The Failure of Worldview Education in Christian Colleges
John Barber, Ph.D.
Christian colleges are right to stand for and to teach a biblical world and life view to their students. However, the worldview curriculums of the majority of these schools are comparative in nature. That is to say, they teach what the Bible says about sex vs. what the world says about sex; what the Bible says about creativity, vs. what the world says about creativity; what the Bible says about meaning vs. what the world says about meaning, so forth and so on. So far we are on philosophical ground.
However, when Jesus set forth the nature of his public ministry, he said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He appointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18).
Jesus’ words tell me that worldview is more than a presuppositional basis for life, more than a grid through which a multiplicity of ideas can be neatly organized, and more than a Christian framework or system, against which, the pagan systems of the world can be seen and judged. Worldview also sees that we are to continue Jesus’ healing ministry on earth. One might argue that Jesus’ pronouncement in the synagogue only outlined his plan for ministry in application of his worldview. But Scripture teaches that it’s not possible to separate thought from deed. Theology is application.
Why do schools’ worldview syllabi deemphasize Jesus’ practical, healing perspective? I will offer one possible explanation. It has been my anecdotal observation that among those who ascribe to a rigid interpretation of the doctrine of God’s impassability is a general lack of sensitivity, not only for God’s faculty to express real emotion, but also for his ability to enter into human experience and to feel our hurt, our pains, and our joys.
However, the intercessory quality of Jesus’ compassionate ministry challenges this position. The biblical description of God’s emotions is not always the result of writers attributing human qualities to God (anthropopathism) but is more often the record of his own feelings. Even though God does not experience sinful emotions, nor is he overtaken by emotion, he yet feels emotions more perfectly than we do. God’s perfection is not a barrier that keeps him from feeling what we feel. To the contrary, it is a guarantee that what he feels, he feels absolutely.
To the extent that one sees God as the great philosophical stoic—inexpressive with no real joy or sadness—one will naturally aspire to the same disposition. But if one sees God as expressive, holding and revealing a multihued spectrum of emotive responses, then our subdued lives will be seen as an abnormality that we will seek to mature out of. If our love is modeled after God’s love, then like the humble man of Galilee our worldview will include a submissive spirit that walks the dusty paths of our contemporary Galilee as we seek to turn the world’s sadness into singing. The Christian worldview grasps the fact that belief without heart-felt passion for a world lost in sin is little more than philosophical air.
But many graduates of Christian colleges are not living as ambassadors of Christ’s healing ministry. Why? I would suggest two reasons.
First, these graduates believe that what they learned about worldview is true, but impractical. What difference does it make to know that the Christian worldview is a superior thought-system when the world is winning on the ground? Consequently, many of these former students have now committed themselves to a form of evangelical spiritual devotion that places the pursuit of personal virtue above the Bible’s call to replenish the Garden.
Second, there are those college alum who accepted the “comparative” method of distinguishing the Christian worldview from its counterfeits. But because that model presses the import of the primacy of the intellect, without also stressing God’s empathy for the lost and hurting, they too are failing to take the healing gospel to the world.
What is missing in both cases is a practical awareness of God’s passion. The cultural pietist flees culture that glorifies fleshly passion, while the intellectual worships a God of no passion. But God without any passion is an idol, while culture left untouched by God’s passion is the idol-maker’s workshop. What distinguishes the Christian worldview cannot be stipulated on theological and philosophical grounds only. There is also an incarnational dimension to worldview that if disregarded leaves us thinking God’s thoughts after him, but that is all.
We Americans in particular suffer from the bane of modern, Western thought: that it is permissible to believe something without doing it and remain consistent. What we must regain in our schools of Bible and theology is a truly comprehensive biblical worldview—one that joins head and heart, body and soul. Then, and only then, will we teach and live a Christian worldview.