Thursday, December 13, 2007

Seven World Views Christian's are Up Against

Rick Warren has staked out six world views he thinks Christians are confronted with on a regular basis. You will find the link above to the Christianity Today article. What seems entirely lacking in these six is a reference to what can only called myopic parochialism, or put another way racism. I think that sort of tribalism we are confronted with over and over again. One way it manifests itself even within the church is the disconnect when I say that American Christian's first obligation is to their fellow Christians anywhere and everywhere regardless of race or nationality etc. not to their fellow Americans simply because they are Americans. I would not have to make this point on one of my visits to African American Churches-- they understand personally what I am talking about without debate or rebuttal.

Let me be clear-- there is a healthy kind of patriotism where one loves one's nation and wishes it well and works for its good. There is another kind of patriotism that no Christian should endorse--- it is 'my country always right, never wrong', or even 'my country is the only God blessed country on the world' or even my country comes first, my faith second' and so on.

Think on these things.


Lisa said...

Heh... your post comes just as I finished a conversation with a dear, atheist friend. These worldviews are familiar, but my friend is much better at leading the conversation away from Christ as the answer than I am to leading it to that point...

Blake Huggins said...

Good thoughts Dr. Witherington. One thought I had:

...I say that American Christian's first obligation is to their fellow Christians anywhere and everywhere regardless of race or nationality etc.

I would rephrase that sentence and say that "American Christians' first obligation is to their fellow human beings anywhere and everywhere regardless of race or nationality etc."

I realize what you're trying to say and I agree wholeheartedly, but in the same way that Americans can limit themselves to only caring for Americans, so also Christians can limit themselves to only caring for other Christians.

We need to transcend the "us/them" false dichotomy however and wherever it manifests itself. This should in include religion as well as patriotism and nationalism.


Derrick said...

Perhaps Warren left it out of his list since most white American like to think that it's not an issue anymore. They like to think that, as Stephen Colbert jokingly put it, racism is over now.

Drew Tatusko said...

It would be like doing what's best for me and what's best for my group at the same time. But the group is defined by doing what's best not only for its own existence and identity, but what's best for those outside of that group as well. In terms of something like game theory, one is situated in and amongst almost innumerable concentric and overlapping circles and the idea is to find a way for all of them to exist in harmony.

But such a constant stretching and calling into question one's own group identity is not only difficult and takes work, but is also uncomfortable and unsettling. But then again, so was the message Jesus preached to those who were quite comfortable in the certainty they bore in their status and position before God.

So there is a balance between support and challenge in which all communities must work and it is within that dialectic that those communities can grow together and not apart.

omakase said...

The seminal southern california punk band "Bad Religion" once wrote a song called "American Jesus":

I don't need to be a global citizen,
because I'm blessed by nationality,
I'm a member of a growing populace,
we enforced our popularity
there are things that seem to pull us under
and there are things that drag us down,
but there's a power and a vital presence
that's lurking all around

we've got the american jesus
see him on the interstate,
we've got the american jesus
he helped build the president's estate

I feel sorry for the earth's population
'cuz so few live in the U.S.A,
at least the foreigners can copy our morality,
they can visit but they cannot stay,
only a precious few can garner our prosperity,
it makes us walk with renewed confidence,
we've got a place to go when we die
and the architect resides right here

we've got the american jesus
overwhelming millions every day
(exercising his authority)

he's the farmer barren fields,
the force the army wields,
the expression in the faces
of the starving millions,
the power of the Man.
he's the fuel that drives the clan,
he's the motive and the conscience
of the murderer
he's the preacher on TV,
the false sincerity,
the form letters that written by
the big computers,
he's the nuclear bombs,
and the kids with no moms
and I'm fearful that
he's inside me
(In God we trust)
(because he's one of us)
(break down, cave in)
(we can redeem your sins)
(strong heart, clear minds)
(and infinitely kind)
(you lose, we win)
(he is our champion!)


I thought this was relevant as the lead singer of the band is also a biology lecturer at UCLA and an atheist. What I understood from this is that the atheist is aware of the arrogance that Americans have as being a "chosen country" and by extension a savior for the rest. Unfortunately, I think there is a lot of truth to this. you can listen to the song on youtube

Joel Joslin said...

I agree, too often people will rubber-stamp everything their government or political party does rather than critically thinking through everything, especially Christians.

