Have you ever tried to put a puzzle together without looking at the picture on the box? It’s a losing proposition. Is that red and orange puzzle piece in your hand part of a tree, a barn, a bonfire – or have your kids mixed the puzzle pieces again? Without some overarching vision for what the whole puzzle looks like, the individual pieces make little sense.
Think of a worldview as your “picture on the box” for life. How do all the pieces of life fit together? Do they even fit together? Your worldview is the way in which, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously, you answer questions like these.
But there’s a problem: that “unconscious” part in the last paragraph. Too often the way we interpret the world goes by us unnoticed. We act out of unexamined beliefs. We hope in things or people without questioning if they are worthy objects of our hope. We need to slow down and ask ourselves the why question: why did that bother me so much? Why am I convinced I should be treated that way? Why does that outcome excite (or disappoint) me so much? Here are five questions that will help us examine a worldview, ours or anyone else’s.
1) Who is God?
We could expand the question to include even an atheistic worldview: who is in ultimate control? The best way to answer this question is with this thought experiment. Think of all the verbs the Bible uses to describe our relationship to God. Love. Serve. Worship. Trust. Obey. Sacrifice for. Devote yourself to. Seek. Fear. Find refuge in. Now consider: which of those verbs applies to something other than God in your life? Of course for each of these there is a secondary sense in which they might apply to something or someone else. It’s appropriate to love your spouse, to serve your coworkers, or to sacrifice for your family – but only if the loving, serving, and sacrificing is done with God in the picture. These verbs all describe the way humans are intended to relate to their Creator and Redeemer. Idolatry happens when anything else takes God’s place. So ask yourself: who or what is my functional god?
It’s impossible to give a short version of the biblical answer to this question, but here are three categories. God is Creator – your Creator, my Creator, and the Creator of all that is. Moreover, God is Redeemer – through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, God is redeeming all what sin has ruined. Finally, God is Triune – one God, three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
2) Who am I?
Hint: we’re after more here than the information on your Social Security Card. What’s your identity? What’s most true, most significant, about you? Is it your genes? Is it your past sins, or past experiences of being sinned against? Your looks? Age? Job? Resume? Skills? Relationship status? Are you your sexuality?
None of these is a sufficient description of who we are – and yet all of them are potential false answers, wrong answers that will lead to wrong actions. If your looks or youth is your identity, then aging will destroy you. If your career is your identity, losing your job will ruin your life.
The Bible gives a different answer than any of these. Who are you? First and foremost, you are a man or woman made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). Second, you are a sinner. I know, that sounds harsh – but it’s true. But think about this: if you’re defined by your genetics, your past, or your looks, the only way to deal with your problems is medication, therapy, or Botox. If your problem is sin, there’s a remedy. His name is Jesus. And if you’ve encountered him, there’s a third thing that’s true about you: you are in Christ, joined to him by his Spirit in you, and nothing can break that union.
3) What’s the problem?
Everyone believes there’s something wrong with the world. Even the most laid-back, hippie flower child you’ll ever meet thinks the problem with the world is that people are too uptight about their problems. All of us instinctively recognize something is rotten in Denmark. What is it? Is it a lack of education? Income inequality? The wrong political party in office? Or maybe it’s smaller scale: no spouse. The wrong spouse. A loser boss. Disobedient kids. Not enough time off. Not enough money. What is it that’s wrong in your world, or the world at large?
The Bible’s answer is sin. Sin, God’s curse upon it, and all that flows from that curse is what is wrong with this world. Every human woe, every tear, every groan, can be traced back to our rebellion against God. Give a wrong answer to this question, and you will fail to deal with the ultimate problem. Which leads us to the question four.
4) What’s the solution?
These two questions are inextricably linked. Identifying the problem will naturally lead you to identifying the solution. Is the problem poor health? Then fitness, or a natural diet, or medical experts will be your saviors. Is the problem no spouse? Then the guy who asked you out becomes not just a first date but a potential redeemer from all that’s wrong with your life.
But false redeemers always disappoint. Only Jesus is capable of delivering us from what’s truly wrong with us. He works from the inside out: total cleansing from our guilt and shame, ongoing transformation into who we were meant to be, life beyond the grave, and one day a new resurrected body in which we will enjoy a new heavens and earth. And that leads us to the last question.
5) Where are we going?
What’s in the last chapter of your story? Is it a white picket fence and happily ever after? Retirement at the beach condo? Enough money to never worry about bills again? What do you dream of before you fall asleep at night? What do you hope you’ll one day, finally, achieve? What exactly would arriving look like? We can answer those questions on a personal level, and we can answer them on a grand, humanity-wide level. What’s the trajectory of human life? Where is humanity headed: utopia? Heaven on earth? The collapse of civilization and a Dark Ages remix?
The Bible’s final answer is clear. The last chapter of history is the completion of God’s great work of redemption. Jesus Christ will return and bodily raise every human being who has ever lived. We will all face his judgment: eternal life for those who have believed the gospel, and eternal judgment for those who reject it (John 5:28-29; 2 Thess. 1:5-10). Then the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Hab. 2:14). Then every tear will be wiped away (Rev. 21:4). Then we will enter into the joy of our master (Matt. 5:21, 23). Then, in a renewed heavens and renewed earth, we will experience all that God intended for his creation. That’s where we’re going – and no one but King Jesus can take us there.
Scripture doesn’t answer all our questions – but its answers to these five questions do give us the big picture necessary to fit all the pieces of the puzzle together. And only these answers are a sufficient foundation for life in God’s world.
Photo by Kevin Dooley