How you live in the world depends on how you look at it. Do you think everything boils down to economic oppression and revolution? Then you're probably a Marxist. Do you think everything is pointless and everyone can do what they want? You're probably an atheistic nihilist. Do you believe God is sovereign and that the only hope for humanity is faith in Jesus? Then you're a Christian, and this book is for you.
These underlying beliefs that drive our attitudes and actions are called a worldview because they determine how you look at everything, from whether you should eat pork to how you read books to whether you should vote in 2016. It might seem to go without saying, then, that we should all thoroughly understand our own worldview in order to live consistently with it, but the truth is very few people these days have spent much if any time reflecting on their presuppositions, or how those ideas affect them.
Still, it's inaccurate to say that Christians need to understand their worldview "now more than ever" because it has always been, and always will be, imperative for Christians to understand their worldview as long as they wait for Christ's return. But it does seem more urgent in our era of radical swings away from biblical morality, biblical thought, and biblically-influenced common sense.
As readers of Mark Ward's Biblical Worldview: Creation, Fall Redemption will no doubt begin to see, however, "now more than ever" probably best applies to decades past. Thinking and attitudes opposed to biblical truth don't just come from nowhere, but are the natural (or unnatural) result of people succumbing to the effects of the Fall: sinfulness in general, and their own in particular. Ward presents a defense against such wayward thinking by building a thoroughly Christian and biblical worldview piece by piece.
How Does This Work?
As a textbook for high school seniors, Biblical Worldview: Creation, Fall, Redemption is pretty straightforward. There are nine parts (Worldview; Creation; Fall; Redemption; Marriage, Gender Roles & Family; Government & Politics; Science; History; Arts & Culture), each with three chapters that flesh out the major theme of that section. Every few pages readers will find a "Thinking It Through" section with several challenging questions that can be answered by students in writing or can facilitate discussion.
A one-page chapter review at the end of each chapter offers a Scripture memory passage, "Making Connections" questions that help students draw lines between the book's content and the world around them, "Developing Skills in Apologetics and Worldview" questions that help readers learn to defend their faith against challenges, "Examining Assumptions and Evidence" questions that help students investigate secular attitudes and claims, and a "Becoming a Creative Cultivator" challenge prompting students to find constructive ways to put their own worldview to use.
The book is text-heavy, with relatively few images for a volume approaching 500 pages, though the images that are included (mostly full-color photographs) are very attractive. In fact, the whole layout of the book displays a close attention to aesthetic detail, with readable font, logical page layouts, and a full-color painting commissioned particularly for this book appearing at the beginning of each section. At the end you'll find an index, endnotes (which can double as a secondary reading list), and the assigned Scripture memory verses in ESV translation.
Biblical Worldview: Creation, Fall, Redemption is intended for use over one school year. The audience is assumed to be 12th graders, but the depth, rigor, and maturity of the content would make it ideal for older readers as well; because of the probing nature of the study questions, it would probably make an ideal text for a college or adult Bible study or Sunday school class. For high schoolers, close parent or teacher interaction are ideal, but not necessary.
A teacher's edition is available that includes lesson plans with objectives for each module to help you actually instruct your students and to guide conversations. For those using this in a group setting, or if you're uncertain of your ability to adequately digest and present Ward's concepts to others, the teacher's edition is helpful; otherwise, it's not necessary. There is also an answer key for the upcoming student manual (an accompanying worktext) and a key to test questions.
So, what's the content? First of all, this isn't your typical "catalog of worldview options" curriculum. Dr. Mark Ward (who wrote much of the book but oversaw rather than conducted much of the research and organization) focuses on helping readers understand and construct their own biblical worldview rather than comparing it to other options. There is plenty of interaction with non-Christian ideas and philosophies, but no systematic examination of them.
Second, Ward is a Reformed Baptist theologian, so his version of the biblical worldview is covenantal and Reformed, with an emphasis on theological truths rather than philosophical speculation. That's not to say there's no philosophy here, though—Ward does philosophy right, using the theological truths of Scripture to think philosophically about how those might be applied and manifested in the world around us, and in students's lives specifically.
The authors believe all of history can be interpreted and understood within the "creation, fall, redemption" rubric. The chapters in each section reflect this pattern, with the first covering the way God made things, the second how sin has distorted this creational order, and the third what God has done to restore his creation and what role we are to play in that. For instance, the section on science begins with a chapter defending the study of science as a pursuit originally intended by God for humans to embrace, continues with a chapter discussing the many prevalent anti-Christian approaches to science, and ends with a chapter on how Christians might do science in the current climate.
