The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

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In 1960, J. B. Phillips wrote a little book with an extraordinary title—Your God is Too Small. “For many persons,” he pointed out, “the greatest stumbling block to mature faith lies in the fact that they haven’t found a God big enough for their needs—big enough to ‘account for’ life, and to command their respect and worship.”[1] What’s true of peoples’ perception of God is also true about their perception of His creation. Many Christians have shunned involvement in the world beyond personal piety because they misinterpret certain passages about God’s creation similar to the way they misinterpret passages about God Himself. If God is ineffectual in His being to accomplish great things for the individual, how could anyone imagine that God could or would accomplish great things for His creation?

The first efforts of the early church were to minister to the needs of its members. This included seeing that widows were not “being overlooked in the daily serving of food” (Acts 6:1). In our modern welfare economy, those least able to care for themselves are most often turned over to government agencies for assistance and made dependant on the State, so their last state has become worse than the first (Luke 11:26). James writes that “pure and undefiled religion” consists of visiting “orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27). In the same verse, he exhorts Christians to keep themselves “unstained by the world.” Therefore, it cannot be considered “worldly” to be involved in activities that are not solely evangelistic. On the other hand, works of mercy often lead to evangelistic opportunities: “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16; James 2:16).

Paul makes a similar application of what a new creature in Christ is to do: “Let him who steals steal no longer; but rather let him labor, performing with his own hands what is good, in order that he may have something to share with him who is in need” (Eph. 4:28). In another place, Paul exhorts Christians to settle disputes not requiring capital punishment by using the government of the church and its officers: “Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints?” (1 Cor. 6:1–11).

Henry Morris explains in his book The Biblical Basis for Modern Science, that the Bible’s approach to worldview issues is comprehensive and includes science, technology, the humanities, commerce, law, civil government, and education, in short, every facet of human culture:

[L]ong before [the Great Commission] another great commission was given to all men, whether saved or unsaved, merely by virtue of being men created by God in His image. It also had worldwide scope, and has never been rescinded. It had to do with implementing God’s purpose in His work of creation, just as Christ’s commission was for implementing His work of salvation and reconciliation.[2]

Morris says that the command to subdue the earth means “bringing all earth’s systems and processes into a state of optimum productivity and utility, offering the greatest glory to God and benefit to mankind.”[3]Writing in the Introduction to Carl Henry’s The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism, Harold J. Ockenga wrote, “A Christian world- and life-view embracing world questions, societal needs, personal education ought to arise out of Matt. 28:18–20 as much as evangelism does. Culture depends on such a view, and Fundamentalism is prodigally dissipating the Christian culture accretion of centuries, a serious sin. A sorry answer lies in the abandonment of societal fields to the secularist.”[4]

The church has a long history of applying all the Bible to all of life. “Throughout American history, the moral principles of Judeo-Christian ethics have been used as one of many effective tools to evaluate and reform a wide variety of social structures, and have continued to be invoked in political debates.”[5] This perspective is best exemplified in the life and work of the Puritans who applied the Bible to work, marriage, economics, family, education, politics, social ethics, social action, as well as personal piety, devotion, worship, and theological study. “Puritanism was a movement in which the Bible was central to everything.”[6] We would do well to follow their example.

Endnotes:

[1] J. B. Phillips, Your God is Too Small (New York: Macmillan, 1960).
[2] Henry M. Morris, The Biblical Basis for Modern Science (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1984), 41.
[3] Morris, The Biblical Basis for Modern Science, 41.
[4] Harold J. Ockenga, “Introduction,” Carl F. H. Henry, The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1947), xiv.
[5] Susan Pace Hamill, “An Argument for Tax Reform Based on Judeo-Christian Ethics,” Alabama Law Review 54:1 (Fall 2002), 3–4. I do not agree with all of Hamill’s conclusions or application of a Judeo-Christian ethic, but her underlying historic claims are correct.
[6] Leland Ryken, Worldly Saints: The Puritans As They Really Were (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan/Academie, 1986), 13.

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