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"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Goheen and Bartholomew - Living at the Crossroads

Living at the Crossroads

Living at the Crossroads
An Introduction to Christin Worldview

Michael W. Goheen and Craig G. Bartholomew
Baker Book House, 2008

ISBN 978-0-8010-3140-3
pbk xvi + 205 pp

Do we need another worldview book? The last decades have seen the proliferation of excellent worldview books:

  • J. Mark Bertrand. 2007. (Re)Thinking Worldviews: Learning to Think, Live, and Speak in This World. Wheaton: Crossway Books.
  • David Naugle. 2002. Worldview: The History of a Concept. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
  • Paul A. Marshall, et al eds. 1989. Stained Glass: Worldview and Social Science. Lanham MD: University Press of America.
  • John Peck and Charles Strohmer. 2001. Uncommon Sense: God's Wisdom for our Complex and Changing World. London: SPCK.
  • James W. Sire. 1976. The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog. Downers Grove: IVP. 4th revised edn 2004.
  • Brian J. Walsh and J. Richard Middleton The Transforming Vision: Shaping a Christian Worldview. Downers Grove: IVP.
  • B. J. van der Walt. 2008. The Eye is the Lamp of the Body:Worldviews and their Impact. Potchefstroom: Institute for Contemporary Christianity in Africa.
  • Al Wolters. 1985. Creation Regained: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. Second edition 1988. Revised and expanded 2005 (with Mike Goheen)

And now Goheen and Bartholomew's contribution. However, what marks this book as different is its missional focus and its clear setting within the biblical story. Both these reflect the interest of the authors. Goheen's PhD was on Lesslie Newbiggin, and Bartholomew's on Ecclesiates.

This is a sequel to their excellent Drama of Scripture. This hopefully, will mean that evangelicals and those with an interest in biblical studies will read this; it will thus appeal to others other than reformationals. This is an important message and needs to be grasped by Christendom at large rather than kept in the small reformational corner.

The book begins by setting worldviews in the context of the gospel, story and mission. We find ourselves at the crossroads of two totalising narratives - the biblical story of creation, fall and redemption and the post/modern western story. This book is written to help us live faithfully as Christians at the crossroads.

The second chapter examines 'What is a worldview?'. They begin with a brief history tracing the concept to Kant, Schelling, Kirkegaard and Dilthey. They note that its origins carry with it associations 'to be affirmed and others to be awry of' (p. 13). They go on to look at and address criticism of the 'appropriation' of worldview. these objections are:
  • it intellectualises the gospel
  • it relativises the gospel
  • it may become disconnected from scripture and thus vulnerable to the spirits of the age
  • it may lead to an unhealty messianic activism
  • it may entrench a compromised middle-class Christianity

This discussion is helpful as it serves to act as a warning, we need to be aware of the temptations so we can avoid them. They see worldview as a foundation for 'vigorous cultural engagement' and as providing 'tools to carry out our task in the world' (p 30) - worldview correctly understood has a missional thrust. It is a great strength of this book that it continually emphasies this.

Inevitably the book traces the contours of a Christian worldview through the framework of creation, fall and redemption. And this is the topics of chapters 3 and 4. They then look at how modernism and postmodernism shape society. Chapter 5 looks at the roots of modernity, the worldview underlying Western culture. This is, in the words of Corliss Lamont, 'the task of being our own savior and redeemer' (p. 68). The roots of modernity were to some extent Christian but this became mixed with Greek humanism and from this arose scholasticism and a separation of reality into two storeys: grace and nature. Chapter 6 examines the growth of modernity. The Renaissance's secular humanism and the Enlightenment split apart the synthesis of the gospel and humanism, they led to a conversion of the West from a faith in the church to a faith in reason. The world would be bettered through science and reason. A synthesis of gospel and humanism became an antithesis.

In chapter 7 they adopt Tom Wright's addition to Walsh and Middleton's worldview questions: What time is it? Here postmoderism, consumerism and globalisation, the renascence of Christianity and the resurgence of Islam are scrutinised.
Chapter 8, the title chapter, explores how we can be both faithful and relevant in culture; they pose and answer the question: 'how can a christian remain faithful to the biblical story while living in a culture that has been shaped by a very different story' (p 132). To do so we must become 'critical participants'. The distinction between structure and direction is utilised to help distinguish between creational design and cultural idolatry.

The final chapter looks at six areas where worldviews are fleshed out: business, politics, sport, creativity and art, and scholarship. These provide tantalising teasers. It would be great to have each of these developed as chapters in another book! (Hint! Hint!)

This is a brilliant book its strength is that it provides a missional focus for a reformational worldview. It is replete with wisdom and insight. So, do we need another book on worldview? If its one as good as this, then Yes! Buy it, read it, act on it.

Publisher's website
Book website

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