Home > Culture, Mallinak, The Family, The World, Worship > CHRISTIAN WORLDVIEW Starts at Home


March 11, 2008

So, we’ve laid the foundations of the Christian worldview. You can refresh your memory here and here, or you can keep reading. And since foundations serve a vital role in building, we see the necessity of covering our bases. Since we view the world through Christian eyes, we understand that God is absolute, that God is sufficient, that God is the ultimate reality, the Uncaused Cause of all things. We understand that nothing exists apart from or independently of God, and thus we understand that Creation is entirely dependent on God. And this means that we depend on God for knowledge. We can only know what God intends that we should know, what God has revealed to us in nature or in Scripture. God knows all things originally and exhaustively, we only know after Him. And that includes our knowledge or understanding of right and wrong, and how right and wrong is determined. We do not make up our own ethic. God has revealed the Christian ethic, and we receive that ethic.

This, in a nutshell, is the foundation. And foundations, as they go, are fine things. I once knew of a man who spent a great deal of time digging out footers, setting in reinforcement, and building a very sturdy foundation for his future home. After several years of work, he finally finished with the foundation. We all admired it, wondering what would sit on it. But the foundation just sat there, holding up nothing but leaves, dust, and the occasional stray ant. Foundations need a house hat.

Our Christian Worldview, while certainly an admirable thing, needs something to cap it off. In other words, we need to take this fine Christian Worldview, and put it to some practical use. Foundations are only good when they are useful. And foundations are only useful when they prop something up. A Christian Worldview is viewing the world through Christian eyes, which implies that we Christians do some viewing, and that we are actually looking at something. We apply our Christian Worldview. This work of applying the Christian Worldview begins in the home.

Ephesians 6:4 gives us a mandate for applying the Biblical Worldview, starting in the home.

And ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

The modern meaning of nurture is similar to the word nourish – to feed, to promote growth. But the word nurture is broader than mere physical nourishment and nurturing. It includes growth in maturity. This is accomplished through education. To nurture is to educate, to train up. The Greek word in this passage is paideia, which is the word the Greeks would have used for education. In the Greek world, classroom instruction and formal education was a central part of paideia, but it was not the entirety. The central point of paideia went further than mere knowledge, extending into the culture at large. The goal of paideia in the Greek world was the establishment and furtherance of a culture. Children were cultivated, both by the culture and for the culture. Greek philosophers pictured the ideal citizen taking his place in the ideal culture, and all education aimed at producing that ideal.Then along came the Apostle Paul. Paul presents a new picture – a new ideal. “Bring them up” Paul says, “in the paideia… of the Lord.” A new culture, Paul argues, a new kind of culture is required. And, unlike the Greek world, Paul places the responsibility for this enculturation on the fathers, not on the government. Fathers must bring their children up in this Christian culture, this “culture of the Lord.”

Obviously, this “culture of the Lord” looks different than Ephesian culture. But since this is no reactionary culture, simply doing the opposite of whatever the surrounding pagans do, we need a better idea of what Christian culture looks like. On a theoretical level, the foundations of such a culture should be fairly easy to distinguish. Worldly culture is built on the sand of lusts, of emotional feelies, of shifting ethical norms, of various shades of Epicurean and/or Stoic-isms. Christian culture is founded on the Rock.

But will there be a difference in the house? Will that difference be seen on the outside of the house? Will it be noticeably different on the inside of the house? Will there be a difference in the structure, in the layout, in the materials, in the furniture, in the decorations, in the atmosphere, in the noises, in the aroma of the Christian home?

The answer is: absolutely. There is such a thing as a distinctively Christian culture. And our goal during the month of March is to describe, as best we can, what that distinction will be, to apply the Christian worldview and particularly Christian ethics to culture in order to present a model for a paideia of the Lord.

But before we get too far into it, we really ought to work on a framework for our cultural ideas. To extend the metaphor, there is no sense hanging the drywall until we have framed the walls. In this post, I would like to present a framework for a godly culture: basic guidelines for proper Christian living in this present world.

First, a truly Christian culture must be centered on Christ. While this seems basic enough, we really need to think about what this means. A Christian culture is a worshipping culture. On the other hand, a worldly culture is also a worshipping culture. The direction of worship runs in two vastly different directions, but the fact of worship remains. The worship in a Christian home must be distinct from the worship in a worldly home. And the first application of this is that worship must characterize the Christian home. Worship must be on-going, regular, and faithful. We cannot claim to have a “culture of the Lord” if we make a habit of ignoring the Lord. The Christian home then will be characterized by faithful worship, both public and private.

Worship involves sacrifice. Every home makes sacrifices, faithful sacrifices in fact, to their God. The worldly home sacrifices each other for themselves. The Christian home sacrifices themselves for each other. The worldly home lives for pleasure. The Christian family presents their bodies as living sacrifices, holy, acceptable unto God, which is their reasonable service. This means that a Christian home faithfully serves the Lord together. The worldly home worships and serves the creature more than the Creator (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13).

Worship includes authority. A culture “of the Lord” means that Christ is the Lord of the culture. The Lord governs the Christian home. The first rule of the Christian home is “thou shalt love the Lord thy God.” Since the Christian home loves the Lord God first, keeping God’s commands are first priority. Every activity, every custom, every decision is weighed in the light of God’s commandments. The Christian home regularly discusses God’s laws, seeking to apply God’s law to their manner of living. But the worldly home has a different set of rules to live by. Right and wrong are defined, not by the Word of God, but by tradition, by preference, by whim. “I like it” or “I don’t like it” carries the most weight. The ethic of the worldly home follows the shifting standards of carnality, and the worldly home is tossed on the waves of fashion and style and popularity.

