Capitalism. Socialism. Postmodernism. Consumerism. Relativism. Pluralism.
There are all sorts of -isms in our world, each representing a different outlook on humanity, each with different opinions about the way societies should function and people should behave.
Some Christians shrug off any effort to study philosophies and “isms.” They say things like, “I don’t worry myself with what other people think about the world. I just read my Bible and try to do what it says.”
This line of thinking sounds humble and restrained, but it is far from the mentality of a missionary. If we are to be biblical Christians, we must read the Bible in order to read the culture. As a “sent” people, it’s important to evaluate the -isms of this world in light of God’s unchanging revelation. In other words, we read the Bible first so we know how to read world news second.
We also read the Bible in order to know how to engage people around us with the gospel. To be a good missionary, we need to have our own minds formed by the Scriptures, and at the same time, we need to understand how people think—the people we’ve been called to reach. That’s why we need to be familiar with the big questions of life and the big debates in our world.
Here are three reasons a Christian worldview matters:
1. Because it sets us apart from the world.
Take a look at Romans 12:1-2:
Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
In verse 1, Paul wrote that we must offer our bodies. In verse 2, he wrote that we must be transformed by the renewing of our mind. Mind and matter. Physical and immaterial. Thinking and behavior. Paul didn’t just say, “Think rightly.” Neither did he simply say, “Behave rightly.” Paul knew the gospel transforms both our thoughts and our actions.
If we are to keep from being conformed to this age, we’ve got to understand the connection between thoughts and deeds. Paul connected them, and so should we.
The Bible consistently presents a Christian view of the world. Along the way, the biblical authors interact with and contradict other worldviews. We ought to be skilled in doing the same. It’s part of how we keep from being conformed to this world.
There is a missional orientation to our nonconformity. Worldviews matter because people matter. Seeking to understand someone with whom we disagree is a way of loving our neighbor. It doesn’t mean we accept every point of view as valid, right, or helpful. Neither does it mean we paper over our differences. But it does mean that we will listen and learn like missionaries seeking to understand the culture we are trying to reach. If we are to “present [our] bodies as a living sacrifice,” we must live in light of the mercies of God, understand our role in the world as Christ’s ambassadors, and answer His call to bear witness to Him and His work.
2. Because it aids our spiritual transformation.
Romans 12:2 points us back to chapter 1 of Romans, where Paul laid out the dire situation of humanity before a holy God. There he wrote:
“For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools…They exchanged the truth of God for a lie” (Rom. 1:21-22, 25).
Romans 1 shows us what happens when we exchange the truth of God for lies. Our minds are darkened, and then we engage in sinful behavior, as is evidenced in Paul’s list of sinful attitudes and actions: greed, envy, murder, sexual immorality, etc. (vv. 29-31).
But in Romans 12, the situation is gloriously reversed! Because of Christ’s work, our minds are being renewed. No longer are we senseless sinners living in the dark. Instead, we are redeemed people living in the light of Christ’s resurrection. We also live in the light of His regenerating work in our hearts. Through the Spirit, God is at work changing us, conforming us—not to the world but into the image of His Son. By the mercies of God, we have been given a new identity.
It’s true that we don’t always think clearly. Our sanctification is indeed a process, and it is still incomplete. Yet God delights in seeing His children love Him with their minds. He loves to see us embrace the new identity He has given us.
The psalmist wrote, “The revelation of Your words brings light and gives understanding to the inexperienced” (Ps. 119:130). Ultimately, if we have understanding, it’s not just because we have attained a natural level of maturity but because we’ve benefited from God’s revelation.
Being transformed by the renewing of your mind won’t happen apart from God’s Spirit working through God’s Word. We need the Spirit to illuminate the meaning of the Bible so that we are able to find our place in God’s great story of redemption.
3. Because it helps us know how to live.
Do you see how the apostle Paul gave the renewing of our mind a specific purpose? It’s not so we can pride ourselves in thinking rightly. Romans 12:2 makes it plain what the purpose of our spiritual transformation is: so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
Sometimes Christians wish the Bible were simpler, a quick and easy guide that lays out every step of obedience. To be sure, the Bible has lots of do’s and don’ts. But God didn’t choose to lay out in detail specific commands for every possible situation we might find ourselves in.
What the Bible does give us is a grand narrative that focuses our attention on Jesus Christ and His gospel. In this story of redemption, we glean principles for living according to our new identity in Christ. Once we understand our general role in the plan and providence of God, we are called to exercise biblical wisdom in our everyday decisions.
God left us with something better than a simple list of commands. He gave us a renewed mind that—through the power of His Spirit—will be able to discern what actions we should take. He is seeking to transform us so that we can determine God’s will in particular situations where explicit instructions are not spelled out in Scripture.
This post is adapted from my introductory session of The Gospel Project – “A God-Centered Worldview.”