As people go through the developmental stages of life, they process through questions related to the meaning of life:
- Who are we?
- What will happen when we die?
- When did life begin and when did it go downhill?
- Where are we headed on this earth? Why are we here?
These questions are foundational to worldview. Albert M. Wolters’ discusses in his book Creation Regained a definition of worldview, examines the major components of a proper worldview, and how it impacts the way God’s people live.
From the start, Wolters clearly states the purpose of his book:
He demonstrates this in three main movements:
- defining ‘worldview’ (chapter 1),
- developing worldview with the biblical narrative (chapters 2-4), and
- demonstrating the implications of this worldview (chapter 5).
Wolters begins the assessment of his thesis by stating that everyone has a worldview, “however inarticulate he or she may be in expressing it” (4). There are a set of principles and visions concerning what one believes about all things and where everything is going. Essentially, a worldview is “the comprehensive framework of one’s basic beliefs about things” (2).
For example, when someone reads of an incoming pandemic or the aftermath of a natural disaster, there are certain reactions to these types of events based on what one believes about the world and where it is going. Christians may view these events in light of the sovereignty of God, sin, and the incoming redemption whereas Nihilists (those who view life as meaningless) shrug their shoulders in indifference.
In short, “our worldview functions as a guide to our life” (5). Without articulating a worldview, one would not be able to accurately interact with these questions and ideas in a sufficient manner.
Philosophy and Theology
Before Wolters unpacks the main components of a worldview, he begins with 2 basic ideas that compromise every worldview.
- On the one hand is philosophy which is concerned with the structure of things: “the unity and diversity of creational givens” (10-11). Essentially, the basic nature of all things in the created order.
- On the other hand is theology which is concerned with the direction of things: “the evil that infects the world and the cure that can save it” (11).
Within this simple framework a worldview can be constructed.
Creation, Fall, Redemption
Wolters’ worldview comprises 3 basic parts: “the original good creation, the perversion of that creation through sin, and the restoration of that creation in Christ” (12). In short, he employs the redemptive narrative (creation, fall, and redemption) in his construction.
The first major component of a worldview is creation, or “the correlation of the sovereign activity of the Creator and the created order” (14).
The structure of creation is “wholly and unambiguously good” (48). Although it is hard to believe, there was a time when sin did not infect creation.
Wolters sums up the direction of creation in the continuing creation humanity is to do: “Although God has withdrawn from the work of creation, he has put an image of himself on the earth with a mandate to continue” (41).
Essentially, humanity is to “civilize” the garden God has given them (42).
The second major component of a worldview is the fall, or the “event of catastrophic significance for creation as a whole. … The effects of sin touch all of creation” (53).
The structure of the fall is that “sin neither abolishes nor becomes identified with creation. … [E]vil does non [sic] have the power of bringing to naught God’s steadfast faithfulness to the works of his hands” (57). Although sin has had a devastating effect on the goodness of God’s original creation, the sin resulting from the fall has not undone what God has declared in the garden—his creation is still good.
In fact, the direction of the fall is “that wherever anything wrong exists in the world, anything we experience as antinormative, evil, distorted, or sick, there we meet the perversion of God’s good creation” (55). The fall’s orientation is the perversion of what God has created.
Sin and evil must be taken into account to develop a holistic worldview.
The final major component of a worldview is redemption, or “the recovery of creational goodness through the annulment of sin and the effort toward the progressive removal of its effects everywhere” (83).
Redemption is structured by “return[ing] to an originally good state or situation” (69). God has created everything good and has provided a sufficient means of atonement—everything will be redeemed.
In fact, this is the telos, or the direction, of redemption: “that remedy [for sin] is brought in solely for the purpose of recovering a sinless creation” (71).
God will not settle; he will remove the stain of sin from his good creation.
The main implication from the reformational worldview he develops is erasing the divide between sacred and secular (82).
Recently, there was a trend in Christianity that arose out of the fundamentalist and liberal controversy of the 19th and 20th centuries that fundamentalists viewed the world as Plato did—dualistically. Wolters illustrates the dualism often held by Christians today who were impacted by this distinction on pages 81-82.
In short, something (like church, family, politics, etc.) is either in the Kingdom of God or it was in the world (81-82). Wolters argues that this is not the case for “[b]oth God and Satan lay claim to the whole of creation, leaving nothing neutral or undisputed” (81).
Rather than this sharp divide, there is 1 sphere that is warred over by both the Kingdom of God and the world (82). When redemption is finally fulfilled, this war will cease, and the Kingdom of God will not be affected by the “world.”
I highly recommend this book to those who are desiring to take a deeper dive in their understanding of worldview.
One of Wolters’ strong points in this work is that he provides a coherent, basic framework to structure one’s beliefs around to make sense of the world in which they live. It accurately accounts for the goodness of creation along with the fall and impending completion of redemption without getting too bogged down in the details.
He offers wonderful advice in the “Preface to the Second Edition” that I did in my undergraduate program. He encourages his readers to interact with The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story by Craig G. Bartholomew and Michael W. Goheen.
Whereas Wolters provided the skeleton to an understanding of worldview, Bartholomew and Goheen provided the meat, or substance, of a worldview by diving into the Scriptures. These 2 resources in conjunction with each another will help those seeking to develop a coherent and complete worldview.
This was originally an academic paper submitted to Drs. Bradly Matthews and Robert Kim in Christian Formation & Calling at Covenant Theological Seminary. This post has been modified from its original submission.