The Lens By Which We Look
Ever since you were a child and could start to think, you had a worldview. What you heard, saw, and experienced shaped what you believed and how you saw the world. Through your teen years, you became able to think about thinking and other abstract things. You became able to reason, so naturally, you start to reason why you believe what you believe. During this crucial time which lasts throughout early adulthood (possibly later), your worldview starts to take shape. Before, it was just a collection of experiences and learnings, now it is a system of belief by which you see everything. It is the lens by which you look.
Understanding worldview is important because the worldview you have determines how you will look at the Bible. No one has ever approached Scripture without a preconceived notion of how things work and how life is to be lived, which means we are all at a disadvantage. How can we be sure we are right about what it says? We gather different things from the same passage; one opinion says this, and another says that. So the question arises, who is right?
When it comes to the scriptures, you must interpret them by the scriptures. What this means is that the interpretation of any text must be in agreement with the rest of the scriptures. The Word of God must be our authority (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:20-21). Although this is the standard procedure for properly understanding Scripture, there lies a problem – our worldview.
Since our worldview is a system of thought through which we understand everything, we automatically systematize the Bible when we read it. We take the idea from the part of the Bible we are reading and place it in the niche we think it should be placed. We are all, what the proper term would be, systematic theologians. That is, we systematize our thoughts about God. So, since our human nature is flawed, our system of thinking is flawed along with our understanding of Scripture. From the best New Testament Greek scholars to the common church-goer, the principle remains the same, our understanding of Scripture is at the mercy of the system through which we view Scripture.
Another problem we face is our appetite for the things of God. We naturally love the darkness rather than the light (John 3:19). The truths of scriptures are not like honey, but rather taste bitter, in fact, our natural appetite despises the Scriptures. We do not naturally submit to the Scripture. Sure we may be able to read the Bible in our sinful state, but we will not understand the full extent of what it teaches, nor want to understand what it teaches. Because of our sin, we are completely unable to both love and understand the Word of God.
Is there any possibility for us to change? Is there a chance that we can gain a proper understanding of the Bible? I believe the answer is yes, so let me explain with two stories.
The first comes from a small camp where I was speaking for a week. During a morning staff meeting, one of the staff recounted to us an instance which happened the previous day. She noticed a group of boys sitting at a picnic table with their Bibles open in front of them. She approached them and asked them what they were reading. They responded by saying that they were reading the book of Romans. This staff member, wanting to learn more about what they were studying, probed further asking them what they were learning from Romans. “We are learning how sinful humans are, and that we all have sin because of Adam,” was the response. Impressed with such an answer, the staff member asked if they knew what happens next, and how we deal with that sin. With eager and excited expressions, they responded, “We don’t know yet, but we’re going to find out!”
These boys’ mentality is the mentality we must have if we are to be Bible people; that is, have a biblical worldview. We must not take anything for granted unless it is plain in scripture. This means that we will have to think about what we read and determine whether the passage we read gives us a clear understanding of the truth portrayed, or if it is something we must set in the light of another passage. A biblical worldview is hard work to obtain, but when obtained, it is the sweetest, most freeing thing, for it enables us to do many things, such as engage in the culture around in such a way that we are not negatively affected by the contrary views we come across. We need to have our worldview shaped by the Bible so we do not use the Bible as a filter to agree with our beliefs. We must start with the Bible and change our beliefs by it, not manipulate the scriptures so that we can ease our consciences. We must not be so proud as to add our opinion in the place where we have not studied or learned from Scripture. Scripture must rule and guide our lives if we are to have a proper Christian worldview.
The second story comes from the eighth chapter of the book of Acts where we find God calling Phillip into the desert. As he was traveling, he saw an Ethiopian eunuch seated in a chariot. The Lord spoke, telling him to go over to where the Ethiopian was. As Phillip approached, he overheard the eunuch reading from the book of Isaiah. Phillip asked the man, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The man replied, “How can I unless someone explains it to me?”
This eunuch may or may not have understood that his worldview affected how he looked at the scriptures. Regardless, we can learn from him. He did not trust his natural ability to understand the Bible. How could he come to a proper understanding of what the text meant to him if he did not know what it was about and the reason it was written? He could not, so he sought the help of one who understood. Phillip explained to the eunuch that the passage from Isaiah 53 was speaking of Jesus and the good news of his death and resurrection. We then read that the eunuch believed and was saved. He had submitted himself to the authority of the Scripture.
Another aspect we must consider when thinking about a biblical worldview is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, as he opened the eunuch’s understanding to the scripture, is the one who teaches us a Biblical worldview. The Holy Spirit is the one who opens our understanding causing us to become true Bible people. By his power, we are enabled to look at everything through the lens of Scripture. He works to transform our taste buds so that we might enjoy the sweetness of the Scripture.
We must, as the Scripture and these two stories display, submit ourselves to the authority of the Scripture, seek help from the Holy Spirit, and follow the guidance from those whose eyes have already been enlightened. By this, we can be confident that we will gain the right understanding of Scripture, and obtain a biblical worldview, strong and steadfast in a world of shifting sands and itching ears.