Every Christian should be a non-conformist: ‘Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind’ (Romans 12:2).
The transformation which the New Testament envisages is so radical that the Christian continually strives to bring every thought into captivity to the Lord Jesus. His world-view is sustained by the following exhortations.
Strengthen your fear of God
The wisdom that sustains a world-view begins in the fear of God.
It is symptomatic of the extent to which the concept of the fear of God has declined today that we have become reluctant to describe an earnest believer as ‘God-fearing’. But if we know God we must know him in the matchless glory of his transcendent majesty, and our only appropriate posture before him is to bow in reverence. The pervasive emphasis of Scripture is that the fear of God characterizes the man who has found wisdom, even from the very first days of his walk with God. Awe is the beginning of knowledge. That fear is a frame of heart and mind which reflects our apprehension of who God is. It is a reverence which is never to leave us: ‘Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty: just and true are thy ways, thou king of saints: who shall not fear, O Lord, and glorify thy name? For thou only art holy’ (Revelation 15:3).
How challenging it is to develop a Christian world-view and maintain this fear of God. Some have become compromised while studying worthy disciplines such as psychiatry, social sciences, geology, French literature, modern theology or politics. Their faith has been secularized, and that particular skirmish in the culture wars has been lost. But those subjects may never be deemed no go areas for evangelical believers. To study and not to be conformed is our vocation as was achieved by Daniel in Babylon. Compromise often begins with a loss of the fear of God. Professing Christians may come under the awe of the supremest of our age. But ‘through the fear of the Lord a man avoids evil’ (Proverbs 16:6). ‘Fear him you saints,’ sings Baxter, ‘And you will then have nothing else to fear.’
Maintain your love for Jesus Christ as Lord
A true world-view centres upon Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour.
Another danger confronting those fascinated by a Christian world-view is that it might take over their discipleship and alter it into a scheme for living. We all acknowledge how easy it is for the faith of a member of the Reformed churches to become ‘system faith’. Every time a passenger boards a jumbo jet he displays system faith. He knows nothing personally about the pilot, but he is aware that an excellent system prevents just anybody sitting in the cockpit and attempting to fly that plane. He knows a system is in operation which ensures that every pilot has been trained, has passed some exams and worked his way up from a student to being fully qualified. So we never need to know the pilot.
System faith is excellent in its place, but if it replaces personal hope in the Saviour Jesus Christ we are lost men. Yet in our observation this is happening continually. For example, the whole Calvinistic complex is presented to a group of teenagers in an admirable catechism class. They memorize and repeat those invigorating definitions. Then they are asked if they believe those truths. They nod their heads sincerely. So far so good. But then, upon that foundation they are admitted into membership of the Christian church. Their faith has been focused upon that body of doctrine which they have been taught. But that alone cannot be saving faith: it is as much a system faith as the faith of demons.
A religious world-view, with its fascination with all matters cultural, social and educational, must do battle daily with a slide into system faith. The sirens will sing their seductive songs to us, ‘Beware of pietism! Beware of “Jesus-onlyism”! Beware of world flight! Dualism is your enemy! Your vocation is involvement.’ All true, but never when set up in contrast to personal salvation. Then the warm devotional life, the evangelistic imperative, victory over besetting sins, resistance to the world and a heart aflame with love for Jesus Christ can decline. They were ‘part of our youth, and tinged with Arminianism. Now we have grown up.’ A maturity like that we can do without.
Unless a Christian world-view focuses upon Jesus Christ it will stratify into that familiar orthodox system structured by the motifs of creation, fall and redemption, and perpetuated in one of a number of movements, which are defended to the death – who has heard of a Christian organization admitting it was wrong? The devils have a remarkable world-and-life-view. Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones is surely correct when he says, ‘It is my personal relationship to Christ that matters. I do not accept the Christian philosophy primarily: I accept him. I believe on him. I bow the knee to him, the Person. I make a statement about the individual. Jesus Christ is Lord; he is my Lord. It is a personal confession. That is the primary thing in the whole Christian position – our relationship to him’ (Life of Joy, p. 154).
The Christian world-view centres upon the person of the Lord Jesus Christ: everything was made by him; everything was made for him; everything holds together because of him (Colossians 1:16-17). And he is the sinners’ teacher. For us he can say nothing wrong. The Son of God reveals to us a coherent vision of reality, from origins to consummation, because he is Lord of everything. He informs conscience, affections and the intellect. It is love for the person of Jesus Christ which has reformed churches, established theological colleges and Christian schools, set up publishing houses and magazines and awakened nations. The motivational energy has flowed from the constraining love of an adored Saviour. Without that, every world-view declines into another religious system.
