Previous article in this series: January 1, 2013, p. 163.
We have seen that our own history as Protestant Reformed Churches demands the development of the Reformed worldview. That is necessary in light of the false accusation often brought against us that we hold to a world-flight mentality that would cause us to withdraw from any active engagement with the world in which we live.
Our own history demands development of the Reformed worldview, secondly, because the erroneous idea of common grace underlies much of what is purported to be a Reformed worldview.
There is one man who has been especially influential in this common grace mentality. Dr. Abraham Kuyper’s philosophical (not biblical and exegetical) development of his doctrine of common grace had a profound effect upon the thinking of many in Reformed churches.
Many in the nominally Reformed camp seem to think that the only alternative to a world-flight mentality is to embrace the idea of God’s common grace.
Because of the breadth of Kuyper’s influence, my intention is to treat more carefully Kuyper’s view as I develop in future articles the history of the concept worldview.
In the words of Abraham Kuyper himself, “in the world we should realize the potencies of God’s common grace.”1 He explains that, besides a particular grace that works salvation, there is “also a common grace by which God, maintaining the life of the world, relaxes the curse which rests upon it, arrests its process of corruption, and thus allows the untrammeled development of our life in which to glorify Himself as Creator.”2
What governs our relationship to the world, therefore, is “the recognition that in the whole world the curse is restrained by grace, that the life of the world is to be honored in its independence, and that we must, in every domain, discover the treasures and develop the potencies hidden by God in nature and in human life.”3 Thus Calvinism is “to claim for itself the glory of possessing a well-defined principle and an all-embracing life-system.”4
Peter Heslam, in his examination of Abraham Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism, makes the considered judgment that “Kuyper’s treatment of traditional Reformed doctrine amounted to a radical reinterpretation and reapplication of its central tenets . . . . Thus the doctrine of common grace, which is not a major element in traditional Calvinistic theology, became, under the influence of Kuyper’s objectives, a doctrine of overriding and central importance.”5
Heslam goes on to explain:
. . . Kuyper held to the radical distinction between God’s work in Christ and the work of human beings in culture. Together with his pietistic contemporaries, he held that the whole of creation, including human nature, are fallen and perverted, but he opposed their attempts to advocate cultural withdrawal, claiming that Christianity (particularly in its most advanced, Calvinistic form) was the very means by which culture could be transformed according to God’s ordinances. Common grace served as the theological justification for this argument, providing as it did the necessary bridge across the gap created by the antithesis between the world corrupted by sin and Christ’s work of re-creation.6
. . . The doctrine of common grace, which stood in close association with belief in the cosmic scope of creation, fall, and redemption, provided him with the only sound solution to the problem of Christianity and culture, and supplied an incentive and justification for active Christian pursuit of cultural renewal.7
Given the history of the Protestant Reformed Churches, therefore, it belongs to our calling not only to point out the errors of common grace—which have colossal significance in one’s perspective of the world and how to live in relationship to the world—but also, as those who reject that unbiblical teaching, to develop positively a biblical and Reformed worldview.
But not only is it true that our own history demands development of the Reformed worldview; it is also important, especially in light of the continual development of sin in the world, that we understand our calling as God’s people.
The world is increasingly moved by the spirit of antichrist. The lives of God’s people are more and more challenged. As Scripture makes clear, we are involved in a spiritual warfare.
The question “How then shall we live?” becomes an increasingly urgent question for us to face. It is a question that demands an answer with application to every aspect of life. Because the simple fact is—as Arthur F. Holmes points out in his foreword to David K. Naugle’s book Worldview: The History of a Concept— “. . . Western civilization has become thoroughly secularized; Christianity is regarded as largely irrelevant (or ought to be) to culture and science and learning, reduced to a private and inward affair.”8
It is critically important that we understand the deeply anti-Christian nature of the world in which we live, lest we ourselves be swept away by the deceitfulness of the world. When John writes inunder the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that “the whole world lieth in wickedness,” that has to affect the way in which we view that world. And when Paul writes (Col. 2:8), “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ,” he is warning us that there is a particular perspective that we must have, guided by the rudiments or the fundamental principles of Christ, lest we be consumed by the rudiments of the world.
