PMT 2016-008 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
Holding and understanding a worldview is an important function of the Christian faith. But what is a worldview? The core concept of a worldview may be expressed in a simple, one-sentence definition:
“A worldview is a conceptual framework through which we understand the world and our life in it.”
We can easily see why this is a little more fully called: a “world-and-life view” in that it provides an organizing outlook on both our own lives as well as the world round about us.
The essential presuppositions undergirding the Christian worldview and its view of history include the following key concepts: God, creation, providence, fall, redemption, revelation, and consummation.
A proper view of history, its meaning, and purpose requires a proper view of God. God exists and is absolutely independent and wholly self-sufficient. In Exodus 3:14 he defines himself by his special covenantal name “YHWH” (“Yahweh / Jehovah”). This is his name “forever” (Exo 3:15). It is so prominent that the Scriptures can simply mention “the name” (Lev 24:11, 16). God jealously establishes a fundamental moral law that his name must not be used in vain (Exo 20:7; Deut 5:11). In Exodus 3:14 he identifies himself as: “I am that I am.” This self-designation is peculiarly important to our understanding of God. This name-statement is found in the imperfect tense in Hebrew, thereby emphasizing a constantly manifested quality.
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From this name we may discern certain of God’s intrinsic qualities: (1) His self-sufficiency: God exists of himself. He is wholly uncreated and self-existent. There is no principle or fact back of God accounting for his existence: “the Father has life in Himself” (John 5:26; Acts 17:25; cp. Isa 40:20–25). Indeed, “in the beginning God” (Gen1:1a) — for he “created all things” (Eph 3:9). (2) His eternity: he is of unlimited, eternal duration. The combination of the verb tense (imperfect) and its repetition (“I am” / “I am”) emphasize his uninterrupted, continuous existence. Indeed, “from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God” (Ps 90:2; cp. Ps 93:1–2; Isa 40:28; 57:15).
(3) His sovereignty: he is absolutely self-determinative. He determines whatever he wills from within his own being. He can declare absolutely “I am that I am,” without fear of any overpowering or countervailing entity or force to challenge him. As the Absolute One he operates with unfettered liberty. He is not conditioned by outward circumstance. He is what he is because he is what he is. He is completely self-definitional and has no need of anything outside of himself (Isa 40:9–31), for “I am God, and there is no one like Me” (Exo 9:14; cp. Isa 44:7; Jer 50:44).
(4) His immutability: he declares “I, the LORD, do not change” (Mal 3:6). He is forever the same, for in him “there is no variation, or shifting shadow” (Jms 1:17). Thus, we can trust that he will not change his mind or his plan in governing history, for “God is not a man, / that He should lie, / Nor a son of man, / that He should repent; / Has He said, and will He not do it? / Or had He spoken, and will / He not make it good?” (Num 23:19).
All of reality derives from a personal, moral, sovereign being: the God of Scripture. Scripture powerfully declares that “there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him” (1 Cor. 8:6). All things, of all sorts, were created by him (John 1:3; Col. 1:16).
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The Christian’s creational viewpoint puts man under God and over nature (Gen 1:26–27; Psa 8). It imparts transcendent (higher) meaning to temporal history and sets before man a high calling. The entire universe from the smallest atomic particle to the largest and farthest flung galaxy was created out of nothing. It exists solely by the exercise of God’s creative will, and was brought into being by his sovereign, successive, spoken commands (Gen 1:1; Exo 20:11; Heb 11:3). All facts and laws, all people and materials, trace their origin, meaning, and purpose back to God.
The Christian faith is concerned with the material world, the here and now. The Christian interest in the material here-and-now is evident in that: (1) God created the earth and man’s body as material entities, and all “very good” (Gen 1:1-31; 2:7). (2) The Son of God took upon himself a true, material human body in order to redeem man (Rom 1:3; 9:5; 1 John 4:1-3). (3) God’s word directs us how to live in the present, material world (Rom 12:1-2; Eph 5:15-17; 2 Tim 3:16-17). (4) God intends for us to remain on the earth for our fleshly sojourn, and does not remove us upon our being saved by his grace (John 17:15; Job 14:5; 2 Cor 5:9-10). Thus, prior to our ultimate destination in the eternal state, we must recognize the truth that all men live before God in the material world (2 Chr 16:9; Psa 33:13-15; Prov 15:3; Acts 17:28; Heb 4:13), which he has created for his own glory, as the place of man’s habitation (Psa 24:1; 115:16; Prov 15:3; Dan 5:23; Acts 25:24-31; Rev 4:11).
God has an eternally-decreed, sovereignly-determined plan for the Universe. He personally and intimately administers this plan for his own glory. Providence imparts transcendent meaning into the flow and direction of history. God “works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph 1:11; cf. Psa 33:11; Isa 45:10–11); he “causes all things to work together” (Rom 8:28a). Christ himself is before all things, and by means of him all things hold together or cohere (John 1:1; Col. 1:17). He carries along or upholds all things by the word of his power (Heb. 1:3). Providence in the Christian worldview is the alternative to Chance in the non-Christian worldview.
Because of God’s testing of Adam, which results in Adam’s Fall (Gen 3:1–8), history becomes the battleground of Christ and Satan (Gen 3:15). Sin affects every aspect of human endeavor, distorting all of reality. We cannot understand our historical situation apart from the intrusion of sin, as an unnatural factor. Neither may we think of man’s fundamental problem as related to his being finite. In fact, finite Adam’s pre-Fall abilities were remarkable (Gen 2:15, 19–20), as will be our resurrected existence (1 Cor 15:42–53). Rather man’s fundamental problem is ethical, related to his rebellion against God and his Law-word (Gen 3:1–7; Rom 1:18–23; 5:10; 8:7–8). Because of this he labors under God’s curse (Gen 3:14–15; Rom 5:12–19; Gal 3:10).
But God does not abandon history because of man’s Fall. Instead, history witnesses the rising of a new factor to compensate for the fall: redemption.
A major force in history is God’s redemptive activity in reconciling creation back to himself (Gen 3:15; Col 1:19–23). God establishes his redemptive plan in order to bring wayward man back to himself. “God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him” (John 3:17). In fact, “the Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). We can possess no proper understanding of historical progress and political hope when referring only to the Fall of man. We must take into account also God’s restorative acts in redemption.
God reveals himself and various aspects of his will infallibly and inerrantly in his holy word, the Bible: “All Scripture is inspired by God . . . so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16; cp. John 10:35; 2 Pet 1:20, 21). God’s causative, creative word is also his providential, governing word. God’s eternal decree, from which his prophetic word springs into history, is neither abstract nor random; it is concrete and rational. It is not raw, brute force, but wise, structured power. God’s word intelligibly constructs all things, “declaring the end from the beginning” (Isa 46:10; cp. Psa 33:11; 148:5; Heb 1:3; 11:3). God’s objective revelation in Scripture is foundational to a truly Christian political hope.
Not only does history have a beginning, not only does God providentially guide it, but he does so toward a particular end: “He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness” (Acts 17:31; cp. Isa 46:10; 55:11). Our labor on earth “is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor 15:58). We labor in the present with a view to the future — and ultimately to history’s consummation and the eternal state. “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of his glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself” (Phil 3:20–21). We labor in the light of God’s victory, not in the darkness of the unknown.
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