“The Christian Worldview vs. Secularism, or the Ancient vs. the Modern,” by Andrew J. Schatkin
Ever since the 18th century enlightenment, the Christian worldview has been, if not under attack, then on the wane. With the advent of science, Darwinism, Freud, and the so-called critical method and methodology applied to the Biblical text, the Christian worldview has been severely and seriously called into question. Even the formerly magnificent edifice of philosophy has been torn down with the new subjects of science, and now business and computers. Philosophy has been left virtually with only metaphysics, and even that is now under serious attack by secularism and materialism. This essay proposes to consider and examine what the Christian worldview is, what the worldview of secularism is and, to suggest that the Christian worldview still has validity and truth.
Let us take a look at what may be thought to constitute the Christian worldview in the first instance and see if it still has something to offer us. The Christian worldview starts with the creation of the universe by an omniscient and omnipotent God, pure spirit, ex nihilo, reported in Genesis as occurring in seven earthly days. The creation consists of the creation of the earth and the heavens, animal and plant life, and finally finds its apex in the creation of man, male and female.
The second element of the Christian worldview is the fall of man into sin. In the Christian worldview, man was created to exist and commune in a direct and loving relationship with his Father and Creator, God, and fell into sin, tempted by Satan. The fall into sin happened because man sought to be autonomous, independent from God, a ruler in his or her own right. In short and in sum, the fall of man into sin occurred because of his pride.
It follows that the third element of the Christian worldview is the rebellion of Lucifer and his angels and their being cast into hell, cut off from God, who is love. The sin of Lucifer was overwhelming pride and overweening pride that declined to serve or, more aptly, to be subservient. Satan, or going under his other name, Lucifer, would rather, according to Milton, reign in Hell cut off from life and love, than serve in heaven.
The fourth element of the Christian world view is that the fall of mankind into sin brought pain and death in its wake. Human nature was corrupted, the world was twisted and broken with the result that natural disaster, and pain and suffering and human wickedness and evil came into the picture. This infection of sin caused these things formerly lacking from the cosmic world order created and ordained by God to be present and afflict us. The fall brought about not only death but a twisted sexuality and the suffering in connection with childbirth.
The fifth element of the Christian worldview is that God made a covenant with the Jewish people to be the conduit and connection of his world and thought and message. In the ancient world, it was only the Jewish people who declined to worship idols; who were not polytheists, but believed in only one true God. Their religious ethics, mandated by God, declined to include rampant sexual practices and limited sex and sexual practice to marriage and monogamy. With the Jewish culture, there were prophets who called Israel to a higher ethic of charity and love for the poor, disadvantaged and widows.
The sixth element of the Christian worldview is that the Bible is the revealed word of God and contains not only a higher ethic commanded upon men and women, but is the revelation of who God is, where the world is going, what men and women should do to live in connection with God and in right connection with themselves.
The seventh element of the Christian worldview is that, due to man’s fall into sin, God sent his being in the person of Jesus of Nazareth to correct the broken and twisted relationship of man with God. Jesus of Nazareth, according to the Christian worldview, was the product of a Virgin birth, did many miracles, mandated a special regard and concern for the poor and a rejection of the accumulation of material wealth as a goal of life, and, finally, at the cross and in the crucifixion, was a sacrifice for fallen mankind in their sinful condition to bring them into correct relationship with God or, more aptly put, to offer them salvation.
The eighth element of the Christian worldview is that Jesus Christ is the only way we can come to and know God and that he after his crucifixion did not die but rose again from the dead and is presently in Heaven in communion and conversation with the other two persons of the Trinity, the Father and the Holy Spirit.
The Christian worldview maintains that Jesus Christ will come again, this time not in humility but will come again to judge the world and set up a new world order, a new Heaven, and a New Earth. Those who have followed him and whose lives have been transformed by their relationship with him will be with with him in love and eternal life in heaven. The others who have rejected him, whether verbally or in their lives, will be cast into hell where they will never die but will be cut off from love and community with the eternal God whose nature is love and from love and community with the men and women who have chosen in their lives to be transformed by his love and to be in relationship with him.
