‘Biblical Worldview’: A Case Study in Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

Sorry I’ve been a bit out of the loop recently, dear readers. Aside from the usual insanity that is my life, I’ve been researching an exposé  that will feature as a series of posts on this blog. It will be shocking and informative and, hopefully, well worth the wait.

Today’s post will sort of set the tone for what is to come.

During my research, I came across the phrase “biblical worldview.” Specifically, I came across it in a complaint that the majority of modern, “born again” evangelical Christians do not hold one. Of course, my first question was, “What is a biblical worldview, anyway?” The Internet was happy to oblige an answer:

“Christian worldview (also called Biblical worldview) refers to the framework of ideas and beliefs through which a Christian individual, group or culture interprets the world and interacts with it.”

Then I jumped over to the Focus on the Family website to see what they had to say about it:

“Someone with a biblical worldview believes his primary reason for existence is to love and serve God.”

Really? The majority of American Christians don’t see this as their purpose? That seemed pretty hard to believe. So I dug deeper.

Turns out, Barna Group, which researches faith-based trends in the U.S., discovered in a 2009 survey that only 9 percent of Americans held a biblical worldview, along with only 19 percent of born-again believers. To be labeled as having a ‘biblical worldview’, the respondents had to answer “yes” to all of the following questions:

  • Do absolute moral truths exist?
  • Is absolute truth defined by the Bible?
  • Did Jesus Christ live a sinless life?
  • Is God the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the universe, and does He still rule it today?
  • Is salvation a gift from God that cannot be earned?
  • Is Satan real?
  • Does a Christian have a responsibility to share his or her faith in Christ with other people?
  • Is the Bible accurate in all of its teachings?

Focus on the Family says these survey questions were drawn from claims found in the Bible. First of all, I’m curious to know why these particular claims were the ones chosen for the survey – and who chose them. Because George Barna’s claim is that having a biblical worldview directly affects a person’s actions, yet there’s very little here in the way of stated belief that, in my opinion, would have a radical affect on the way a person behaves. I mean, if I were designing this survey with Christian behavior in mind, I would ask something to the effect of “Is the Church’s responsibility to care for the poor and seek justice for the oppressed?” Or, perhaps, “Is humankind’s primary purpose to love and serve God?” But that’s just me.

Second, I’m not even sure I could answer “yes” to all of the questions as stated. My major hangup is with #4 in the list. Do I believe God is sovereign? Absolutely. Does He currently rule the universe? Well…yes. Just not the world within that universe.

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:4

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. ~ Ephesians 2:1-2

“Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.” ~ John 12:31

This calls for further study.

The other questions are problematic as well. Is absolute truth defined by the Bible? I think so. However, that position is largely taken on faith. There is no verse in the Bible that says, “Absolute truth is defined as…” So I’m not surprised some people would answer “no.”

Did Jesus Christ live a sinless life? Depends on whom you ask. Ask God or the disciples, and they would say “of course.” Ask the Pharisees, though, and you might get a very different answer. (Healing on the Sabbath, anyone?) I also find it interesting that this is how belief in Jesus was queried. No one was asked about Jesus being the Son of God or the sole source of redemption. To me, that is the cornerstone of a Christian worldview.

Is Satan real? I think so, but I doubt he looks the same in my mind as he does in the mind of George Barna. If I thought the survey were referring to the classic horned-and-cloven-hoofed red devil with a pointy tail, I’d probably answer “no.”

And the real sticking point: Is the Bible accurate in all its teachings? Well, I define “teachings” to mean “principles,” so, yes, I believe statements like “A soft answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1) and “Whatever a man sows, that’s what he’ll reap” (Galatians 6:7) are absolutely correct. However, many people would interpret “teachings” to mean everything recorded in the Bible, including the claim that two of every animal on earth fit inside Noah’s ark for 40 days and nights – which is awfully hard to swallow for anyone with a passing familiarity with biology and logistics. Also, anyone who has actually studied the Bible in depth knows that everything in it simply cannot be 100% literal because of contradictory details contained therein. For instance, it cannot be simultaneously true that the temple veil in Jerusalem ripped top-to-bottom both before (Luke 23:44-46) and after (Matthew 27:50-51) Christ’s death. Only one of those is accurate. Which one, I don’t know.

And that’s how surveys like this end up becoming self-fulfilling prophecies. Fundamentalists decry the lack of biblical knowledge and faith in America, claiming that society is sliding further and further into sin and moral relativism. They then conduct a survey using questions taken from their absolutist, one-sided, literal view of scripture and then say, “See, I was right!” whenever the majority of Christians cannot answer “yes” to every single question. They then take to their pulpits for the usual fear-mongering: the secularists are winning, morals are compromised, the nation is failing, our children will suffer wrath! Oh, noes!

And talk about high-minded arrogance. According to the Barna Group, answering “yes” to only 7 of the 8 questions means I have no biblical worldview. Really? When there’s no question on the survey that addresses grace or redemption?! Get real!

I find it especially laughable given what appears in the Christian worldview article on Focus on the Family’s website:

“A biblical worldview is based on the infallible Word of God. When you believe the Bible is entirely true, then you allow it to be the foundation of everything you say and do. That means, for instance, you take seriously the mandate in Romans 13 to honor the governing authorities by researching the candidates and issues, making voting a priority” [emphasis added].

*Facepalm*

Shall we read the passage in Romans 13?

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Funny, I don’t see anything in here about voting. Oh, that’s right. Because voting wasn’t a thing in 1st century A.D.

I wonder, has Dobson read the scriptures on not adding to the scriptures? *Facepalm*

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3 responses to “‘Biblical Worldview’: A Case Study in Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

  1. You can have a christian world view and not agree with Mr Dobson. The source of my discontent with them is their elitism and judgemental attitudes. As for scriptural inerrancy it is also a judgement issue, what would you keep or throw out and on who’s authority would you act? My attitude is that my ignorance of the reasons for the apparent inconsistencies prevents me from judging their value. What if God put them there as a test?

  2. Yeah, those are some deceitfully worded questions that don’t even get to the heart of what Christianity is even about. I was having trouble with them myself, particularly the one about accuracy. If “accuracy” is synonymous with “literal” then I too lack a biblical worldview.

  3. Perhaps—just perhaps—the real thing here is the need to have a “Jesus Worldview” rather than a Biblical worldview. Speaking as a professional anthropologist though, I can tell you that no one—and I repeat—no one—has a worldview that is completely religious in nature This is because we all grow up in a broader secular cultural mlieu from which it is (in my view) impossible to extricate ourselves. Can you extricate Elvis? Can you extricate the handshake? Can you extricate the 3 feet of social distance? Can you extricate the golden arches? Can you extricate Ford? Can you extricate the chili dog? For that matter, why would you want to do so? The whole notion that an exclusively biblical worldview exists in some person’s mind is a delusion—a piece of deceit in and of itself.

    I think a Jesus worldview might look something like this. I love Elvis but the drug addiction is not necessary for me. Elvis needed more hugs from sincere people who really loved him. Jesus would probably hug you really tight rather than shake your hand—even if you were a despicable person. Jesus might eat at McDonalds or down a chili dog—but not enough to kill himself. Jesus might drive a Ford if it was a good car—but if they were making lousy cars and selling them to families as the best car on Earth—He might be the first person with a picket sign on their doorsteps in Detroit.

    Although i am not sure you could call it a Jesus worldview per se because of the true cultural nature of worldviews, I think it might be better to say something like “seeing the world around you by using a Jesus filter.” This piece of satire is what happens when you do not see your world through a Jesus filter:

    http://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/republicans-unveil-immigration-plan