We’re starting with biblical theism because, well, it’s proven itself true. All other worldviews unsuccessfully compete with biblical theism. We’ll see later how competing worldviews in the west grew from a response to biblical theism and how they reach back to it for support, for ideas that make life livable, because on their own, carried out to their logical conclusions, these competing worldviews make life an impossible task.
We commonly define different worldviews by answering a standard set of questions. Various thinkers have used similar questions, some with shorter, some with longer lists. Chuck Colson in his watershed book How Now Shall We Live, posed three questions which form the classical reference points of a Christian worldview. The title to his book and the applications he works through each chapter form and important fourth question.
- Where did we come from and who are we?
- What has gone wrong with the world?
- What can we do to fix it?
- How should we live?
I’ve found it helpful to break these apart in to six questions, limiting the first to “where did we come from” and adding two more just after it:
- Why are we here? (which will also answer “who are we?”); and
- Where are we going?
These questions from a grid to analyze each worldviews approach. Generally all of the big or ultimate issues of life can found in or between these questions.
The first question, “Where did we come from?” starts at the beginning and by answering it we determine the scope of possible answers for the remaining questions. The answer to the first question requires a look at the first verse of the first chapter of the first book in the Bible. We can all quote at least a few words, “in the beginning God . . .” But, who is God? “God is infinite and personal (triune), transcendent and immanent, omniscient, sovereign, and good.” Each of these broad descriptors captures an array of characteristics of God.
The infinite God is boundless, governed only by His own character. Neither man nor creation restricts Him. No other being in all creation equals Him or can challenge Him. Yet, this God who is so “other” than us is also personal. He possesses the attributes of personhood. He is a self-conscious, thinking, and acting being. He interacts personally with us. We can pray to Him, worship Him, obey Him, He answers our prayers, reveals Himself in to us in Scripture and nature, He loves us and we love Him back. An infinite but personal God is unique to biblical theism.
Theologians will say that God transcends His creation, but is also imminent. God transcends because He is something other and above His creation. Just as time cannot constrain Him, neither can space. Yet, while, transcendent, He remains in that place we call “here,” wherever that place may exist for us at any given time, and not only for me, but for all mankind. For each person in every place and every age, whether separated by time or at the same moment, “God is here.”
In His omniscience, God possesses all knowledge and nothing escapes Him. He governs all that exists according to His ultimate desires in His sovereignty. And, God is good. From His goodness flow all of His other characteristics. Good exists because God is good.
Back to the question of from whence we and the world come. This God created all that exists from nothing. Without any prior pattern or form, He imagined all that is. He imagined lizards and spiders and tropical fish and birds. He imagined earth and sky. He imagined sub-atomic forces and particles, the basic elements, gravity, acceleration. And then, He spoke it into existence. He didn’t go to the stockpile of pre-existing creation building materials. He just spoke and out of nothing, His ideas became real. Because an orderly God created, the universe itself is orderly. It is also open. In other words, God constantly involves Himself in the unfolding of events within His creation.
Why are we here? God made man as the pinnacle of His creative activity, the only creation made in God’s own image. All the rest of creation bears the stamp of God’s character, but only man bears His image. To be sure, God’s image is not God nor is it equal to God, but it is like God. We are not infinite, but we are personal, capable of creating and sustaining relationships with one another and with God. We are not omniscient, but we know and can understand from the propositional revelation of God in Scripture and the demonstrative revelation of creation who God is and what the world is like. We are not sovereign, but we do have a kingdom of sorts where we exercise our will. We are not perfectly good, but we can express goodness in acts of love, mercy, patience, and grace. We cannot create out of nothing, but we possess impressive creative abilities and continue to work with God’s creation to further His initial work.
That’s a glimpse at who we are, but does not fully answer why we’re here. The Westminster Shorter Catechism provides a succinct answer in its first question: “the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” It follows with an explanation of what will guide us in our quest to glorify and enjoy God: the Scriptures. If we unpack that just a little more, we’ll find that we were created for relationship with God, to walk side by side with Him in the garden of Eden, to continue His creative works. In this we would bring rightful glory to God and enjoy Him. We were created to love God and be loved by Him and carry out His purposes.
In Part 2, we'll tackle the remaining worldview questions.