There was a time in evangelicalism when “worldview” sounded exotic and intellectual. The Dutch Reformed traditions had already been looking to Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) and Herman Dooyeweerd (1894- 1997) but it was Francis Schaeffer (1912 – 1984) who brought the worldview message to those of an evangelical mindset. Schaeffer, who looked exotic anyway with his Swiss knickers and radically un-Baptistic facial hair, talked about the “mannishness of man,” presented an “upper storey / lower storey” history of philosophy (for which he should have at least given a footnote to Dooyweerd), set forth a Christian idea of history, and even talked about art. It seemed that everything around us – all intellectual and cultural endeavors – could all be re-thought and Christianized. At the time, the development felt like it was bringing greater depth and intellectual respectability to evangelicalism and there was a certain excitement as to where it all might lead.
At some point worldview must have become divine because now it’s omnipresent. There are small group studies on worldview, Sunday School classes on worldview, sermons on worldview, and even political events probing the worldviews of Republican presidential candidates. More evangelicals know what “worldview” means than know what “systematic theology” means. If you ask an evangelical about worldview he’ll at least get off to a strong first step, whereas if you ask him about his church’s statement of faith he’ll probably give you an odd look. There are even confessional churches whose average member can tell you more about worldview than their church’s confession or catechism.
This quick comparison invites a number of questions. For example, if there are such things as systematic theologies, confessions and catechisms, why does the church even need worldview studies? Isn’t it a bit problematic, to say the least, that an essentially philosophic concept has supplanted what have historically been the church’s summaries of what has been revealed to us? One wonders if worldview is on the edge of becoming the quasi-confession that unites otherwise disparate churches who identify themselves as evangelical.
So, “We Are the Worldview” but there’s a serious question of whether we should be. In the coming weeks we’ll explore this concept, following the maxim that anything this popular must have some problems.