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Theology shapes the way we see the world (really)

Of all the many topics frequently discussed, none is as high up on the list as that of the concept of worldviews.1 Okay, that’s entirely malarky. Few of us give the notion of “worldview” much thought at all because, as a culture, we don’t really care that much about philosophical concepts like this. We don’t deeply consider the way we understand the world to function and how we operate within it.2 We leave our worldview assumed, and rarely consider what is driving and influencing it.

Make know mistake: we are constantly being bombarded by ideas designed to shape our worldviews. To reorient our thinking around gender and sexuality, political ideology, social engagement, and virtually every hot topic you’re being told to celebrate, shun, fear, or fight. And that is exactly why we need to pay attention to our worldview; why we need to know what is, or is attempting to, influence and determine our thoughts and actions. To seek to develop a worldview shaped practically by our theology.

What we believe about God—theology proper—is the starting point of our worldview. In a very real sense, how we live is determined by what we believe about God. So do we know about him, and how does that knowledge affect how we live? While much can be said, there are three foundational truths that shape how we see the world.

Worldview Truth 1: The creator God is the supreme authority

Genesis 1:1 is a powerful starting point as we consider the Christian worldview: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” That is a rich and profoundly theological way to begin the Bible. We immediately learn there is a God. And before anything else was, this God existed. And this God created, well, everything. All that we see and hear and touch and taste and smell and measure and hypothesize… All of it was created by this God. And because this God is the one who created it, this God has authority over it.

This fact is why there is so much debate about the creation account in Genesis. We are desperate to debunk the story of how the world came into being, not because they find the notion of the world being created in six days ludicrous (after all, how are some of the alternatives less ludicrous?), but because it tells us we are not autonomous beings. If there is a Creator then we as created beings are necessarily under this Creator’s authority. And we don’t like that, which is why humans exert so much effort attempting to take that authority for ourselves.3

Worldview Truth 2: The relational God is intimately involved in the world

In the opening of his Gospel, John builds upon the theological truth of Genesis 1, and then pulls back the veil. In John 1:1-3, he wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created.”

In the beginning, he said, was not merely God, but the Word. But who is the Word? John describes the Word as One who was with God. If he stopped there, we might be able to say, “Well, clearly the Word is the first created being.” But John doesn’t allow for that because he immediately says the Word who was with God was God. And then as if to counter the idea that the Word was perhaps simply another name for God, he says again that the Word was with God in the beginning.

Relational in nature

John brings forward a mystery: that of the nature of God himself. The God who created all things is one—but more than one at the same time. Not gods plural but God singular who simultaneously exists as more than one person. A God who is completely self-existent. Who needs for nothing. He doesn’t need relationship because he has it. He doesn’t need stuff because all of it is his anyway. Which is great news for us, because a god that needs anything isn’t really a god worth worshipping.

But back to the Word. Of the Word’s relationship with creation, John writes that “all things” were created through the Word. And because he wants us to be confident that the word “all” here means “all”, he follows it up by saying “apart from him not one thing was created that has been created.”

Dwelling among us as one of us

So here’s the layer that John adds to our understanding of the world: The God who created everything was not alone. The Word was also present with God. And the Word was also this same God, and is the one through whom all things are created. So the Word also has the same authority over the world as God. And as we see later in John’s prologue, this Word came into the world and dwelt among his people, going by another name: Jesus.

Here again, we see why people want to demystify Jesus, or cast doubt on his existence. If Jesus were merely a good teacher whose disciples later gave him the trappings of divinity, he is ignorable. Similarly, if Jesus were a sincere man who believed he was God, but was sincerely wrong, he is ignorable. If he were a madman or didn’t exist at all, same deal. But if Jesus is, in fact, God as the Bible describes him, he is unignorable.

It also makes our authority issues even worse, because it means that not under the authority of a God who may or may not engage with us, but one who is personally invested in his creation.

Worldview Truth 3: The knowable God’s power and nature can be seen everywhere

And then, we get to what might be the most mind-bending twist yet. The most radically theological statement of all in Romans 1. There, Paul writes, “…what can be known about God is evident among them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, that is, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what he has made.”

Not only is the world created by a God who exists outside of it, a God who is more than one person, yet mysteriously still one God, who is in authority over all things… every single person knows that this God exists. And how do they know? He made it plain to them through what he has made.

All of creation bears witness to God’s existence. Everything that is created screams the truth at us. But we deny it. We exchange the truth about God for a lie. And every moment we are living in light of these two realities—either in such a way that acknowledges the one who created us, or denies him.

This is challenging stuff, friends. But this is only a cursory overview. One could (and should) go much deeper. But the deeper you go, the more it becomes clear that how we understand the world is radically theological. If what we read in the Bible is remotely true, it can’t be anything but.

  1. Note this post is adapted from a lecture I taught on how theology changes people in 2017. ↩︎
  2. This is probably the most succinct definition of “worldview” that I can offer. ↩︎
  3. The transgender movement that has come into prominence since the late 2010s and beyond is the most obvious example. ↩︎

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