The Problem with a "Biblical Worldview"

bible christianity

I remember growing up in the church and constantly hearing about a "Biblical worldview." This was in contrast to any other way of viewing the world. Obviously, the good Christians had this elusive Biblical worldview, and their own selfish values and sin hindered everyone else's view.

There's just one problem with this way of thinking: there is no Biblical worldview.

To be fair, this way of thinking is still alive and well in evangelicalism today. This is what is implied whenever you hear someone say "The Bible is clear." It's the assumption there is one right answer to every spiritual question, and this person has it.

I can illustrate this with just one example. I'd submit the most common application of a Biblical view is that marriage is between one man and one woman. You'll find this on many church belief statements online and in many a weekend sermon. You usually hear this referred to as the "Biblical view of marriage."

But what about all the people in the Bible who don't fit with the one man and one woman formula? Those were often the people the story focuses on by the way. We'd have to include people like Abraham (the father of the three major religions in the world today), Jacob (the father of the nation of Israel), David (the greatest king of Israel and a man after God's own heart), and Solomon (the wisest person who had ever lived up to that point).

These aren't fringe people. Some are quick to counter that these are descriptive rather than prescriptive (what happened vs what should happen). Except the Bible tells us it was actually God who gave David wives... plural (2 Samuel 12:8).

Not to mention that when these examples are as prevalent as they are with key people in the Bible, it should caution us from excluding them from a "Biblical" view. One would assume a Biblical view should include prominent Biblical examples. Just a thought.

The Old Testament is an easy target to break down this argument. But the New Testament presents challenges too. Consider Paul's logic here: "And don’t you realize that if a man joins himself to a prostitute, he becomes one body with her? For the Scriptures say, 'The two are united into one.'" (1 Corinthians 6:16). This seems to imply you are united (as with marriage) as one with any person you have sex with.

How should we practically apply this in the church today? Does a "Biblical worldview" require a Christian to marry the first person they have sex with? If so, many Christians I know don't actually live by this view. Does a married person who has an affair automatically become a polygamist? Not to mention that by this definition, polyamory is alive and well in the church today. A "Biblical view of marriage" turns out to be more complicated than it sounds.

Are we having fun yet?

Let's take a step back for a moment. Perhaps you think the problem is with us and not the Bible.

For most of my lifetime, the dominant Bible translation in evangelical spaces has been the New International Version (NIV). Today it is the best-selling modern English translation of the Bible. 

Now, I'd like to introduce you to the team that brought these verses to us in 1984.

Does anything about this picture stand out to you? What do they all have in common?

Obviously, they all had a Biblical worldview! 

Or perhaps you notice they're all men, and they're all white, and they're all older, and they all apparently shopped at the same store for clothes, and I highly doubt any of them used that basketball hoop in the background (to name just a few observations). Could it be possible for this team to have certain leanings regarding how they translated what the verses meant? Could it be possible they had biases that produced blind spots? Could they have had certain beliefs they uniquely felt were important to stress about their understanding of Christianity? And did any of these factors shape how they interpreted what these ancient languages from thousands of years ago mean in our culture today?

Thankfully, they revisited the translation in 2011, and that team had more going for it. But the fact remains.

If you think the point of this post is to disparage the NIV translation, you're missing the point. It's actually one of the better ones! The point is there is no objective way of understanding faith, despite the constant claims otherwise. We all bring ourselves to the process, and it shapes how we understand it.

As the theologian Pete Enns recently said, "The Bible has to be interpreted. When someone says to you, 'You're not following the Bible,' what they mean by that is that you're not following their interpretation of the Bible."

If you're in a spiritual community that communicates topics in an exclusive way, I'd encourage you to explore elsewhere. There is tremendous beauty when we unpack the nuances of God from various vantage points and constantly learn from each other by challenging our own ways of thinking.

The goal of reading the Bible should be to see Jesus (according to Jesus in John 5:39-40), and that requires immense interpretation as you unpack what the Bible actually says. There is no Biblical worldview.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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