If you have any exposure to Christianity, then no doubt you’ve heard the expression “biblical worldview.”
On the surface, the phrase is self-explanatory: interpreting every aspect of life through the context of the Bible. Unfortunately, there are almost as many definitions of “biblical worldview” as there are Christians, and not every relevant social or political issue today is directly addressed in a compilation of writings several millennia old.
In my experience, though, part of having a “biblical worldview” was simply regarding everything secular with a grain of skepticism, an outlook that Molly Worthen addresses in a piece for the New York Times:
Conservative evangelicals are not the only ones who think that an authority trusted by the other side is probably lying. But they believe that their own authority — the inerrant Bible — is both supernatural and scientifically sound, and this conviction gives that natural human aversion to unwelcome facts a special power on the right. This religious tradition of fact denial long predates the rise of the culture wars, social media or President Trump, but it has provoked deep conflict among evangelicals themselves…
The phrase is not as straightforward as it seems. Ever since the scientific revolution, two compulsions have guided conservative Protestant intellectual life: the impulse to defend the Bible as a reliable scientific authority and the impulse to place the Bible beyond the claims of science entirely.
It’s no wonder the phrase “fake news” resonates so deeply with evangelicals. Facts that don’t mesh with their beliefs have to be wrong because the alternative would be too devastating to consider.
I heard plenty about the necessity of having a “biblical worldview” during my year-long stint in seminary. My experiences with fellow students from the Bible Belt were somewhat traumatic, to say the least, but I am grateful for the handful of professors I had who were brave enough to admit that there is no singular definition for this term.
Many Christians bristle at hearing different opinions from their peers, but that encouragement from respected professors to pursue a path of skepticism could make all the difference. Worthen says those professors and those schools are our best bet to reach people who refuse to acknowledge reality.
Evangelical colleges themselves may be the best hope for change. Members of traditions historically suspicious of a pseudoscientific view of the Bible, like the Nazarenes, should revive that skepticism. [Journalism professor Dean] Nelson encourages his students to be skeptics rather than cynics. “The skeptic looks at something and says, ‘I wonder,’ ” he said. “The cynic says, ‘I know,’ and then stops thinking.”
I no longer hold an inerrant view of the Bible. It would be foolish to do so when facts render a literal reading of the Bible impossible (no matter what Ken Ham says).
To me, a “biblical worldview” means considering what Jesus would do in any given situation. There’s no one way to answer that question, but it’s far easier to consider the values of a man who preached “Love your neighbor as yourself” than it is to get twisted up in mental gymnastics trying to turn the Bible into the science textbook it was never meant to be.
This post originally appeared on Friendly Atheist.
Like this post? Check out Confessions of a Jew-ish Skeptic, now available on Amazon.