Elements of a Christian Worldview, edited by Michael D. Palmer and Stanley M. Horton. Springfield, MO: Logion Press, 1998.
Christianity is about holistic transformation of both individuals and communities. This involves a radical reordering of both our thoughts and our lives. In Elements of a Christian Worldview, a number of Christian scholars provoke their readers to engage this process of transformation by exploring the integration of the Christian faith with topics such as worldviews, the role of the Bible, historical Christianity, natural science, human nature, work, leisure, ethics, music, literature, entertainment, and politics. Russell Spittler, Provost and Professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary, in the forward writes, “These wise words will help reflective followers of Jesus know what to avoid in the world, what to shun. But they will aid also in the expansion of appreciation for all that is good in human culture, the collected reflections of God’s highest creatures who, however tarnished and alone among all living beings, embody the image of God.”
Elements of a Christian Worldview consists of twelve chapters, written primarily by scholars within the Pentecostal tradition:
1. Michael D. Palmer, now Professor of Philosophy and Dean of the School of Divinity at Regent University, identifies six elements of any worldview: ideology, narrative, norms, rituals, experience, and the social element. With this analysis of worldviews, Palmer applies distinctively Christian perspectives to each of the six elements. Palmer concludes by making a case for limited pluralism within a Christian worldview framework.
2. Edgar R. Lee, Vice President for Academic Affairs at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, explains the role the Bible has in shaping the elements of a Christian worldview. Lee begins by briefly surveying the biblical record of God’s self-revelation, and promotes an organic view of inspiration that contains the presence of both divine and human elements. Before Lee takes a look at the Bible’s formative role concerning the six elements of a worldview, Lee contrasts the Biblical worldview with Naturalism, Pantheism, and Deism. On the basis of the Bible being an authoritative document in which to construct a Christian worldview, Lee describes biblical ideology, biblical narrative, the normative elements of Scripture, the rituals derived from Scripture, spiritual experience, and the Church as a social institution.
3. Gregory J. Miller, Associate Professor of Church History at Valley Forge Christian College, traces the development of a Christian worldview throughout Church history. First, Miller divides Church history into three general eras: the early Church (30 AD-500 AD), the medieval Church (500 AD-1500 AD), and the modern Church (1500 AD-2000 AD). During the early Church era, Miller points out that Christianity began with a Judaistic worldview in which it slowly departed from in the first hundred years. Miller also points out the historical lessons to be learned from the responses of prominent Christian thinkers during this period to the cultural issues of their day. Next, Miller highlights the influence of monasticism, scholasticism, and Christian mysticism upon the shaping of a Christian worldview during the medieval era. Surveying the modern Church, Miller looks at the Reformation, the Pentecostal/Charismatic movements and the Church’s historic responses to the Enlightenment, Modernism, and Postmodernism.
4. Lawrence T. McHargue, Professor of Biology at Southern California College (now Vanguard University), explains the relationship between a Christian worldview and natural science. He begins by identifying the Greek and Medieval precursors to modern science, as well as its emergence. After describing the scientific method, McHargue goes on to acknowledge three basic assumptions underlying science: 1) Order in nature, 2) Uniformity in nature, and 3) Singularity of causes. While McHargue points out some limitations of science to direct humanity towards a better future, he encourages Christians to engage the natural sciences as a steward of God’s creation with ethical integrity.
5. Billie Davis, Professor Emeritus and former Chair of the Department of Behavioral Sciences at Evangel University, explores the psychological, sociological, and biblical perspectives on human nature. Davis provides a helpful analysis on psychological views in fields such as experimental, clinical, and humanistic psychology. She also surveys various sociological models of human society to determine how these sociological perspectives view human nature. Along with these observations in both psychology and sociology, Davis also gives valuable remarks regarding Christian ways of thinking in these fields of study. Concluding with a description of human nature based on the biblical text, Davis highlights what is meant by the image of God, the relational concept of the Person, and social thought in the both the Old and New Testaments.
6. Miroslav Volf, Professor in Theology at Yale University, writes on the subject of work. Volf provides insightful answers to questions such as, what is work? Why do we work? What is the Purpose of work? Volf understands work to be intrinsically good for humanity, yet he also acknowledges the negative aspects of work brought about by sin and God’s curse. In regards to ecology, Volf points looks at past failures on the part of Christians, and then lays a biblical foundation for environmental sensitivity on the part of human beings. Volf’s last word concerning work, pleads his readers to never dichotomize professional excellence from personal excellence. In other words, we must not strive to gain the whole world, yet forfeit our soul in the process.
7. Charles W. Nienkirchen, Professor of Church History and Spirituality at Rocky Mountain College, offers an essay titled, “Toward a Christian view of leisure.” Nienkirchen begins by describing the development of leisure in a western context. He then surveys the biblical concept of leisure along with historical traditions of Christians regarding this subject. Nienkirchen goes on to define a Christian understanding of leisure in the context of Christian spirituality.
8. Cheryl Bridges Johns, Associate Professor of Discipleship and Christian Formation at the Church of God Theological Seminary, and Vardaman W. White writes on “The ethics of being: character, community, praxis.” As their chapter title suggests, Johns and White propose that ethics is primarily about being rather than doing. This leads them to importance of both character and community. Then the authors integrate both Christian character and Christian community, and describe its impact on society (Christian praxis).
9. Johnathan David Horton, Professor of Music at Lee University, presents a Christian understanding for music. Horton writes about the power of music as well as its source and purpose. He also addresses how music is the medium of meaning, and the various levels of listening. Horton helps his readers recognize all that music communicates, especially when it comes to worldviews.
10. Twila Edwards, Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Evangel University, writes on “The place of literature in a Christian worldview.” Edwards shows the importance of 1) the literary artist’s creativity, 2) literary representations of the fall, 3) literary depictions of redemption, and 4) literature that employs images of Pentecost. Edwards also guides her readers in how to read responsibly, knowing what to read, and knowing what not to read.
11. Terrence Lindvall, Professor of Film and Communication studies at Regent University, and J. Matthew Melton, Chair of Communication and the Arts at Lee University, write a chapter together titled, “Christians and the entertainment media culture.” These authors give useful insights into culture, cultural values, and using discernment in media culture.
12. Dennis McNutt, Professor of History and Political Science at Southern California College (now Vanguard University) writes on “Politics for Christians (and other sinners).” In this chapter, McNutt takes a look at 1) thinking about politics for Christians, 2) human nature and politics, 3) the nature and problem of power, 4) the Church and politics, 5) government, God’s servant, 6) the politics of nations.
Side notes can are found throughout the book containing extra information regarding what is being covered or biographical information of prominent figures of the field of study. In the wide margins of the book there are definitions which help the readers when technical language is used. Also, at the end of each chapter are review and discussion questions, making Elements of a Christian Worldview an excellent educational tool for both small group and classroom settings.
Reviewed by William Molenaar.
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