Part of our discussion during last night’s gathering started me thinking about worldviews and the questions they generate. As a person who always seems to have more questions than answers, it is somewhat disconcerting to me that most of the questions that Jesus’ disciples asked him ultimately went unanswered. The more I think about it, the more I realize how frustrating that must have been for him as well as and his students.
It seems most of our “big” questions are generated by our worldview. Unfortunately, our worldview is like the water in a fish’s aquarium — it’s the real, yet often indiscernible environment in which we live. The fact that Jesus did not answer most of the questions posed to him seems to point to the fact that he lived within a worldview completely discontinuous from his students. It would be like a fresh-water fish in one aquarium asking “big” questions of a salt-water fish in another aquarium. Although both environments seem the same, the actual reality of one is very different than the other. In other words, as real and important as his disciples’ questions seemed to them, they didn’t make much sense within Jesus’ worldview.
This became more apparent this morning when I read N.T. Wright’s summary of the early Christians’ worldview, which was completely shaped by the historical reality of Jesus’ resurrection:
“The worldview questions, when posed to the early Christians, elicit a set of resurrection-shaped answers. Who are we? Resurrection people: a people, that is, formed within the new world which began at Easter and which has embraced us, in the power of the Spirit, in baptism and faith. Where are we? In God’s good creation, which is to be restored; in bodies that will be redeemed, though at present they are prone to suffering and decay and will one day die. What’s wrong? The work is incomplete: the project which began at Easter (the defeat of sin and death) has not yet been finished. What’s the solution? The full and final redemption of the creation, and ourselves with it; this will be accomplished through a fresh act of creative grace when Jesus reappears, and this in turn is anticipated in the present by the work of the Spirit. What time is it? In the overlap of the ages: the ‘age to come’, longed for by Israel, has already begun, but the ‘present age’ still continues.”
N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God
This was Jesus’ worldview. And after his resurrection and Pentecost, it quickly became the worldview of the early generations of Jesus’ followers. Interestingly, it seems the questions that plagued Jesus’ first students in the gospels fall to the side after their worldviews change. Within their new perspective, what was once important to them no longer seemed important.
Personally, I’ve become more aware that many of the questions that I’ve deemed important aren’t even addressed within the New Testament writings. Questions that once plagued me make little sense anymore. For example, questions about the rapture seem almost silly to me now that I’ve abandoned my Platonic dualism. It’s almost like trying to answer questions about pink elephants or flying cows. Also, questions about eternal security or a future disembodied eternal existence in heaven simply can’t find a hook to hang on within my newly emerging understanding of God’s Story.
In a culture where knowledge brings power, control or comfort, having unanswered questions can be frustrating. But I’ve learned the hard way that wrestling with my questions can prove more beneficial to me than actually arriving at an answer. My wrestling oftentimes exposes my sickened soul or distorted worldview, which in turn becomes the catalyst for further transformation. And by emerging on the other side of transformation, I discover that my questions may no longer make much sense from this new perspective. Perhaps this is part of what Paul meant in Romans 12:2 when he said, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
One thought on “Different Worlds”
This is a response to one of your comments above Jason:
“For example, questions about the rapture seem almost silly to me now that I’ve abandoned my Platonic dualism.”
It is true there are problems with the details of Platonic dualism. But I strongly question a wholesale abandonment of it.
Dallas Willard’s whole project in Logic and the Objectivity of Knowledge is to defend the possibility of knowledge. I share his deep concern for this because of a wonderful experience I had in college. I saw my mind as having an intentional (aboutness) structure. I had a “eureka” experience, similar to seeing that there is something different and wonderful about Jesus in my teens. These two experiences are really not different. They occur when we find something to be as we thought it is. That is knowledge.
Now, I agree there are limits to knowledge…including our knowledge of God and the afterlife. And systematic certainty is also not possible; I leave you to test this. However, does the teaching regarding the resurrection torpedo the true and biblical distinction between the non-physical (non-spatial) parts of us and the physical parts of us? I am a mind and a body. My mind is more central to what I am than my body, as my bodily being is totally dependent on my spiritual nature. Human beings are spiritual. We walk. We communicate. We think. We create from what God created.
Plato discovered some wonderful things (like universals) and made some mistakes (misconceived of universals as Forms). He did overemphasize the spiritual side of us. I can forgive him for that, as I can any mistakes a finite human philosopher makes. Overall, he was a very wise philosopher and a good student of Socrates.
I have noticed all my life that many modern Christians have something against these men. Even my own father adopted this prejudice while in graduate studies. I think it because we are adopting the epistemology of our age: there is no knowledge or even a valid theory of knowledge. Knowledge is limited and we need faith. But I do know many things. I put it to all: What is a lie if there is no truth?