It is probably not surprising that a biblical worldview will first and foremost start with a biblical view of God. The Bible itself begins with this concept. Everyone has some concept of God (or ultimate reality), and that concept ultimately determines much else about their worldview. Consequently, your concept of God determines your view of reality, humanity, law, truth, justice, mercy, love, the future, and everything else.
The Triune Creator God
The very first verse of Scripture starts with the biblical God: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
While some theologians would disagree with me here, I believe the triunity of God (Trinity) is evident in this passage. First, the word “God” is in the plural form in Hebrew: Elohim. Technically, we could translate this word as “Gods.” This, however, does not indicate a vestige of polytheism, as some critics would argue. All the verbs in relation to this “Gods” are in the singular form: “created” (v. 1), “moved” (v. 2), “said” (v. 3), “saw” (v. 4), “called” (v. 5) (also “called” in v. 10, and “created” in v. 27 are singular forms). In other words, only one “He” called, and only one “He” created, etc. God is revealed to us as a single God. Yet Genesis shows Him both as a plurality and as a singularity. God is both, and both are equally ultimate—one and three.
How do we know the plurality is three? It is evident in verses 2–3, in the phrases “and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said. . . .” This is less explicit here than in other places, but the God-Spirit-Word pattern reveals it. God creates, the Spirit moves, God creates via his Word, and yet there is One God, the Creator.
The same image is repeated, by the way, later with Christ, who is the New Creation. Matthew 3:16–17 portrays Jesus coming up out of the water with the Spirit hovering over Him as a dove and the voice/word of the Father proclaiming Jesus the Son (see also Mark 1:10–11; Luke 3:21–22). There the three—Father, Son, Spirit—are explicit and repeat the same imagery as here in the original creation narrative.
The Creator-Creation Distinction
A key feature of Genesis 1:1 is that it shows a clear distinction between the Creator and the creation. While this may seem obvious to many Christians, not as many realize it is a crucial feature of the biblical worldview that separates it from all other major views—and in crucial ways.
Several scholars have noted how this verse sets the biblical worldview in contrast to all others. For example, creation scientist Henry Morris states that “this one verse refutes all of man’s false philosophies concerning the origin and meaning of the world.” Consider the following:
- It refutes atheism (“there is no God”), because the universe was created by God.
- It refutes pantheism (the universe, or everything, is God), because God is transcendent to and separate from his creation.
- It refutes polytheism (there are many Gods), because there is only one Creator.
- It refutes materialism (only matter exists and is eternal), because matter had a beginning and the Creator is not material, nor is all of the creation even necessarily material.
- It refutes dualism (there are two Gods, or principles, good and evil, in eternal conflict), because the One God was alone before he created (no Jedi-vs.-Sith problem here!).
- It refutes humanism, because God, not man, is the ultimate reality, sovereign, and measure of the universe; man is created in God’s image (Gen. 1:26–28), not the other way around.
- It refutes evolutionism, because God created the universe. It did not evolve on its own.
- It refutes unitarianism (God is only one person), because elohim is plural and the other persons of God are seen in the immediate verses. This applies to the views of Islam, Judaism, liberal Unitarianism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others.
- It refutes Hinduism and forms of Buddhism, Gnosticism, and Platonism (the material world is an illusion), because God created a real, material heavens and earth, and he later calls it all “good.”
There are probably more ways we could apply the biblical worldview of God in this way, but these are some of the most common.1
Two basic worldview ideas flow from the biblical Creator-Creation distinction. First, God is not the creation. He is separate, distinct, and transcendent from it. Second, the creation is not God. It is created, subject and subordinate to God. It is wholly owned and controlled by God.
One of the most important features of this worldview is the fact that there is no “chain of being” from the ultimate reality to man, or any part of the creation. No part of creation—and thus no man or woman—can claim to be a God or to have ultimate sovereignty. No creation of man—no family, church, religion, corporation, or government can claim sole authority over all others, for all are subject to God and his law. Likewise, none can claim ultimate authority over any aspect of creation—not even the slightest aspect. All of creation is subject ultimately to God, and thus whatever authority exists in creation exists as a stewardship ultimately to God (see Rom. 13:1–4).
Under the materialistic, humanistic, or evolutionary worldviews, mankind is ultimately a product of the universe itself, with no transcendent authority over all—just matter. In this worldview, logically, whichever person or persons emerges as most powerful and dominant will serve as the “word of god” in society, so to speak, imposing its will upon others with no higher recourse. The biblical worldview rejects this. It says might does not make right, but that might must submit to the rule of law—the law of the God of the universe. All persons, therefore, have the right to appeal to the rule of law over and above even the most powerful of other men.
