The view from the farmhouse near the steep mountain slope was spectacular. Behind the house the peak of Yr Wyddfa loomed ominously. By contrast the green grass on the sides of the house gradually sloped upwards and the steep-sided hills were dotted with sheep grazing contentedly. In front the green gave way to rocks where a mountain stream rushed happily down a series of falls through the tree-lined mountainside to the river of Llanberris, Wales far below. But from my own bedroom in Britain’s foremost industrial city, the view was very different. There were houses, then more houses, and beyond them the smoke from factory chimneys that painted the sky a dark grey. Views are like that, but world views are not just a view of our native landscape. Rather they are made up of experiences, ideas, and information about ourselves and the world which our culture gives us. Some people manage to make some sense of this complexity of ideas and opinion. Others select the bits and pieces from this rag-bag of mental activity to build up a view of the world in which they are most comfortable.
Search For A unifying Factor
All this imagery needs a unifying factor for it to make sense. For many that factor is themselves, and the world that revolves around them. It is a view which is self-centered and false. The Greek philosopher Plato argued that to see things properly we need a view of what he referred to as the Ultimate Good. This is nearer to the truth but it is still seriously flawed and inadequate. We need more than the ideas considered by the philosophers to make sense of our own being and the confusion of the human condition.
The French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre surprisingly said that to understand things one needs to see them from a “fixed cosmic reference point.” This is better but still not adequate, for even the cosmos changes. One needs a view from within the cosmos and from outside the cosmos, and one which is eternal, from the beginning to the end.
God In The World View
Christians reading this will already have seen where this argument is going: Our fixed cosmic reference point is the omnipresent God. He was there from the beginning because He was the beginning, and He already knows the end from the beginning because He is eternal and all-knowing.
On top of all this, He has given us His Word. The Bible contains what Francis Schaeffer calls “true truth.” The Bible does not give us exhaustive knowledge for we could not cope with it. However, what the Bible tells us is absolutely true. It not only puts everything in perspective, but is given to us by our Creator who tells us all we need to know. “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this Law” (Dt. 29:29 KJV).
But just having God’s revelation is not enough, because we may interpret it according to a world view other than that which the Bible reveals. The Pharisees and the scribes believed themselves to be the upholders of the Law of God. In fact they interpreted that Law from the standpoint of their own righteousness, regarding uneducated folk as accursed (Jn. 7:49).
The incident where the Lord Jesus described the behavior of a tax collector and a Pharisee demonstrates this perfectly (Lk. 18:9-14). The Pharisee had a greater knowledge of the Law, but believing himself to be righteous, his view of the Word of God was grotesquely flawed. The tax collector understood that he was a sinner so he could see things regarding his own state correctly, and threw himself on God’s mercy. He may not have been aware of it but his view was much more in line with the teaching of the Prophets and the Law than that of the learned Pharisee. Humility is essential to having an accurate world view.
The World View In Job
The Book of Job takes us to the human condition of the believer in this world. Job’s world view was incomplete but it was real. He did not know exactly what was happening in the heavenlies but he did know the character of God, though he only partly understood the aims and methods of the forces of evil. With this limited but accurate knowledge we too are able to evaluate the things that happen to us and others, and to take what comes with humility, patience and courage.
The friends of Job, on the other hand, each clung to his own flawed world view. Each one believed that God was righteous and that He punished sin – and they were correct. Where they failed was in believing that a person’s suffering was brought on himself by some sin, secret or overt.
Job could not understand why God had turned against him like an enemy. His plaintive cry was heartbreaking: “Wherefore hidest Thou Thy face, and holdest me for Thine enemy? Wilt Thou break a leaf driven to and fro?” (Job 13:24- 25). He too seemed to believe that the righteous were rewarded and the wicked punished in this life. He therefore insisted on his own righteousness and could not understand what was going on. But he clung to his belief that God is good: “Though He slay me yet will I trust Him” (13:15).
