Our worldview matters, for it is the path we choose to determine our final destination
E. Edward Zinke
Understanding our worldview is key for understanding our concept of God, of ourselves, of other people, of knowledge, of freedom, of history, of origins, of our basic purpose in life, and of our future. A worldview is the paradigm—the filter or template—through which we view our existence. Our worldview impacts every aspect of our lives.
Every culture, explicitly or implicitly, has a worldview. The problem, however, is that many of these are contrary to the one presented in Scripture.
As Seventh-day Adventists, we have something unique to offer. Adventism is not simply a set of doctrines or a lifestyle. It is a worldview that acknowledges the Bible as the authority of all of our lives, the template from which we come to understand every aspect of human existence: our origins, our concept of self, and our eternal destiny.
What does the biblical worldview teach about these crucial issues, and how does it protect us from misguided concepts of reality?
God in the Biblical Worldview
The biblical teaching about God allows for no other gods of any kind. Yet, so often, we build a “designer god,” a deity created in the likeness of our cultural worldviews, a god that is modeled after our morals and who fits our notions of truth, goodness, and justice. In short, we create a god who embodies our cultural worldviews, a god made in our own image.
Instead, in Scripture, God is the “I AM,” the One who is from eternity to eternity. It does not matter whether we can understand His external existence, whether our experience allows it, or whether our concept of truth accommodates such a Being. God has revealed Himself to us in Scripture; we, as believers, submit to the reality of God even in our inevitably limited understanding of Him.
The God revealed in Scripture is not defined by, compromised by, measured by, or justified by anything else. He is the standard by which everything else is measured. He is the source, the foundation of everything else. Without Him, there would be no “everything else.”
No philosophy or science predicts Him. Neither His existence nor His characteristics are explained by science, reason, or transcendental concepts within the human mind or experience. We must seek to understand and define ourselves in relationship to Him and who He is, not vice versa. We do not define Him; He defines us. He is His own definition.
Contrary to popular opinion, God is not the epitome, or the highest expression of love, justice, beauty, and truth. He is love, justice, beauty, and truth; these concepts exist only because of Him. He defines them, not they Him.
God’s existence is simply assumed in the Bible. There is no attempt to prove it. Genesis 1:1 begins with Him, and that’s because nothing existed before Him. He is before all things. He is a God of action, too, and He is seen in action when first revealed in the Scriptures.
Imagine Adam and Eve, at their creation, suddenly aware of their existence, and wondering how they got there. They had no way of knowing apart from God’s manifestation to them as their Creator. God revealed Himself to Adam and Eve; this is how they came to know Him rather than spotting Him in the telescope or discovering Him at the end of philosophical argumentation.
God and History in the Biblical Worldview
In many humanistic worldviews, God is Himself caught in the flow of history, somewhat as we humans. Many reject the idea of God’s actions in history because, in their worldview, they a priori limit the natural world to a closed continuum of cause and effect. Nothing happens apart from the laws of nature and history. In such a view, there is no place for God as the Creator or for miracles.
In contrast, the biblical worldview posits God as both the Creator of history and its controller. Creation was His event, not that of the mechanistic forces of the universe. He guided history when Adam and Eve fell. He caused a global flood, and guided events through the era of the patriarchs and prophets. He brought Israel out of Egypt and across the Red Sea into the promised land. He became one with us in the person of Jesus Christ. The life, death, and bodily resurrection of Christ were under God’s supervision. God assures us that He is ministering for us in the heavenly sanctuary. He is also a personal God who is involved in our everyday lives. God promises to return and create a New Earth. The creation is not a human act. It is God’s act, as is the final destruction of sin and evil.
Thus, in the biblical worldview, history has meaning because God initiated it and He is guiding it to its culmination.
What a contrast to the humanistic view of history, which understands it as random and purposeless. The world exists as a closed system of cause and effect with no divine intervention. We are just left to our own devices, with no hope of anything transcendent to us.
God’s Self-Revelation in the Biblical Worldview
God’s self-revelation through Jesus Christ and His prophetic Word, the Bible, took place in history. God operated in history to reveal Himself to the prophets and to guide them in the transmission of His message. Revelation takes place in real time. Christ is the revelation of God in human flesh. Christ is known through His Word, the Bible.
Because God guides and foresees the future, He also foretells the future in prophecy for our benefit, so that we may understand what will take place and how to relate to it. Worldviews that deny God’s foreknowledge do so because they a priori assert that the future cannot be known. They limit God because of their own limited and narrow worldview. This “designer god” is not the one portrayed in the Bible.
