The four layers of a worldview (as I learned them; I haven’t been able to find this anywhere outside my notes from freshman year of college) are catechesis, narrative, liturgy, and lifestyle.

Catechesis– This is the theoretical, instructional component to our worldview. It is cohesive teaching, the content of our beliefs, contained in propositions. It’s what most of us think about when we think of a person’s worldview.

Narrative– These are the stories we tell about ourselves, our heroes, our gods. These are the stories we tell ourselves about where we came from and where we’re going. They reveal (and sometimes conceal) our propositional beliefs at a fundamental level. They are proposition envisioned.

Liturgy– Our liturgy is made up of the formal symbols and events that image forth our worldview; these are our basic community rituals, and everybody has them. Initiation rites, recitations, symbols, sacrifices- they are proposition enacted.

Lifestyle– This is worldview on the ground, the informal and daily decisions made by people as they seek to live out the other three levels of their worldview. Automatic and reflexive, these habits are proposition embodied.

Here’s my point: in the world we think we inhabit, the flow from one level to the next goes from the top down, from catechesis all the way to lifestyle. And to be fair, that happens from time to time. But more often than not, the world we actually live in works exactly the opposite way. Worldviews are not (primarily) taught, but caught. This is easiest to see with children. Think about a 15-month old baby boy and his experience with prayer. Can he explain the purposes and theology behind prayer? Can he regurgitate stories about George Mueller and Hudson Taylor? No. What he can do is fold his chubby little hands and bow his head. He’ll learn the other stuff later. Right now, he’s absorbing his parent’s worldview through their lifestyle and liturgies, primarily.

I think that last paragraph is pretty self-evident. We understand instinctually that this is the case with children, and probably we understand that as adults our worldview is strengthened by our practice of it, both communally and individually. What we may not be so quick to realize is that a person’s worldview can be unraveled from the bottom up much more quickly than the top down. In Christian terms, evangelism doesn’t just happen on the propositional level. As individuals accept the lifestyle practices, liturgical constructs, and fundamental narratives of another worldview, their beliefs about the world will naturally slide into place. How many people do you know who stopped believing in God because they wanted to have casual sex? I could list four off the top of my head, who told me as much with their own lips.

There’s so much more to say about this, but I can’t see the top of the post from here, which means I’m in trouble. Let me wrap up with an observation. No worldview is neutral. We aren’t talking about everyone’s favorite pizza toppings. At the heart of every culture is worship; not whether or not we have a god, but which god. Don’t think your Christianity is superior because it’s minimalistic and gnostic (divorced from the last two or three levels). A worldview that is not envisioned, enacted, or embodied is a worldview that cannot encompass the world in which we live, cannot offer people more than substance-less exhortation. This isn’t a marketing scheme; it’s a life fully lived.

Beheading in 1-2 Samuel

I’ve been thinking about David and Goliath a little more. It’s an interesting example of a story that is so well known on a popular level and yet so little understood in terms of its redemptive-historical significance, or even its role in 1-2 Samuel.

David doesn’t just get Goliath with stone and slingshot; he beheads him afterward. This is important for a number of reasons, and part of its significance emerges in comparison with the rest of 1-2 Samuel. There are 6 beheadings or near-beheadings in Samuel, and only one in the rest of the Old Testament (2 Kings 6:32). I think it’s safe to say there’s something of a pattern developing here.

The first time someone’s head is removed from them is in 1 Samuel 5. After the Ark of the Lord is taken into the temple of Dagon, the fish-dragon god falls down twice, and loses his head and hands the second time. Next is the account with David and Goliath, where David represents the Lord and Goliath is dressed like a big snake (see my previous post on this). At the end of 1 Samuel Saul, the Israelite “giant,” loses his head. All of these entities oppose the Lord or his anointed, and so all of them lose their heads.

In 2 Samuel 4, a few Benjaminites hoping to gain favor with David behead a descendent of Saul. David has them put to death for this, but the deed is done. Several chapters later, as David is fleeing from Absalom, Shimei begins to curse him, and Abishai offers to remove Shimei’s head (16:9). And finally, when Sheba incites rebellion against David, things go poorly for him and he is ultimately beheaded as well (20:22).

What are we to make of this? What’s the significance of beheading? I believe it has to do with lordship, a definite and recurring theme in Samuel. The word “head” (Hb. roš) is often used to refer to leaders in Hebrew, as it is in English. In 1 Samuel, which covers David’s ascension to kingship, those who oppose the Lord and his anointed king lose their heads. In 2 Samuel, which covers David’s reign, those who threaten his rule are put down (in Shimei’s case, the beheading is only talked about, not actually committed).

