagan philosophers. He created a sufficient base for a moral and intellectual conversation about repentance.
The Importance Of Being Able To Summarize Our View Of The World
“Let me ‘splain . . . No, there is too much. Let me sum up.”
—Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride (1987)
Paul summarized Christian theology with a handful of interrelated theological truth, all of them drawn directly from Scripture. This summary served his direct and immediate purposes. Had he received a more time and a more extended audience, had his hearers taken his words to heart, perhaps he would have had much more to say. My guess is that He would have expanded his summary. But it is unlikely, however, that even the most enthusiastic reception at Mars Hill would have moved him to read the entire Old Testament aloud then and there, let alone to exegete it all. That work would belong to the newly planted church as it met every Lord’s Day. And that work would then, even as it does now… take a long time.
Because the truth is, learning is a life-long process. Actually, it’s an eternal process. As we survey, evaluate, and communicate the truth about God and His world, we will need summaries. As a result, by definition, summaries are incomplete. But they are necessary.
Supplementing And Augmenting Our Christian View Of The World
Creeds, confessions, and systematic theologies supply some of this need for “summaries.” And certainly, books, websites, and podcasts on worldview can even supplement the more traditional summaries by connecting the truths of systematics to the issues that fill today’s news headlines, entertainment and textbooks.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the foundation of any and all “summaries” must stand the word of the living God. That means continually returning to Scripture to see how our summaries can be expanded, tweaked, and corrected.