THE GOSPEL AS A WORLDVIEW
Secularists in our day continually attempt to explain Christianity away, pointing to its religious terms and concepts as non-sensible, etc. And perhaps, to some degree, they are right, in that we have gravitated away from keeping the gospel palatable to the outside world. The gospel needs to make sense on an intellectual level AND within a proper and respectful framework…something that can be understood in a timely manner while limiting exclusive, religious language. All of this can be accomplished within what is known as a “worldview.”
NOTE: The Orthodox faith has always communicated a ‘worldview’ in one form or another. As Orthodox community and nationhood become a greater part of history, our worldview must continue to display itself, at the very least, in a manner of written communication. If we fail at this, those of us who do not have the rich history of Orthodox community, culture, nationhood, etc, will only understand a new form of Orthodoxy that is diluted with modern ecumenism. Our faith will become completely narcissistic, a mere option for our personal well-being, rather than the truth for all humanity to embrace. The very concept of sin will become trapped in an esoteric world, and life outside of ourselves will simply have no true meaning.
Wickipedia defines the term as such:
“It is a concept fundamental to German philosophy and epistemology and refers to a wide world perception. Additionally, it refers to the framework of ideas and beliefs forming a global description through which an individual, group or culture watches and interprets the world and interacts with it…A worldview can be expressed as the fundamental cognitive, effective, and evaluative presuppositions a group of people make about the nature of things, and which they use to order their lives.”
Perception of the world and presupposition of thought are the key phrases. How do we perceive this world? What types of presuppositions are necessary to support this perception?
There are reasons that we perceive the world to be the way it is, as the definition points out. Each culture, be it a religious or secular culture, has what we call presuppositions within its framework of thought. A presupposition is a concept within a framework that is foundational to the framework. These presupposed concepts typically are either too difficult to explain or – in Christianity’s sense – require the pupil to experience the concept spiritually before understanding. An example might be something like when we speak of worshiping “a God of creation.” We are presupposing concepts that cannot be proven intellectually, concepts that require conversion experience.
If we say God can be proven by looking at nature, we are positively asserting (presupposing) that the beauty of nature is factually a map to God. We are presupposing here since we can not necessarily make the sensory and intellectual connection between nature and the person that we are asking to look at nature. Nature will only intellectually stimulate people to a certain degree. To experience the connection between God and nature, man must first be converted spiritually.
As St Augustine says: credo ut intelligam…a Latin phrase that translates to: “I believe in order to understand.”
Aristotle, on the other hand, emphasized the role of empirical data, the information we acquire through our five senses. This is the common amongst secular people. Augustine teaches that exercising our five senses is not enough to experience union and understanding with God. Our senses need to be accompanied by eternal energy, which is a key aspect of God’s grace. This energy does not makes us smarter in the natural sense, but in the eternal sense. God’s energy gives us stamina, peace, hope, joy, and other ‘Christian’ qualities to accompany our spiritual thought process.
Even the Atheist, for example, uses presuppositions for their arguments. Also, their need to use some sort of faith eventually becomes quite obvious: Big Bang Theory, etc…concepts that still fail to engage our five senses and prove such a bang happened. Their theory does not lead to energy, and has no spiritual force connecting it to eternity. It has initial wisdom but it fades, doubts, confuses, and often results in mental and spiritual fatigue.
A good worldview is cohesive! Orthodoxy can provide this in a number of ways. The Orthodox worldview is a fearless perception that embraces the entirety of the cosmos, and just why things are the way they are.
How do Orthodox Christians perceive and interact with the world? This is worldview! Orthodox Christianity as a worldview can be organized in to three primary categories:
1. Divine Community
2. Existential Community
3. Eschatological Community
1. DIVINE COMMUNITY (primary presupposition)
The universe and all creation was intentionally created by God for eternal and universal communion/connection between man and God. Man’s communion was universal in that he was in direct connection to God, and all of creation was subjected to man. At one point man fell away from this universal union, sending all of creation into a state of decay, capturing it into what we now know as “time”. Time is a part of this crash, this falling away of man. The dying state of sin and evil is the battle that we face. We work against it within ourselves and within our cultures in constant hope of Christ finishing the mission once and for all at his return.