Ultimately, of course, this refers back to the promise of a Messiah in Genesis 3:15. The author of 1-2 Samuel is shouting at us that this one, this one is the seed of the woman who will crush the head of the serpent. The Messiah is to come through David’s line.

“When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Samuel 7:12-13).

Joseph’s Coat

Joseph, if he’s famous for anything, is known for his “robe of many colors” (Genesis 37:3), probably because it provides a nice coloring exercise in Sunday School. But there does seem to be some significance to Joseph’s robe beyond it’s immediate place in Genesis 37. The author of Genesis uses Joseph’s garments as a sort of motif, a way of telling us where Joseph’s fortunes are at this point in the story.

Clothes often represent authority and status in the Old Testament. Robes are kingly. If you wear a long-sleeved coat (the term translated “many colored” may be better rendered “long-sleeved”) in the ancient world, you aren’t going out to the fields. That’s the significance of Joseph’s coat, and it helps to explain his brothers’ hatred of him.

When Joseph’s brothers take him captive and throw him into a pit, they strip off his coat first. This is more than just the first step of a dastardly scheme to convince Jacob that his son is dead; it’s a symbolic act. “You had a dream that you would rule over us, did you? Well, how do you like your pit, your highness?”

As I mentioned in a previous post, this isn’t the last time Joseph gets the coat ripped off his back. In Genesis 39 we see Joseph stripped of his garment in the process of fleeing from Potiphar’s wife. The two accounts have a number of other similarities: both times Joseph begins in a position of behavior with the man in authority; both times his clothes are taken from him; both times the man in authority is deceived by the clothes taken; both times Joseph ends up in an unfavorable position where he again finds favor.

With all of it’s similarities to Genesis 37, Genesis 39 serves as an “Oh no, not again!” moment. It’s sinking further down. Joseph has been faithful in Potiphar’s house, and so he regains a measure of status and authority, only to have it stripped from him again. Down, down, down.

And then Joseph interpret’s Pharaoh’s dream, and Pharaoh promotes him, by giving him a ring, a gold chain, and clothing him in fine linen. Joseph becomes second in the land, and God fulfills the dreams he gave to Joseph all those years ago.

There’s an important lesson here. God’s people suffer loss, betrayal, and indignity now. Sometimes it goes from bad to worse. Sometimes the trials we experience stretch on, seemingly beyond endurance. God knows this. He has not forgotten his promises to his people. And he does not intend to afflict forever.

     Let us rejoice and exult 
          and give him the glory, 
     for the marriage of the Lamb has come, 
          and his Bride has made herself ready; 
     it was granted her to clothe herself 
          with fine linen, bright and pure. (Revelation 19:7-8)

Flesh and Bone

Here’s the question: when we talk about the inspiration of Scripture, do we mean that the content is inspired alone, or do we maintain that the form is inspired as well? Is the form of Scripture, as Peter Leithart asks in Deep Exegesis, merely a husk from which the kernel of truth must be extracted, or is it as much a part of God’s revelation to man as the abstracted truths we derive from it?

This isn’t an ivory-tower question. If we answer that only the content is inspired, then it doesn’t matter what violence we do to the husk in order to abstract the kernel, so long as the kernel is abstracted. It doesn’t matter where I pull my verses from as long as I haven’t presented them in a way that the rest of the verses would disagree with. It doesn’t matter that Ruth occupies a certain place in the canon, in the flow of redemptive history. What matters is the propositional truth which is taken from Ruth, the “principles” for belief and godly living which Ruth presents to us.

I deny this. We do not simply need the flesh of propositional truth, but the internal structure which God provides in the Scripture. In order to understand God’s truth fully in the way he wishes it to be understood, we must understand the medium. In fact, I believe that we will understand less of the truth if we don’t take it in the medium in which it has been delivered. It matters that Ruth is a part of the Writings, and it matters that Joseph’s run-in with Potiphar’s wife happens after Judah’s fling with Tamar, and it matters that Psalm 95 is a psalm. God speaks, and just as it is disobedient and disrespectful to disobey or disbelieve his words, so it is to disregard the method of his delivery.

Skull-Crushing King

It’s been an interesting weekend, and through some conversations and readings a few insights have stuck out to me.

In 1 Samuel 17, David faces up against Goliath. The story is well known, of course, but there are some interesting details worth consideration. Goliath is said to be wearing a “coat of mail” in verse 5, but the word used for “mail” is actually “scales” (cf. Leviticus 11:9, Ezekiel 29:3-4), like those of a fish or snake. So Goliath, our antagonist, is dressed like a dragon, like his dragon-fish god Dagon. And then there’s David, unarmed little shepherd boy. What’s a boy to do against a great big serpent?

