Bible

The Biblical Worldview, Part 5: What Is the Meaning of Life?

By Joel Settecase / 4-minute read.

Is there a point to all this? Does God have a purpose and how do we discover it?

“What is the meaning of life?” has almost become a rhetorical question nowadays. It is often asked flippantly, as though the person asking doesn’t really expect to get an answer, or that there even is an answer.

Another way of asking this question--maybe one that seems easier for us to answer, is “What is the good life?” Certainly, the prevailing view at the popular level of our society today seems to be that there is no meaning to life--at least no objective one--and therefore that each of us ought to do our best to define the “good life” for ourselves, to make our own meaning.

Many answers are given from the various worldviews, including (but certainly not limited to),

MEANING OF LIFE GRAPHIC.png
  • To be good.

  • To follow your heart.

  • To love and be loved.

  • Seeking pleasure now.

  • Self-improvement.

  • The pursuit of self-interest.

  • Making authentic decisions.

  • To be oneself (or to be true to oneself).

  • Establishing or carrying on a family legacy.

  • To do the most good for the most people.

While all of the answers reflected in this graphic may very well be good, there is a question we must answer before we can answer the question of life’s meaning, and that is this: “Who are we to say?”

In Romans 9:19-24, human beings are compared to pots, and God to a potter. The upshot of the passage is summarized in verse 20: “But who are you, a mere man, to talk back to God? Will what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” God is the Author of creation, and as such he has authority (author-ity) to define the meaning of our lives.

If God has defined the meaning of life, then, it is his definition alone that matters. As it turns out, he has defined it, and the definition is found in Scripture.

First, mankind shares its meaning with all creation, which exists to glorify our Creator (Psalm 19:1; 100:3). Beyond that, human beings are specially created to bear God’s image in the world, exercising dominion and creativity in like fashion to his own (Genesis 1:28). As God’s image bearers, all human beings are responsible to worship God and obey his commands with reverence (Ecclesiastes 12:13). In fact, when mankind fails to do this a sorry state of affairs results, in which our thinking becomes futile and we spin out into moral relativism and wickedness (Romans 1:18-24).

Yet there is another level of meaning to human life, beyond showing God’s glory as creatures and even beyond bare obedience. This level of meaning is only available to followers of Jesus Christ. This is true, not because Christians are inherently “better” than anyone else. Rather it is only possible for Christians because of what it means to be a Christian.

The highest level of meaning for a human life is found in deep communion with God, when we experience God as Father, the Son of God as Lord and Friend, and the Spirit of God as Counselor and Helper, living within us. This situation, which is definitional of the Christian life, is enjoyed only by God’s chosen people, those he has redeemed by grace through their faith (Ephesians 1:3-14; 2:8-9). Salvation and reconciliation to God is only a reality in the lives of Christ’s people, those whom he saves (Matthew 1:21), and there is no other means by which we may attain those blessings (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).

What is truly awesome, is that restored status with God is not the finale of the “good life” for Christians but rather the beginning. Every follower of Jesus is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), (re)created in the image of Christ (Ephesians 4:24), intended by God for the accomplishment of good works--works of significance and value that God himself has prepared for us in advance (Ephesians 2:10)!

So while the culture at large may not be able to objectively answer the question, “What is the meaning of life?” (and how could they, unless they recognize the authority of God himself to answer that question!), God has answered it for us in his word.

We might distill the answer to something like this:

“The meaning of life is to know, glorify and enjoy God, through Jesus Christ, and to live for him by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Note:

For the various answers to the question of life’s meaning, I drew from this info graphic, by Anna Vital, available at the article by DrNicoRose, “The Meaning of Life according to different philosophers [Infographic) [sic], January 23, 2016, mappalicious.com, accessed June 20, 2019, https://mappalicious.com/2016/01/23/the-meaning-of-life-according-to-different-philosophers-infographic/.

How to Share and Defend Your Faith to Muslims

Did you know nearly one out of every 3.5 people on earth is a Muslim? Christians have been commissioned to disciple the nations, yet historically we have sent precious few resources to bring the Gospel to this incredibly massive portion of the human population.