The theologian Cornelius Van Til once wrote, “All forms of heresy, those of the early church and those of modern times, spring from this confusion of God with the world. All of them, in some manner and to some extent substitute the idea of man’s participation in God for that of his creation by God.”2
The Christian Confession
Christian creeds and confessions have grown very detailed and complex over time, and touch upon various branches of theology; but the core “ecumenical” creeds of the ancient church are all simply structured upon the biblical God himself. The Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed are both structured in three parts according to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Athanasian creed is a long, detailed creed focused specifically on the doctrine of the Trinity, hard-core! Later, the Creed of Chalcedon focused upon the dual nature of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as both fully God and fully man—a unique being in all history, which we will cover later.
In all of these fundamental creeds of the Christian faith, the biblical worldview of God is either the whole subject, or the whole structure of the outlook.
There is often debate today about which is the most primary and fundamental aspect of the Christian confession: is it the doctrine of Scripture, or the doctrine of God? Some of the Reformed confessions begin with Scripture first, for it is from this that we derive our knowledge of and about God. The Thirty-Nine Articles of the Anglican Church properly, I think, begins with the doctrine of the Trinity. This is more in line with Scripture and with the historic Christian approach.
This is, however, ultimately an issue relating to the Creator-Creation distinction. Those who would approach it with Scripture as primary are looking at it from the side of man and the creation—how do we come to know God. Others come from the side of God the Creator and Revealer who must first exist for the rest of it to have any existence or meaning at all.
Ultimately, John Calvin noted it best when he said that both of these notions are ultimately intertwined. All of our knowledge consists of the knowledge of God and the knowledge of ourselves (creation). To know ourselves fully, we must know God fully; and to know God fully, we must understand his revelation in creation, ourselves, fully. But the question for us today is not the knowledge of God, for that presupposes that someone exists separately already in order to know him. The question rather is which aspect is primary in the biblical worldview, and the answer is clearly that we must presuppose the biblical, triune God as primary, even if we learn about him first from the Scriptures.
God and Godly Society
The biblical worldview of God has important meaning for all areas of life. We have already seen how it relates in the most fundamental way to our existence, authority, and law in this world. We have also seen that God is a perfect unity and perfect plurality. The individuals do not lose their identities, are not absorbed into a mass or collective, and yet there is a true unity which is not lost in the multiplicity of individuals.
God is therefore a society. He is the perfect society, and the model for all others. Within the society of Himself, He has social relations. For example, in Genesis 1:27, God communicates among His Persons within Himself: “Let us make man in our image. . . .”
This social God is the model for human society. In family society, two people (a plurality) join to become “one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). These two/one are to be fruitful and “multiply,” creating one family of multiple individuals all bearing the same image.
The same is true in church society. The one body of Christ is made of up of many individual members (1 Cor. 12). The oneness of the body does not eliminate the individuality of the members or their diverse gifts, nor does the diversity of the many individuals eliminate the special unity of the body.
Likewise, with civil society. A civil covenant creates a legal corporation (“body”) in which a nation or people are held in unity to civil laws and sanctions. This bond does not (should not) infringe on individual rights, but instead protects them. Yet neither is there anarchy or chaos: radical individualism does not destroy the unity of the political and legal system—including the recognition of a single body of political and human rights, and the rule of one law, applied equally to all.
In practice, if these three instituted societies—family, church, and state—do not recognize the sovereignty of the Triune God and His Word/Law as the blueprint for their respective societies, they will fall to one or other of the extremes. Either a collective tyranny will ensue (socialism, communism, etc.) or radical individualism will assert itself (anarchy, revolution, vigilantism). All non-biblical worldviews tend toward one of these extremes, usually ending in some form of the collective.
In the end we have the biblical God, his creation, his word, his rule in history, his blessings or cursings in history, and his reign into the future.
- See Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Record: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Book of Beginnings (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House and San Diego, CA: Creation-Life Publishers, 1976); and Jonathan D. Sarfati, The Genesis Account: A Theological, Historical, and Scientific Commentary on Genesis 1–11 (Powder Springs, GA: Creation Book Publishers, 88–89.(↩)
- Quoted in Gary North, The Dominion Covenant, 3n2.(↩)