Should We Distinguish Between Christian and Biblical Worldviews?
Exploring Christian Practices That Lack Biblical Support
For years I’ve told people that I strive to write from a Christian worldview. That’s what I believed I was doing. I even regularly prayed that God would empower me to do so, that each word I wrote would embrace, support, and advance a Christian worldview.
However, I realized I don’t always write from a Christian worldview. In fact, I often question a Christian worldview because too much of it isn’t biblical. Too often I can’t find support in Scripture for many of the practices, traditions, and beliefs that most Christians include in their worldview. As a result, my prayer has changed, asking God that I will consistently write from a biblical worldview. This is how I honor him and encourage others.
What’s a Worldview?
First a definition. A worldview is a set of perspectives through which we view and understand our world. More specifically, it’s a group’s collection of beliefs about life and how we fit into our world.
This means that a biblical worldview sees the world and our role in it through the lens of Scripture. The Bible informs those with the biblical worldview how to think and act.
Similarly, a Christian worldview is the set of beliefs that Christians have about their faith. The basis for this assemblage of ideas should be the Bible. If this were the case, a Christian worldview and a biblical worldview would be synonymous. Unfortunately, there’s a disconnect. Too many things that comprise Christian perspectives and practices lack a biblical mandate. These topics often come up in my writing.
A Christian Worldview
Christian means to be like Christ, that is, to be like Jesus. As Christians (a word I usually avoid because it means different things to different people) we want to be like Jesus. The Bible is the best source to help us understand how to be like him (WWJD). Our Christian worldview should emanate from Jesus, through the Bible.
Yet Christians hold many beliefs that don’t have a biblical basis. Christians pursue practices that lack a biblical mandate. Yes, this includes me. But I’m trying to shed these erroneous Christian pursuits that lack biblical support.
A Biblical Worldview
Because some ideas that we accept as Christian don’t have much of a biblical origin, I base my faith and my writing on what God says in the Bible. It’s more important than writing about what other people think is Christian—even if it offends.
When I read and study the Bible—both to inform my life and my writing—I strive to do so without interpreting it through the lens of traditions I’ve been taught and the practices I observe. I don’t look for justification of our present Christian reality in the Bible to reinforce what we do and believe. Instead I seek to study the Bible to inform my perspectives and reform my practices.
Differences Between a Christian and Biblical Worldview
Over the years I’ve noticed many disconnects between what I read in the Bible and how society practices our Christian faith. This often includes my own practices and pursuits.
I can’t list them all in a short blog post. Even a book wouldn’t provide enough space. Knowing that it’s incomplete and without assigning any priority, here’s a quick list of some of the things most Christians accept as correct, even though there’s not much support, if any, for them in the Bible. These often comprise their Christian worldview.
Go to Church on Sunday: I go to church most every Sunday. I’ve done so my whole life. But I’m still looking for a command in the Bible where Jesus, or anyone else for that matter, tells us to go to church each Sunday. Yes, we’re to not give up meeting together, but that verse doesn’t say weekly or on Sunday (Hebrews 10:25).
Fold Your Hands, Close Your Eyes, and Bow Your Head When You Pray: My parents taught me to do these things as a child, and my wife and I taught them to our children. Yet I’m still looking for a verse in Scripture to back up this practice. Though I often assume all three of these postures when I pray, I’m more likely to skip them.
Tithe to Your Local Church: I’ve often heard preachers implore the parishioners to tithe to the local church—that is, the organization that pays their salary. The tithe was an Old Testament command, which averaged about 23 percent a year, not ten. It went to support their national religious infrastructure, not local gatherings. The New Testament contains no command the tithe. Instead we see a principal that all our possessions belong to God, which we must steward wisely to take care of ourselves and to bless others.
The Prayer of Salvation: Many people teach that to become a Christian you need to pray and ask Jesus into your heart. Jesus never said that. In fact, he gave different instructions to different people. The most common and general command was a call for people to follow him. No prayer, no altar call, and no commitment card. Instead we simply do a U-turn (repent) and follow Jesus. (See my book How Big Is Your Tent?)
Salvation is a lifetime practice, not a one-time commitment.
Sunday Church Format: Most church services have two components: music and message, but sometimes they seem more like a concert followed by a lecture. Other services focus on worship and Communion, the Eucharist. The Bible records all these things, and the early church did them, but I’m having trouble finding any verses that commands these activities or shows them as a regular practice that happened each Sunday. Instead the early church focused on meaningful community, something that most churches today struggle to fulfill with any significant degree.
The Lord’s Supper: Our practice of communion is another custom that diverges from the biblical narrative. I understand communion (an extension of Passover) as a practice that should happen at home, with our family, as part of a meal, and as an annual celebration in remembrance of Jesus. Instead it’s become a Sunday ritual that happens at church, apart from a meal, and with little familial connection.I use the Bible to better inform, and then reform, how I practice my Christian faith. Click To Tweet
The above list may offend you. I get that. Writing about these things makes people mad. It challenges what we hold dear. We want to maintain the status quo.
Suggesting that these practices aren’t biblical can rattle the traditions that we cherish. Pursuing faith from a biblical worldview is an ongoing struggle for me. But this is one way that I work out my salvation (Philippians 2:12).
In doing so, I use the Bible to better inform, and then reform, how I practice my Christian faith. It’s not a comfortable path, but this journey takes me in the right direction. It’s a course to better embrace what the Bible teaches us about God and our relationship to him, society, and creation.
I hope you will travel with me as we move closer to Jesus.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical spirituality, often with a postmodern slant. He seeks a fresh approach to faith and following God through the lens of scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.