Another crucial aspect of God, as seen in His self-revelation, is His personal nature. This idea is reflected in the Trinitarian nature of the Godhead Itself. God created us for fellowship with Him. He gave the Sabbath as a means of perpetuating that fellowship. He saved His people from Egypt and established the covenant relationship with Israel. His promise is: “‘I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people’” (Lev. 26:12, NKJV).1 The new covenant continues this relationship. “‘And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent’” (John 17:3).
In many secular worldviews, God does not exist, or those who do acknowledge the possibility of His existence see Him as a distant being that does not interact with us. Life then is as meaningless as many secular authors claim.
Some claim that life on this Earth exists by chance and evolved over long periods of time. In such a view, we exist only by chance, random mutations; we are not the purposeful work of a Creator God. By contrast, in the biblical worldview, life has meaning because God created our world and life on it in six literal days. This view gives meaning and purpose to everything else we believe.
Nothing in the biblical worldview makes sense apart from the reality of God as our Creator. Weaken that teaching, denude it, mutate it with modern Darwinian myths, and all that flows out of them—the nature of humankind, the nature of sin, the nature of salvation—all become distorted beyond recognition. Instead of the powerful Creator revealed in Scripture, who spoke our world into existence in six literal days, we have a weakened “designer god” dependent upon billions of years of “random mutation” and “natural selection” until He finally managed to etch out a being in His “own image.”
Humanity in the Biblical Worldview
Directly linked to the doctrine of creation is the doctrine of humanity. Our lives have meaning because we were created in the image of God. We are sons and daughters of God. We were given minds enabling us to understand God’s Word and to commune with Him. Thus, we were created for relationship with God and with one another. Many worldviews understand our relation with God as without content. There is an attempt to empty the mind in order to attain intimate relationship with God. However, God gave us our minds as a means of communicating with Him.
If we exist by chance, as many worldviews assert, then we have no value or purpose except as we might determine it ourselves. There is no given manual by which we will live in harmony with our Creator, His Creation, or with one another. Morals become as subjective as preferences for food, as cultural as clothing design. Our bodies are also our own, to do with as we like, regardless of the consequences. It’s hard to find a more stark contrast to the biblical teaching of Creation, and the biblical teaching of God’s moral law, the Ten Commandments, than is found in the Darwinian model of origins and human existence.
Misconceived worldviews lead to misunderstandings in so many others things as well.
Of course, central to the biblical worldview of humanity is the reality of sin, another concept that other worldviews often reject. In the biblical view, sin is transgression of God’s eternal moral law, the Ten Commandments. This law is a transcript of His character. This means that to sin is to go against the character of God, to interrupt our relationship with Him, and to exist out of harmony with Him. Sin can also be manifested as the desire to elevate oneself to the status of a god or even to become equal with God.
The violence, the suffering, the pain we see in the world is not just the natural result of a chance creation, as the Darwinian worldview teaches. On the contrary, evil, suffering, and death are the most unnaturalacts in the universe. They were certainly not part of the means by which God created our world. They are the demonic results of violating the moral law by which God governs the world that He had created.
In the secular worldview, human beings have no spiritual connection to a higher power; they are purely mechanical beings who, when dead, stay dead forever. Sin (whatever that is supposed to be) is the result of brain disorder, a biological malfunction, or the lack of sufficient evolutionary progress. There’s no transcendent component to it.
Salvation in the Biblical Worldview
Directly tied to the issue of sin is salvation. Here, wrong worldviews can lead to deadly delusions. Many contemporary worldviews look to humankind to solve the problem of evil in the world. Injustices will be solved by correct political structures, by continued evolutionary progress in culture. Human salvation takes place by the right use of psychology, sociology, education, and other human sciences. The goal is to bring about heaven upon earth through human genius.
By contrast, the biblical worldview is that salvation comes only by faith in the atoning death of Jesus Christ. Our salvation is in God rather than in human genius, effort, will, or scientific and technological innovation and progress. In the biblical worldview, salvation is as supernatural an act as was the Creation. God is Creator and Redeemer because only the Creator could redeem us. Humans are not the sole solution to the problem; they are, instead, the problem to be solved. In the biblical worldview—in contrast to humanist worldviews—only in the supernatural act of God in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus can the world be saved.
Truth in the Biblical Worldview
Contemporary worldviews assume that humanity is autonomous—absolutely free to determine its own truth and morality. In that sense, we become like God ourselves. That desire, to be like God, was the original sin (Isa. 14:14). Contemporary worldviews assume that we no longer need God to tell us what is moral and true. We have come of age; we can do it ourselves.
