By Fred Pugh
The renowned Reformed theologian, newspaper editor, and politician, Dr. Abraham Kuyper served as Prime Minister of the Netherlands during the early part of the 20th century. He founded the Free University of Amsterdam, today a major world university. In a lecture series given at Princeton University, he defined the central principle of the Reformed faith as follows: “This dominating principle was not, soteriologically, justification by faith, but, in a wider sense, cosmologically, the sovereignty of the Triune God over the whole Cosmos, in all its spheres and kingdoms, visible and invisible.” Thus he saw the Reformed faith, not as just the best expression of one’s personal and individual salvation, but as a total world and life view. Man was to see and acknowledge the sovereignty of God in every area of human activity.
What is a world and life view? Simply stated, it is the way that one views the world and life as it exists in and around humanity. It is the way one views reality. Every person living has a world and life view. He may or may not be conscious of that view, but he lives his life in accord with that view. Either he sees God as totally sovereign in every sphere of life and every part of the world, or he makes man sovereign in some or all spheres of life. The two views are antithetical.
The world and life view that sees man as sovereign, a view known today as secular humanism, rejects the majesty and authority of God. This system attempts to set up an artificial authority based upon the free, autonomous will of the individual. It is evolutionary in its approach to life. It views man as essentially good and ever evolving to a higher and better way of life. Those who hold this world-life view believe that man’s problems are the result of environment, lack of education, etc. Thus man can solve those problems through environmental change, greater allocation of monetary funds, education, etc. This world view encounters problems consistently because it has an artificial authority, thus always changing. It is constantly frustrated by it’s growing problems created by the very solutions proposed to solve previous problems. Rather than turn and acknowledge the authority of God and His law, however, humanistic man continues to suppress the truth in unrighteousness.
Perhaps the greatest example of this world and life view is the sexual revolution that began after World War II. “Authorities” told people that the Puritanical taboos of their parents were old-fashioned. One could not use the Bible as a standard. Every situation must decide the ethic one would follow. People should feel free to express themselves sexually however seemed right to them. The advocates of this lifestyle however did not count on the number of unwed pregnancies that swept the nation. Rather than reverse direction and return to the moral standard of God’s authoritative law, they proposed the answer to be birth control.
The leading proponent of this of course was the organization known as Planned Parenthood. To the chagrin of the humanist leaders of Planned Parenthood, illegitimate pregnancies increased even more. The answer proposed for illegitimate pregnancies was abortion. With abortion, however, came a total disrespect for life that produced irresponsible men who would not care for the women they impregnated nor the children they fathered.
Thus women had to move increasingly into the work force to support the children they bore. Unable to achieve the same wages as men, many banded together to form the feminist movement. The feminist movement grew more radical and resulted in the emotional and cultural emasculation of the male in our society. The answer to that for the humanist male was homosexuality. That produced AIDS. The answer to AIDS was safe sex, which is producing more AIDS and more illegitimate pregnancies. One could go on and on. Never, however, will the humanist world and life view acknowledge the right of a sovereign God to tell man how he is to live.
2 Corinthians 10:1-6, especially vs. 5, shapes the view of the Christian, and especially that form of Christianity that stayed true to the theology of the Reformers, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, etc. We are “casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” The Reformed Christian believes that any thought process that denies or excludes God is in disobedience to Him. Those arguments that seek to do so must by cast down. The knowledge of God must be brought into every area of thought. Any thinking that exalts itself against the knowledge of God must be cast down.
Man cannot exclude God from any area of life. No thinking can be complete until man acknowledges the sovereignty of God over that area. The reformed Christian rejects the idea that faith in God can be excluded from any sphere, as the liberal media wants in politics. Reformed Christians reject public, government schools because man has excluded God. The result is increased violence, drug use, promiscuous sexual behavior, etc. The root of those symptoms, however, is the exclusion of God from the schools. Thus, truth can never be presented.
Central to a Reformed world-life view is the Biblical doctrine of God’s sovereignty over all of life. Simply stated, God, not man, is king! Many other theological systems do not sufficiently appreciate the grandeur and majesty of Christ as reigning king. Those systems do not evaluate events of this life and world in light of how they bring glory to God, but in how they affect man. For the Reformed Christian, Jesus Christ is Lord and reigns in history, over all the universe. He is free and independent of every force or being outside himself; He does whatever He pleases in heaven and earth. (Psalm 115) He knows the end from the beginning because He has decreed all that takes place in time and space. He directs all events that occur in this life so that in that final day He will fulfill and show to all creation the marvelous design that He has had from eternity. That design is set before us in Eph. 1:9-14 and characterized by the statement, “to the praise of His glory.”