a. Evil – Evil exists primarily due to the state of nature itself being fallen. Nature cannot be restored without the full consummation of Christ with his community – the Church – ushering him back to us. Christ is humanity’s “second chance” to choose light over dark. Humanity chose darkness in the beginning times and now in the later times, man is able to choose goodness over darkness. God’s desire is to continue this ‘project’ by restoring man back to the original man/universe harmony. This requires us to have a will of our own so as to express a genuine spirit, not one that is forced. Our original failure (sin) helps us to know and even experience evil, but so as to choose good. Those that do not choose good, cannot become a part of the universal community, lest the community never become restored.
b. Sin – The restoring of man’s union with God and the community thereof requires cooperation from man. God is empowering man to create this coming kingdom (on earth as it is in heaven, as we pray). The building of the kingdom involves an economy of spiritual and ethical values. When these building blocks of values are bypassed or set aside in any way, different spiritual and ethical values are embraced: these values are called sin. A community ‘on earth as it is in heaven’ is presupposed…the Creator’s values that he gives us are values that build this eternal community…this community that does not “pass away,” as Christ states, lasting through time into eternity.
c. Truth – Truth is God’s revelation to man and although his truths are absolute, they carry with them applicability to every situation within fallen nature, to one degree or the next. The closer the union of man with God, the higher the degree of truth applies to man.
d. Energy – This is the term many of the early fathers used to describe grace, which involves the power and love God gives us. It is properly noted as energy because it empowers our entire being, enabling us to conquer difficult situations within our lives and within our own soul. As we conquer with this energy of God, our connection gains. There are potentials for us to accomplish radical and miraculous things on earth, as many saints throughout the ages have done.
e. Soul – The soul of each individual is the person’s psyche and is not a subject of secular science and philosophy but of religion/theology. The soul identifies with community as it is able, beginning with the ecclesial society, and then the nuclear family, followed by the national family, if available.
f. Divinity – All divinity is through Christ who is the “God Man” (theanthrapos – God incarnate) that beat the system, so to speak. St Paul speaks of him as the “second Adam,” meaning that he came to do what the first man, Adam, could not, which is beat the power of death and dark force. Within the realm of death Christ entered into Hades, conquering the dark forces of what is known as Satan, and freeing his (Christ’s) Spirit to begin manifesting on earth “as it is in heaven.” It is the Christian prerogative to seek renewal through this power of Christ who abolishes our sin as we turn to his energy, admitting to him that our sin is not a part of his energy and not a part of the building blocks of community.
g. Ascetic Struggle – The ascetic struggle of the faith is extremely important in Orthodoxy. This is where we wrestle down earthly realities to become heavenly realities. This “putting away of the flesh” is something that does not involve the rejection of matter. On the contrary! It involves the redemption of matter. Our bodies are first in this struggle, along with all of nature that surrounds our lives. As we redemptively embrace life (through prayer, fasting, and other ascetic struggles) our soul with the heavenly realities carves our path in life. Without this ascetic struggle, our soul is constantly mislead into tragedy, both spiritually and existentially…in the sense of being chaotic/out of control.
2. EXISTENTIAL COMMUNITY
Christ is God in our natural existence, God existential. He was incarnated from eternity to nature to enter existence within our natural world, taking on our nature, enabling him to mend and heal our natural state as we allow. The existential manifestation of Christ is what he calls the “Church.” He refers to this grouping of nature/people as his “body.” Within this Church there are what we call sacramental gifts such as prayer, worship, healing, teaching, prophesying, blessing (for ceremonial gifts) as well as many other spiritual gifts that interact with the natural world. What we do with these gifts is what matters: We create community and identify nature as sacred. We use our gifts to create a community that reflects the eternal community (heaven). Christ says that when we repose, we will be judged based on how we used our gifts for community, placing the poor and needy first as a starting point rather than ourselves.
a. Neighbor – The second portion of God’s law regards our neighbor. God has given us law and spirit to accomplish community (koinania/sobornost) on earth with each other. As Christ most emphatically states within the gospel records, this involves an economy of people both financially as well as spiritually. Within both material economics as well as spiritual economics, the poor are to “glean” from the rich. In the Old Testament community, the rich were commanded to allow the poor to glean from the crops. They were also commanded to care for those in need spiritually, but refused to listen to the prophets regarding this and other spiritual teachings. The concept of neighbor extends to a universal level, enabling itself to all forms of philanthropic thought.
b. Family – We create community beginning with the nuclear family as well as ecclesial family (Church), helping one another around our nuclear and ecclesial family. Gender identity is important in these families to retain the structural integrity of the community at large. With gender confusion comes community confusion. The husband and wife are “king and queen” of the nuclear family in that the divinity is managed through them to build the family “kingdom.” This man and woman take up the royalty of Christ in that we use his power in humility and great sacrifice as Christ did for us.
c. Philanthropy and Economy – This building of community is a sharing of God’s power. God is the “Lover of Mankind”, the great philanthropos. We become like God by becoming philanthropic as well. Since the “poor” is inclusive to both financial and spiritual, we not only give our physical resources but we also give our intellectual and spiritual resources. All community must revolve around the philanthropic calling.
