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.
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.
The only author with two books on this list, Charles Colson, checks in again here. Mr. Colson and co-author Nancy Pearcey's How Now Shall We Live? owes a large debt to Schaeffer, but surpasses Schaeffer in some ways. Most importantly, this book relies upon the significance of story. Man is more than a reasoning machine-he feels, he wills, he suffers, and he works. Our intellect may respond to valid arguments, but our soul leaps to welcome the story that resonates with us not just intellectually but emotionally and spiritually. Mr. Colson uses story to its full effect here, demonstrating how presuppositions play out in the real lives of real people.
Now comes the deep water-the first book you should read by Schaeffer, The God Who Is There. Everything Schaeffer wrote is worthwhile, but almost none of it flows like the prose of an accomplished writer, and all of it is difficult. This book deals with "the tragedy of our situation today," as Schaeffer says, which is the fact that moderns "are being fundamentally affected by the new way of looking at truth." Schaeffer persuasively argues that only the Christian worldview establishes a foundation for truth as knowable and meaningful.
G.K. Chesterton argues this point and so much more in his best nonfiction work, Orthodoxy. Because Chesterton loves paradox and is unconcerned with systematizing truth, he would never write a worldview survey. Instead, Orthodoxy ruthlessly attacks non-Christian assumptions about reality and off-handedly suggests ways that only the Christian worldview can account for the facts of existence. "Modern masters of science are much impressed with the need of beginning all inquiry with a fact," writes Chesterton. "The ancient masters of religion were quite equally impressed with that necessity. They began with the fact of sin-a fact as practical as potatoes." Certainly not formal apologetics! But Chesterton's classic brings life to the dialogue between Christianity and other religions.
The last recommended book is much more methodical-and intimidating. David Noebel's enormous textbook Understanding the Times is used in many Christian schools today. Although the unabridged edition weighs in at more than 900 pages, most readers can settle for the abridged text, which jettisons much of the evidence cited in the larger work but contains a fuller discussion of the New Age movement (Mr. Noebel calls the New Age movement "Cosmic Humanism"). Mr. Noebel takes the time to spell out the perspective of the Christian, the humanist, and the Marxist in fields as diverse as economics and biology, and his textbook is arguably our generation's best at illustrating Owen Chadwick's maxim that "secularization is a religious process."
The Christian who digests each of these books still will not fully grasp their worldview, of course, because the mind of God is never totally fathomable to man. But to live well the Christian must think well; you are transformed, as Paul says in Romans 12:2, "by the renewal of your mind."