Is this important? Is it really that significant a matter? Absolutely it is? Who can explain the horror of suffering and death that one sees all around him? Who can explain the tragedies of life that one encounters every day through the media or in one’s personal experience? Who can explain the situations in one’s own life personally that it seems just should not be happening? Events occur that seem like judgment when one thinks he has been walking in obedience to God. One is treated unfairly. Events occur that one thought happened to everyone else but would never happen to him. Why?
In Job 38-42, God gives the explanation that would satisfy if man would, like Job, humble himself before Him and listen to Him. In summary, God tells Job that there is a wisdom that far exceeds Job’s, a wisdom that He has not in totality revealed to him. Job’s response is to bow in humble submission to God’s sovereign purposes. It takes 42 chapters, but finally Job says in 42:2,3, “I know that You can do everything and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.” Like it or not, God is sovereign and He will not share His glory with another.
It is at this point that the Reformed world and life view takes its departure from other professing Christian world views. The Reformed doctrine of soteriology proclaims God’s sovereignty even in the area of salvation. Other professing Christian world views, whether Roman Catholic or even evangelical Protestant, in some degree, discount God’s sovereignty in the salvation of man. They reject the doctrines of man’s total depravity, his inability to do anything even to prepare himself for salvation. They reject God’s unconditional election to salvation of those whom it pleased Him to save. However, either God is sovereign in all things, salvation included, or it one cannot say that God is sovereign in anything. The sovereignty of the Roman Catholic or the remonstrant Arminian is a different sovereignty than that of Scripture. There can be no assurance of God’s sovereign working in the events of this life apart from the view that God is sovereign in all things.
Central also to a Reformed world-life view is the doctrine of the authority of the Scripture. The humanist world-life-view has an artificial authority that is always changing. By contrast the Reformed Christian has an unchanging authority, the written word of God. The Sovereign God has not seen fit to reveal the totality of His wisdom to man as Job learned. He has revealed all that is necessary for life and godliness to man. Thus one finds written in Deut. 29:29, “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.” In those dark times when one does not understand what is going on around him, he has the word of God to direct him in how he is to act.
The Reformed Christian believes that Scripture addresses every area of life. As the late Cornelius Van Til stated, “The Scripture is authoritative in every area of life to which it speaks and it speaks to every area of life.” One should not misunderstand that idea to say that the Bible tells you how to fix your washing machine when it breaks. It does, however, give either direct orders or indirect principles that one is to follow in every area of life. The Bible is the book by which one judges every other textbook. Only in this way can one bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
Some have asserted that in the area of counseling, one needs more than just the Scripture. One needs the Scripture plus the insights of psychology. The Reformed world-life view says that Scripture is sufficient for us. Insights of psychology, as far as they agree with the Biblical doctrine of man and sin and salvation, may be helpful. They must, however, always be judged by the Scripture. They do not say anything that one could not deduce by a thorough study of the Scripture.
Because Reformed Christians hold such an authoritative view of the Scripture, they do not hesitate to proclaim that the law of God is authoritative for all men in all situations at all time. They deplore situation ethics. They deplore relativism. They proclaim that man finds freedom in obedience to the law of God as the Holy Spirit enables him to keep that law.
Not all theological traditions hold such a high view of Scripture as authoritative in life. Some traditions look for direction in life from dreams, visions, ecstatic utterances, prophecies, etc. The problem here is that there is no objective standard by which to evaluate those forms of direction. Often the subjective revelation violates the Word of God. Following the election of Bill Clinton as president, a professed prophet, Paul Cain, declared that God had given him a prophecy that God was going to place His spirit upon Bill Clinton. He compared Mr. Clinton to Saul who became the Apostle Paul, King Solomon, King David, Abraham, and others. In this so-called “prophecy,” Scriptures were twisted and torn from context. Scripture was made to say things it does not say. How are we to view such “prophecies?” One must view them as nothing more than the wishful thinking of perhaps well-intentioned but deceived men.
Within evangelical circles that would perhaps reject such visions, one finds people looking for leadings of the Spirit, something called “peace” about a matter, open doors, closed doors, etc. If all one needs for life and godliness one has through knowledge of Him, one would do better to search the Scripture that he might know God, than that he might find some subjective leading. Far too often those subjective leadings are in direct contradiction to the Scriptures. It is the Word of God that shapes one’s doctrine and life, both public and private life.
