Do Wheaton Professors Value Christian Worldview?

By Julie Roys

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:

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meantime, he suggested I read Myron Penner’s book, The End of Apologetics, a book arguing that Christian apologetics is no longer valid.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:

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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:

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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:

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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.”



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4 thoughts on “Do Wheaton Professors Value Christian Worldview?”

  1. The defining of a Christian worldview (what I call a Biblical worldview) for a Christian college should also be considered and set in place by missions organizations. Someone could claim they follow Christ and His principles and want to go and tell the world; but that person should also be required to define what their Biblical or Christian worldview is and how it relates to the secular worldviews of today. It is critical in order to keep the purity and truth of God’s Word alive, because God and His Word never changes. (Num 23:19; Heb 13:8; James 1:17)

    Because of the post-modern age we now live in where truth is relative, one cannot just assume anymore that if one claims to be a born-again or evangelical Christian they hold fast to the faith and the standards set forward for us to live by through God’s Word the Bible.

    For example, I met someone recently who claims Christ as Lord and Saviour but is sympathetic to laws being set up for allowing homosexuals to marry. While that person says homosexuality is wrong, it’s still not a Christian’s place to say to a homosexual they cannot marry if they are committed to and love each other. This is a big contradiction. If that person believes homosexuality is wrong because God says it is wrong he/she should tell the homosexual that it is a sin and therefore God can not recognize or bless their marriage.

    In the case at Wheaton College where a Professor stated that Allah and the Almighty God of heaven are the same being, it is more than crystal clear that the God of the Holy Bible is much different that the god of the Koran. Because the suspension surprisingly created such controversy within Wheaton College itself, I agree Wheaton needs to define not only that view but also if they also hold to other worldly philosophies and false views that are contrary to the truths of God’s Word.

  2. Hi Julie,

    I think it’s important for me to offer some clarification of the tweet you posted above from my interaction with you the other day. The first tweet you posted quotes me as saying, “I don’t think it’s clear that ‘worldview’ is a needed Christian concept.” In saying this, I was not attempting to state my own particular views regarding the language of worldview but only to specify that accepting the concept as useful is neither necessary nor sufficient for being properly Christian in the relevant sense, as you seemed to suggest in your original essay suggesting that Wheaton Professors needed proper “worldview training.” Your suggestion seemed to be that proper Christian fidelity *required* worldview training, and I was objecting to that characterization.

    With regard to my own views on the subject (which I hinted at in the second tweet you quoted), I teach all of my philosophy students that Christianity both *does* and *does not* offer a worldview. On the one hand, Christianity *does* offer a worldview insofar as it invites all people in all particular culture settings to see themselves in a particular relation to Christ’s reconciling and redeeming love as they carry on Christian practices by the Spirit’s power in the church. On the other hand, Christianity *does not* offer a worldview in that it does not ask one to vacate one’s own cultural locatedness in accepting Christianity as one’s own. This is just to say, in short, that Christianity is *not* imperialistic; this insight seems to me to be important for one’s understanding of cross-cultural mission(s) and the contextualization of the Christian gospel.

    So, it would be mistaken for one to think that because I disagree with your particular understanding of the concept of worldview that I think all talk of worldview is useless––or that anyone who rejects your concept of worldview things of all worldview talk as worthless. What is more, the particular quotation you cite from President Ryken, which states that “Living wisely in the world requires proper perspective,” fits very comfortably with my own views on the issue. This is important to avoid a mischaracterization of my own position.

    In short, my response to you was intended to claim that worldview is not a *necessary* Christian concept in that one can be faithfully Christian in all the relevant ways while thinking that worldview talk is completely unhelpful.

    I hope this clarifies things for you (and all those who might read this).


    James Gordon

  3. James… I am glad to hear that you believe Christianity “does,” in fact, offer a worldview. I find it odd, however, that of the 18 tweets you sent me before this post published, not one mentioned that Christianity “does” offer a worldview — only that it does not. Also, I find it odd that you tweeted, “I don’t think it’s clear that ‘worldview’ is a needed Christian concept.” But apparently, what you really meant is that others don’t think it’s a needed concept???

    Lastly, I don’t understand why a Christian worldview, as I defined it, would require someone “to vacate one’s own cultural locatedness.” Though it’s true that the minor aspects of a worldview may need to adjust with time and location, the major components of a Christian worldview that I mentioned — creation, fall & redemption — transcend culture.

  4. James,

    Your deconstruction of whether or not to have a world view was skilled and well thought out. However, in light of the challenges facing the kids you are teaching today it seems to fall short. it seems to bow down to the exploration of ideas above the truth needed today for a Christian to thrive in our society. Exploration of ideas is important, to a point, but at a certain point you have to decided on what you believe is truth (i.e. a Christian world view). Secular humanism has won the day. It is fully integrated into our society. It permeates the media, social media, and all manners of thought. What happens when one of your students needs to stand up for their faith in the work place? Without a worldview, they will be slaughtered. Sooner or later, a Christian world view, God’s truth permeating through all things, (transcending culture), is needed to stand up to secular humanism. What happens to your students when, in the future, they get cancer, bury their loved ones, or loose their jobs? Do they have any truth or concrete Christian world view to fall back on? The students are searching for truths, to say that there is no such thing as a Christian world view could be very harmful to them. Lets not get overly academic here, a worldview is your philosophy on life. Everyone has one. Or at least should have one. It seems to me to be very dangerous, since you are in the business of molding young minds, to claim that there is no such thing as a world view. Especially in light of the fact that you teach at a Christian college.

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