Worldview and Theory

The following is a translation of Rev. Billy Kristanto’s article which appears in Metamorphe mailing list. Any deviation in translation is the sole responsibility of me.

Our world is governed by ideas of thinkers from various fields. These ideas are different in quality and range of influence, from the most global to the local. An idea of a more global scale usually results in a theory which is then developed by thinkers. On the other hand, an idea of a smaller scale usually does not result in a theory worked out comprehensively. Be it a giant theory or a simple theory, each of them develops from the worldview (Weltanschauung) of the thinker. Therefore, there is not a single theory (be it economics, socio-politics, aesthetics, science, or psychology) that is neutral, since a worldview cannot be neutral. [1]

Everyone, consciously or unconsciously, has a worldview, even if he has not formulated it into theory, on how he intreprets the world (God, man, and nature)—a perception of the world as a whole (Gesamtheit). Apart from socio-cultural aspects, a worldview is also built upon one’s basic beliefs. As Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” From his worldview one constructs his theories, which in the end forms a culture.

We live in a world formed by both a sinful culture and a culture that is obedient to the will of God. As Christians we are called to “test everything; hold fast what is good” (1 Thes. 5:21). With differing measures of faith and maturity, according to God’s will and time, every believer is responsible to test theories that colour our lives. The testing of these theories is not easy, in view of the danger of over-simplification, labelling, making too quick a conclusion, etc., but we need not be skeptical and think that this testing is impossible to do.

To test comprehensively whether a theory is biblical or not, a few things are necessary for us:

  • We need to know who developed this theory. Was it one person or many? What were the modifications/revisions/development going on from one thinker to another? If it is only concerned with one person, have there been any revisions from his earlier thoughts to the later ones? These will help us avoid pitfalls of making unjustified generalizations.
  • We need to investigate the thinker’s worldview. What are his beliefs (Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, New Age, Secular humanism, Pragmatism, Agnosticism, Atheism, etc.)? Even if this investigation is often not easy, we can still take note of his comments, be it in his essays, personal letters, or interviews. This is important in order to know the relationship between the thinker’s beliefs and his thoughts. If we say that one’s theory is biblical, we need to know that his beliefs do not contradict his theories. [2]
  • We need to know whether direct statements from the thinker exist that explain whether his thoughts are indeed influenced by the Bible or Christian thinking, or other philosophies. The availability of direct statements helps us to reconstruct the thinker’s worldview.
  • Hence, we can know from the thinker’s direct statements whether his beliefs indeed permeate his ideas. [3]
  • We need to look for resources (in support or against) that discuss the thinker’s ideas. Out of those we can examine which among many hypotheses is more plausible.
  • We need to make comparison with other sciences to enrich our perspective. Here, we need humility and a heart that is open for learning from each other. A theologian can enrich his theological understanding from other sciences (natural science, economics, sociology, psychology, etc.), just as a Christian economist can learn from a theologian, philosopher, ecologist, or sociologist. This is creative-pluralism, where members of the body of Christ build up and enrich each other. Every member has his/her own position and uniqueness, and everyone does his/her own calling.

By continuing to open our hearts widely for fellow workers whom God has placed in their respective fields, by pure motivation to build up the kingdom of God instead of our own kingdoms, and lastly, by wisdom to anticipate errors and deceptions worked by the evil one, we believe that God will continue to be with us until we accomplish His plan in our lives, for only “with God we will gain the victory, and He will trample down our enemies” (Psalm 60:12).

[1] There is a wrong assumption, influenced by modern philosophy, which makes a dichotomy between natural science/Naturwissenschaften and humanities/ Geisteswissenschaften. This assumption basically states that humanities belong to the sphere of values, and so is not neutral, whereas natural sciences belong to the sphere of facts, and so are not influenced by any worldview behind the theories.

[2] This does not mean that every Christian always produces something biblical, or on the other hand, that non-Christians can never be influenced by Christian philosophy. But to arrive at a conclusion whether an idea is biblical or not, we need to take into account of the thinker’s beliefs so that our hypothesis is more warranted.

[3] We can assume that if the thinker is truthful, this relationship will be clearer, whereas if he is not truthful, we have to investigate further in order to uncover the deceptions in his statements.

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