If you’re not familiar with the term “Worldview,” it’s an important one. It refers to the way in which you look at the world. It affects how you interpret what you see and what you choose to believe. Everyone has a worldview whether they are aware of it or not. Some worldviews are more coherent then others; although when examined closely nearly all of them end up being internally inconsistent. Christianity itself is a comprehensive worldview, one that, if embraced fully, impacts the way you look at everything in life. It also happens to be a good one. In fact, I don’t think that I’ve ever found a worldview as robust and internally consistent as the Christian worldview. The point of this post is not necessarily to prove that to you, but to tell you the story of my first step in discovering just how well the Christian worldview explained the world we live in.
I remember the first lecture of the introductory Political Science course I took my freshman year of college very vividly. It was in the largest lecture hall on campus, apparently a lot of 18 year-olds think they might be interested in PoliSci. The professor was new to the school, but had been teaching the subject for many many years. One of the first things he commented on was how unusual it was for him to be teaching a class this big. He said his normal way of teaching was to try to lead an engaging discussion, but he wasn’t sure if it would work with a class as big as ours (spoiler alert: he tried to stick with his usual methods but he was right, they didn’t work).
Apparently the first thing he would ever do with a class was to talk on a high level about what the role of government should be, and before we could talk about that we needed to answer a fundamental question: are people basically good or bad? As I alluded to earlier, trying to facilitate a discussion with a group that big didn’t work and the conversation quickly spiraled out of control. But man oh man, it was a doozy. I honestly don’t think he could have picked a more polarizing question. People picked sides and dug in and no one would yield an inch. There was a lot of yelling and at a couple points I was worried that it might get violent.
What was so interesting from my perspective was that despite the fact that I loved to argue, I remained silent. I had never thought about the question before, but normally I would have expected myself to identify with a side and run with it. This time there were too many good points on each side for me to figure out who was right. “What about Hitler?” one side would say. “What about Mother Theresa?” said the other. “What about wars?” said one. “What about nonviolent protests?” said the other. What about slavery? Well what about the fact that it was ended? What about all the crime and violence? What about the fact that all of us in this room are good upstanding people?
What a wild ride that conversation was. Now, if you know my story, you know that this was the time in my life when I was finally starting to pursue the Lord in earnest. So I didn’t really have a deep theological framework to go off of. But I kept that question of whether people are inherently good or bad in the back of my mind as I started my journey of studying the Bible. It turns out that the Bible does have an answer to this question, and it’s so good and so true that I can’t believe it wasn’t obvious to me from the beginning. The Bible makes it clear that human beings are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26), but have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God. There it is! The truth that eluded my PoliSci class. The truth that many philosophers over the centuries have stumbled on.
This truth has always been obvious to Christians operating out of a Biblical Christian Worldview. I’ve always loved the way French Scientist and Theologian Blaise Pascal put it in his unfinished masterpieces Pensees: “Man’s greatness and wretchedness are so evident that the true religion must necessarily teach us that there is in man some great principle of greatness and some great principle of wretchedness” (Pensees (Penguin Classics) 149, pg 46).
So in the end, the answer to the question is man basically good or evil is: yes. The Christian worldview has had it right all along.
The Christian faith comes under nearly constant scrutiny and attack in our day and age, and it has held up remarkably well. The truth is, most people don’t ever get very deep in thinking about issues of Worldview, and the deeper you go, the more Christianity is able to hold together as everything else starts to unravel. The question of the inherent nature of mankind was the issue for me that first got me noticing this truth. I hope it serves as a nice jumping off point for you as well.
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