Taking every thought captive

Culture | BOOKS: WORLD will occasionally ask experts in various fields for their reading recommendations. Here are suggestions from Jeff Baldwin, research director for Worldview Academy Leadership Camps

Issue: "Iraq: Bloody Ramadan," Nov. 29, 2003

CHRISTIANS NEED TO THINK IN terms of worldviews for at least two reasons. First, the Christian is commanded to "take every thought captive to obey Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5). God is sovereign over all things, which means that He has a perspective His creatures should share about everything.

What's more, non-Christians don't live in a worldview vacuum. Paul tells us in Colossians 2:8 that we either think like Christ or we are held "captive" by "philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition." The Christian called to make disciples must be able to respond to the bankrupt worldviews that skew reality for the non-Christian.

What follows, then, is a list of 10 books that every Christian should read to better understand his own worldview, and to be prepared to respond to bankrupt worldviews. Just as you wouldn't ask your kindergartner to read Shakespeare, you shouldn't begin at the end of this list. The most accessible books are discussed first, and the list becomes progressively challenging.

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The first book, How to Be Your Own Selfish Pig, by Susan Schaeffer-Macaulay, not only holds the distinction for the best title but also is the only book on this list that is currently out of print. Rumors of a reprint constantly circulate, but until then any parent of a junior-high-age student must scramble to find a used copy. This is the only book that successfully translates worldview concepts so that 13-year-olds can understand them and be engaged as they think about them.

Readers high-school age and older can begin immediately with The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog, by James Sire. Mr. Sire is to Francis Schaeffer as T.H. Huxley is to Charles Darwin: He popularizes and champions the ideas of his more abstruse teacher. Not everyone is thrilled to encounter Schaeffer; some of us feel uneasy hearing a thinker who is so smart that he glosses over connections we struggle to make. Mr. Sire is sympathetic to mere mortals, and he patiently catalogs the foundational assumptions of various deistic, atheistic, and pantheistic worldviews. And Mr. Sire did it early; he wrote this book in the mid-1970s, when many Christians still hadn't heard the term worldview.

After understanding the vocabulary of worldview, it's important that Christians clearly understand their answer to the two most foundational worldview questions: What is the nature of God? And what is the nature of man? The first question is answered thoroughly and capably by J.I. Packer in his classic work Knowing God. Although Mr. Packer doesn't specifically craft this book to illuminate worldview analysis, his explanation of the characteristics of God-His majesty, wisdom, truthfulness, immutability, love, goodness, etc.-establishes the strong foundation upon which the Christian worldview rests. To paraphrase Paul, "If God be not Who He says He is, we are the greatest fools." Every aspect of the Christian worldview is predicated on the biblical portrait of God, and Mr. Packer paints that portrait beautifully.

Had Blaise Pascal lived to organize and edit his PensŽes, this would be the best work regarding the Christian view of the nature of man. Pascal meditates on our sinfulness, our inability to reason out our own salvation, our perverse desire to drown the hard questions in a sea of diversions, and our desperate need for a Savior. If you're willing to overlook chronic disorganization, then consider PensŽes the fourth recommended book.

Having grasped the Christian view of the nature of God and the nature of man, Christians need to understand these presuppositions as more than abstract ideas. The Christian life should reflect the Christian worldview, and this is the basic thesis of Charles Colson's classic Loving God. No other book so clearly demonstrates that the most heroic lives are led by those who view their Christian faith as relevant to every aspect of reality.

The sixth book is an invaluable reference work edited by Dean Halverson and titled The Compact Guide to World Religions. Mr. Halverson presents chapter-length summaries of all the most influential worldviews, from Buddhism to secularism and from Islam to Taoism. While the book's outline is so methodical that it may tempt you to view it merely as a research tool, The Compact Guide is both integrated and enjoyable. The worldview that makes the book cohere, of course, is Christianity; Mr. Halverson includes a section in each chapter that recommends specific approaches for sharing the gospel with proponents of each specific religion. Readers will also appreciate the numerous charts comparing the presuppositions of the Christian faith with non-Christian assumptions.


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