When I posted an article suggesting that Wheaton College professors need worldview training, I expected to get pushback – and I did. And honestly, I appreciate it when people take the time to engage, even when we disagree. So, thank you to everyone who tweeted, or commented on Facebook or my blog.
What caught me by surprise, though, was the assertion by some Wheaton professors that worldview is not a necessary concept, or that a singular, Christian worldview does not exist. After all, The Princeton Review’s The Best 351 Colleges wrote about Wheaton: “If the integration of faith and learning is what you want out of a college, Wheaton is arguably the best school in the nation with a Christ-based worldview.” Could it really be that some Wheaton professors don’t embrace worldview, let alone teach it? In Christian Worldview: A Student’s Guide, Wheaton College President Phil Ryken writes: “It is desperately important for Christians to have a truly and fully Christian worldview… Living wisely in the world requires proper perspective.” Yet, here are some of the relevant comments:
James Gordon, a visiting assistant professor of philosophy, who got his Ph.D. from Wheaton College in 2015 sent the following tweets:
@reachjulieroys I’m not even sure where to begin. First, I don’t think it’s clear that “worldview” is a needed Christian concept.
— James Gordon (@jrgordon13) February 25, 2016
@reachjulieroys With regard to “worldview” (Weltanschauung), not all of us are convinced that Christianity offers one.
— James Gordon (@jrgordon13) February 25, 2016
Honestly, I had no idea that professors at evangelical schools, let alone, Wheaton, were questioning whether Christianity even offered a worldview. One of Gordon’s friends, David Congdon, an editor with IVP Academic, said he plans to write a book in the next couple years on “Why Christianity is Not a Worldview.” In the meantime, he suggested I read Myron Penner’s book, The End of Apologetics, a book arguing that Christian apologetics is no longer valid. I’ll have to read the book, but I have to say I have benefited greatly from Christian apologetics. And, it seems to me that if ever there were a time that we needed Christian apologetics, and worldview training, it would be now.
A similar theme emerged on Facebook. There, Jennifer Kuhlmann Merck, a Wheaton graduate and parish administrator at All Souls Anglican Church in Wheaton wrote:
Again, I was surprised to hear someone suggest that “no singular, over-arching, evangelical Christian worldview exists.” After all, a worldview is simply a comprehensive map of reality. Are there really multiple realities? I understand variations exist between the worldviews of various Christians. I also concede that there is truth even in idol-based worldviews. After all, they are studying something God made, so it seems likely that they would gain some insights. But, as believers allow Christ to transform them by the renewing of our minds, our mental maps of reality should move toward agreement. When I went to Wheaton 30 years ago, professors stressed that one of the most important achievements in my education was developing an accurate Christian worldview. Yet, David B. Fletcher, an associate professor of philosophy, and Jeff Greenberg, professor of Geology expressed agreement with Merck. Greenberg wrote:
I don’t assume that these professors necessarily speak for the majority of the faculty at Wheaton. But certainly, I think these comments show how profound the intellectual divide within the evangelical community currently is. In its earliest conception, the university was meant to be a place where the student studying mathematics, theology or chemistry was learning God’s unified and coherent truth. But today, even at the evangelical flagship Wheaton College, professors and administrators don’t seem able to agree on what that unified and coherent truth is. As a parent of college and high-school aged children, I find this deeply troubling. I’ll end with a comment Stan Guthrie, an author and editor at large with Christianity Today, posted. I concede that his conclusion about worldview training is likely correct. And, I agree that asking potential faculty about their worldviews in the hiring process is perhaps a better solution. But, if Wheaton continues to merely require adherence to its statement of faith, and does not clearly define what its worldview is (assuming it has one), I fear the kind of debacles we saw recently with Dr. Larycia Hawkins will only increase:
Photo: Stevan Sheets
Update: To read Wheaton College’s official position on worldview, click here. The five-page document warns against thinking that a Christian worldview could ever completely describe God, and asserts that “Christian worldviews are affected by time and place as well as culture and language.” However, it also states that some vital components of a Christian worldview, like “creation and intention” and “trinity and community,” “transcend all times and all places.” It concludes that “constructing a coherent Christian worldview amidst a plurality of belief systems is a difficult task, but (is) nevertheless possible and important.”