People often talk about worldview when describing the philosophy that guides their lives. But how have we come by our worldviews, and what impact did Christianity have on those that are common to Western civilization? This authoritative, accessible survey traces the development of the worldviews that underpin the Western world. It demonstrates the decisive impact that the growth of Christianity had in transforming the outlook of pagan Roman culture into one that, based on biblical concepts of humanity and its relationship with God, established virtually all the positive aspects of Western civilization.
The two-pronged assault in our time on the biblically based worldview by postmodern philosophy and the writings of neo-atheists has made it even more crucial that we acknowledge and defend its historical roots. Unique among books on the topic, this work discusses Western worldviews as a continuous narrative rather than as simply a catalogue of ideas, and traces the effects these changes in worldview had on society. It helps readers understand their own worldviews and those of other people and helps them recognize the consequences that worldviews hold. Professors, students, and armchair historians alike will profit from this book.
“What is a worldview? A worldview is the framework you use to interpret the world and your place in it. It is like a set of glasses that you look through to bring what is happening in the world into mental focus.” (Page 13)
“More simply, your worldview is what you think of as common sense about the world. It is your gut-level, instinctive response to the basic philosophical questions, such as ‘What is real?’ (metaphysics), ‘What can I know and how can I know it?’ (epistemology), and ‘Are there such things as right and wrong, and if so, how do I know what they are?’ (ethics).” (Pages 13–14)
“Rather, they are a reflection of the underlying worldview that saw continuity between the natural world, humanity, and the gods. The connections between the different levels of reality were so strong, the interconnectedness so profound, that under the right circumstances, beings could transform from one to another.” (Pages 28–29)
“The hierarchy of being was a convenient way of explaining in philosophical terms a hierarchy of value that was part of ancient pagan cultures. In other words, it was not simply a metaphysical system, but it laid a foundation for epistemology (how we know things) and ethics as well. Since we know what is superior and what is inferior, we have the basis for determining what is right and wrong. The higher up on the hierarchy you are, the more authority you have over the things that are below you and the more rights and privileges you can claim for yourself. Herbivores can demand the lives of plants for their food. Carnivores can take the lives of herbivores. Humanity can kill both. And the gods can demand whatever sacrifices they want from humans.” (Page 29)
This book shows how much of an impact the biblical worldview can have in transforming society. If we follow the example of those who have gone before us in learning to think biblically and to live out the full implications of the gospel, we can have the same impact on our world today. I highly recommend this book.
—Chuck W. Colson, From the foreword
Glenn S. Sunshine (PhD University of Wisconsin) is a professor of history at the Central Connecticut State University and a faculty member of the Centurions Program at Breakpoint, the worldview training ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries. Previously, he taught at Calvin College and was a visiting professor at the Universität der Bundeswehr-Hamburg (now Helmut Schmidt University) in Germany. He is the author of The Reformation for Armchair Theologians and Reforming French Protestantism, and contributor to the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation and the Encyclopedia of Protestantism.