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A Biblical Worldview of the Physical World

Today we hear that Christians need a “biblical worldview” as if it were something new. “Biblical worldview” is the term du jour for a concept as old as the Bible itself. For Christians the Bible is a spiritual handbook, telling us what we need to know to respond appropriately to life’s situations. Applying what the Bible teaches to any decision would be exercising a biblical worldview.

Some Christians fall short of demonstrating a biblical worldview because they do not know what Scripture teaches and therefore cannot apply it. They need to study God’s Word. Others fall short because they, albeit often unwittingly, mix what Scripture teaches with popular but contrary worldviews. In the Garden of Eden, Satan mixed a wrong worldview with what God had told Eve and led her to sin (Genesis 3:1-6). Satan still finds mixing-of-worldviews an effective tactic to trip Christians today. Frequently he succeeds because Christians do not recognize the deviant worldviews he is using.

The mixing-of-worldviews is especially true as Christians make decisions regarding the physical world. In this article we will compare basic tenets regarding the physical world of common, non-biblical worldviews and contrast them with those of a biblical worldview.

Evolutionary Worldview

Some evolutionists feel the physical world just always existed—others feel it began with an explosion (the “Big Bang”) or some such happening. They agree that the beginning of all things was the playing out of physical laws— no outside force was involved.

The evolutionary worldview claims that the physical we observe today came about by those natural laws just playing themselves out. The complexity of the universe, a cell, an atom all evolved because of the natures of what they are made of. Is there anything beyond the physical? For most evolutionists, there is no evidence of the spiritual so there is no reason to believe it exists. No God. No human soul. When a person dies, that’s it. Nothing beyond the grave.

The evolutionary worldview of the physical environment is that it is just there, the raw materials of evolution. Much of it is the “leftovers” of evolutionary past, but in it are the materials of the evolutionary future. Some evolutionists attach a sort of sentimental value to parts of the physical world because it took so long for it to get here, and we may need it in the future. To others, the physical is just materials to exploit however one wants or thinks best. (Whatever “best” is, is open for debate.)

Logically, the evolutionary position regarding the future of the physical can be summed up as: “Don’t worry about how or what we do to the environment because, as evolutionary history teaches us, we will evolve what is needed to deal with whatever future happens. That is, the ‘fittest’ will survive. Those not-so- fit will pass on. If we do something so drastic that the environment becomes inhospitable for human life, we will pass the way of the dinosaurs. But not to worry. Something fit for the new environment will evolve to replace us.”

The evolutionary worldview appeals to many who consider themselves intellectual—they are pleased to have figured out their existence, and no higher power was involved. Humans are the self-proclaimed “ultimate” of now. (Wow!)

But since there is nothing beyond the physical, that existence is empty. To those looking for a deeper meaning to life, evolution is unsatisfying.

Pantheistic Worldview

Satan has an alternative worldview which offers meaning to life: pantheism. It is not new. Ancient Jews faced and rejected it. When Satan sought to get Christians to accept it, the early church recognized it as heresy. Today, however, some Christians embrace parts of it.

In contrast to the non-spiritual evolutionary worldview, pantheism seeks to make everything spiritual. It holds that the physical is essentially a manifestation of the spiritual. Thus the physical is god and god is the physical. Not all physical parts possess equal amounts of god. Humans have more, animals less, plants even less, and rocks very little (or none at all, depending on your pantheistic persuasion).

Some pantheists believe god and the physical world have always co-existed. Others say god predates the physical. The physical can change, even die, but the spiritual remains and is recycled. Reincarnation is a pantheistic doctrine. What something will be reincarnated as is based on how well it did spiritually in its last physical manifestation. If it ignored its own god part, and ignored or hurt god parts in other things, it does not deserve more spirit in its next reincarnation. To climb the reincarnation ladder one must be aware of the spiritual and seek to unite with other spiritual parts.