Apologetics junkies will recognize Ward's approach throughout as largely presuppositional, with a strong emphasis on the beliefs and assumptions underlying our interpretation of evidence and facts, rather than on the evidence and facts themselves. He and the other writers channel Cornelius Van Til, Francis Schaeffer, James K. A. Smith, and others (though they are rarely if ever mentioned by name). Jonathan Edwards, on the other hand, is invoked by name several times, and the influence of his theological and philosophical thought is clear.
Ward and his co-writers cover the range of human concerns and activities. They tackle the big-picture questions about God's revelation to man, the coming of Christ, and the ideal life of the Christian. They also explore many topics rarely included in worldview studies, like the nature and importance of Christian vocation, art and beauty, and how a Christian should view and interact with politics. This is where the text's debt to Francis Schaeffer is most plain: while rejecting extreme views like theonomy (on one side) and cultural escape (on the other), the duty of Christians to leave a godly imprint on every aspect of human society and endeavor is deeply stressed.
On matters of contention among Christians themselves the authors remain circumspect. In the section on government and politics they don't take sides against any political party, nor do they try to Christianize things that can't or shouldn't be. Pros and cons of liberalism and conservatism are examined equally, and readers are called to wisdom in matters of voting, supporting political causes, joining parties, and related issues. Readers are reminded of "four Christian political virtues"—prudence, boldness, humility, and respect.
Ward is balanced, but he isn't afraid to make assertions when he believes Scripture calls for them. He is a firm proponent of local church membership, rejects triumphalist eschatologies and theonomy (as mentioned above), states that science is properly the pursuit of Christians, and affirms over and over that our job is not just to point out the flaws in godless or ungodly worldviews but to be active makers and defenders of Christ-imitating culture ourselves.
Due largely to Ward's Reformed roots, there is a strong emphasis throughout on the doctrine of common grace—the idea that God has blessed humanity and creation as a whole with the ability to make, do, and enjoy good things. This becomes a major talking point throughout the book, and is used to help give readers a more nuanced, humble, and merciful attitude. In this and many other matters, C.S. Lewis is invoked and quoted often.
Our Honest Opinion
The thoroughness of the authors's presentation of a Christian worldview, Scriptural analysis of it, and reasoned defense of its application make this a unique and, dare we say, indispensable book. It is essential that Christian parents equip their children with a Christian worldview, and this book is the only one you'll need to get them on the right track. Maintaining a properly Christian worldview is a lifelong activity, but this is an excellent starting place.
At first, it seems like Ward's offering might be just another in the long line of Christian worldview programs for teens. He begins by describing worldview as a set of glasses through which one views everything, an incomplete and worn out analogy that isn't altogether helpful. It soon becomes apparent, however, that this is not simply another Christian worldview manual—Ward launches almost immediately into a description of presuppositions, how we get them, and what we're supposed to do with the ones we have.
From there, what unfolds is a spiritual and intellectual treat that is essentially academic dessert (though harder to digest than tiramisu or apple pie). The thoroughness of the study, the authors's devotion to God's Word and to careful reasoning, and the breadth of topics examined make this a vital piece in a genuinely Christian education. Once students have made it through Biblical Worldview: Creation, Fall, Redemption, all the other seemingly disparate elements of their studies will fall into place.
One of the most valuable sections of the book is the discussion of art. Ward identifies art as composed of three main aspects: truth, goodness, and beauty. A truly great work of art displays all three of these characteristics, and both delights and instructs those who see or read or hear it. Much art, however, displays one or two of these elements, but ignores the others. For instance, Hemingway emphasized truth to the detriment of goodness and beauty; the Romantic poets favored beauty over truth and goodness. Ward's call for art that is true, good and beautiful undermines modern and postmodern assertions that art is simply whatever one makes it, while simultaneously offering an objective standard by which to evaluate all art.
You don't want your kids to leave home without the content of this book firmly lodged in their consciousness. You also don't want them to just breeze through it the way they want to breeze through their math homework: they need to wrestle with the concepts found here and learn to wrestle similarly with everything they encounter in the world around them. This isn't about learning the taxonomy of all the world's available philosophies, it's about internalizing the core components of the Christian worldview, an essential element of living as Christ's disciple in this beautiful yet fallen creation. For those who want to go further, the works of Francis Schaeffer and Cornelius Van Til would make excellent advanced reading. Highly recommended.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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