Transforming Our Vision

     As I write this, I am in prayer and preparation for teaching a portion of the new staff training course on worldviews. I've had the privilege of helping to teach this class numerous times, and I am still in awe that this opportunity has befallen me. A certain great grace has been shown me by CCO leadership to allow me to stay involved in our organization in this way and I am very grateful. Still, as I review notes, scour the landscape of popular culture for illustrations and recall stories which helped me form a culturally-formative world and life perspective, I am always haunted. Indeed, and I don't exaggerate here, it is one of the deepest burdens God has given me in my life. I refer to the simple question asked, by many of us, of our own lives, of our faith communities and especially of the CCO, in Brian Walsh's little book Subversive Christianity. There, Brian notes that even those who reject dualism, who understand the biblical drama and the connections between creation, fall and redemption, even those who are intentional and self-consciously praying for a Reformed worldview, still all too often don't live any differently than any-body else. Why, given teaching about the Lordship of Christ and the Kingdom of God, about the sovereignty of God and the orderedness of creation, about the cultural mandate and God's demand for justice-why aren't we so filled with vision an d duty and joy and love that we live like we really believed it? Walsh, you may recall, develops his argument that worldviews are more than ideas, more than beliefs, and that, yes, one can have a reformational vision and still not be gripped by the possibilities of hope. Our imaginations (a theme he nicely picks up from Brueggemann) are captive to the times. And so I wonder if this class is useful. I wonder if it truly helps form the worldview-analysis, if it empowers CCO staff to live faithfully out of Romans 12:1-2? Do we really disciple our students differently than other campus ministries? Are we decisively breaking with the mistakes of both theological liberalism and shallow evangelicalism? Do we know and love the Scriptures so much that our lives take shape as actually part of their ongoing story? Do we find our hope in nothing less than the truth that God reigns, and does that impact in significant and notable ways the very way we influence our younger student friends and our campus culture?

     I was struck "like with a hammer" when a simple verse popped out at me recently. After a well-known passage in the fourth chapter of Paul's second letter to young Timothy, Paul reports (I assume that it is with great sadness), "For Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me..." Demas, you should know, is mentioned three other times in Scripture (for instance, in Philemon he calls Demas a fellow worker). Imagine hanging out and assisting Paul in apostolic ministry and then giving it all up. While it may be appropriate to use worldview-ish jargon to understand such things, or to wonder what kept Demas' imagination from truly seeing the Kingdom, Paul is blunt. Demas loved the world. For this month's column, to help you all recall those heady class sessions when the history of dualism and the idols of the age were critiqued, where an "in the world but not of it" strategy was envisioned, where a Kuyperian call to integrate faith and learning was sounded, I offer this year's class syllabus. I tried, you might note, to suggest in rhetoric and style that this semi-philosophical stuff has great implications. May you dream big biblical dreams as you invite students to this sort of a worldview and way of being in the world for and with Christ Jesus. I pray none of them who join you in developing a prophetic imagination and Kingdom lifestyle end up like Demas. Worldview Class Syllabus

Monday - Transforming Vision
Chapter 6: The Problem with Dualism
Why is it that Christianity is so often considered "culturally irrelevant"? Why do so few Christians see the implications of their faith for daily life? How can we do campus ministry in a way which invites radical, "whole-life" discipleship? Why do we seem to care more for Jesus the Savior rather than Jesus the Lord?

Tuesday - Transforming Vision
Chapter 7: The Development of Dualism
To effectively challenge unbiblical dualism (which leads to truncated and unfaithful living), we must know from where it came. Understanding this diagnosis is critical if we are to be wise and mature leaders, helpfully leading others and freeing them to a fruitful and faithful spirituality.

Chapter 8: The Rise of the Modern Worldview
Dualistic faith sets the stage for secularization and idolatry. Faithful biblical people must spiritually understand the roots of Western culture and the influences which shape our world. Jesus was harsh with those who failed to understand the times and wept over Jerusalem for their lack of such insight.

Wednesday - Transforming Vision
Chapter 9: The Gods of Our Age
The Bible insists that we exercise discernment and prophetic judgment; we must equip our younger Christian friends to withstand the false spirits of modernity. How can we really "see" what is driving the engines of our pagan society? Can we become communities of resistance to the worldliness of the church? Can we nurture students to think deeply about their world and the causes of its brokenness?

Thursday - Transforming Vision
Chapter 10: A Christian Cultural Response
We've been gripped by a full-orbed, reformational vision of radical, whole-life discipleship. We've learned the history of dualism and discerned the (evil) spirits of the age. In the power of the Holy Spirit, we are raising up a passionate generation to be prophetic in denouncing and resisting the idols of our time. Yet prophetic critique is not enough. Our biblically-informed, Godly imaginations must give rise to creative and daring initiatives to redirect culture, to transform the principalities and powers and respond with a subversive faith big enough to reclaim the land for King Jesus. It is your job and privilege to recruit and empower students to become agents of creation-wide, redemptive cultural reformation. Can we do it?

Friday - Transforming Vision
Chapters 11 & 12: Developing the Christian Mind
God will not be honored until our resistance to the deforming influence of secularized worldviews and social trends becomes a force of redirection, offering healing insights in every area of life. To do this (this is so important!) we need Christian thinkers who intentionally "double-study," working towards integral, Christian academic discipleship. "Taking every theory captive" (2 Cor. 10:5 ), Christian students will make a mark in their departments, witnessing to faculty and classmates alike, preparing for careers which are holy vocations. A truly Christian experience of college life includes thinking Christianly about majors and course work, and seeing future work as callings into normative, Kingdom service.

Required reading:
Transforming Vision: Developing a Christian Worldview by Brian Walsh & Richard Middleton (IVP)

Other highly-recommended books which will be referenced in class discussion:
  • Subversive Christianity: Imaging God in a Dangerous Time by Brian Walsh (Alta Vista Press) 
  • Creation Regained: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview by Al Wolters (Eerdmans) 
  • Heaven is Not My Home: Living in the Now of God's Creation by Paul Marshall (Word) 
  • Who Turned Out the Lights? by Brian Walsh (Institute for Christian Studies)