This, in a nutshell, is the Christian worldview. I would add that the Christian worldview includes the existence of Satan or Lucifer who wishes to cut off humanity from God and seeks to confuse them and bring them to share in his suffering, isolation, loneliness, and hardness of heart.
What are we then to say? To the modern secular man the Christian worldview appears quaint; old fashioned; out of connection; and probably slightly absurd and ridiculous. The ideas and concepts in the Christian worldview are of another world—spirits, sacrifice, and even of eternal life are foreign to our society, which says things are getting better with science and medicine and the world is more and more comfortable. For the secular person, life ends in this life and there is nothing more. We are lucky to take what we can get, get as far we can; do what we can do for ourselves, and hope for the best that we will live as long as possible and not die too young as the animals, trees and plants. For the modern secular person and thinker, there is a life cycle with a beginning, middle, and end. This person today rightly asks what this world of computers, iPods, DVDs, and globalization have to do with angels, demons, and another world.
The secular worldview would appear to have a degree in validity on the face of it. To the modern man of woman, getting that new house, buying that new car, taking that comfortable vacation, and getting his or her next new DVD or CD is the main thing. It is for the modern man and woman a bit much to believe this “supernatural stuff.” However, I believe the modern secular world fails to even offer a solution to life’s difficulties.
First, it fails to account for how we human got here or what we are doing here. I find it hard to believe that I am the product of a long line of ancestors who at first came out of the sea and finally emerged as apes and monkeys. Second, the secular worldview fails to account for sin, wickedness, and evil, though there has been significant scientific and material progress and progress in medicine there has been little spiritual progress. People have been and are regularly massacred in genocides and, frankly, no one much cares at the time or perhaps nothing can be done. The best that happens is that there is some consideration afterward—“Well that’s too bad”—and some expression of remorse and sympathy.
The secular worldview fails to take into account or understand the obvious fact of man’s defective and corrupt nature and frankly offers little or no solution intellectually or otherwise. It seems to me that men are still the brutes they always have been, out for themselves, out to get for themselves and out to find ways to squeeze out other people in life’s competition for material goods. At best, it may be said that most men and women are merely concerned with going to work and getting their next meal, hardly considering other people outside of themselves. Let me add that I include myself in this analysis and equation and I am not sitting in some sort of hypocritical judgment on my fellow men and women.
Third, the secular humanistic worldview fails to deal with mortality and death. Throughout our lives, each of us, man or woman, is on the slow road to death and, for the secular humanistic worldview, extinction. But the modern world fails to explain death or deal with it and shuns it away in hiding to quick funerals in special homes reserved for that purpose. The reality of death in the Western world is well-hidden in contrast to the third world where it is an ever-present and bludgeoning reality. In short, the modern worldview chooses to ignore death and human mortality and offers no explanation beyond nothingness for us all. The Christian worldview offers an alternative, holding forth the promise of Jesus Christ of eternal life to those who follow him in this short earthly life. The Christian worldview has an explanation for death and is triumphant over it.
Fourth, the secular worldview breaks down in that it fails to take into account or to understand spirituality and transcendence. There is something in men and women that senses and feels that there is something outside of themselves, bigger than themselves. There is something in all of us that has an inbuilt and embedded sense of the spiritual and transcendent. There is something in men and women that wonders why there is so little love in the world and so much hate or at best indifference.
The Christian worldview gives answers and continues to attract people. The intellectuals, and the powerful and faddish, reject the Christian worldview, satisfied that they have the answer in their current superior minds or material goods. The poor all over the world hear the call of Jesus Christ to his personhood. For 2000 years, the Church has been in the world however imperfectly, defectively, and badly offering an alternative to power, greed, mammon and lust. The Christian worldview continues to attract people on a worldwide basis and has done for over 2,000 years.
The Christian worldview is not an ideology; it is not a fad; it is not a fashion and is not a philosophy but is a person and His claim that calls us all into question.
This essay is taken, with alterations and modifications, from my book, “Essays on the Christian Worldview, and Others Political, Literary and Philosophical,” chapter 16 pp.46-49 pub. by Hamilton Books, 2011.