A Book Review from Books At a Glance
Reviewed by Cole Felix
A Barna study, published in May of this year, found that non-Christian worldviews are beginning to have a stronger effect than orthodoxy on what Christians believe. More than 20% of Christians strongly agreed with the statement, “What is right or wrong depends on what an individual believes,” and 54% embraced at least one of the statements identified as postmodern. Among the various alternative worldviews considered, New Spirituality was most favored, claiming agreement from 61% of Christians.
Not surprisingly, worldview is a resurgent topic in Christian publishing, and The Beauty and Glory of a Christian Worldview is a valuable addition. The chapters were originally delivered as lectures at the Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary Annual Conference in 2016. With the exception of Derek Thomas (Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina, and professor at RTS, Atlanta), the contributors teach at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary and Belhaven University. And, as the reader quickly gathers in the introduction, this collection of their essays is essentially an examination of worldview that draws from the writings of the Puritans.
The book is divided into three sections, each consisting of three chapters. The first section, “Foundational Truths for the Christian’s Mind,” begins with an essay on the Trinity by Derek Thomas. It’s a strictly doctrinal, foundational piece and doesn’t address worldview as such. He begins by framing the doctrine through God’s unfolding revelation of himself in the Scriptures: There is one God, but the Bible also teaches that “there is more than one who is that one God” (4). The chapter surveys the biblical evidence for the divinity and unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, followed by a brief word about the operations of the Trinity as a whole.
The second and third chapters situate the reader in the larger worldview discussion. In chapter 2, Michael Barrett surveys the worldview of the Old Testament through the lens of Ecclesiastes. Here, he introduces the major, uniting theme of the volume, that the sovereignty of God is the cornerstone of the Christian worldview. Barrett shows this to be true in Ecclesiastes, as well as the rest of the Old Testament, as he discusses God’s wisdom, infallible judgment, and supreme reality.
In chapter 3, Joel Beeke and Paul Smalley pick up on “The Worldview of the Puritans.” As is typical of Beeke’s work, the chapter is a doctrinal and historical tour de force. He points to God’s fatherly sovereignty as the uniting theme of the Puritan worldview and traces the implications of their Scriptural commitments through the areas of godliness, family piety, church reformation, economics, and politics. This chapter – the crown jewel of the collection and the longest chapter by far — could be expanded into a multi-volume set. Following the Puritans, it provides a biblical perspective from which Christians might view all of life.
Section 2 builds on the first three chapters by providing “Formative Truths for the Christian’s Life.” These three chapters cover topics commonly treated in worldview literature; identity, sexuality, and suffering. Derek Thomas opens the section with a treatment of Colossians 3:1-17, “The Christian Worldview for Daily Life,” in which he engages the core questions, “Who is God?” and “Who are we?” and he grounds our identity in being found in Christ.
Next, Mark Kelderman handles the topic of sexuality. On a broad social level, this is one of the fiercest worldview battlegrounds and one in which Christians are consistently challenged. Kelderman’s two major contributions to this discussion are 1. that the Bible views sexuality as a holistic enterprise encompassing the mind, body, and spirit, and not simply a physical interaction between two people, and 2. that the Christian worldview leads to greater joy and fulfillment than the alternatives.
The last chapter in the section, “A Christian Worldview of Suffering” by Brian Cosby, begins, of course, with the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and then provides five explanations of suffering from a biblical perspective. He concludes with an encouragement for all believers, and ministers in particular, to walk with those who are afflicted; not with empty platitudes or shallow worldly comfort, but oriented on the unfailing promise of God’s sovereign and mighty love for his people.
The final section, “Flaming Truths for the Christians Zeal,” lives up to its name. In two of these chapters, Charles Barrett covers 1 Peter and Hebrews 12:1-3, encouraging believers to live a life of hope in the midst of discouraging and dangerous surroundings. He admonishes every believer to live out of an identity established in Christ, and, though this leads to alienation from the world, “hope prevails through life’s trials, not by our own strength, but by God’s faithfulness to keep, safeguard, and preserve both our inheritance and us” (102).
In the last chapter, Gerald Bilkes looks at the Christian worldview in light of the Great Commission, urging believers to root their personal missions in Christ’s overarching mission to unite his people to himself. Everything is summed up in Christ and our relationship with him.
There are some enduring gems in this volume. The relentless and passionate commitment to the sovereignty of God, in all things, is a refreshing and encouraging answer to the crisis-mentality in American Christianity. And the level of scholarship is often helpful and informative.
The major weakness has more to do with the process of compiling conference messages into a book than with the content of any particular chapter. A unifying introduction or conclusion would have helped, particularly if it had engaged with current worldview literature. For instance, James Sire’s work was footnoted, but the great bulk of outside material was from the Puritans.
Nevertheless, each chapter in this volume is valuable and edifying. And I found Derek Thomas’s observation particularly compelling: “To put it simply, the worldview of the Christian life is seeing no one in the picture but Jesus” (69).
Cole Felix is Pastor of College Ministry and Adult Education at Crossings Community Church and a Ph.D. student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Buy the books
THE BEAUTY AND GLORY OF THE CHRISTIAN WORLDVIEW, edited by Joel R. Beeke