We all need a worldview affected by our understanding of Scripture more than it is affected by how we were raised or the culture in which we currently live. Our culture affects us in profound ways, and for many of us, learning to be Scripture-led, not culture-led, is like learning to write with your left hand after decades of writing with your right. It takes focused thought and intentional steps to break old habits of thinking and put on the new. We have to discipline our mind to take over our hand, because our hand instinctively goes toward what it has always known, what is comfortable, what is natural.
I was raised in independent, fundamentalist, baptist churches. These churches raised me to believe the Bible was the absolute, final authority in my life. For this, I will always be grateful. Those churches taught me to study the Bible and be faithful to church. Again, I will always be grateful for these spiritual disciplines. But several also exposed me to an ugly truth. Not everyone who claims the Bible as their final authority is actually obeying Scripture as their final authority. From Grace Baptist Church in Orangeburg, SC, to Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA, I have learned the hard way that some claiming the loudest the Bible as their final authority can also manipulate the Bible in order to manipulate others. Men controlled by their culture more than their Creator make all of the good guys in Scripture look like them and all of the bad guys look like their cultural opponent. They twist Scripture with the common theme of excoriating their enemy while excusing the evil of their heroes. This twisted refrain shows up again and again, generation by generation. It has forced me to go back to ground zero to think through what the Bible does and does not say about religious culture around me as well as my own religious comfort zone. Where does the Bible tell me to eat with my left hand when my fundamentalist culture trained me to use my right?
I have compiled some Bible principles that have helped me form my own worldview, one I believe is more Bible-centered than culture-centered. Yet, I recognize too that I am capable of manipulation. If you don’t feel constrained by these principles, that is between you and the Holy Spirit. My intent is to explain the principles that influence me, not pressure you to the same. But maybe something here is helpful for others. If that is the case, then praise God.
Here are some Bible principles that have shaped my worldview.
- I believe Scripture teaches that Jesus is returning to an overcoming Church. His kingdom, Jesus says, is like leaven that leavens the whole lump of bread. It WILL come. There is no stopping it. I believe that Matthew 24 was fulfilled at the destruction of the Temple and Jewish diaspora around AD 70. RC Sproul’s Last Days According to Jesus is a helpful read on this subject. I await Jesus’s return as Paul discusses in his epistles, but I do not hold to a Left Behind understanding of the end times. That view is a relatively modern view of the end times, made popular by Scofield and Darby in the last 150 years of church history. These beliefs free me from worry about a vaccine being infected with a secret tracking agent and other interesting theories that have the government increasingly marginalizing Christians. I don’t believe Covid masks are any more invasive than asking folks to wear shirt and shoes into a restaurant or underwear in public. My lack of fear over Covid restrictions and government control is related to my convictions on the end times.
- I don’t believe my opponent is my enemy. I have a singular enemy, Satan himself. Paul says our opponents are captive to our real enemy, Satan. This gives me hope for my enemy. I remember that it is the kindness of God that draws us to repentance. I believe this same kindness will be the thing that draws my opponents to Christ as it was for me.
2 Tim 2:24-26 The Lord’s servant must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach, and patient, instructing his opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance leading them to the knowledge of the truth. Then they may come to their senses and escape the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
- The Bible has super strong commands around loving our neighbor as ourselves and is intent we understand that our neighbor is anyone in our proximity, not just people we know and like. Furthermore, the Bible explicitly states that this love is for our opponents. It’s for folks who make us mad, folks with whom we disagree politically. The Bible explicitly describes this love. It is patient and kind. It believes the best and gives the benefit of the doubt.
Matthew 5:43-48 “You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
I Cor 13 4 Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant, 5 is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable, and does not keep a record of wrongs. 6 Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
- I personally try to discipline myself away from conspiracy theories since the Bible explicitly states that we need two or three first person witnesses to establish an accusation.
Deut. 19:15 “One witness cannot establish any iniquity or sin against a person, whatever that person has done. A fact must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.
- While all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, Scripture is also careful to warn us against a particular kind of bad person—the fool, the scoffer, the mocker—whom destruction follows like Pig Pen’s cloud of dirt in the Peanut’s comic strip. In the Hebrew, mocker means one who boasts, scorns, speaks arrogantly, mocks, and derides. When I look at leaders, I note who can and who can’t control their tongue and who can and who can’t control their anger. I note who is consistently sarcastic and rude, who speaks with bitterness and malice, who seeks to stir up strife. I won’t touch with a ten foot pole the unrepentant mocker, because there is a certain kind of destruction they bring to all those around them. The wise avoid them.
Proverbs 19:29 Condemnation is ready for scoffers, and beating for the backs of fools.
Proverbs 22:10 Drive out a scoffer, and strife will go out, and quarreling and abuse will cease.
Proverbs 24:9 The devising of folly is sin, And the scoffer is an abomination to men.
Psalm 1:1 How happy is the one who does not walk in the advice of the wicked or stand in the pathway with sinners or sit in the company of mockers!
- I firmly believe that the Biblical instructions on Christian language and tone should still constrain me today. Malice, slander, lying—these are nonnegotiable for Christians seeking to be faithful to Scripture. Remove slander from your presence. Put away clamor and bitterness. If it’s coming in your house over your TV, turn it off. Put it away. If it’s coming into your presence through your social media, remove it from your presence.
Ephesians 4 31 All bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and slander must be removed from you, along with all malice.
James 1:19-20 My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry, for the anger of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God.
- Finally, I do not hold to a Christian/American Nationalism that views American patriotism as synonymous with Christian righteousness. I am quite thankful to be an American and am particularly thankful for the freedom of religion we take for granted here. But I also believe our founding fathers were flawed men with major blind spots and some outright denial of Biblical truth. This is fairly easy to prove since the guy who wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights rejected Jesus’s resurrection along with all supernatural events in the gospels. I thank God for the place and times I live, and the religious freedom I enjoy, but I also acknowledge the pervasive depravity of man as a core doctrine of Christianity. Our nation isn’t perfect, and as God sanctifies His church and His kingdom comes in our world, I expect to see changes in our nation that reflect a more just union, respecting the full human dignity of people made in God’s image, born and unborn. Our nation has been subject to the same pervasive depravity which has affected the whole world, which is why the whole world needs a Savior. To deny this seems to deny the most basic tenets of Christianity.
In summary, I believe Jesus returns to an overcoming Church, and even now, His kingdom is advancing just as Jesus said it would. This confidence equips me to engage politics with hope, not with defensive anger. I believe Christians are called to a hopeful posture in our nation and our world, confident that God will do all He said He will do.
I hope something there is helpful to you as you navigate these confusing days for believers in America.