The Gospel Worldview Filter (Worldview 9)
If you are reading these next two articles as a no-god worldview holder I am mostly going to be talking about you rather than to you. But hold on for the ride. I still hope it'll be a help to you.
In this article I am going to share how to begin and how to have a worldview conversation.
How do we actually get a conversation started? As I sat in a cafe on the day I started to put this series together, people all around me were talking. They all had views. These views, remember, come from their Worldview Bag. I could hear words such as “horrible, amazing, terrible, fulfilling, tragic, good, disgusting, beautiful, ashamed, kind, monsters, generous, unfair, purpose, corrupt, disappointing, sensible”. These words all carry weight. I could hear advice and opinions. Right in those moments, all around me different worldviews and gospels were being declared in that cafe. Not many of them would have considered themselves to be theologians and/or philosophers. Yet here they were philosophising and theologising (is that a word?).
Here are the levels of conversation that can happen:
Global - issues such as veganism, female rights, racial problems etc are global concerns that many people have opinions and even strong opinions about.
National - current events in the country such as Brexit and Lockdown cause strong opinions amongst people. Whatever country you are in, there will be big opinions on national issues.
Local - when I lived in Sunderland a young man was stabbed and another time someone stole the railway cables, these things became major talking points in the city for a few weeks.
Personal - as you get to know people they may open up to you and share more about their hopes and desires, fears and frustrations.
Simply find something they are interested in discussing.
People are not projects and these conversations should be genuine, not just false interest in the person's views. Every person is unique. Every person has worth and value. Every person has a story. This means you should really listen if you want to actually engage this person for the unique person they really are. We are not all the same. Even people who are similar have differences. So listen and ask and really learn what they believe.
You will discover things you disagree with but you'll also find things you resonate with. Both are going to be helpful when having a meaningful worldview conversation.
Since we are constantly living in God’s creation as God’s creation, every conversation we have points, ultimately, back to that reality. Your goal is to learn to pass everything through what we will call the Gospel Worldview Filter. This is because, as you listen to people, you will be hearing one or both of two things:
Worldview Claims - claims about morality, existence and knowledge
Gospel Claims - claims about what is wrong with them or the world, how to make it right again and what it will look like when it is right again
Here are some helpful questions to ask yourself as you're are listening to and discussing with them:
Are they making claims about morality and/or human value?
Are they making claims about knowledge and truth?
Are they making claims about existence and purpose?
Are they describing what is wrong with them or the world?
Are they describing how to make that right?
Are they describing what it will look like when it is right?
The next step is to share the Christian Worldview. This is where we share what the Bible says about morality, value, truth and purpose. This is where we share what the Christian Worldview states about the true fall and the true gospel.
Let's say someone wanted to talk about veganism. Their opinion is the surface level discussion, the point isn't to debate their opinion, but to get beneath their opinion. In other words, more important than what they believe is why they believe it.
We ask why they are vegan, we listen, with genuine interest and questions, to their moral and gospel claims.You could explain that you agree it is wrong to be cruel to animals and then ask why they think it is wrong to be cruel to animals. As they share their reasons you could ask where they believe morality comes from.
Now veganism isn't the point, remember, you're going below veganism. You're filtering veganism and their views about it through the Worldview Gospel Filter. You are trying to understand their worldview.
Eventually you can simply ask if you could share your view. Since you’ve been generous in listening and shown genuine interest, they’ll usually happily let you share.
Here is where I go: I’m a Christian. So I believe God created all of this. I believe God created us in His image, to image His character. God isn't cruel, therefore we shouldn't be. Does that make sense?
Obviously many will say they don’t believe in God. So I would ask, for example, if there is no God, then why is it wrong to be cruel to animals or other humans for that matter? What other objective reason do we have for saying it is wrong to be cruel? And if there is no objective reason, then we can't say cruelty is objectively wrong. Does that make sense?
As I continue along this direction I don't ask if they agree with me, I ask the question "does that make sense?" Honestly, I can tell you that pretty much 100% of the time the person or people say that it does. I believe it makes sense to them because the Christian Worldview is the only true worldview.
As the conversation flows I’ll ask them if I can share with them why they might be rejecting the evidence of God. This is where The Brief on Unbelief comes up. I’ll ask them if it makes sense and what their opinion on it is. Again, almost every time the reply is that it makes sense.
Eventually I’ll wrap it up by asking if I could share with them the dangers of continuing to deny God? At this point I’ll share about sin and judgment and I'll share the gospel with them.
To bring all that together; first, I state the Christian Worldview on the subject discussed. Second, I point out how their worldview may not provide the necessary foundation. Third, I explain why they may not believe in God. Fourth, then I share the gospel. All the while I am allowing them to share their opinions and ask questions and I'm continually asking if what I'm saying is making sense.
I promise you, I’ve spoken to people from all walks of life in this way, old and young, LGBT+ and straight, people from different cultures and religious backgrounds and the conversations usually always end with a thank you, an email exchange, a hand shake, a hug, an arrangement to meet again for coffee or some other positive outcome.
I'm not at all claiming that this is the silver bullet. This isn’t the only way to share the gospel. It’s one way. It's a way to engage a postmodern world. I hope you can use it.
You need to become a good listener. You need to have the patience and desire to really hear what the person is saying. You need to treat them like Image of God. More on that on the next and final article of our series.
Alan Campbell is from Belfast, Northern Ireland. He came to Christ as a young adult and trained for ministry at Bethesda Free Church, Sunderland. Alan ministered in Bethesda as the Associate Pastor until 2019 and now ministers at Union Chapel, Bath. From time to time he teaches at North Cotes (NTM/Ethnos 360) College and The Theological College of North Staffordshire. Alan travels across the UK, Ireland, Europe and the States speaking at universities and equipping churches and campus ministries to share the gospel in a post-modern context. He is passionate about helping the believer to root their identity more and more into the person and work of Jesus Christ. Alan is married to Victoria.