Secondly, a Christian culture must itself be a culture. A real, actual, honest-to-goodness, thriving culture. In other words, we must not simply reject culture because we reject the world’s culture. The passage commands us to bring them up in the paideia (that is, culture) of the Lord. Ours is a work of displacement.

The Bible does not tell us what the rest of the world was like when God created the Garden of Eden for Adam. But we do know that Adam was commanded to “subdue the earth and have dominion over it.” This indicates that Adam was commanded to expand the boundaries of Eden. Eden was, for Adam, a starting place. And the Garden of Eden was the model for the rest of the world. God commanded Adam to make a garden like Eden. Even so, we must be making our own little Garden of Eden within the confines of our own homes, and subduing the earth from there. Every father should strive to establish and develop a particular culture in his own home. This culture must be different in nature from the culture of the world. And yet, we must recognize that God has placed us in this world. We are required to know the world, even to understand the world in order to discern. We must interpret the surrounding culture, and we must interpret the culture for our children. We don’t reject vinyl siding or tinted windows merely because the world has them. In fact, from the outside the Christian home will look very similar to the neighbors – grass, flowers, driveway, two and one half cars, and a mailbox. For that matter, the neighbors have couches, and so do we. The neighbors have pictures hanging on the walls, and so do we. The neighbors have free-standing lamps, and so do we. The neighbors have beds, some even have bunk beds, and so do we.

In these and other ways, Christian culture resembles the culture of the world. The Christian culture does not insist on living outside the bounds of cultural norms. And yet where the resemblance begins, it also ends. For the distinction lies, not in the bunk beds, but in how we approach things like bunk beds.  The distinction lies, not in living room furniture, or two and one half cars, or garages with gardening implements hanging on the walls.  The distinction lies in how we think about living room furniture, why we have it, how we arrange it, our attitudes towards it.  The distinction lies in our approach to our vehicles, and our gardening implements.

Nevertheless, we have a culture. And that culture includes things… music, stories, laughter, food, tears, rest, work, furniture, appliances, and entertainment. The world approaches these things as the end. The Christian considers these things to be means to an end. The world serves their technologies. The world becomes enslaved by them. Consistent Christians, on the other hand, makes a servant of technologies. The world looks at the things that are seen. The Christian at the things that are not seen. The world thinks on the abundance of the things which he possesses. The Christian thinks on the things that are true, and honest, and just, and pure, and lovely, and of good report, and virtuous, and praiseworthy. These things enrich the Christian’s culture, and in all his choices, he aims at these things.

Thirdly, a Christian culture must be patriarchal. The verse commands, “And ye fathers… bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Here lies yet another distinction. In American culture, mother dominates the home. Dad either abandoned the home long ago, or else is absent somewhere between the workplace and the garage. At the very least, the average worldly dad abdicates in his responsibility. As believers, we must begin to grasp the cultural impact of this problem. We have a generation of young people who are angry at their parents, particularly at their fathers. I have heard plenty of fathers claim that their children rebelled against their “faithfulness to the Lord.” But in counseling, I have found this rarely to be the case. What the children rebel against is a father who uses his service for God as an excuse for not serving the family. Children rebel against a father who reserves his gracious speech for everyone living outside their home. Children rebel against a father who prefers to be anywhere, including the garage or the workshop, but home with the family.

We must understand that this is a cultural issue. A Christian culture is characterized by diligent fathers. In a Christian culture, dad sets the tone, dad determines the details, dad sets the example, dad cultivates the garden. If the garden is full of weeds, then dad is neglecting his own vineyard.  God puts the responsibility squarely on the shoulder of the father. At the same time, when fathers obey God, roll up their sleeves, and work to establish a Christian culture in the home, this too has a cultural impact.

Finally, a Christian culture must be instructive. The Bible commands us to bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. The Christian home then is a place of instruction, where the family is being instructed from the Word, and the father is doing the instructing. In the Christian home, the father does a work of interpretation. In worldly homes, the children are left to make their own interpretations about the world, about themselves, about life. Often, the child in a worldly home turns to the television for interpretation, with the result of even more worldliness. But in the Christian home, the father interprets the world and the surrounding culture for his children.

This work of instruction involves probing and questioning about the details of the day. When the kids get home from school, and as the family gathers around the dinner table, the father must be engaged, involved in the conversation, and must be a good listener. The father must help his children understand what happened, why it happened, and what they should learn from it. This is such a vital part of establishing a Christian culture in the home that I daresay a truly Christian culture will never be established apart from this sort of instruction.

Our children must have all of Scripture applied to all of life, or they will never themselves make the connection. Parents need to learn to ask their children, “what does God’s Word say about this?” And once again, this is precisely the point at which a Christian home differs from a worldly home.

Such a Christian home, full of instruction in righteousness, is not only a place of instruction, but is also instructive to the surrounding culture. Surely, we must preach the gospel to every creature. But the loudest, most eloquent, and most powerful gospel preaching we will ever do is through the culture of our own families, as we live in our neighborhoods, worship in our churches, and involve ourselves in our communities.

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