Pretending to Think


Our Wednesday night adult class at church is working through a “worldview study” and I’m really not all that impressed. It’s produced to make you think that you’re thinking, but when you stop and really think, there isn’t much thought. The video looks like it takes place in a fancy college classroom with lots of people sitting around pretending to take notes.

I’ve seen this before. They combine trying to make you feel smart by throwing a few big words at you with trying to make you think the world is scary by explaining the implications of a few of those words. This does nothing to equip believers to live their faith, no matter what the promotional materials say. At most, it gives them a few sound bites to throw at someone they meet who follows whatever -ism the curriculum covers.

The idea behind these kind of studies isn’t altogether bad, but I’m not sure it is the best way to accomplish the goal. The idea is to give believers intellectual tools so they aren’t led astray by falsehood and the best way to do that would be to immerse people in the truth. When it’s time to teach your child multiplication, you don’t show them all the wrong ways to do it and tell them not to do it that way. You tell them that 3 x 4 = 12 and then repeat it to them until it becomes ingrained. Then you move onto algebra and geometry in due course.

It is the same for religious truth. If we engage with our faith, we not only see that it is coherent and trustworthy, but we also see falsehood for what it is because of the stark contrast. If we don’t teach our kids much about Christianity, it is easy for them to be led astray by something else. If our churches practiced meaningful catechesis, we wouldn’t need worldview training because we would all know how we view the world. But much of the church lacks any depth in the teaching and traditions of the church.

These courses give such a cursory overview of the topics they purport to cover that they don’t really help anyone. Most of them, in my experience, pick a few “representative authors” to pull a few quotes from in order to refute them. Sounds an awful like a straw-man argument to me. Or they point out the failings of the movement’s founders. (ad hominem anyone?)

A one-hour lecture is not going to teach anyone to engage with a philosophy, or even have an understanding of all that it covers, the contributions it has made, or the dangers of misguidedly applying it. Only those who disregard church history can look askance at philosophy as an entire discipline. For much of the history of the church, philosophy and theology were vitally linked.

If we really want to engage the culture around us, we first need to know our own worldview. We need to make it grounded on reality and coherent. That’s a lifelong pursuit. Second, if we want to engage other disciplines, we need to earn the right to be heard. We need to learn them sufficiently to be able speak intelligently with something more than a  140-character comment. Such “dialogue” isn’t going to sway anyone’s opinion about anything. If it sways us, we don’t have much of a grounding in our own “worldview” to begin with.


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