RM will be doing a series on what is commonly referred to as the Reformational Worldview1.
This worldview consists of 4 aspects: Creation, Fall, Redemption and Consummation.
I have the privilege of kicking off the series with a post on the first aspect, Creation.
What is a Worldview?
A Worldview is simply how one sees and understands the world. It is the life-perspective with which you see, process and use to navigate reality.
Everyone has a worldview. And that worldview dictates how you live your life. For example, if you see the world as a cold, stingy place with limited resources that everyone is fiercely competing for, that will profoundly affect how you see money, and how generously you treat other people.
Perhaps the best metaphor for a worldview is the computer operating system (OS). A worldview is like an OS for human beings2.
The two most famous OS’s in the computer world are Microsoft Windows and Apple’s Mac OS. Let’s say you had a particular program or file. A PC and Mac, by virtue of their respective OS’s, will see and treat that file in completely different ways. What works for one system might actually wreck the other.
And so it is with worldviews.
The Christian worldview begins with the story of Creation. God created the world and declared it good. Its original design was for the purpose of cultivating life at its highest potency, for His Glory. How can we cultivate and nurture the world around us so as to bring out that life in a way that blesses and benefits all parties involved? And how do we do so in a way that is congruent with the rest of creation whose voice and existence unceasingly testifies of the Glory of God?
These are questions that Christian thinkers have long considered. And the starting point for answers is in the Biblical narrative itself.
The real Answers in Genesis?
Genesis 1 gives us an account of the creation of the world. God created the world in 6 days and then rested.
Many scholars, most notably Meredith Kline3, have noted that the 6 days are actually 2 triads that correspond to each other, portraying the world in 3 parts.
Here’s what I mean:
Day and Night
Waters above (raqia)
Land and vegetation
Sun, moon, stars
Birds of the air
Fish of the sea
On day one, God created the day and the night. On Day 4, He created the “rulers” of the day and night: The Sun, Moon and Stars. While these were created on two separate days, they actually form one part of creation. The same happens with days 2 and 5 as well as days 3 and 6.
Interestingly, Kline pointed out that the Bible describes heaven as having three parts as well. Why make this connection? The answer may lie in the Lord’s prayer:
“May your Kingdom come and your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.”
Just as humans are made in the image of God, The Earth (humanity’s space) was specifically created to be an image of Heaven (God’s space) where God’s will is done. It was the job of humans to ensure that creation reflected heaven by cultivating creation rightly (Gen 1:26-28).
Reformed theologians typically call this the cultural mandate5.
The mandate tells us that humanity’s purpose in this world is to image God by exercising dominion and “subduing” the earth; shaping and filling what was previously formless and empty (tohu va bohu) with what ideally would be our life-promoting presence and flourishing.
Theologically, this means working to cultivate and spread shalom6 across the face of the earth.
In practice, however, this means shalomic culture making.
Culture Making Gone Wrong
Culture making, in and of itself is not inherently a good thing. Its producers are just as prone to sin as the rest of us, and perhaps are even more so.
Part of the problem is that culture makers are constantly pushing the boundaries of culture, usually by challenging norms. While it may be true that the best of these edgy cultural mavens help society adapt to new challenges in our ever changing world, it is also true that these moguls and auteurs open themselves up to the very things those cultural norms were designed to protect us from.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past month or so, Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein has been in the news a lot.
Harvey Weinstein is a culture maker.
Even a cursory glance at the list of movies that he produced will give you a glimpse into how much influence he has, not just in Hollywood, but in Western secular culture.
But Harvey’s work, regardless of how culture-shaping it was, has been shown to be a pretext for predation. The movie industry auteur has been accused of sexual harassment and at least one allegation of rape. Weinstein isn’t a gardener who cultivates. He is a predator who devours.
One of scariest parts of his downfall is that his predation was going on for years but only now is coming to light. Perhaps what is even scarier is that there are so many others like him who have done similar and even worse things. This culture was so normalized that it went on unabated for years, destroying thousands of lives in the process.
On the other hand we have Weinstein’s conservative counterpart, Roger Ailes.
Ailes was a major conservative media proprietor who was largely responsible for putting Fox News on the map. Just like Weinstein, Ailes was a culture shaper. Conservative news media, with its roster of evocative personalities, exists with the influence it now has largely because of his work. And like Weinstein, Ailes was a predator. By all reports, the culture at Fox News, just like in Hollywood, was patriarchal and predatory.
Both Weinstein and Ailes were kings whose respective kingdoms actually enabled their predatory appetites. And because of the power and influence that they had acquired, no one was able to stop them.
Culture Making Within a Creational Worldview
Christians understand that culture-making is built out of the cultural mandate of Genesis 1:26-28. With this creational worldview in mind we are reminded that all of creation, and therefore all culture making, is expressly for the Glory of God.
The easiest way to understand the glory of God is by thinking of it as an argument for why God alone should be King.
In the ancient world of Suzerains and Vassals, kings were not merely born and then installed. There was a “ratification” process where a potential candidate had to argue why he, as opposed to someone else, should be accepted as King.
In Exodus 20, the preamble to God’s Law follows this pattern. God’s preamble outlines what He has done for the Israelite people. He declares, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” By referencing what he has just done for the people, God is making, in essence, a “glory” argument.
God has done all of these great and wonderful things for the Israelite people. Therefore they should accept Him as their Suzerain King and follow the “terms” of His Kingship (the commandments).
In addition to his acts within history, the heavens themselves tell of the glory of God. God’s Glory is already written into the fabric of creation, allowing it to make an argument, even without words, for His Kingship.
The cultural mandate is saying that we humans should cultivate something that ought to do the same. Culture making, within a creational worldview, sees as its goal the proclamation of the Glory of God, the declaration that God alone is King.
Culture making is necessary, but fraught with peril.
A Creational worldview helps us navigate this peril by reminding us that culture making for its own sake is self-defeating. Instead, we need to remember that culture making is something we do for a higher purpose—the Glory of God.
- Albert M. Wolters. Creation Regained: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview (Kindle Location 35). Kindle Edition.
- John Leonard, off the cuff insight, Doctrine of the Church class lecture 2008, WTS
- William Edgar has a nice summary of the Cultural Mandate in his book: Created and Creating: A Biblical Theology of Culture (Kindle Locations 3433-3441). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.
- The Bible sees all of Creation as one big ecosystem. Shalom refers to a very specific type of symbiotic harmony within that ecosystem. In Shalomic harmony, all the individual members of the ecosystem work so as to cause the mutual flourishing of all other parts. This flourishing should be mutually beneficial for all parties involved including yourself. Thus, you yourself should also be flourishing in ways that you could not otherwise. Shalom is a human’s most natural habitat. As fish need to be in water to maximize their ability to live as fish, so humans need to be in Shalom to maximize their humanity.