Trinity and Covenant
The Christian Worldview
Just a little over one hundred years ago, theologian James Orr called attention to the fact that opposition to Christian doctrine was no longer confined to special doctrines, but had become a comprehensive attack on fundamental issues. In Orr's words it was the "Christian view of things in general" that was under attack. A few years later in 1898, Abraham Kuyper, lecturing at Princeton, referred to a "battle" between modernism and Christianity, and called American Christians to the fight. He exhorted Christians to develop a "life system" approach to defending the faith, setting the fundamental principles of Christianity against the fundamental principles of the Enlightenment worldview.
The need for a worldview approach to the teaching of the Bible is no less in our day than it was in theirs. If anything, the need is greater, for opposition to Christianity has increased in scope and depth. We have, however, numerous books addressing the subject of the Christian worldview, usually for beginners, but some also for advanced students. One area that has been neglected, however, is a presentation of the Christian worldview in the language and concepts of the Bible itself. It is this need that I wish to address. To begin with, there are at least five Biblical doctrines that must be considered in presenting the Christian worldview.
First is the doctrine of the Trinity. Perhaps because it is regarded as difficult or advanced, the doctrine of the Trinity has been neglected in presentations of the Christian worldview. This stands in remarkable contrast to the fact that it is commonplace for non-Christian writers to deal with the history of philosophy in terms that are clearly related to the Trinity. Whatever the reasons for its neglect hitherto, it should be clear that any adequate presentation of the Christian worldview must have the doctrine of the Trinity at its heart for the simple reason that it is the central truth of the Christian religion.
Second, another important doctrine that distinguishes Christian religion from most other religions and modern non-Christian thought is the doctrine of creation. Just as the Bible starts with the record of God's creation of the world, the Christian worldview must begin with the account of creation, not only as an historical fact, but as a central doctrine that informs our entire worldview. Non-Christian philosophers and scientists regularly seek to know the origin of the world in order to understand its nature and future. The Christian doctrine of creation provides answers that both challenge non-Christian thought and lay foundations for the Christian worldview.
Third, to the embarrassment of many, the Christian worldview is inescapably revelational. Carl F. H. Henry sets this forth in profound detail in his six volume set, God, Revelation, and Authority. The Christian God is the God who speaks. First, He speaks in the transcendent language of intertrinitarian fellowship, then He speaks to man whom He has created in His image and gifted with language so that we might know and worship Him. The Christian worldview, therefore, must be Biblical.
Fourth, another neglected subject in studies of the Christian worldview is the doctrine of the covenant. From the perspective of Biblical teaching, consider how important the covenant is: 1) the Bible itself is structured around the covenant idea; 2) creation and redemption are presented in the Bible as covenantal acts of God; 3) and even the three Persons of the Trinity make covenant with one another. The doctrine of the covenant establishes both love and law at the center of the Christian worldview and reconciles every apparent contradiction between them. Although usually left out of Christian worldview discussions, the covenant is important because it provides a Biblical framework for the Christian worldview.
Fifth, no worldview is complete without a philosophy of history. For Christians in particular history is important for the Bible is the most historical of all the religious books in the world. The Koran, the Bhagavad Gita, and the poems of Hesiod and Homer are, by comparison with the Bible, not only devoid of real history, but almost of all real historical interest. The God of the Bible is the God who revealed the coming of the Messiah in numerous detailed prophecies dating from hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus. The doctrine of the Trinity, and the doctrines of creation, revelation, and the covenant all come together in the Biblical doctrine of history.
In this paper, I attempt to present some of the basic issues relating to these important doctrines in order to suggest guidelines for a fuller development of the Christian worldview. In the nature of the case, this short paper cannot be an adequate statement of the Christian worldview. But if it encourages us to worship the God of the Bible and keep His covenantal commandments so that we can glorify Him, it will have served a worthy purpose.
1. James Orr, The Christian View of God and the World (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1947), p. 4. Orr felt that the German word "Weltanschauung" was better suited to express the broader idea of a man's view of all things. A word like worldview seems to limit the scope of matters to the material world.
2. Abraham Kuyper, Lectures on Calvinism (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1983, reprint), p. 11.
3. Francis Schaeffer's many books fall into this category. He provides an intelligent introduction to the Christian worldview that can be read by students.
4. Dutch theologians and philosophers like Kuyper, Herman Dooyeweerd, and J. M. Spier, and the Dutch-American theologian Cornelius Van Til have provided some of the deepest critiques of non-Christian thought available in English.
5. Perhaps the best book presenting the Christian worldview in the categories of the Bible is: James B. Jordan, Through New Eyes: Developing a Biblical View of the World (Brentwood, Tenn.: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, 1988).
6. To take only one example, Franklin L. Baumer's Modern European Thought has chapter subtitles like, "Being over Becoming" for the Seventeenth Century, "Being and Becoming" for the Eighteenth Century, "Becoming over Being" for the Nineteenth Century, and "The Triumph of Becoming" for the Twentieth Century. Franklin L. Baumer, Modern European Thought: Continuity and Change in Ideas, 1600 - 1950 (New York: Macmillan, 1977). For an analysis of Western thought in the light of the Trinity, see: Colin E. Gunton, The One, The Three, and the Many: God, Creation, and the Culture of Modernity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993). Gunton may not be an evangelical, but he has done the kind of work evangelicals should have done long ago. I learned of Gunton's book too late to use it in the preparation of this paper, but he is clearly addressing the central issues.