Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Worldview Thinking (or its functional equivalent) in the Book of Acts, Pt.1

So is the concept of a worldview even a Biblical one? Did the apostles think in these kind of terms? Or is Weltanschauung merely the latest philosophical fad, irrelevant to the thinking of the biblical writers? If, however, it does have some signifigance here, how should it inform our understanding and application of Scripture? The first place we will go in search of answers to these questions is the Book of Acts, Chapter 17.

Here we find Paul's famous address to the Athenians on Mars Hill. While perhaps the specific term worldview may not have entered Paul's thoughts, the functional equivalent of the concept was certainly in play. The Athenians Paul was talking to had certain foundational concepts about what the world was, where it came from, the nature of humanity and the divine, etc., that Paul had to challenge first from a distinctly Jewish (and hence Christian) way of seeing these things before he could talk about Christ and even be coherent. What you see in this passage of Acts is Paul deftly building conceptual bridges with his Hellenistic audience (which doesn't necessarily work across the board, as evidenced by many of the Athenians' reactions to his rustic and “intellectually inferior” ideas).

Besides drawing attention to the fact that Paul apparently understood the ramifications of such foundational concepts of God, origins, Man's fundamental problem, etc. (all of which can be properly identified as worldview questions), I'd also like to make the point that he didn't overlay his worldview prematurely on that of the Athenians - he understood that he had to go back to the beginning, as it were, with his non-Jewish audience, and not assume they would understand a statement such as "repent, believe in Jesus Christ, and be saved" without the proper groundwork laid. In fact, it is much the same point Nancy Pearcey makes in Total Truth – that any presentation of the gospel today must first START with Creation (nature of God and Man) rather than falsely assuming an understanding of these things by your audience BEFORE getting to the Fall (we are sinners culpable before a moral God) and Redemption (Jesus died to save you from your sins). Though possible in times past, we can certainly no longer assume that those with whom we share the gospel believe there is a God who created the world. We must take into account the worldview we face, and always build from the bottom up.

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