Whenever I see a bumper sticker saying "God bless America", I think to myself "He already has, and we've really bungled it."

zefiriel said...

While what you said is, well, quite true, I hope you don't miss this verse -

"As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith." - Galatians 6:10

Unknown said...

Wow, I'm surprised nobody has been ticked off at Ben's comments so far! I'm delighted, but surprised nonetheless. This is certainly a soapbox for me, as I'm sure it is for many of you. Why in the world do we cheer more in our churches when a soldier comes home from Iraq than when a precious individual decides to accept Christ? WHY WHY WHY?

Christian patriotism absolutely makes me sick to my stomach. But hey, I guess we're trying to "take America back for God" it was ever really for God? By the way, when were the good ol days? When was America for God? Was it when they boarded up 6 million people from Africa on ships and enslaved the 3 million that survived for years? Maybe it was when we first settled over here and slaughtered millions of native Indians. Someone help me out here...when were the good ol days? Maybe it was in the 60s before postmodernism struck, and people were smoking weed, doing acid, and having sex with as many people as they wanted and made popular the motto "make love not war". Maybe I'm crazy, but this statement is the absolute most idiotic statement I have ever heard in my life.

The answer to America's problems is not to get the 10 commandments back in the court houses, or prayer back in schools, or "one nation under God" back in the pledge, or for department stores to start saying "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays", or to get the Republicans in office, or to elect Mike Huckabee or Ron Paul as president, or to slaughter all the terrorists, or to make Iraq a democracy, or to make sure we never legalize gay marriage. The answer to America's problem is the person of Jesus Christ. Not to establish laws to keep it a Christian country, but to live self-sacrificially to every single human being we come into contact with.

Woe to you American evangelicals! For you have your silly right-wing political debates and argue over secondary doctrinal issues. You should have considered the more important matters of the law...namely justice, humility, and submission. Then you can speak of yourself as blessed and call yourself followers of Christ!

James W Lung said...

Warren's summary of worldviews is a good start, but the limitations of his own worldview (part biblical, part nominalist, part individualist) need to be noted.

We need to be careful to avoid letting our worldview, in the form of philosophical presuppositions, distort our view of scripture. For example, a cogent argument can be made that a christian who denies the real presence of Christ in the Lord's supper is operating more from non-biblical presuppositions than from biblical faith.

Regarding Ben's comments, I heartily agree that love of country can be idolatrous. What I note in the body, as much as blind patriotism, is a hatred of America that is poisonous. This usually proceeds from christians whose political worldview is on the left. This includes knee-jerk hatred of the so-called religious right.

I agree that as the people of God, our duty to eachother is supra-familial. Co-extensive with our relationship with Christ.


Unknown said...

I couldn't agree more, Dr. Witherington. My husband and I have been shocked and surprised to hear people "gently" criticize our decision to host children from Haiti and Africa so that they may obtain much needed medical work here in the U.S. We have heard more than one say, "Well, that's nice, but we really need to tend to our own first." Our own? Who are "our own"? This attitude infuriates me!

Falantedios said...

I would rather recommend that someone read The Universe Next Door by James Sire and/or True Truth by Art . Their discussion on worldviews is far more balanced and edifying.


PS - "As you have opportunity, do good unto all men, ESPECIALLY those of the household of faith." Christians do have a special responsibility to one another.

PPS - Face it... Americans are our neighbors. We also have a responsibility to love our neighbors. The balanced description of patriotism that Ben offered is a solid one.

Jeremiah A V Dumai said...


Do you come to India? If ever you come please speak on this issue of racism. Tribalism/Casteism is widespread in Indian Churches. One need not go around the nation... one just has to open sunday morning newspaper and glance through the matrimonials. The Christians are never different from others.

Tribalism/ Casteism has also penetrated the church so much that addressing the issue is like asking people not to drive car because it pollutes.

Matt said...

Dr. Witherington's hit on an issue that, for me, is an evergrowing irritation. As a pastor, I inwardly cringe when, in worship, we "spontaneously" jump to our feet for "God Bless America" and struggle to do the same for "Crown Him with Many Crowns". I share the fear previously expressed; that the American church seems to hold a greater allegiance to the U.S.A. than it does to the Kingdom of God. Derek Webb has it right when he sings "My first allegiance is not to a flag, a country or a man..., it's to a King and a Kingdom."

