The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

New Eyes, Not New Glasses

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"ArtIm:

One of the primary concerns of this website is to educate and enable Christians to realize the importance of worldviews. It is our contention that most Christians do not understand why worldview thinking is so critical. It is not that convincing people of the importance of a worldview is a difficult thing, I can communicate this to my children without too much difficulty. The motivation behind any particular action is far more significant than the action itself. Doing the right thing for the wrong reason or doing the wrong thing for the right reason is still wrong. Most people recognize and will readily admit that how we view the world is a key ingredient to what we will do in that world. But the task becomes far more difficult when run in reverse—getting people to admit that their actions are wrong because they stem from wrong beliefs.

While the concept of worldview is certainly familiar to most readers, it never hurts to remind ourselves of what we’re up against when we discuss the topic. W. Andrew Hoffecker ably summarizes it this way:

Widespread use of worldview in other academic fields [outside of Philosophy departments] testifies to its significance in the abstract world of ideas, and to its implications for every form of human activity. One’s worldview, or world-and-life view, consists of one’s most basic beliefs and framework of understanding. Basic beliefs can be expressed by several terms—ideas, assumptions, convictions, presuppositions, and premises. Directly or indirectly, basic beliefs influence every dimension of human life: they guide thought, stimulate imagination, influence intuition, direct moral choices, and determine the value and priority given to each of these faculties. Collectively, basic beliefs function as the grid or matrix by which we comprehend reality and attempt to live consistently within that framework. [1]

A worldview has often been compared to a pair of eyeglasses. Using this analogy, a worldview—like a set of corrective lenses—affects how we see everything. In other words, a proper worldview should correct how we normally "see" the world, putting everything back into proper perspective and clarity. But this analogy is deficient because it seems to indicate that a "worldview" is only necessary when our normal way of "seeing" becomes fuzzy. We don’t just need corrective lenses, we need new eyes. Our normal way of seeing is one that seems right, but ends in death (Proverbs 14:12, 16:25). Most worldview teaching and training focuses so heavily on correcting bad eyesight, that it never thinks to question why the eyesight was so bad in the first place. It’s like building an elaborate system of buckets and hoses, rather than simply fixing the hole in the roof.

J. Mark Bertrand illustrates the problem with the worldview-as-glasses analogy (although he’s not trying to do this) with a story from his own life:

Growing up, I was the kid who preferred reading to recess and chose the library over the playground whenever possible. My parents always warned me about reading in poor light, but let’s face it: low lighting sets the mood. I’m not sure when my vision began to deteriorate, but at some point, perhaps as early as junior high, I became nearsighted.
    This isn’t a problem when you read—to this day, I can read without the aid of glasses—but it can definitely cause trouble when you’re trying to catch a football. Fortunately, bookworms don’t do much of that, so it wasn’t until I learned to drive that my vision became a problem.
    One afternoon I was riding home from high school with my cousin Jeff. He had recently gotten glasses and as he drove, he read off the signs that we passed. I was amazed at how far he could see. Up until that moment, I had never suspected that my own vision was faulty, and to be honest, I didn’t even wonder then. Instead, I remember thinking that Jeff’s glasses must have given him better than 20/20 vision, since he could see even farther than I could. I just assumed that whatever I could see was the objective standard…
    It is amazing to think that a young man with what I later discovered was 20/80 vision was capable of performing normally in every area of life (aside from catching footballs), never suspecting the deficiency of vision. [2]

Bertrand goes on to describe his own obliviousness to his poor eyesight until he was driving one night on unfamiliar roads. His vision failed him when he needed it most. Ready to swear off driving altogether, his father recommended an eye-exam instead. The resulting eyeglass prescription was a revelation of just how bad his vision really was. But he never would have known this unless he had compared his own eyes against a "standard" of good vision. It took many years for Bertrand to realize that there was anything amiss with his eyes. He figured that this was the way everyone saw the world.

But as helpful and necessary as his eyeglasses are for driving, Bertrand tells us that he really doesn’t need his glasses to read. This is where I think the analogy for worldview breaks down. We typically think of glasses as something we need to help us do a particular task. Bertrand needs his glasses to drive and catch footballs, but not to read. But this is exactly the opposite of a worldview. A worldview is something that we are never without. There is no activity or moment in the day when our worldview doesn’t filter "reality." The idea of glasses puts us back in control, deciding when and where to put on our "worldview corrective lenses." This completely misses the point that there are a multitude of times each day when we think we are seeing clearly, but in reality, we aren’t. Like Bertrand, we assume that how we see the world is the objective standard, that we only need to get out our "worldview specs" when things begin to get fuzzy. The truth of the matter is that it was fuzzy the entire time before we began to realize it. We don’t need glasses; we need new eyes. Sadly, most worldview thinking doesn’t seem to get this most basic point.

But there is a glimmer of hope. In a review of James Smith’s new book, Desiring the Kingdom, Eric Miller writes this:

For Smith, worldview-centered education reflects a continued understanding of human beings as primarily rational creatures, moved and animated mainly by ideas. From this assumption has come a particular form of education—very much in line with the secular academy—that elevates the classroom and privileges fact, argument, and belief. To those who espouse this view, Smith poses one fundamental question in the form of a thought experiment: "What if education wasn’t first and foremost about what we know, but about what we love?" [3]

It is a shame that this question has been so long in coming. If Miller is correctly summarizing Smith, we can congratulate Smith for finally coming to understand what homeschooling families have been saying for years. A true education is not just about information, but a relationship. Education is moral first, ethical second. Trust must be established before training can begin. Worldview education is not primarily about being a corrective lens, it is about transplant surgery. The cold, hard facts of most worldview education leaves out the key component of the entire process: the heart. It’s not as though we fail to see things God’s way due to a lack of facts, we fail to see God’s way due to misplaced affections. We don’t love God with all of our heart, soul, and strength, so we can’t possibly love Him with all of our mind. Spending a bunch of time training our minds in a biblical worldview is pointless if our hearts are far from Him.

Endnotes:

[1]  W. Andrew Hoffecker, "Preface," Revolutions in Worldview: Understanding the Flow of Western Thought (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 2007), xi.
[2]
  J. Mark Bertrand, Rethinking Worldview (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007, 27.
[3] 
Eric Miller, "Putting Worldview in its Place," Christianity Today, August 2009, 55.

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