Book Review – Christian Worldview: A Student’s Guide

Posted On January 9, 2014

The truth is that we all have a worldview. Each of us possesses a fundamental, well-reasoned belief system which not only guides our daily walk, but is also the reason why we react/respond the way we do to the various circumstances we are facing. As Philip Graham Ryken says in his book Christian Worldview: A Students Guide :

“At the same time, the way other people respond reveals their worldview-their faithfulness in keeping a commitment, for example, or their unbelief in the existence and providence of God. Ideas have consequences. Even ordinary interactions reflect our commitments and convictions about the basic issues of art and science, work and play, family and society, life and death. Whenever we bump into the world, our worldview has a way of spilling out. It comes out in what we think and love, say and do, praise and choose.” 

Therefore, if everyone possesses a worldview in some form, then how can we as born-again Christians not only obtain a Christ-centered worldview, but persistently refine that worldview in such a way that it always pleasing to our Lord?

Before Ryken embarks on how to obtain and refine a Christian worldview, he spends a good bit of time defining what constitutes a worldview and why it is so crucial for us to make sure that our worldview is a wholly Christ-centered one if we want to be pleasing to the Lord. According to Ryken, “Ideally, a worldview is a well-reasoned framework of beliefs and convictions that helps us see the big picture, giving a true and unified perspective on the meaning of human existence.” To put it more simply, it “is the structure of understanding that we use to make sense of our world.” Your worldview betrays what you believe about why you are here, who you are, and what is your purpose for existence. One of the biggest questions that develops after understanding what constitutes a worldview is what contributed to the development of the worldview that we currently hold to? The answer, according to Ryken, lies in the truth that “our family background, life experience, economic circumstances, educational pedigree, cultural context, national heritage, linguistic community, physiological characteristics, psychological makeup, and historical situation” all played significant roles in developing our worldviews. Therefore, they are not going to be easily overcome when you try to mold your worldview to line-up with the Word of God and therefore become biblical instead of man-centered. Just as Ryken states towards the end of Chapter 1, “the premise of this book is that the only worldview that fully corresponds to the world as God knows it is a completely and consistently Christian worldview.”

After defining what a worldview is and what contributes in developing a worldview in Chapter 1, the author delves into articulating the principles that define a Christian worldview in Chapter 2. Readers are briefly introduced to four (4) categories that are typically used by theologians to comprehend human experience:

1) Creation: the way God created the world and everything in it, including the people he made in his own image, with the ultimate goal of displaying his glory;
2) The Fall: the way we turned away from our creator, choosing to live for ourselves rather than for our Father’s glory, and thus came under the condemnation of a righteous God in a sin-cursed world;
3) Grace: the way God is working to save his people form sin and death through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, his Son, and then transforming our lives by the power of the Holy Spirit; and
4) Glory: the way God is fulfilling all his purposes for his people through the present and future preeminence of Jesus Christ over the everlasting kingdom of God.

The author goes on to state that, “once we understand this four-part explanation of human experience-learning how to do what the poet T.T. Eliot called ‘thinking in Christian categories’-we can apply it to every area of life. In doing so, we gain God’s perspective on why any particular thing was made in the first place (creation), what has gone wrong with it (the fall), how we find its recovery in Jesus Christ (grace), and what it will become in the end, when everything is made new (glory).” There is in a sense a domino like effect as it pertains to these four categories: What you believe about Creation/The Creator will have huge ramifications on how you view The Fall/Sin, which will affect your view on Grace (if a man is totally depraved, then there is nothing he can do in and of himself to save his own soul), and all of which culminates in what happens to believers (and subsequently non-believers) when your time on earth is done. The Christian believes in a Triune Creator who has revealed Himself in His Word, sustains all things by the power of His Word, and in the end Judges all things according to His Word.

Chapter 3 takes a more detailed look at the Creator/Creation relationship dynamic by telling the Creation story and thoroughly dealing with who made you, what else did God make, and why did God make us along with everything else.

Chapter 4 is a brief look at The Fall that occurs in Genesis 2 and 3 which mars God’s good creation, and how a Christian worldview accurately deals with the problem of evil in this world by “calling sin a sin.” Even if your worldview is not biblical, you still have to account for the issue of evil and its beginnings. The problem, though, is that outside of a Christian worldview, you will struggle to pinpoint the origins of evil/sin and account for how everyone reveals pretty quickly that they are wicked (even the smallest child). Now, are we as evil as we are capable of being? The obvious answer is “no” thanks to God’s common grace, but that still doesn’t lessen the fact that we are evil. Therefore, if that is true, then how do we get forgiveness for the sins we commit?

Chapter 5 provides the answer as to the “where” and “how” we get forgiveness for our sins and the answer is the Grace of God. The flow from Creation to The Fall shows us that a good and holy God personally created the world and is moment-by-moment involved in its outcome. However, when Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the Garden and brought death upon the whole human race, we are forced to deal with the realization that if we are totally depraved then there is nothing good inside of us that will ignite in us a desire for God, nor is there anything inside of us that will bring about reconciliation between God and men. However, a wholly biblical worldview sees that it was God and God only who could reconcile man to Himself, and He did that through the perfect life, death, and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ. Therefore, in order for men to be saved, we need something more than “common grace” we need “saving grace” which “brings people into a personal friendship with the living God that lasts forever”. Once true redemption and reconciliation have been worked in our lives by the Spirit of God, then and only then can we serve God in creation in such a way that is pleasing to Him because our working is not being done to earn salvation (or favor in God’s eyes) but it is being done out of a heart filled with gratitude for a God who was/is personally involved in salvation.

Chapter 6 deals with Glory and how it is only seen in a somewhat imperfect sense in this world, even in the lives of believers. We are never going to achieve perfection in this world, but God’s people are ever going to move closer and closer to imaging their Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. It is the “already” and the “not yet” struggle of understanding the kingdom of God. As Ryken says in this chapter, “God has already accomplished our redemption in Christ, but he has not yet fulfilled all of the promises of his coming kingdom. To put this another way, we are living somewhere between the sufferings of the cross and the joy of the empty tomb. The dark decay of death is all around us because of sin; yet the dawn of the coming resurrection is lighting our way. Jesus has returned from the grave. As the risen Christ he is with us in our present suffering, and therefore we live in the hope of God’s perfect future.”

Even though Ryken’s book is relatively small (113 pages total), it was packed full of truth and really did a great job of achieving the goal of the book, which was presenting forth the truth “that the only worldview that fully corresponds to the world as God knows it is a completely and consistently Christian worldview.” The reader will come out with a much better understanding of not only all of the factors that contribute to ones worldview, but how and why our worldview should be completely Gospel-centered (especially if you are one of those people who claim to be a born-again Christian, but the truths you seemingly hold to show that you do not have a biblical worldview).

Title: Christian Worldview: A Student’s Guide (Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition)

Author: Philip Graham Ryken

Publisher: Crossway Publishers (2013)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Crossway Publishers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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