The second half of day one: let’s talk about worldviews.
If you’re trying to understand Evangelicalism (or, equally possibly, curious about having your own Evangelicalism (or something similar to it, see: slipperiness, previous post, months ago) reflected back to you), you need to do what my camp did and start with Worldviews. As the speaker somewhat cheekily put it, you need to “think worldviewishly”. Do you have a worldview? You bet! You might not even realize that you do, but you do.
This was a very helpful way for a highly prescriptive belief system to teach me that every other belief system is just as prescriptive, whether the people who follow it realize it or not. This revelation was very comforting to me at the time, and it provided a helpful lens to view and categorize people who had different beliefs than me (notably, without requiring me to communicate with or even really identify who those people might be).
So: everyone has a worldview, even if they don’t know it. Knowing this is simply part of being “discerning”, which is a very common Christian term, typically tied to 1 Thess. 5:21-22: “Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.”
How many worldviews are there, you ask? There are three.
And what is the Ultimate Question? There are actually five ultimate questions, but I can safely infer for you that the Ultimate Question (singular) above is one of Destiny. Here’s the full list.
Here’s a helpful breakdown.
And here’s a full-page table.
We went image-heavy early today because I need to stress how important this rubric is to the remainder of the camp (and the overarching Evangelical system). As you’ll see as I dive deeper into my notebooks, this camp was primarily concerned with two things:
Defining very clear, equally prescriptive opposing belief systems, and
Setting up a playing field of eternal stakes and absolute existential questions.
You might also notice that, while the 3-up categorization is incredibly broad, the 5 Ultimate Questions are extremely specific, and the answers extremely reductive. This system was extremely helpful as a foundation to define non-Christians, especially when they’re not around to define themselves (not that they’d even realize what their worldview truly is, if they don’t happen to “think worldviewishly”).
It took me years into adulthood before I could look at people who weren’t Evangelical Christians and think of their perspectives on existence as anything more nuanced than the above table.
All of these choices, as presented, were very reassuring. Relative (human-centered) morality vs. Absolute (God-defined) morality? Annihilation vs. eternal life? The answers wrote themselves! We, an audience of Christians, were the “with” category of “Eternal life with or apart from God”. Everyone else slotted into the rest of the table.
Eternity for us, but not for most? Might sound a little selfish, bestowing immortality so specifically and easily, to myself and my compatriots! But here’s the thing that provides gravity for the Evangelical: everyone else is going to Hell. Holding this tension – your possession of the ultimate gift of immortality while every unsaved person you know wanders toward eternal punishment – is the tremendous psychological burden of this strain of Christianity.
If you’re a Christian who ascribes themselves to this particular set of stakes, I don’t have much to explain to you, other than to say that I feel a deep compassion for what it takes to hold this tension in your heart. If you don’t believe in this particular system of stakes, but you have a Christian friend, they may think you’re destined for eternal annihilation. Some Christians say it’s fire; some say it’s eternal separation from God, forever. Whatever the aesthetics, it’s Hell, and if they think you’re going there, it’s something that I guarantee haunts them. It’s so big; so terrible; so hard to grapple with.
But you could ask them. It’s not a bad question to ask. If they believe in hell, it will be hard for them to answer.
I’m giving you everything on the page here, because I want to be faithful to the source material, especially because of the points it keeps hammering home – everything tying back to those 5 key questions; nothing with a sufficient answer to those questions, other than the belief system you’re being equipped to defend.
I don’t remember why Agnosticism is in quotes; likely something about how it’s a catch-all for people who are unsure, a position not given much respect throughout camp. As an addendum to the above five examples, some more were listed off by the speaker, as I faithfully transcribed:
This might be illuminating for anyone on the outside of Evangelicalism wondering how the right wing has settled into “Liberal” as a blanket pejorative; these buckets are designed to be very, very big, so they can be eliminated as efficiently as possible. In 2001, “Liberal” may have been too blasé a term to have landed on the list, but I have to wonder if it’s in the 2021 version of this curriculum.
Just to the left the Freud burn, we have some answers to the big questions:
I specifically want to call out the last line - “I must make the world a better place for humans”. Sometimes people from non-Christian backgrounds, who in my experience are often more confused by Evangelicals than anything else, wonder where the Christians are in the fight against, say, climate change. I’ll do my best to explain that as we go through my notebook (there’s a whole Environmentalism section), but this is a key aspect: simply making the world a better place for humans, as its own end goal, is Humanism, and therefore a doomed subset of the Naturalist worldview. These motives – and goals – can be easily categorized, and easily dismissed.
Next are some Bible verses:
I’m extremely reticent to get into any sort of in-depth Biblical analysis in this blog, but I’ll at least reflect on the two Old Testament verses here, and then close this post out.
Proverbs 8:36 is the final verse of the chapter, and here’s the NIV translation:
But those who fail to find me harm themselves;
all who hate me love death.
Here’s Job 28:20-23:
20 Where then does wisdom come from?
Where does understanding dwell?
21 It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing,
concealed even from the birds in the sky.
22 Destruction and Death say,
“Only a rumor of it has reached our ears.”
23 God understands the way to it
and he alone knows where it dwells
These are extremely ominous passages! I don’t really have a charitable reading of the Proverbs verse when used in this context; it’s very scary given the context of the ANNIHILATION cell of our above Worldview Table.
The Job passage is somewhat gentler, but does establish something very, very important to Evangelicalism, which is to teach you that you, the individual, are not capable of wisdom or understanding on your own; these are mysteries only provided to you by God – or, rather, the characterization of God being dictated to you by a series of men tasked with equipping you to defend yourself against all other Worldviews that might present themselves in your upcoming trip through College.
This post is long enough, so next time we’ll dive into Transcendentalism and, finally, Theism. Stay tuned.