In episode 10, Joel Settecase and N. G. (name withheld to avoid it coming up in search results) pull up a couple of chairs to discuss the goal, motivation and method of sharing the Gospel and defending the Christian message to Muslims. They get deep and wide in this conversation, which ranges from the theological to the practical. We hope it makes you think.

The Biblical Worldview, Part 1: What Is Real?

By Joel Settecase / 6-minute read.

In my previous article, I presented seven questions that every worldview must deal with. However, I did not go into how the Christian worldview answers the questions. In this article I want to deal very briefly with the first of the seven worldview questions, namely, “What is real?”

My goal is not only to explain what the Bible teaches, but also where in the Bible you can find it, so that you can not only test what you read here for yourself like a good Berean (Acts 17:11), but also to encourage you in the knowledge that the Bible really does give the important answers, and to help you become more comfortable locating those answers.

Only Three Possible Answers to the Question

Now, on the question, “What is real?” To ask it is to deal with metaphysics, the study of “definite” or “prime” reality. We want to look at what’s “really there” behind the universe as we experience it. The world’s religions and systems have answered this question in many ways—God, the gods, the universe, Brahmin, all-is-nothing, all-is-one, etc. But in point of fact all possible answers fall into three categories.

The first is that prime reality is ultimate, but impersonal. Instances of this kind would include Brahman (the world-soul of Hinduism), the cosmos (atheistic worldviews), and the Force from Star Wars. Each of these examples portray prime reality as being unlimited in scope, yet also ultimately unknowable and without personality or self-awareness of any kind.

The second is that prime reality is personal, but not ultimate. Examples would include the ancient Greek and Norse gods and the Mormon god “Elohim,” an exalted man who dwells within our universe near a physical location called Kolob. These deities are personal, relational and knowable, but they are finite. They don’t account for the whole of the physical and spiritual universe.

The third option, which in a sense combines the first two, is that God is prime reality, and he is both ultimate and personal.

God is Ultimate and Personal

Genesis 1:1 declares God to be the uncaused author of all that exists, and Scripture is clear he is one (Deuteronomy 6:4), meaning there are no other authors rivals to his author-ity.

Yet in God’s very nature he is personal; in fact the one God, who is one in essence, is also a community of three divine Persons. It has been said that God is “tri-Personal,” and this divine community of three Persons has been existing since before creation in harmonious relationship to one another. Scripture names these three as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).

Unlike “the universe,” who is impersonal and does not have a plan for your life, God is personal and knowable. Unlike the so-called gods of ancient Greece and modern-day polytheistic religions, God is unlimited and infinite in his nature.

God’s Relationship to His Creation

Of course if the Lord alone is God, then it stands to reason that no one and nothing else is God. The cosmos is God’s creation, and while it reflects his nature it is not equal to God. Creation is not a part of God (Genesis 1:1; Isaiah 66:1). God’s creation includes the physical and the spiritual realms (2 Corinthians 12:2-4), and all his creation is dependent on him (Hebrews 1:3).

Corresponding to God’s ultimacy discussed above, God is transcendent over his creation, meaning he is outside of it sovereign over it; he retains the right to declare creation’s purpose, outcome and guidelines (Isaiah 40:22).

Similarly corresponding to his personality is his immanence—meaning he is present everywhere in the universe (Psalm 139:7-12). It is because of his immanence that he can have a relationship with us. He can hear our prayers. And he is all-knowing, witnessing everything that happens in the cosmos firsthand.

What It Means to Be Lord

Christians call our God “Lord” so often that we might be a little too comfortable with this term, and perhaps not aware enough of the implications of the word. To be Lord is to be Master. Theologian John Frame has defined God’s “Lordship Attributes” as Authority, Control and Presence.

God has authority.

He is the creator and retains his rights as creator of the universe. He can rightfully declare what actions are right and which ones are wrong for his creatures, and he may—and does—decree what events shall happen in the future (Isaiah 46:9-10).

God is in control.

Man is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), so he exercises control in a certain sense. Man may freely act in accordance with their natures. Yet Scripture says that even the freely-chosen actions of mankind are subject to the control of God, who plans people’s good and evil actions to occur and ultimately work together for a good and righteous outcome (Genesis 50:20). And this is also true about seemingly random occurrences (Proverbs 16:33). The fact that man is so abundantly sinful, earning God’s wrath, and yet God, having complete control, restrains our punishment and patiently endures and redeems sinners like us, is a testament to his astonishing grace.