Secularists have invented and crafted the banking and insurance industries to which their economy and culture is centered. The Church invented the hospital, welfare, orphanage/adoption, schools for children, rehabilitation for the poor, etc. These and other philanthropic ministries are a serious part of our calling that we continue to conduct to this day. As we help those in need, God helps us who are in need (in need of cosmic redemption, etc). Christ’s love that we share with one another…This love is philanthropic!
d. Nation – As proper Christian community grows within a consistent framework of thought, this community is able to grow into an actual Christian nation. We have seen this happen within many eastern nations such as Russia, Greece, Serbia, Romania, etc. The structure of these communities has been so powerful and so ideal that secularists during the late 19th and 20th centuries have attempted to steal these communities through radical forms of violence, modifying them with secular concepts.
3. ESCHATOLOGICAL COMMUNITY
Time itself is a result of the returning kingdom, this community that is returning back to its original state of creation. Time is both a curse and a blessing. Time allows us to change but time also allows unbelieving man to change, and when they change, they attack our community through what we call ‘modernity.’ The Church will continue to struggle with time until Christ (God incarnate to nature) returns to grant us full universal and eternal community. At that time we begin to experience the wholeness of the eschaton, where time is no longer and eternity is at hand.
a. Modernity – Modernity is the essence of time that rejects traditional concepts for progressive concepts, often accompanied with technological, philosophical, and sociological means. The Church family does not completely resist and reject modernity. Often enough, modernity can actually coexist with tradition. The Church compromises with modernity, and through these compromises, God can be expected to share his energy with us.
b. Modernity and Community – Compromise has always been made with in regards to community adapting to concepts such as technology and governance. With governance, we call the compromise symphony. As community embraces technology and grows into national community, the Church has, throughout the ages, worked with monarchs who in turned worked with the Church, representing themselves as stewards of the Church and her philanthropic calling. The monarch was not clergy but worked directly with clergy, receiving a special blessing and anointing for this work. In countries with no Orthodox heritage, a monarch is not likely to rule, within these countries Orthodox Christians can expect to carry out a more ‘underground’ faith. Temples may be built but never honored as the public symbol of faith and culture.
c. Modernity and Technology – Technological advancements in society always result in social power. Social power always results in tyranny and/or chaos as much as it is NOT guided by the truth of Christ. Compromise is made with technology in order to further the philanthropic calling of the Church such as healing. The Church, for instance, has not rejected medical technology but keeps it in close scrutiny so as to prevent the Church from advocating unethical medical practices that deform community and nature. Abortion, transgender surgery, etc can be named examples. Modern transportation and weaponry, for instance, are not rejected like that of the Amish but are recognized as ways the Church can accomplish her philanthropic calling to the world, as well as to keep families safe from the evils of the radically evolving modern world.
d. Modernity and Economy – Modernity is expected to one day become so dominant within the world that it begins to usurp the Christian economy of philanthropy and good will. Technology will help boost this domination by offering a technology that “no man can buy or sell without” as St John says in Revelation. The technology itself is not evil but what is evil is the way the secular world will begin to use the technology. Completely abandoning the Christians call to community to submit to a completely unethical/unspiritual community is what lies at stake. This is what is called “apocalyptic” times, which is in a sense the final storm before the return of Christ and the full consummation of Christ’s community amongst the entire world.
e. Modernity and Consummation – The battle to usher Christ’s power to reclaim the earth will come to a melting point as the dark energy of Satan is released and modernity begins radically advancing upon the earth (The Last Days). As prophesied, much of the Church will, at this point, adopt worldviews that are not in sync with Christ’s teachings, sympathizing with other religions and the new radical pace of modernity. Politics and local secular government will be the focus for community and the church within many areas of the world will be fearful of taking their faith public. As the great prophet Isaiah says, “the government shall be upon His shoulders.” Governments will always be competing with Christ to steal the hearts of the people, giving them a false sense of security and even salvation.
As the final war(s) of Armageddon passes, Christ will return and reclaim his people and all nature.