Watch and pray for a great awakening
The Christian world-view can grip a culture only after a religious awakening.
The glory of Christianity is not that it has a divine law to give to the nations. Those who have never heard the gospel have the things of the law written on their hearts. That gives them no hope. The theonomist must acknowledge that there is no good news in the most perfect law. Nor is the gospel of Christianity the existence of a religious philosophy which can comment upon every sphere of life. ‘So what?’ says the dying sinner. The good news is not the Reformed church’s system of government by elders, nor the charismatic’s excitement about the presence of gifts within the church. There is no good news for guilty sinners in those things.
The glory of Christianity is the offer of forgiveness and eternal life which God makes through the gospel of Jesus Christ to every single person. We like the word ‘offer’ (cp. Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q.31). There is not a sinner, however depraved, to whom we cannot go and say, ‘I have good news for you. I have a Saviour for you to take, to believe upon, to love and serve. God so loves you that he has brought this offer to you today. Your sins, though they be as scarlet, can be as white as snow.’ Then the Reformed church’s glory is that it beseeches and pleads with sinners in the name of Jesus Christ that they be reconciled to God. It travails again in birth until Christ is formed in them. That is the highest privilege of the church on earth, to offer God the Son to sinners. It does not go on from that, as if some kindergarten stage, to a higher form of Christian living in which it can concentrate on cultural, educational and social matters. Those matters can never be higher than the message of God’s offer of mercy to mankind through the work of his Son Jesus Christ. Christian teaching on ethics, government, the rights of the unborn child, capital punishment and education will not by themselves touch national morality at all.
Kuyper, Wilberforce, the Clapham Sect, Shaftesbury, Barnado and the other Christian social reformers could only influence society after a favoured period of a religious awakening in which God poured out his Spirit upon the good news of Christ’s redeeming love to sinners. The glory of the church is the Saviour it magnifies and preaches with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven to a dying world.
Exalt the Bible above all the means of grace
The Bible is comprehensive for a Christian world-view.
The Scriptures were given to furnish men and women for ‘every good work’ (2 Timothy 3:17). There is nothing a Christian can do remote from the Word of God. One of Dr Cornelius Van Til’s most quoted statements is, ‘The Bible is infallible on whatever it speaks, and it speaks on everything.’ His colleague, Professor John Murray, asks, ‘Are we to suppose that there is a Christian Latin as distinct from non-Christian, a Christian arithmetic as distinct from non-Christian?’ And he answers his own questions, ‘This is not the contention of those espousing the cause of Christian education and it is misunderstanding and misrepresentation to suppose and aver that it is. But the implications of the Christian faith have, nevertheless, the most intimate bearing on instruction concerned with such subjects’ (‘Christian Education’, Collected Writings, Volume 1, p.373). It is the Bible that tells us why man speaks. Why is there for man alone the privilege of such diversified and rich communication?
The Bible tells us that Jehovah is a speaking God, and man speaks because he is made in the image of God. This is the foundation for language and literature. And concerning mathematics, for believer and unbeliever alike: 1+1=2. Of course. But Dr Noel Weeks points out, ‘When carefully examined, this argument has about as much force as the argument that both unbelievers and believers agree that trees exist and that the Battle of Waterloo happened. There are certain objects and regularities which we agree exist. Where the difference comes in is in explaining why they exist. The Christian answers in terms of the regularity that exists because of creation and providence; the unbeliever denies that there is order in creation, or he tries to find an order outside of God and independent of God’ (The Christian School, p. 161, Banner of Truth, 1988). So God’s Word illuminates and directs all we do. No knowledge or activity takes place in a vacuum.
So for a maturing Christian world-view the Bible must be studied, and that has to be a systematic activity, not picking up the Scriptures at random and turning, say, to a favourite psalm. It must be Genesis to Revelation. The Bible must be read through year after year. There can be no growing world-view without the conviction that we have God’s Word in which he is speaking to us and all our circumstances at this hour. It is then that we give ourselves to its counsels. Even more important for the Christian is to sit under the best ministry we can hear. It is no luxury to receive the whole counsel of God each Sunday: it is life.