D said...

I think we should of course give Warren credit where credit's due. It seems he and his church have not fallen prey to this worldview, or at least if they have in the past they are attempting to overcome it. Indeed, they have taken a hit from some evangelicals for their AIDS work in Africa, especially when they allowed Obama to speak on that issue in their church.

Ben Witherington said...

I also agree we should give Rick Warren credit-- he is trying to think through things and actually do something of consequence on a whole host of issues-- including AIDs, good for him.


P.S. No, I have never been invited to India, but alas-- racism and tribalism of various sorts is a world problem-- ever since the fall and the tower of Babel.

Dan Holmes said...

I wholeheartedly agree. It bothers me when the Pledge of Allegiance is said in the church on 4th of July Patriotic Services. I kinda struggle with celebrating what is a clear violation of the principles of Romans 13, and what appears to be borderline flag worship.

Brian said...

I thought about the way "compassionate" conservatives treat immigrants, illegal or otherwise, as sub-human political footballs to be kicked around. Not all illegals are here to rape and pillage as they are portrayed. Regardless of their legal status in this country, they are as loved by God as the natives.

Daniel said...


It's not a political partisan issue, but rather as Witherington said, it's been an issue since the Fall. That's way before democrat versus republican.

Robert Lukenbill said...

I am not for sure that people are monsters for kicking out illegal immigrants. I am not sure that this is a form of racism. It is certainly inhumane to simply kick them out and not help them become legal aliens. I am against people bringing disease and bombs into our country. On another note, I thought this article of Rick Warren's was very vague and non-informative. He didn't connect it to me specifically. IT was like reading my fortune or a fortune cookie...John Edwards (the psche guy) has done better. My point is where has the meat gone from Rick's articles? Get back to the word my friend.

zefiriel said...


"to live self-sacrificially to every single human being we come into contact with."

This one is for Christians, or for everyone? If it's the latter, the I guess you've missed the reason Christ came.

"Woe to you American evangelicals! For you have your silly right-wing political debates and argue over secondary doctrinal issues. You should have considered the more important matters of the law...namely justice, humility, and submission. Then you can speak of yourself as blessed and call yourself followers of Christ!"

Weh, I don't know about this. You mean, evangelicals totally didn't care when it comes to social justice and all?

Then I guess you're one of the few righteous Christians who's actually fighting and striving for justice, humility and submission to Christ?

wintay said...

Having been raised a catholic and living in a post-catholic environment (Quebec), I am often led to reflect about what protestants lost when they parted from the Catholic church. The importance of the unity and universality of the body of Christ is probably Ze crucial element that has been lost. I do not blame the christians in America for the scandalous practice of putting up a flag in their sanctuary. I blame our deficient theology which makes us vulnerable to all kind of parochialism.

Naomisu Onamy said...

I am an Australian and I have been surprised not just by the intensity of the patriotism of Americans = USA, but also of the extent of the nation-centredness of the large number of Americans I come across on the internet. This includes not just Christians but also agnostic, atheistic, Bush-hating, sometimes USA-hating citizens of the USA! No matter how much they complain about how things are presently, there is still this attitude that comes across that America = USA is still the best and perhaps the only place on this planet where one can find freedom and happiness.

I often wonder if this began with the first settlers - the Pilgrims. They used the idea of a Promised Land in an Old Testament way just as the Boers did in South Africa.

In my own Christian life I have taken the idea of we Christians as being pilgrims on this planet and also that our true citizenship is in heaven. Presently the side I have never voted for is in government here. I have to remember that when I pray for those now in power, it is not a sanctioning of either side but that the government will not go too overboard with legislation that nobody asked for or was not mentioned before the election and that the nation as a whole will be a peaceful place for all its citizens to live in as far as the government has any power in the matter.

Robert Lukenbill said...

I agree that humanity needs to be extended to all people, but we should also obey the laws of the land (Romans 13:1ff) unless it conflicts with God's law.

Illegal immigrants bring disease into our country. The Native American Indians know a thing or two about having their country invaded with small pox and other diseases nearly desolating their people.

The government in the USA says you need to be immunized and make sure you don't bring any guns, bombs or bad diseases into our country before becoming a citizen. If this is a problem for people then just stay out. It has nothing to do with Christianity but rather humanity at its core. The greatest good for the greatest number.