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A toastie for your thoughts ...

world-view   n.  [after German Weltanschauung n.] a set of fundamental beliefs, values, etc., determining or constituting a comprehensive outlook on the world; a perspective on life; = Weltanschauung n. 
(OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2015. Web. 15 August 2015).
I've been endeavouring through N.T. Wright's Resurrection of the Son of God. It's a weighty tome in both senses (or would be if I hadn't opted for the e-book version) but he does have a lovely clarity of thought and expression which renders complex academic ideas comprehensible even to (reasonably determined) laymen. I especially appreciate his framework for describing and comparing world-views via the answers to five major questions:
  1. Who are we?
  2. Where are we?
  3. What is wrong?
  4. What is the solution?
  5. What time is it?
The exercise of unpicking cultures and belief systems on this basis seems highly instructive, at least when he attempts it (more on that later). But the mere mention of 'world-view questions' does rather stir an uncomfortable memory from the dark past/past dark of my undergrad days, when my faith was at its most naive, earnest and terrified, and I was striving to serve the CU with all the energy left me by Algebra III and Numerical Methods and Intro to Complex Analysis &c. ...

The UCCF Worldview Survey.

For those unfamiliar with the particulars of the UK Christian Union scene, the 'Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowships' (UCCF) is an organisation that helps to set up and look after evangelical, evangelistic groups among students across the country. And the Worldview Survey was, for a while, a popular 'outreach' tool among those groups. It consisted of a series of newsfeed-quiz-style multiple choice questions which 'told' you whether you were a theist, a deist, a naturalist, a nihilist, an existentialist or an Eastern-pantheistic monist.

Eager CU adherents would be trained up and sent out to interrogate and diagnose passing strangers accordingly, a process which would 'naturally' lead to an opportunity to recommend the stranger towards the Christian world-view as an improvement on their current position. Whether they were also offered, as part of the deal, a toasted sandwich, assistance with domestic responsibilities, and/or an item of confectionery wrapped in a Bible verse, depended on the various theologies and anxieties of the various committee members currently responsible for overseeing the various operations of the Union [1].

Actually, for all my zeal, I never served on that particular clip-boarded frontline. So petrified was I, back then, of human contact (my largely untested assumption being that non-Christian humans were quintuply as scary) that even thus equipped with a script I would've been a wreck. Instead I directed my excess of keenness towards minor background organisational tasks, like making teas and putting chairs away, and lamented my lack of utility.

Nowadays ... all this seems a bit ... Oh, I don't know. I feel old. In kinda a good way, like maybe I learned some stuff (cf. Job 12:12). Like maybe my own world-view has developed -- expanded from what it was back then. [1. A scared and socially-disoriented teenager; 2. In the big wide world for the first time; 3. No-one likes me, probably not even God; 4. Go to lots of CU meetings and tell people about Jesus to make myself acceptable to fellow Christians and to God; 5. Time to get started, except I don't seem to be able to...]

Now, don't get me wrong (I say that suspiciously much): I know for an observable fact that, by God's grace, the survey and other activities of the CU really did bless a lot of people -- using the word 'blessing', of course, with respect to my own world-view, i.e., I can name people who started to follow Jesus at that time and have been following him since, and others who grew in faith and understanding and boldness in a lasting way. Let me not understate for a second the joy and gladness that this gives me! But I do think there's something ... not great ... about the way some things were done. It was all a bit neat; a bit 'production-line-y' almost. Non-Christians as uniform items on a conveyor belt to be routinely processed; Christians as mechanised bots for implementing those procedures. And muddled, miserable, socially inept me -- who couldn't muster a coherent 30-seconds of weather-based small talk, let alone hold my entire hall corridor transfixed with the sort of night-long deep-and-meaningfuls guaranteed to have everybody on repentant knees by break of day -- well, I was a malfunctioning dud, best parked in a corner and powered down so as not to be a drain on the resources of the Unit.

