Tuesday, August 24, 2010

LHP Review: Additions to Your Worldview Library

Jahn, Curtis A., Editor. Here We Stand: A Confessional Christian Study of Worldviews. Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 2010. 350 Pages. Paper. $20.50. http://www.nph.net/  (LHP)

Sire, James W. The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog, Fifth Edition. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009. 293 Pages. Paper. $22.00. http://www.ivpress.com/  http://www.ivpbooks.com/  http://www.ivpacademic.com/  (LHP)

A worldview, simply defined, consists of the lenses through which a person sees and interprets the world. Most people have never critically examined their own worldview and usually have plenty of inconsistencies. These two books will help readers to narrow the gap between Biblical faith and Christian life.

"Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther said, 'Here I stand!' when confronted with the heresies of his day. Not much has changed. Christians are still confronted with faith-destroying teachings that now seem to come from every direction. Today the entire Christian worldview is under attack. Even the notion of truth itself is denied. How is a Christian to respond in the face of such non-Christian worldviews? We need to understand those views as well as our own faith and worldview based on Scripture and firmly says, 'Here we stand!'

"In this Impact Series book, the authors use the truth of God's Word to examine such worldviews as Darwinism, Islam, New Age, atheism, pantheism (the view that everything is God--humans and all of nature), postmodernism, and the moral relativism that says anything and everything is 'OK.' By learning about other worldviews, Christians can better understand and witness to the people who hold those views. Readers will also see how such non-Christian worldviews influence their own beliefs, attitudes, and actions  without their realizing it" (pulbisher's website).
Of the two books reviewed here, this is probably the most "friendly." I mean that with regard to a confessional Lutheran theology and worldview as well as vocabulary, reading, and reasoning level for the average lay reader. I recommend it for high school age and up.
Readers will get a great review of the basics of Christianity as well as Lutheran distinctives that have their source in Scripture and are sadly denied by much of Christianity. I particularly appreciated the denominational statistics in context (264-5, et al), the challenge of American Evangelicalism (276ff), and a review of the Muslim concept of "abrogated passages" where newer parts of the Koran replace older so-called "revelation." 
This book reminds us that justification by grace through faith in Christ alone is at stake. The essay authors, presenters at a 2005 Worldview Conference, have AFLC, WELS, LCMS and ELS backgrounds, yet are united in their call for a confessional Christian Lutheran worldview. Views presented show a chasm between confessional Lutheran synods and the ELCA. Perhaps such discussions, conferences and future "free conferences" could result in the rebirth of the Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America.
Ready for whats next? Consider how your neighbors in this world perceive the world around them.

"For more than thirty years, The Universe Next Door has set the standard for a clear, readable introduction to worldviews. In this new fifth edition James Sire offers additional student-friendly features to his concise, easily understood introductions to theism, deism, naturalism, Marxism, nihilism, existentialism, Eastern monism, New Age philosophy and postmodernism. Included in this expanded format are a new chapter on Islam and informative sidebars throughout.

"The book continues to build on Sire's refined definition of worldviews from the fourth edition and includes other updates as well, keeping this standard text fresh and useful. In a world of ever-increasing diversity, The Universe Next Door offers a unique resource for understanding the variety of worldviews that compete with Christianity for the allegiance of minds and hearts.

"The Universe Next Door has been translated into over a dozen languages and has been used as a text at over one hundred colleges and universities in courses ranging from apologetics and world religions to history and English literature.

"Sire's Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a Concept provides a useful companion volume for those desiring a more in-depth discussion of the nature of a worldview" (publisher's website). [We at QBR would be interested in reviewing this companion volume.]

This volume has a more academic feel to it. That in itself should NOT put it out of read for lay readers, but it is rich in detail, has abundant footnotes, and is pretty comprehensive in cataloging worldviews. Sire provides an expanded discussion of some philosophies/theologies presented in Here We Stand and would be a good book to read after that. As a confessional Lutheran Christian, I see Here We Stand as a necessary prequel/antidote to the confessional Reformed worldview Sire presents. Not everything in Christianity is reasonable. Some topics must be held by faith, like the Incarnation, Resurrection, baptismal regeneration, and the Real Presence of Christ's Body and Blood in the Sacrament of the Altar because God in Scripture says so!

One danger of apologetics, logic, and worldview studies is a temptation to make reason equal with Scripture or its master. Both must be avoided.

I found this book particularly helpful in better understanding the philosophies and religious worldviews of the American founders. Some of the most influential men behind the Declaration and Constitution were Deists or Unitarians depending upon your definition of those terms. Yes, there were many Christians involved, and their worldview shows in our founding documents. Yet, there is no explicit mention of the Gospel or Jesus Christ. Some contemporary commentators redefine as "Christian" founders who denied the divinity and exclusivity of Christ. Sire to the rescue!

As Headmaster of a classical Lutheran grammar school, I am preparing text recommendations for beyond our current K-5 offerings. We will likely begin a study of worldview with Veith's The Spirituality of the Cross. Now I will add both Here We Stand and The Universe Next Door to our worldview curriculum. Once we have covered basic logic, I will add apologetics to the mix with Parton's The Defense Never Rests and Religion on Trial and then will review Jahn and Sire at the high school level.

Is that a lot to expect of teenagers? Yes. But they are already thinking about these concepts because of the cultural exposure they receive. This will give our classically-taught teens better tools to determine what is true and how to stand up as winsome advocates for God's truth.

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.