Life for Job was perplexing, though he looked forward to the day when he would see God (19:25-27). This is another stable reference point, a fixed event which gave Job certainty and assurance in his rapidly crumbling world.
The three friends – like those today who cling to ideas which seem to give meaning to their lives – all had a point from which they tried to see order in the events around them. They fit each circumstance into their limited and flawed framework of understanding.
Eliphaz had a “spiritual” experience, so he claimed to have superior knowledge not given to lesser mortals. Bildad told Job he should “seek God,” and then justified himself by saying, “Inquire I pray thee of the former age” – the age before the flood, when God punished the wickedness of man. He believed that as it always was, so it always will be (8:5-8; 2 Pet. 3:3- 7). Zophar reminds us of scholars who claim to know all about God but do not know Him personally. Consequently his picture was as distorted as the reflections of reality in his own mind. He accused Job of telling lies (11:2-3), then claimed that God was so remote that it was impossible for mere humans like Job to understand Him. “Canst thou by searching find out God?” (11:7-9). In asking this he stated a half truth which may be even more dangerous than the lie. Of course by our own efforts we cannot find God. It is God who finds us.
The World View Of Abraham And Isaac
A matter which enemies of the cross of Christ fail to understand is the story of Abraham and Isaac. In it, some see God approving human sacrifice, while others accuse Abraham of the sin of murder. All miss the point of what God was teaching Abraham and how He was testing Abraham’s faith. We see how, as Mount Moriah came into view, Abraham told his servants, “I and the youth will go yonder and worship and (we) will come again to you” (Gen. 22:5). The writer to the Hebrews confirmed that since Isaac was the child of promise, God would raise him from the dead: “By faith, Abraham, when he was tried (tested) offered up Isaac. And he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son of whom it was said, that in Isaac shall thy seed be called. Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from whence also he received him in a figure” (Heb. 11:17-19).
Both Job and Abraham argued rationally though Job failed to recognize God’s sovereignty while Abraham argued correctly that God was a God of resurrection. Like them, we are given enough insight into God’s character to cope victoriously with the changing circumstances of life.
Finding The Christian World View
This world is one where Satan blinds the minds of those who believe not (2 Cor. 4:3-5). The world sees from the point of view of science and tries to fit the reality of creation into the unproveable theory of evolution/natural selection.
Arising from this, we have had well over a hundred years of fantasy fiction and the new age movement to help us to “believe” in beings from other planets coming to improve our race. We imagine that science will find other solar systems and other planets which could be colonized by humans. All this while man is at war with man and the world is filled with evil, anger and violence.
We have been made “in the image of God” (Gen. 1:26-27); we are responsible beings endowed with intelligence and a moral sense. It does not take a massive intellect to wonder where these faculties came from; it must be clear that they are not the product of natural selection over aeons of time by chance.
The woman with the bent back for 18 years (Lk. 13:11-13) is an example of our lost human condition. She “could in no wise lift up herself.” She could not do anything about it, and it affected her mental as well as her physical state. She could only “look to the earth and behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish and (she was) driven to darkness” (Isa. 8:22). That is until the Lord intervened and “she was made straight and glorified God.”
Like the examples above, the psalmist was also perplexed as he saw the wicked prospering: “But as for me, my feet were almost gone, my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” However his was an experience of enlightenment, of sudden understanding. He went on to explain how it came about and wrote: “I went into the sanctuary of God. Then understood I their end” (Ps. 73:2-3,16-17).
The word translated, ‘understood’ is one which has the literal meaning of setting things in order and connecting them together. It is translated in the New Testament as “intelligence.” It is only as we view things from the sanctuary that all the pieces of knowledge fall into place in light of the knowledge which only God can give us. From the sanctuary, the Christian world view of life does make sense, and all the difficulties are resolved. However, we must remember that it is necessary for us to spend time in the sanctuary talking to God and listening to Him as we read His Word.
By Roger Penney
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org