A few years ago I was flying to San Francisco from my home in Honolulu. As I waited to board, I noticed many larger-than-average men getting on the plane. When I looked a little closer, I recognized a few familiar faces. On my left was Eddie Lacy of the Green Bay Packers. Behind me, I saw Terrell Suggs of the Baltimore Ravens. I saw Alex Smith, quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs. There were other faces I couldn’t place, but I was confident they were NFL players. The odds of that many NFL stars ending up on the same flight from Honolulu to San Francisco would be incredibly low.
But when I tell you my flight was a few days after the Pro Bowl, the NFL all-star game in Honolulu, it makes sense. There could be many NFL players on the flight because there were many NFL stars in town.
Once you understand the bigger picture of what was happening in Hawaii that week, you understand why there were so many NFL players on one flight. And while I was a bit worried about the weight distribution of so many men larger than 250 pounds on one flight, we made it to San Francisco just fine.
I later realized that flight isn’t much different from the way we should interpret the events of our lives. Unless we understand the broader context of God’s plan in history, we won’t make sense of the individual pieces of our lives.
This might sound like Christianity 101, but the Bible’s storyline and the story of our lives need to line up. Our biblical theology needs to inform our practical worldview. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.
As James Anderson describes it, “Your worldview shapes and informs your experiences of the world around you. Like a pair of spectacles with colored lenses, it affects what you see and how you see it.” A worldview is how you make sense of the world and what you see around you.
Many Christian teachers and organizations do well with worldview training. They help us understand that what we believe about cosmology, history, art, and science necessarily shapes the way we think. If you believe the story of the universe is an account of random and unguided expansion, evolution, and eventual collapse, that will shape how you make sense of everything from marriage to money. If you believe creation and time are cyclical with no beginning and no end, this will affect the way you think about life and death. And if you believe the arc of history is creation, fall, redemption, and new creation, then that great story ought to affect your life.
From Theology to Worldview
Seeing this worldview clearly requires the discipline of biblical theology—learning to read the progressive story of God’s redemption and tracing the themes throughout his Word that point us to his Son. Yet I don’t always hear those emphasizing Christian worldview saying much about biblical theology. Therefore, a series like InterVarsity’s New Studies in Biblical Theology or a book like Tom Schreiner’s The King in His Beauty should be the bread and butter of Christian worldview thinking.
But on the other hand, I’m not sure biblical theologians always make the connection to Christian worldview.
I don’t understand why we don’t often see biblical theologians and Christian worldview people together, but they ought to be. So my plea to the biblical theology people (including myself) is to think more about how the story and themes that emerge from Scripture directly shape our lives—and then to spell those out in sermons, lectures, and books. And my plea to the worldview people is to read and digest more good biblical theology, and let that grand story and accompanying themes be your guide for constructing a Christian worldview. Before we get to the other stories like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings, let’s remember they are but echoes of this greater story.
What Difference Does It Make?
If we suffer unjustly, we can lean into this great story of redemption to make better sense of our own story. Although Jesus has won the decisive victory over sin and death and Satan, the serpent is still raging against the offspring of the woman (Gen. 3:15). And we will feel the heat of this battle until Jesus returns.
As we walk through hard moments in our marriages, we can recalibrate them in the light of this great story. Husbands ought to love their wives as Christ loves the church for their sanctification and holiness. Wives ought to submit to their husbands and joyfully remind them how marriage should model the good news. Our marriages should reflect this story.
If you are paralyzed thinking about your career—what you’re called to do both inside and outside the workplace—start with the calling and commands the biblical storyline makes clear. Loving God and neighbor aren’t nice suggestions. They are wrapped into the story of the Messiah who perfectly loved God and his neighbors, even to the point of death for them. Because he fulfilled this primary calling for us, we are free to pursue our vocations with joy.
I’m convinced the explanatory power of biblical theology is an untapped tool for Christian apologetics. Sometimes our lives and the world around us don’t seem to make sense. But when we map them through the ongoing story of redemption, we might not get all the answers we’d like, but more often than not we’ll get more clarity. When we talk about living within a Christian worldview, we’re talking about living within a story. And we must let the story of the Bible and the centrality of Christ shape our stories from beginning to end—especially in those moments when life doesn’t make sense.