As the Reformed Christian looks at life, he does not make a dichotomy between sacred and secular. All of life is sacred and to be lived under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Believing not only that the Scripture is authoritative for one’s life individually, the Reformed Christian proclaims that the Scriptures inform all areas of life. It is this proclamation that the world hates. The humanist says that religion is a private matter, thus separating the sacred and secular. Politicians claim they can believe one way and vote another. They tell Christians that they have the right to believe whatever they want privately but that they cannot tell others what they should believe. One should note, however, that the competing world-life view of humanism does not hesitate to state what others should believe. That have captured the school systems of the nation, the media, etc. and use those institutions to propagate their humanist faith. By telling Christians that they cannot tell others what to believe, they are doing that which they say Christians cannot do.
Sadly, however, many Christians have adopted this dichotomy between the sacred and secular, a dichotomy based not in Scripture, but in pagan Greek philosophy. This happens in at least three ways. There are those who say that it is the job of the Christian and the church to preach the gospel only, meaning individual salvation. Christians are not to be involved in political issues or social issues, just preach the gospel. Any gospel, however, which does not affect the political and social structures in which it is proclaimed is a truncated gospel. The Christian’s job is to proclaim the gospel of Christ in the political, social, and cultural issues of the day. The Christian must proclaim that one cannot solve social problems apart from the redemptive work of Christ. Political conservatism and political liberalism apart from Christ end in the same place, totalitarianism. Apart from Christ, authority comes (To paraphrase Chairman Mao) from the barrel of a gun.
Second, many Christians speak of certain areas being amoral or neutral. If God has created all things, then all things have moral implications. They are moral if used for God’s glory, immoral if not. In the field of education, many view mathematics as a neutral subject. They would say there are only brute facts in mathematics. It makes no difference whether those facts are taught from a Christian perspective or non-Christian perspective. But what makes any fact a fact? Is it not because God created it to be so? A person’s world and life view determines how he interprets a fact, even 2+2=4.
Third, many Christians see God’s hand in the supernatural but not in the natural occurrences of life. It’s as if the supernatural is sacred, but the natural is secular. One example is physical healing. Many Christians seem to think that if there is a divine intervention of God healing apart from the use of medical technology, then God healed. If healing comes through medical means, however, then the doctors have healed. But who gave the knowledge to man? Who enables man to learn? Who causes medication to have the desired effect? Is it a world that operates apart from God? No! It is God who is to be glorified, no matter how it takes place. Whether the medical personnel acknowledges God or not, He still is the one who is to receive the glory. It is interesting that the great medical advances have come in those places where Christianity has been the dominating religious thought. Seldom do such breakthroughs come from Muslim, Hindu, or other pagan nations. May God be praised.
How does one develop such a world-life-view? One must question every assumption to see if it accords with Scripture. One must so thoroughly immerse himself in Scripture that he judges everything by the teaching of Scripture. Ultimately a Reformed world and life view comes as one does what the Apostle Paul did when he wrote to the Corinthian church. He sought to bring every thought captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ. When Christ is central to all man’s thinking, every imagination, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God will be cast down. Every thought will be brought captive to the obedience of Christ.
excellent summary and am in full agreement but wonder how we who take this viewpoint can continue to have fellowship with that old compartmentalized and truncated interpretation of reality. It just seems there is so much work to be done to get the ground prepared to do proper and well established evangelising when the world and life view of our fellow believers is so very poor and even inaccurate about who God really is.
A Reformed world and life view are definitely the need of the hour. Thew only way we can correct this skewed world and life view among reformed believers is by systematic applicatory teaching of the Bible. Unfortunately, even Reformed Pastors have copped out of robust exegesis and bowed the knee at the alter of eisegesis because of the so-called Charismatic threat. God’s sovereignty has been laid to rest!!
Last evening I was waiting in my study to go for one of the Home Bible studies when I opened one of the “LEADERSHIP” magazines that I have been having for quite a long time. In that there was a interview on the Supernatural. The interviewees were Packer, Swindoll, Huffman, and Hayford and here is something about healing that Packer brought into perspective It is long but worth the read:
“A pastor friend, and his wife had a “miracle baby”- she (the wife) wasn’t supposed to be able to get pregnant, yet she did. But when the little girl was born, she was severely deformed that she lived only a week. Courageously, my friend preached about her death the next Sunday morning, mentioning how people had told him that they had prayed that Joy would be miraculously healed, and were sure she would be, and he must not be in any doubt about it. A golden sentence in that sermon was his comment,” God healed Joy-Anne by taking her to heaven.” That was God, NOT ignoring, but answering the prayers that had been made. People act as if this world were the only one, or at least the most important one. But it’s the next life, the endless life that matters. as Christians we need to say loud and clear, as Jesus did, that the other world exists and that life here must be lived as preparation for it. Christians and their children die, not out of life, but INTO life. And death, whether early or late, is a healing in the most PROFOUND sense…” (James I. Packer)- WOW!!!That is taking God’s Sovereignty as a divine fact!!