I don't think it's just because 'I tried and failed to fit in and it hurt' that I now question some aspects of the CU approach (though I accept that personal failure and emotion make it hard to be neutral). "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly," Jesus promised (John 10:10b). The Christian world-view that we sought to invite people into -- the genuinely Jesus-centred framework for making sense of and engaging with reality -- is a whole lot bigger, more beautiful, more life-giving than our system of meetings, initiatives, targets [2] and doctrinal check-lists sometimes made it feel. It's also messier, I believe, with more room for the failures and duds to flourish, to flounder joyfully and, in a uniquely God-dependent way, fruitfully ... after all, His resources are boundless ...
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (1 Corinthians 1:26-29)
So, what is this 'reality' in which worldly notions of importance and influence are turned on their heads? in which God "gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist" (Romans 4:17)? What does it look like, and why are so many people convinced of its truth?

To sketch an answer I'm gonna go back to where I began, to Wright's analysis of where it all (this 'act', at least [3]) began, and what it must have looked like to Paul and the early believers as they rapidly, dramatically adjusted their deeply held Judaic world-views around the unprecedented developments of Jesus' death and resurrection ...
(i) Who are we? We are 'in the Messiah', identified solely by our confession and faith in him as the risen lord; we are [...] the worldwide family promised to Abraham by the one true God. 
(ii) Where are we? In the good creation of the good God; creation is still [...] awaiting its own liberation from decay, but is already under the lordship of the risen and ascended Messiah. 
(iii) What's wrong? The world, and we ourselves, are not yet redeemed as we shall be. Most people [...] remain ignorant of what Israel's God has done in Jesus the Messiah. In particular, the present world rulers [...] are at best a parody, and at worst a monstrous and blasphemous distortion, of the true justice and peace the one God intends for his world. Because sin still has idolatrous humankind in its grip, death still acts as a tyrant. 
(iv) What's the solution? In the long term, the creator's great act of new creation, through which the cosmos itself will be liberated, true justice and peace will triumph over all enemies, all the righteous will be raised from the dead, and believers alive at the time will be transformed. In the short term, the gospel must be announced to the world, doing its own powerful work of challenging, transforming, healing and rescuing, and thus creating 'resurrection' people in the metaphorical sense.
(v) What time is it? The 'age to come' has been inaugurated, but the 'present age' still continues. We live between resurrection and resurrection, that of Jesus and that of ourselves; between the victory over death at Easter and the final victory when Jesus 'appears' again. This now/not yet tension runs right through Paul's vision of the Christian life [...] 
(N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, p275).
Two thousand years on and, OK, so there's a few concepts (Messiahship in particular) less immediately accessible to me than they would've been to a first century Jew ... and maybe expectations about how long the 'now/not yet' is gonna last have shifted some ... and there's still some debate as to the theological 'mechanics' (particularly of 4) ... but yeah, upon (ongoing) consideration these answers resonate with me as good ones -- true ones. Whatever your 'take' on reality -- articulatable or otherwise (these questions are non-trivial in the extreme) I suggest, just as my more UCCF-performant brothers and sisters back then suggested to the surveyed, that the above really is worth your while reflecting on, exploring. My sandwich toaster's broken but I'd hope that doesn't make much odds...

[1] The unlikely twist in the long version of this story is that I was actually one of those committee members for a time. Suffice to say, my anxious hope that the appointment signified, or would precipitate, a resolution to my question 3 response was sadly dashed.

[2] E.g. the advice that, in order to maximise evangelistic effectiveness, CU members should arrange their off-campus accommodation so as to share with half Christians and half non-Christians. Quite how one is supposed to incentivise the requisite number of non-Christians towards such a scheme was never explained to me. I was just relieved to fall in with any group (world-view distribution notwithstanding) sufficiently desperate to make up the numbers ...

[3] Wright proposes a 'five act hermeneutic' for understanding scripture as the story of humankind in relationship with God (Creation, Fall, Israel, Jesus, Church; see, e.g., N.T. Wright, How Can the Bible Be Authoritative?Vox Evangelica, 1991).

[Thumbnail image cc from Wikimedia Commons]