Rev. Dr. Rollin Grams
Professor of Biblical Theology and Mission, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Ridley Institute
Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! (Psalm 43.3, ESV)
...exploring the interface between Scripture and the Church's mission in our day
N. T. Wright (of Anglican, New Testament, and Pauline theology note)
has suggested understanding a worldview through four windows: answers given to
the big questions of life, key symbols, defining narratives, and major practices
(cf. The New Testament and the People of
God). This certainly takes us a long
way in describing different and conflicting worldviews. There is a considerable overlap, moreover, in
defining ‘culture’ and ‘worldview,’ with the former focussed more on social
practices and the latter on fundamental perspectives. However, by adding ‘practices’ to the
definition of ‘worldview,’ Wright has been able to bridge the gap between the
two notions. While sociologists,
politicians, and missiologists might be more comfortable with the language of ‘culture’
and theologians, philosophers, and, perhaps, Biblical scholars might be more
comfortable with ‘worldview,’ the overlap of terms should be appreciated.
The West is undergoing a revolutionary challenge if not successful
Greek society constructed Hellenistic culture around four cardinal virtues: prudence (practical wisdom), courage, temperance (self-control), and justice. Other virtues could be appreciated, but they were to be understood in terms of these cardinal virtues.
Christian Europe built on this. To the four cardinal virtues of classical Greece were added three theological, Christian virtues: faith, hope, and love. This was the foundation of 'Christian' Europe.
The Enlightenment removed Christian faith, hope, and love. The old, classical virtues were not removed, but they were demoted from being cardinal virtues. Instead, Western society introduced two new cardinal virtues, freedom and equality. The history of the West from the end of the 18th century until the mid-20th century can be told as a social experiment in the construction of a society in terms of the cardinal virtues of freedom and equality: democracy, the end of slavery, women's right to vote, civil rights, and so…
The early Christians
were not in a position to change government. Yet they had a theology of institutions that was derived largely from their Old Testament Scriptures. In broad outline, their theology of nations
and governments involved the following convictions and narrative of God's unfolding plan: God is in ultimate control of world history (cf.
Daniel, Revelation; Psalm 33.10; Isaiah 40.15-17);God has made the nations (Psalm 86.9) and rules over them
(Psalm 2; 47; 66.7; 67.4; 72.11; 94.10; 113.4); He is King (Psalm 10.16);God permits political authorities to rise and fall
(Daniel 2), and He disciplines the sinful nations (Psalm 94.10; Ezekiel 28.1-10; 29.12-16;
Habakkuk 3.11);God intended Israel to be an exemplary nation, positively
and negatively (Genesis 12.3; Jeremiah 4.1-2; Ezekiel 5.5-17; 6.8-14; 22.15-16;
28.25; 37.28) from which other nations might learn righteousness (Isaiah 2.2-4;
Micah 4.2); in the return from exile, the nations would learn of God’s power to save si…