Foundations for a Christian Worldview: Spiritual and Religious (6)
“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD…” Deuteronomy 10.12, 13
A religious worldview
We have seen that the Biblical worldview which the Law of God presents is not confined to some narrowly “religious” aspect of human experience. It speaks to all of life, including how we worship and relate to God.
But the Biblical worldview is religious in its essential character. It glories in unseen things, adopts rituals and disciplines by faith to pursue those unseen things, and promotes an ethical way of life that we believe reflects the increasing attainment of those unseen things. We deceive ourselves and others if we try to present the Christian worldview as anything other than a religious approach to life. To suggest that it is merely the most rational way to live, or simply that approach to life which brings the most satisfaction and happiness, is certainly true. But when such arguments are used in lieu of, or to skirt the fact that the Christian worldview is a religious worldview, and that it demands religious devotion to achieve it, we are misleading people about the true nature of what we hope for, aspire to, and daily pursue.
The Christian worldview is a religious worldview. What God requires of us – to fear, obey, love and serve Him with all our heart and all our life – isentirely religious, and not just a little bit. But before we allow that to trouble us, or before we despair of ever persuading our secular neighbors to consider our religious worldview, we should consider that every worldview is a religious worldview.
What do we mean by saying this?
Like every other worldview
Every worldview is religious, although not every worldview is spiritual. The various expressions of a secular worldview – progressivism, conservatism, Marxism, conservationism, and so forth – are religious worldviews, but not spiritual. They are religious because, like all religions, they share certain features in common: a view of the good life, unseen but highly sought after; rituals and protocols and disciplines engaged to honor and pursue the vision of that which is most true and good; and systems of ethics by which adherents measure their progress and bona fides within their worldview.
In all worldviews, such visions, disciplines, and ethics are pursued by faith. No guarantees come with any worldview that their vision, disciplines, and outcomes are absolute and true. The guiding premises of a worldview are embraced as an act of faith, and faith is central to all religions, as it is to every worldview.
Like all religions, secular worldviews have their high priests– those whose calling it is to connect the rest of us with the good life – although they come in the garb of scientists, psychiatrists, educators, and politicians. Like all religions, secular worldviews have their prophets and sacred texts: Marx, Freud, Darwin, Adorno, Smith, Rorty, or whoever is being read and followed at any time. And like all religions, secular worldviews have their sacred days – April 15, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, graduation day, retirement. These days are observed as an act of faith, the belief that observing them is somehow crucially part of the path to the good life.
The word religion means “that which binds us back” to whatever we regard as the greatest or highest good we might know. Every vision of the good life is religious because it is unseen and hoped for: we know what we want, and though we have not yet achieved it, we know, think we know, what we need to do to get there. The disciplines by which we pursue that vision are religious, and they are taken up as an act of faith that, by doing just these things, we will be able to achieve our unseen-but-hoped-for vision. Secular people even talk about following their plans and schedules and routines “religiously”, and in so saying, they are simply acknowledging the religious nature of their worldview.
True religion rather than false
The worldview of God’s Law is religious in that it intends to teach us how to enjoy the fullest benefits of a relationship with the living God – thus making our worldview not only religious, but spiritual as well. The worldview of God’s Law is anchored in avision of what is truly good – God Who isgood and the good life for which He has redeemed us. The Law of God, which is the foundation of our worldview, is not in the first instance, about how to be free or moral or secure or prosperous. It is about knowing and loving God and enjoying a right relationship with Him Whom we know to be supremely good. The blessings of obedience to God’s Law are first, foremost, and above all realized not in temporal circumstances or material things – which, like the branches of a bush, can entangle and snare us – but by entering the fiery glory of God and dwelling there in His presence, within His favor.
Moreover, the Law of God explains the disciplines of life which are essential for sustaining and improving that glory-filled relationship. As we have seen, every worldview prescribes a code of ethics and practices which adherents pursue in hopes of realizing whatever may be the vision of good they seek. We may not approach God in just any old way. There is a way first to enter the presence of God – through the blood of the Sacrificial Lamb, His Son – and a way to maintain and enlarge that experience, by faith and obedience to His Word, beginning with His Law.
Finally, the Law of God is religious in that, like all religions, it manifests in outward evidences of an inward vision and discipline. The Biblical worldview of God’s Law comes to light in love for God and neighbors. The vision to which we long to be bound, closer and closer, becomes a lived reality in our everyday lives as we pursue, through daily discipline, knowledge of and obedience to Him Who has called us out of the darkness of sin into the fiery light of His Word and Presence. That obedience is invariably expressed as love, in some form or another, for God and our neighbors.
So, as believers, we do not apologize for the religious character of our worldview. Every worldview is religious in nature, in that every worldview is a faith venture in which proponents and adherents seek to bind themselves to or achieve an ultimate good. The Biblical worldview of the Law of God, however, has the distinct advantage of being pure and undefiled religion – a true worldview – as all know who have entered and begun to follow it.
Questions for reflection
1. Why do we say that all worldviews are religious? How can knowing this help us in explaining the Christian worldview to non-Christians?
2. How can you see that all worldviews require us to live by faith?
3. All worldviews are religious. But not all worldviews are spiritual. Why is it important for us to remember that the Christian worldview is both religious andspiritual?
Next steps – Preparation: How might you explain to an unbelieving friend that the secular worldview is a religious worldview? Write out your thoughts in a few sentences, then share them with a Christian friend.
T. M. Moore
The Christian worldview focuses on Jesus. Do you know Him? Our book, To Know Him, can help you answer that question confidently, and equip you to tell others about Jesus as well. Order your copy by clicking here. For a handy compendium of the laws, statutes, and precepts contained in the Law of God, grouped according to the Ten Commandments, order our book, The Law of God, by clicking here.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.