By Ben Swift
“With whom, then, will you compare me? With whom am I equal?” asks the Holy One. Turn your eyes to the heavens! See who created these things! He brings out the army of them in sequence, summoning each by name. Through his great might and his massive strength, not one of them is missing. (Isaiah 40: 25-26)
‘The term worldview may sound abstract or philosophical, a topic discussed by pipe-smoking, tweed –jacketed professors in academic settings. But actually a person’s worldview is intensely practical. It is simply the sum total of our own beliefs about the world.’ (Charles Colson)
As Colson suggests, we all see the world through the lens of our personal worldview and so it would be perfectly reasonable to suggest that those of us who read the Bible also read it through that same lens.
I remember very distinctly the first time I saw the film, ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ by Al Gore, when in the opening scene he showed an image of Earth taken from space. This particular image is known as ‘Blue Marble’ and was taken on December 7, 1972, as the Apollo 17 crew left Earth’s orbit for the moon. It was the first photograph depicting Earth in full view in a spectacular manner. When our planet is viewed from space, the impact on one’s worldview can be immediate, raising emotions and questions about our existence as humans on what is often referred to as ‘Spaceship Earth’. Many astronauts have been quoted on their experiences of viewing Earth from space. Neil Armstrong reflected, “It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.”
I remember feeling this sense of insignificant smallness when attending a show about the cosmos at The Brisbane Planetarium. As the presenter informed us of the immense distances between planets, then stars, and even galaxies, human beings inhabiting a tiny planet revolving around one star among millions became contextually microscopic. Then there were facts presented about the position of our planet in The Goldilocks Zone that left me with a feeling of awe at the odds defying reality of our existence at all.
Alister McGrath in his book, ‘Glimpsing the Face of God’, shares similar thoughts on this subject. ‘My growing knowledge of astronomy helped me to appreciate the beauty of the universe. Yet it was a melancholy beauty, in that I was unable to detach the glory of the heavens from the transience and fragility of the one observing that glory. It was as if the stars proclaimed the insignificance and transience of those they allowed to observe them. Yet when I began to think of the world as created, my outlook changed entirely.’
The last section of Alister’s quote highlights the significance and power that one’s worldview can have on the perspective taken whilst reflecting on the information we absorb.
Seeing the world through a lens that recognises God as creator of the universe and not just part of the material universe itself, allows us to recognise the clear distinction between humanity and the divinity of God. No longer do images and facts about the universe reduce us to thoughts of insignificance, but rather they stir up feelings of amazement at the thought of God, the creator of all things, desiring to know and care for humanity in all its frailty and ignorance.
Take for instance, the band, ‘Casting Crowns’, when they sing the following lyrics:
‘Who am I that the Lord of all the Earth, would care to know my name, would care to feel my hurt?’
And then there’s Psalm 8: 3-5:
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars that you set in place – what are mere mortals, that you concern yourself with them; humans, that you watch over them with such care?
In considering the influence that our worldview has on the way we make sense of life and our surroundings, it is important to reflect on why we believe what we believe. How else can we see where others are coming from in order that we can converse with them respectfully and without ignorance?
Recently whilst in discussion with a leading teacher of Christian Studies, she shared with me her experience of attending a seminar called, ‘Lent for Atheists’. Curious as to why someone who presumably holds a Christian worldview would attend such an event, I listened intently to her explanation. She explained that her intentions were to explore the worldviews of atheists which in turn would help develop a strengthened awareness of her personal convictions. She was curious as to whether it would bring to light her own worldview within unfamiliar surroundings, in a context where objective truth was on trial.
Tim Costello in his book ‘Faith’, supports this way of thinking. He suggests, “I now believe that it is impossible to understand your faith until you experience living out of your own culture. Your blindspots are only addressed when you realise how your perspective on truth is determined by your own culture and experiences.”
We must all come to the point where we are willing to question ourselves. What is it that we truly believe? Through what lens do we focus our view of the world?
Only through the work of the Holy Spirit can we fully grasp what it is to see everything through a Christian lens, as our minds are transformed to be more Christ-like. Christianity then, will not be limited to our subjective way of thinking, or even to particular components of our lives. Christ [The Word] will become our all-encompassing truth, the root of all things. He will become for us ultimate reality.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)