God is present everywhere.

While it is true that God is present and active at every location in the cosmos, his special, personal empowering and encouraging presence is to be found with his people (Exodus 33:14) by his Holy Spirit. This God has promised to draw near to those who draw near to him (James 4:8), and to save all who draw near to him through Jesus (Hebrews 7:25). For the Christian, therefore, it is equally true to say, “God is everywhere,” and “God is with me and will never leave me” (Hebrews 13:5).

The most foundational understanding of the biblical worldview is that God is real. Both words, “God” and “real” need to be defined and explained by Scripture, so that our mindset will be thoroughly biblical rather than a hodgepodge of our own reasoning and emotions.

When we derive our concept of prime reality from the Bible, we see that the definite reality behind the world we experience is, as Francis Schaeffer put it, “the God who is there.” He is an ultimate, tri-Personal Lord who transcends his creation and yet is intimately present everywhere and especially, graciously so, with his people he has redeemed.

Seven Worldview Questions

By Joel Settecase / 9-minute read

A Quick Test of Your Confidence

Quick, on a scale of one to 10, how confident do you feel, right now, in your ability to teach a non-Christian what the Bible teaches about life’s most important issues? Do you have your number? Is it less than 10? Less than 7? Less than 5? If that is the case, and you desire to improve that number, don’t feel bad. Everyone has to start somewhere.

If, however, your number was less than 10 and you simply leave it there and don’t seek to improve it, well then maybe you should feel at least a little bad. After all, doing so would indicate that you either (A) think the Bible has nothing to say about life’s big questions, or (B) don’t think it worthwhile to learn what those answers are. However, if you are a follower of Jesus, then the Bible is your book. That is, it’s God’s book for you, given to make you “complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17).

There is, of course a third option: (C) you feel as though the Bible is so complex that you could never master what it says about life’s biggest issues to the extent that you would feel fully confident to teach those answers to others. After all, the Bible is a big book, and isn’t that what pastors and church elders are for, anyway?

True, pastors and elders do need to know their stuff. And yet the fact is this: whether you can articulate them or not, you already have answers to life’s biggest questions. For example, if I asked you, “Who is Jesus?” I’ll bet you could give me an answer right now.

If you’re a Christian, your answer would probably include facts like his virgin birth, his sinless life, his miracles, death, burial, and resurrection. You might mention that he is the Jewish Messiah and the Savior of the world, or that he returned to the right hand of the Father to reign. If you wanted to get more in-depth, you might bring up the truth that Jesus is the second Person of the Trinity.

Now if I asked you any number of different worldview questions, your answers might be in agreement with Scripture, or they might be way off. To the extent that your answers were in-line with what the Bible teaches, you would be communicating the biblical worldview accurately.

So what is a worldview?

In his quintessential worldview primer, The Universe Next Door, James W. Sire calls a worldview, “a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic make-up of the world.”

Jefferey Ventrella defines a worldview as, “a network of presuppositions… through which one interprets all human experience.”

Your worldview is like a pair of sunglasses. Just as sunglasses color everything you see, so your worldview affects your interpretation of everything you learn and experience. Your worldview provides you with the filter through which you would answer any question about the world. Sire says worldviews are, “generally unquestioned by each of us; rarely, if ever, mentioned by our friends; and only brought to mind when we are challenged by a foreigner from another ideological universe.”

Why Worry About Worldview?

Now the biblical worldview, just like every worldview, must answer certain questions. And if we are going to be faithful disciples of Jesus, who commanded us to, “make disciples… teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you,” then we need to know how the biblical worldview answers those questions.

Doing this, and doing it faithfully to Scripture, is a way of honoring God with our minds (Luke 10:27), and, because the heart of the biblical worldview is the Gospel that saves (Luke 24:27; Romans 1:16), it is a way of loving our neighbors as ourself.

If we desire to effectively communicate the Gospel and the biblical worldview, we need to prepare. One way to do that is to prep biblical answers, in advance, to the questions every worldview answers.

