Goheen is the Geneva professor of worldview and religious studies at Trinity Western University, Langley, British Columbia, and Bartholomew is the H. Evan Runner professor of philosophy and professor of religion and theology at Redeemer University College, Ancaster, Ontario. In this excellent book they propose an effective way for Christians to live out a Christian worldview in a cultural context with a radically different worldview.
After briefly summarizing the growing body of literature on Christian worldview and the diversity of perspectives, the authors propose this definition of the subject matter: “Worldview is an articulation of the basic beliefs imbedded in a shared grand story that are rooted in a faith commitment and that give shape and direction to the whole of our individual and corporate lives” (p. 23). Central to their approach is the conviction that “worldview should have a narrative—a storied—form, since this is the shape of the Bible itself” (p. xiv, italics theirs). The biblical story is a grand narrative of creation, fall, and redemption. The dominant cultural worldview, however, is a narrative of progress that has shaped Western culture for several centuries. Thus this book has a narrow focus, namely, to help Western Christians who live at the intersection of these two stories.
The authors explain, “As those who have embraced the gospel, we are members of a community that believes the Bible to be the true story of the world. But as participating and living members of the cultural community, we are also part of the other story that has been shaping Western culture for a very long time. We cannot simply opt out of the surrounding culture: our lives are woven into its institutions, customs, language, relationships, and social patterns” (p. 8). In short, the authors argue, a decontextualized Christianity is not possible. Rather, “if we are to live faithfully in the biblical story, we must become critical participants in the cultures that surround us. As participants, our relationship to culture is positive: we are part of it and identify with it seeking (as members, fellow citizens, participants)” to love what is good in it (p. 132). This participation must be critical, since “we will often find ourselves standing in opposition to it, rejecting and challenging the idolatry that twists and distorts its development. There are thus two sides to this faithful engagement: affirmation and rejection, participation and opposition, solidarity and separation. This has often been expressed as being ‘in the world’ but not ‘of the world’ (John 17:13–18)” (p. 133).
The authors devote two chapters to a summary of the biblical story and two chapters to an explanation of the development of the Western story. Although both are necessarily brief and a bit superficial, their expertise in both biblical studies and the history of philosophy make each an engaging tale. Three chapters then provide practical examples and illustrations to help readers apply the theoretical material in concrete ministry situations. A concluding “Pastoral Postscript” reminds the reader that “our witness to the good news of the kingdom is a communal witness,” and it is empowered by the Spirit of God (p. 174). Thus a vigorous spirituality in the context of a Christian community is essential to the accomplishment of God’s mission in the world.
This is an excellent book. It accomplishes what it sets out to do. In fact, it exceeds expectations. The authors tell an engaging story, avoiding sectarianism and oversimplification, while covering a great deal of history and complex issues in a relatively brief space. The book is appropriately balanced in theory and practice and in biblical study and philosophy. It is Western in its focus and without apology, for the intended audience is undergraduate students and laypersons in the West. It is also written as an introduction to the subject; those desiring more depth or more specificity will find a wealth of resources in the endnotes. This book is highly recommended for college and graduate students, especially those without an extensive background in the history of philosophy or worldview studies. It would make an excellent resource for small-group discussions on how to put into practice the command to be in the world but not of the world.
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