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Christian Wisdom and Christian Worldview
David Browder

In the years since I have been here, I have been very interested in our school and its mission. When I think about a pastor or a Christian leader and how they will give an accounting to God for the faithfulness with which they stewarded Christ’s ministry in any given place, I have really sought to parse out our mission and reform to it in the best way possible. For those who need a refresher, the school’s mission is “Saint Thomas’ Episcopal School forms honorable men and women through a classical education grounded in a Christ-centered worldview.” The mission lays out the things we need to be doing and that requires diving into what these words mean before we begin doing them. Of course, this leads to the word “worldview”- where is comes from and what it means.

I thought about this once more as I heard Ephesians 4 read in chapel today. The Apostle writes:

[11] And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, [12] to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, [13] until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, [14] so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. [15] Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, [16] from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (ESV)

This brought home to me the distinction between Christian wisdom and Christian worldview. Better put, this deepened my understanding of what Christian wisdom is as it relates to Christian worldview. I’m still learning about it and trying to wrap my mind around it. 

There is a great video from The Davenant Institute that draws out the differences.

Worldview, as the presenters in the video say, comes from a German philosophical mode of thought in which the ideas of life are digested and presented as propositions. For instance, there is a nihilistic worldview or a materialistic worldview that must be countered with the Christian worldview. While helpful in many ways, the presenters believe this approach is reductionistic and engages with people as if they are embodiments of ideas.  That is a big problem these days- treating people as avatars or embodiments of ideas.

Things just aren’t that simple, say the proponents of Christian wisdom. Paul here, in his exhortation to the Ephesians, seems to agree. Wisdom is growing in understanding as we grapple with God’s Word and His creation. Engaging the world and culture in a Christian way is not treating our neighbor as a disembodied idea or an avatar for our own boogey men. It’s much harder and earthier than that. There is much more thinking and engagement to be done than that. Paul speaks of this as maturing and growth that is soaked in God’s love.

As I pondered Paul’s words, I thought of God working in my life from the greatest successes to the greatest failures- from interacting in ways I find fun and fulfilling to the conversations I hated to have. I thought of the wonderful events like my marriage or sons’ births to the times I suffered. In all of those things, God was maturing me, increasing my wisdom, humbling me, and increasing my capacity for compassion and love. He was doing that through experiencing these things through His Word and creation. While the fulness of Christ is beyond my grasp, I am a wiser man, pastor, and Christian than I was 11 years ago- even more so than I was 3 years ago. At the same time, I am still a fool in many ways.

So as we think about educating our young people, perhaps seeing them as beginners on the path of wisdom might be a more fruitful way to engage in Christian formation than it is to see them as blank slates onto whom we download pre-packaged categories unwon by the struggle of life. As we think about ourselves, perhaps taking that same path might bring forth more fruit in our own lives. I think this is what Paul is commending to the Ephesians and, thus, to us.