What a contrast to the biblical worldview, in which truth is found only in God Himself. After all, if He created all things, and all things exist in Him and through Him and by Him, where else could truth be but in Him? Hence, no wonder that Jesus, who “is before all things, and in Him all things consist” (Col. 1:17), could also say: “‘I am . . . the truth’” (John 14:6).
In the biblical worldview, truth is not some cold principle of the universe, like the law of gravity, nor is it a disembodied rational logos. Jesus Christ is The Truth, and He is known through His Word, the Bible.2
In the secular worldview, truth is an independent principle in the universe by which all things, including God, are measured. Or, in the postmodern worldview, “truth” (itself deemed a problematic term) becomes cultural, contingent, and uncertain.
Bible in the Biblical Worldview
How, then, amid so many conflicting worldviews, can we maintain the one revealed in the Bible? The biblical worldview is maintained only when the Bible is its own interpreter. Method for the study of the Bible does not come from contemporary philosophies or cultures. It comes from the Bible itself. The sola scriptura principle states that the Bible must be its own interpreter and that it provides the sole foundation for our understanding of truth.
Just as it is possible for us to have a wrong view of God by encapsulating Him within in the wisdom of philosophy, science, history, social studies, etc., it is also possible to view the Bible in a way that strips it in our minds of its revelatory and explanatory power. This problem is pandemic, not just in the world but in the Christian church as a whole.
In such a view, Scripture is not the divinely inspired Word through which God spoke. It is, instead, simply a human document that must be construed and reconstructed based upon the methods of sociology, science, history, and other studies derived from the light of naturalistic development. In this view, the Bible is the result of the history of various cultures as they passed their traditions from generation to generation. It is a piece of literature just like that of any other ancient piece of literature, such as the Egyptian Book of the Dead or Herodotus’ Histories. Thus Scripture is the expression of spiritual genius passed on and reformulated from generation to generation. The study of religion becomes the study of spiritual texts, not the study of the divinely revealed Word of God. The Bible is robbed of its transforming power to change hearts and minds.
The Great Controversy in the Biblical Worldview
The Great Controversy theme is central to Scripture. The controversy is not between two principles, per say, good and evil; rather, it is between two persons, Christ and Satan.
The issue in the controversy is our relationship to the Word of God. In heaven, Satan sinned by challenging the authority of God when he, Satan, attempted to make himself equal to God. Satan brought sin to this planet by tempting Eve to doubt the Word of God and eat from the one tree that she was forbidden to eat from. When God’s Word is brought into question, we question the God who gave us His Word and we are led, inevitably, to a disruption in our relationship with Him and a misunderstanding of His world.
Scripture, among other things, is a revelation, both historically and eschatologically, of the reality of the great controversy between Christ and Satan. We see it in the account of the entrance of sin; in Cain and Abel; in the account of the Flood; in Kadesh-Barnea; in the deliverance of Israel from Egypt; in the sanctuary service; in the Babylonian captivity and deliverance; in Christ in the wilderness and on the cross; in the heavenly sanctuary; in the Second Coming, in the end of sin and sinners; and in the creation of the new earth.
In the biblical worldview of the Great Controversy, each of us is called to decide for or against Christ and the truth about Him as revealed in His Word in contrast to every other worldview. “God will have a people upon the earth to maintain the Bible, and the Bible only, as the standard of all doctrines and the basis of all reforms. The opinions of learned men, the deductions of science, the creeds or decisions of ecclesiastical councils, . . . the voice of the majority—not one nor all of these should be regarded as evidence for or against any point of religious faith.”3
The world gives power to science, history, psychology, politics, sociology, and many other human disciplines. It relies upon the wisdom of philosophy and the dictates of empiricism. By contrast, Scripture affirms the power of the Word of God to bring us to knowledge of God and, under the Holy Spirit, to restore us to a right relationship with Him.
Yes, our worldview matters, for it is the path we choose. The path determines our final destination. This isn’t just academic, intellectual hairsplitting. It is the working out of the Great Controversy theme in our individual lives. As Jesus said: “‘Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it’” (Matt. 7:13).
And many are the worldviews that can get you there, too.
NOTES AND REFERENCES
1. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references in this column are quoted from the New King James Version of the Bible.
2. God’s revelation in the natural world is partial and misread. Sin marred both God’s self-revelation in the natural world and our ability to understand it. It is possible to understand the marvelous revelation of God in nature, however, only when nature is read from the perspective of Scripture.
3. The Great Controversy, p. 595.