How does one do that? One must respect the physical, since it is really spiritual. One must also unite its spirit with other spiritual parts: find “harmony” with other humans and commune with the spirit of other physical things. Generally one does this by meditating on the spirit of the horse, the tree, the forest, etc. seeking to share their feelings of fear, joy, and peace. As one unites with the spirit of other things, one becomes more aware of one’s own spirit. Some pantheists claim this essentially puts god back together. Then, as spiritual discord falls away, things are united in peace. Eventually there is no need of the physical, it fades away and only spiritual remains. (Sigh.)

Can one experience peace by communing with a flower or meditating upon a tree? If a person clears their mind of distracting, disturbing thoughts, sits quietly and slowly breathes deeply for a while, he will probably become relaxed. Does that peace come from uniting spiritually with the non-stressed spirit of the plant? Satan wants one to think so. Why? If a person likes that feeling, he will likely come back for more. Satan can grant peaceful feelings if it will keep one from going to Christ to seek the peace “which passeth all understanding,” the peace that comes from sins forgiven, the peace which comes from unity with Christ (Philippians 4:7; John 14:27). Christians are to meditate on God and His Word. Trusting in His promises is where we find present and eternal peace. Attributing spirituality to some physical thing and looking to it for help is idolatry.

Other Non-Biblical World Views

There are other non-biblical worldviews. For example, some believe that we are actually part of an alien experiment. Aliens set up the earth to see how it would play out. Every so often they intervene and change some factor in the experiment. When dinosaurs ruled the earth, the aliens learned all they wanted to know about that, so they bumped them off and added something—like human intelligence—to see what would happen. This sounds like the stuff of a science fiction fantasy. But there are those who believe it and have died (or committed suicide) because of their belief.

Biblical Worldview

A biblical worldview of the physical world begins with God. He existed before the physical and He created all things. Scripture teaches dualism—the physical world and God are separate. The creation is sustained by His power, but God is not the rocks, flowers, cows, or forests He made. Humans are spiritual beings because God gave us souls. Our present physical existence is only a part of our eternal being (Genesis 1-2; John 1:1-10).

The physical world belongs to God, but God placed it under man’s dominion. He told us to use the environment to meet our needs. We are to earn our bread by the sweat of our brow; we are to house and clothe ourselves by using God-supplied materials. The physical belongs to Him, but we have His leave to use it (Genesis 3:17-19, 8:16-22).

After death, humans will spend eternity in heaven or hell, depending upon their individual spiritual relationship with Christ. And the future of the physical world? Until God decides to end the existence of this present world, we are stewards of it. (Amen.)

But just as an owner can set parameters of what his steward may do with what is placed under his jurisdiction, God has given us guidelines and limits regarding what we may do with His creation. We will seek to examine some of these guidelines and limits in light of current ecological concerns in future articles.

Mixed Worldviews

Sometimes it’s easy to spot a worldview. Statements like “Don’t cut down that tree, you’ll hurt it,” or “The deer have as much right to be here as we do,” express a pantheistic worldview. “This fish developed these characteristics to be able to thrive in this unusual river” expresses an evolutionary worldview.

A person with a biblical worldview may agree that a particular tree should not be cut down, that certain deer should not be shot, and that a fish has characteristics that suit it to a particular river—but a person with a biblical worldview will have different reasons for the position.

Many people are not entirely in one worldview camp or the other. People often pick and mix their positions regarding what should be done with the physical world based on what feels right or is politically correct at the time. For example, since an evolutionary world view does not recognize an existence after death, this position could logically be used to justify suicide. However, many who hold an evolutionary worldview condemn suicide because people are “special.” If being “special” involves something beyond the physical, they are probably borrowing that concept from either a pantheistic or a biblical worldview.

There are Christians who take positions based on pantheistic or evolutionary dogma, often without knowing it. For example: “God put this valley here. If He wanted it under water He would have put it under water. We should not dam the river because we would be destroying what God meant to be here.” While recognizing God as the Creator makes it seem biblical by attributing special value to the way something naturally exists, but this person is actually expressing a pantheistic worldview.

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William Pinkston

By William Pinkston

Mr. William Pinkston teaches science at Bob Jones Academy in Greenville, South Carolina. He is a member of Faith FPC.