Persuasion and Worldviews
The effort to persuade others that Jesus is the Christ also means having to grapple with issues that are related one’s worldview. This is also related to the matter of presuppositions, as earlier considered. For someone to accept the truth about Jesus, that one will have to undergo a shift in thinking, and often that means a complete shift in the way everything else is perceived.
The apostle Paul understood this matter well. Writing to the Corinthians, Paul made the point that the “love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Cor 5:14-15). Those who live for Christ have completely changed their allegiances and understanding of reality. Paul continues and shows that this even changes how everyone else is to be considered. In 2 Corinthians 5:16-17, he shows how everything has changed for the person who is in Christ:
“From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
Another way of thinking about this is the idea of perspective. One’s perspective changes, and while that is easy enough to understand in theory, asking people to consider changing their perspective or worldview is difficult because there is so much attached to it. People must be persuaded to change their perspective on reality, and this, again, comes at a cost (Luke 14:25-33). If people cannot see that the cost is worthwhile, they will not entertain such a significant change.
There are a number of issues that every worldview must address. Fundamentally, these can be categorized into four categories, and each of these categories are scripturally significant as well:
1. How people view God. Every worldview has an understanding of who God is, including those who do not believe in God’s existence. This is arguably the most important of the worldview issues, for how one views God will affect how one views every other worldview category. Does God exist? Who is God? What is God’s relationship to the world? If God exists, as believers would argue, then why is He to be obeyed? These are the kinds of questions that a worldview answers, and someone having to change perspectives on this will necessarily mean changing perspectives on the other issues.
2. How people view knowledge. Scripture teaches, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7), and, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Proverbs 9:10). How do people have knowledge? How do they know what they know? How is knowing anything possible at all? What gives people the ability to think? Is such an ability the result of being created by God or the result of mindless, purposeless, accidental processes? Imagine the worldview shift from thinking that everything came from mindless processes to accepting that minds and the ability to think are the result of an all-knowing, all-wise God who made humankind in His image!
3. How people view morality. Why are human beings moral? What is responsible for their moral nature? Does this come from mindless, amoral processes or from a personal Creator whose moral nature is the standard? Why is sin a problem? Morality sets human beings apart from all other creatures, so being able to answer these questions has a significant impact on how people choose to live.
4. How people view other human beings. The psalmist (Psalm 8:3-4) asked, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” Who are human beings and why are they important? Are they created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), or are they products of a mindless evolutionary process that had no particular purpose (as purpose implies a mind)? Why should other human beings treat one another with respect? Why do people have rights? Why is racism a moral evil? What is God’s relationship to humanity? These are all questions impacted by the other worldview issues.
Now recall again that Paul wrote, “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” What makes a Christian able to view other human beings, and even Christ, differently (not according to the flesh)? There is a worldview shift that changes one’s perspective on God, knowledge, morality, and human beings.
Once people see who God is, they can begin to understand the problem of sin and appreciate how God responds to it through Christ. God has given human beings minds to think and a moral nature for which they are amenable. Being persuaded of this changes everything.