Three main features of a worldview
Rob Slane · Jul 01, 2013
Every worldview contains within it the following three features:
- Something infallible.
- A grand purpose.
- A sacrificial victim.
The something infallible could be a person or a doctrine, or it could well be both. The grand purpose is the fundamental goal and aim of the worldview, and so is essentially eschatological in nature. The sacrifice will sometimes be willing, often unwilling, but will always be some sort of scapegoat.
Ancient Rome is a good example. The something infallible was the “divine” Caesar uttering his “inerrant” decrees as the self-proclaimed “Son of God.” The grand purpose was the building of the Roman Empire throughout the known world. The sacrificial victim was whoever got in the way of the building of the Empire, be it surrounding nations that needed to be brought under the Roman yoke, or Christians in the persecutions of Nero and the like.
Islam provides another good example. The something infallible is Allah, his prophet, the Quran and the Hadith. The grand purpose is the global spread of Islam until the whole world is entirely Muslim. And the sacrificial victim? These are the infidels or kafirs who deny the faith and who must convert or be killed.
Then there is communism. The something infallible is the doctrine that the triumph of the proletariat, and so of communism, is a historical inevitability. The grand purpose is the building of the communist utopia, which requires passing through a period of socialism—i.e. state confiscation of property—until all property becomes common and the state is eventually dissolved. And the sacrificial victims are those who must be removed in order to arrive at the endgame—be it the bourgeois in the revolution or political opponents once the socialist state has been established.
There is no escaping this pattern. It is as inevitable as the sun shining tomorrow, because it is based on the pattern that God Himself has built into the world, though of course it can be violently skewed and twisted by sinful man for his own purposes.
In the Biblical worldview, the something infallible is God Himself and His Word. The grand purpose is the saving of sinners, the building of the Kingdom of God, and the redemption of the world. And, of course, the sacrificial victim is Christ Himself with His atoning death on the cross.
Therein lies the difference between God’s system and all other systems. In all the other systems mentioned, the something infallible turns out to be nothing more than the Wizard of Oz syndrome—just a man or the doctrines of men pretending to be a good deal bigger than they actually are. Whereas in the case of the triune God, He turns out to be just as big and just as infallible as He says He is.
The grand purpose in all the other systems always involves the loss of something good and the gaining of something evil. The Roman Empire swallowed up liberty and gave tyranny. Islam also swallows up freedoms and replaces them with a theocratic tyranny. Under communism, people lose the right to ownership, freedom of speech, and even of thought, and are given a gray, barren landscape in return. In the case of the triune God, the only thing we lose is our “right” to sin. In return we gain much, including forgiveness, the blessing of God, and everlasting life.
As for the sacrificial victims, in all the other systems the purpose of the sacrifices is to clear away all the undesirables who would stand in the way of the cause. In God’s plan of redemption, the sacrifice was not made in order to clear the undesirables out of the way, but rather to heal them and bring them in. In addition to this, in all other systems the sacrifice was made not by the ones proposing the worldview—Caesar, Muhammad, Stalin, Mao, or Pol Pot for instance—but rather by those who opposed them. In Christianity alone we find the sacrifice being made by the One Who claims infallibility and Who proposes the purpose—Jesus Christ.
All of this is to say that there are only two options out there: either we will embrace the worldview which requires no further sacrificial victims, or we will embrace any one of a number of worldviews which necessarily require further and constant sacrifices. In the Christian worldview alone, Christ was offered up once for all so that there need be no more bloodshed.
But what of our own culture? Can we identify the something infallible, the grand purpose, and the sacrificial victims of our own day? We can, but it takes a little more thought because there are several different strands which come together to form one overarching worldview, which can be generally described as Postmodernity.
One strand of this is feminism. In this case the something infallible is the doctrine that women can be exactly like men. The grand purpose of the feminist dream is absolute equality with men, to the point where women perform the same tasks and earn the same salaries (except, of course, less desirable jobs, which the feminists are often strangely silent on). The sacrificial victims are, among others, the millions of babies that have been slaughtered because they were considered an inconvenience in attaining this goal.
Then there is tolerance and diversity. The something infallible is the doctrine that there are no gender boundaries and that all sexual behavior is OK. The grand purpose is the commitment to consigning the old morality to the trashcan of history and replacing it with a “gender-blender” society free of constraints. The sacrificial victims are those who deny that there are no boundaries to gender and sexual behavior and who end up being derided as bigots and even losing their jobs for their stance.
One other strand of this is the role of the state. In this case, the something infallible is the idea that the state can best provide for citizens in everything from welfare to jobs, and health care to education. As for the grand purpose, the aim is really nothing less than the state replacing God as the provider and regulator of our lives—the father of us all. The sacrificial victims include, among other groups, the multitudes of fatherless children created by a welfare system that essentially does away with the need for dads.
Now it would be easy for us to look at all the examples above—Rome, Islam, Marxism, Postmodernism—and think something like, “Well, we have the infallible God, a grand purpose which we know will be triumphant, and a sacrificial victim. Thank God we’re not like other men.”
But the trouble is we are like other men and however much we do have God, a righteous purpose, and a perfect sacrifice, in reality we are always inventing our own micro versions of the twisted systems that the world produces.
This is the basis for many a church split. A pastor or a group within a church starts aggressively promoting issues which, though not necessary to salvation and though hotly disputed, are presented as if they were the infallible Word of God itself, and for which the grand purpose—the building of the Kingdom of God—is threatened unless everybody signs up. It could really be anything: home education, head coverings, Bible versions, Psalm singing, what foods people should or shouldn’t be eating, overly prescriptive dress for women in the congregation, etc.
Now there is nothing wrong with having strong opinions on issues like these, and we may well be absolutely right in the opinions we hold. But there is a difference between being right and being righteous. We may be 100 percent right about something, and still be unrighteous in the matter, because in our zeal to promote the cause, we trample on others and make sacrificial victims of those who stand in our way.
I am not, of course, speaking about issues which the Bible clearly forbids and where church discipline becomes necessary. What I am talking about are those issues which are our favorite causes which we then seek to aggressively foist upon others within our congregation or even outside. I’ve done it myself many times and perhaps you have, too. This is because I, perhaps like you, often consider my opinions and desires more important than peace, unity, reconciliation, and mutual upbuilding with my brothers and sisters in Christ.
But we need to recognize this attitude for what it is: Christians reverting to a pagan worldview. The Christian worldview, unlike all pagan worldviews, does not require any further sacrifices, and so even if I am passionate about something and am fully persuaded that the Scriptures teach it, my response should not be to ride roughshod over others, but rather to influence people by my attitude and behavior, seeking genuine rather than contrived opportunities to talk about these things. Any attempts to strong-arm another person into accepting my position or to dismiss them when they don’t, creates one more sacrificial victim than the Christian worldview actually requires.
Rob Slane lives with his wife and five home-educated children in Salisbury, England. He is the author of The God Reality: A Critique of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, contributes to the Canadian magazine, Reformed Perspective, and blogs on cultural issues from a Biblical perspective at www.theblogmire.com.