In the last decades and centuries with the rise of science and the massification of education, this has greatly shaped people’s worldview from a religious worldview to a scientific worldview. How are Christians and churches to face and respond to this phenomenon?
A worldview is a conception of the world, how you look at the world, how you interpret the events in your life, how you think the world operates in terms of cause and effect, why things happen the way they do, and even what your purpose is.
Since old times, the religious worldview has generally been prevalent in the world. In Acts 28 we can see a very interesting story that tells us a lot about people’s worldview and how it affects our perception of life, the conclusions we draw and our line of action.
Paul and his companions had escaped from the shipwreck at sea, but as Paul arrived at land and was gathering wood, he was bitten by a viper. Seeing that, the islanders of Malta thought that Paul must be a murderer for though he had escaped from the shipwreck at sea, goddess Justice had not allowed him to live. However, after that, Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happened to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.
Through this short span of events we can see how the islanders held a religious worldview. They interpreted Paul having been bitten by the serpent as a clear act of justice from a god, not as simple bad luck or coincidence, or seeking other kinds of causes. On the other hand, when Paul, after being bitten, amazingly didn’t suffer any consequences from the poison, they drew the conclusion that he must have divine powers and be some kind of a god.
In the time of Jesus, his disciples while looking at a person that had been born blind asked, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” This clearly shows us the Jewish worldview that was vibrant and alive inside the disciples. They widely interpreted the world in terms of the correlation between obeying the commandments and being blessed, and committing sin and being cursed, as centrally taught in the Old Testament scriptures.
In the time of Jonah, we can see also the interesting image of the sailors. When the storm came, they tried to solve the problem crying out to their own god and throwing out the cargo. With no great result, they then started to cast lots to find out who was responsible for this calamity.
Through these episodes we can see how our worldview so greatly affects how we look at our life, how we interpret it, and how we consider the events in terms of its causes and effects, and how we go along to try to improve our lives and solve our problems.
In the last decades and centuries with the rise of science and education, this has greatly affected people’s worldview, especially in the more developed countries. Science is by its very nature materialistic as it only considers the material world, what can be seen, what can be touched, what can be measured and tested. Science and its rise has greatly influenced people to increasingly think and look at the world in a materialistic unspiritual way through currents such as rationalism and empiricism.
Statistics consistently show that people with higher level of education have less belief in God and the spiritual world. This has been in large part due to the massification and success of education that has become widespread but at the same time also in part due to the failure from the churches and its priests to diligently teach the believers the Christian worldview and answer efficiently to the rising challenges that Scientific discoveries have brought to traditional religious truths.
As a result of these two, modern people tend to abandon belief in God and the spiritual world and cannot see altogether how those affect the real world and their lives. They tend to look at religious truths as unfounded superstition and subjective personal belief and consider scientific truths as more reliable, valuable, objective and universal, a better way to understand and control the surrounding world. Airplanes fly, medicines work, Science in its diverse disciplines has revealed itself as a mighty and reliable god that has greatly improved people’s quality of life.
However, there is unquestionably in modern man a hole that nothing except God can fill. The rise of science and materialism have also brought together more despair. Many have fallen into Nihilism and depression. The loss of God has brought a loss of meaning, purpose, hope and comfort. Life and existence is full of suffering, injustice, tragedy, and disease. In face of those, if there is no God, there is no hope that justice can be really made. If there is no God there is no hope toward the future that we and this world can be saved and changed. If there is no God, there is no comfort in suffering and no ultimate hope beyond tragedy.
Paradoxically, there is a growing phenomenon of depression in the developed countries and studies show that richer countries have higher depression rates than the poorer ones. There is something that wealth and education cannot fill and solve and rather seems to aggravate.
May we be a church that brings the reality of God and the Christian worldview to many to release them from despair, meaninglessness, and depression, into a living hope.