Questions for Worldviews

This Spring, I have been writing a curriculum to equip Christians in what we might call Biblical Worldview Competency. A major part of building that curriculum has been to determine just what are the questions that every worldview must answer. You might think this list would be fairly easy to determine. However, if you researched the subject, what you would quickly find (as I have) is that the major authors and thinkers who teach on worldview competency all have their own lists:

Ravi Zacharias

  • Origin

  • Meaning

  • Morality

  • Destiny

    Ravi is the president of RZIM.

Albert Mohler

  • Where do we come from?

  • What’s wrong with us?

  • Is there any hope?

  • Where are we going?

    (I heard him list these on his daily podcast, “The Briefing,” during the week of May 13, 2019. I remembered them because I have used the exact same list in my own teachings. However, I did not remember hearing them from Dr. Mohler; I thought I made them up myself. That being said, it’s a lot more likely that I stole them from him than the other way around.)

James Sire:

  • What is prime reality?

  • What is the nature of external reality, that is, the world around us?

  • What is a human being?

  • What happens to a person at death?

  • Why is it possible to know anything at all?

  • How do we know what is right and wrong?

  • What is the meaning of human history?

Barry A. Warren

  • The nature of God?

  • The meaning and purpose of life?

  • Human nature?

  • Jesus is?

  • Source of spiritual truth?

    Warren is the creator of the Perspective Cards.

As you can see, there are various questions we could use, and no two authors completely agree. So then, I feel as though I am at liberty to draw from what I perceive to be the best of each of the aforementioned, combining and rewording as needed, in order to create a comprehensive list of seven questions that every worldview must answer (each one followed by a couple or three clarifying questions). They are:

  1. What is real?
    What is the nature of prime reality?
    What is ultimately real?
    What is God like?

  2. What is good?
    What is good and how do we know?
    What does it mean to sin or contravene the standard of goodness?
    What is beauty?

  3. What is true?
    What is truth and how do we come to know it?
    Is truth universal or subjective?

  4. What is man?
    What does it mean to be human?
    What’s wrong with humanity?
    How do we fix what’s wrong with us?

  5. What is the meaning?
    Is there a point to all this?
    Does God have a purpose and how do we discover it?

  6. What is our destiny?
    Where are all things headed?
    Will justice finally prevail?
    Is history more like a Greek comedy or a tragedy?

  7. Who is Jesus?
    Is Jesus merely a man, a created, divine being, or God?
    What did Jesus claim about himself and are those claims true?

How to Answer the Seven Questions

I contend that every Christian ought to be able to articulate at least a modest response to each one of those seven questions, and to do so in accordance with what the whole Bible teaches. I am not going to answer them right now. However, I want to leave you with two things to think about.

First of all, as Christians our final authority is holy Scripture. This means that our worldview thinking must progress in a biblical loop. It has to begin with a biblical foundation, progressing outward into the world (all the while maintaining biblical categories and filtering our observations and reasoning through Scripture), and culminate back upon the Bible, as we test our conclusions by what the Bible says.

In order to think in this robustly biblical way, it is necessary to know Scripture thoroughly. We have to be committed to studying what the Bible says about life’s most important subjects and to submitting our reasoning to God’s own reasoning, revealed in the Bible.

A fantastic website to help you learn what the Bible says about any given subject is the Bible verse aggregator, OpenBible. Go there, type in the subject you want to research, and it will pull up a list of all the verses that people say are relevant to that subject.

The second thing to think about is this: maybe it is time to pursue training in this area for you or your congregation. If you are leaning in that direction, there are many solid ministries who can help you and your church think biblically and develop Biblical Worldview Competency.

Humbly, the Think Institute is one such ministry. We are here to equip believers with knowledge, encourage believers to share and defend their faith, and engage believers together in meaningful conversation. Contact me if you would like to know more about partnering with the Think Institute or would like access to any of Cru Church Movement’s vast library of resources. To come to one of our trainings in your area, keep an eye on the Get Engaged section of this website.

You might not be fully confident to articulate the biblical worldview today, and you might not get all the way there tomorrow. However, by learning a little more about what the Bible says about the seven most important questions of life, you can strengthen your Biblical Worldview Competency and become that much more prepared to make disciples for Jesus Christ.