Our God-rejecting and Christ-denying culture, led by the prince of this world, Satan, the great adversary of the church, would silence us. But our lives as Christians may not be brought to silence. Our faith must not be reduced to an inward “spirituality,” or a simple Sunday observance of religious practices. Because we are those who represent Christ and whose lives are in Him, His glory must be seen in us. We have been recreated to show forth His praise. That which marked the early New Testament church as standing out in stark contrast to the world out of which they had been called must also be seen in us.
What Is a Worldview?
As we approach this study of the Reformed world view, considering the truth and its consequences, defining our terms is important.
While I intend to include in future articles an overview of the historical development of the concept, I will define worldview simply as a comprehensive view of the world and how we ought to live in and relate to this world.
A worldview, therefore, is always guided by a particular way of thinking. Abraham Kuyper’s worldview was guided by what I referred to as his “common grace mentality.” The worldview of many unbelievers is guided by their exaltation of the human mind, even of science falsely so called (). And in the evangelical church community, many would be guided by a very simplistic and less than comprehensive “what would Jesus do.”
When we expand upon the term worldview and add the adjective Reformed, we are speaking about the worldview that is informed by the wisdom of Reformed theology—which is the truth of the Word of God—and therefore guided by and consistent with Reformed thought.
To the Protestant Reformed believer there is another important element we must not overlook.
The truth of God’s covenant, and a proper understanding of covenant theology, is important to an informed and proper Reformed worldview. We regard the truth of the covenant as having a central place in Scripture and as basic to the Reformed faith as pertains to both doctrine and life. As the doctrine of election is the heart of the church, and the cross (the truth of Christ’s atonement) is the heart of the gospel, so a proper understanding of the covenant is the heart of all true religion.
For that reason, when we consider the necessary foundation of the Reformed worldview, we have to understand the place of the doctrine of the covenant in that Reformed worldview.
The proliferation of books in the past 25 years treating a Christian worldview shows a wide diversity in approach and content. In taking up this subject for the Standard Bearer, probably the most difficult task I face is trying to decide what to treat under this heading.
Although in the development of the Reformed worldview other views must be taken into account, it is not my purpose to critique in any depth other philosophical worldviews, whether those of post-modernism, secular humanism, naturalism, nihilism, or Islamic theism. There are other books that do so, even if not from a Reformed position, including David A. Noebel’s Understanding the Times and James W. Sire’s The Universe Next Door.
I will have enough just to develop positively the biblical perspective that must define our Christian calling. In our pluralistic culture it would take volumes to address all the various errors. We live in an age not unlike the period of the Judges, when every man did that which was right in his own eyes. The result is the moral confusion and even chaos seen today in every aspect of society, among both rich and poor.
We must face the question, standing before God, His Word, and our Reformed confessions, “How are we to live?”
Especially important it is that we face that question when we realize that Satan himself seeks to seize the minds of men and women. The clash of worldviews is simply an expression of the ongoing historical and spiritual battle of.
It is my intention, after this introduction, to treat the following:
1. The historical development of the concept of a worldview.
2. The necessary foundation of the Reformed worldview, including the importance of Reformed doctrine, the doctrine of the covenant, the doctrine of the antithesis, and the development of sin.
3. Specific applications of the Reformed worldview, treating such topics as education, the Christian view of labor, the Christian view of personal finance (stewardship), the Christian view of government, the Christian view of war—to mention a sample.
All, God willing.
1 Kuyper, Abraham, Lectures on Calvinism (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1931), 31.
2 Ibid., 30.
3 Ibid., 31.
4 Ibid., 32.
5 Heslam, Peter S., Creating a Christian Worldview, Abraham Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998), 259-260.
6 Ibid., 268-269.
7 Ibid., 270.
8 Naugle, David K., Worldview: The History of a Concept (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002), xiv.