David, being brought up on the Scriptures, knows what to do with serpents. He crushed Goliath’s head with a stone, and then he cut off Goliath’s head with his own sword (17:49-51). Then, he put the giant’s armor in his tent and took the head to Jerusalem. Why he did this is unknown, but it’s entirely possible that the skull was mounted for a time as a trophy (possibly outside the city gates, since Israel didn’t control the city), and then buried.

“So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha” (John 19:16-17). It’s interesting that three of the four Evangelists tell us the Hebrew name for the place Jesus was crucified. Is there a play on words here? Gol is the first syllable of Goliath, and Gath was the giant’s home. I don’t want to indulge in fancy here, but there may be some deliberate connection made by the authors.

Golgotha was where David’s greater Son definitively crushed the head of that ancient serpent, the devil. Through the bruising of his heel, he was lifted up above the skull of his enemy. Jesus used death, the sword of his enemy, to crush his enemy and put him to open shame in him (Colossians 2:15).

Imago Dei, My Firstborn Son, and Bursting Love

What follows is a guest post from my good friend Eliot Delorme.

When you think about the image of God, what comes to your mind? Maybe you think about your calling to be like God or maybe your identity as a creature of creativity and community. But one thing we should think about, maybe even primarily, when we hear “Imago Dei,” is love. I had never made this connection until one week ago.

It was early in the morning. I was as happy as I’d ever remember being, and what I lacked in sleep was more than made up for with strength from an unconquerable happiness. I sipped hot coffee and read Genesis in a hushed voice to my newborn baby boy, my firstborn, as his mother and my beloved Bride got some well-earned sleep in our room. He was 11 hours old, and I slept very little during the night because I couldn’t stop staring at my beautiful boy and wanted to hold him any chance I could get. He has my nose, eyes, and lips, and my wife’s chin and cheeks. I read to him in the family room, and slowly rocked his rolling basinet back and forth in the quiet of the warm spring morning light peeking through the windows overlooking Minneapolis. I tried to read with a soothing voice and cadence to calm my beloved son, but when I came to verse 26, I broke down in tears. The verse reads, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’” God chose to make mankind in his image; he didn’t have to do that. So why did he? To understand that, let’s take a step back. I love my son more than any other child in the world. And I love him like that because he is flesh of my flesh, made in my likeness. From the first time I laid eyes on him and every time since it feels as if my heart explodes with love for him. At each glance, love, too powerful for words, washes over me.

Is this how God felt about Adam and Eve? I think so! Though totally distinct from God their Father, they had his likeness, his image. God saw his children in the untainted garden, he walked in the cool of the garden to find them and see them and rejoice in them. This pure image in man was ruined when they ate the fruit and rebelled against God their Father. Shame and guilt and filth entered the soul of man and distorted that image. The Father now felt grief and righteous anger towards the ones who abused his abundant kindness. But praise be to Christ who gives sinners his perfect image for those who are in him and restores us into the image of God in sanctification. The audible voice of God is rarely found recorded in the gospels, but of the times that he is recorded as speaking, his favorite thing to say is, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” When God looks at his Son, he bubbles over, as it were, with love and delight in him and that joy manifests in the heavenly declaration of love. He sings over his son with delight. The Father’s love and delight is also towards you who are in Christ. This is foundational to what it means to be in Christ, to be loved with the same love that God has for his Son!

Child of God, do you regularly set your mind on this thought, “God loves me. He actually loves me! He thinks about me with deep fatherly pleasure. He wants to have fellowship with me. He knows all my dirt, sin and weaknesses and that doesn’t make him flinch in his love for me because of Christ’s once for all work.” Do you think like that? If you don’t, you should; it is your inheritance in Christ. To know this love of the Father in Jesus by the power of the Spirit is fullness of life, it is eternal life! This type of love sets free the prisoner, it anchors through trial, it gives courage to the faint-hearted, and it quiets the sinner’s soul.

Believer, does your mental image of God accord with Scripture’s picture of him being a loving Father? If not, revisit this truth, that you are made and restored into the image of God as a beloved child. So listen. Listen closely, and you’ll hear the song of delight being sung over you.

A Tale of Two Brothers

I just ran across this post from last fall over at my friend Chad Bresson’s blog, about Genesis 38 and the scandal of the gospel. I was interested, because just this morning I was reading John Currid’s Against the Gods, and Currid points out that Genesis 38, the story of of Judah’s misconduct and immorality with Tamar, serves as a foil to Genesis 39, Joseph’s encounter with the wife of Potiphar.

I love Chad’s treatment of Genesis 38, but what’s catching my eye right now is the contrast between Judah and Joseph. Take twenty seconds to google “Biblical marriage meme,” and you’ll find a number of doubtless well-informed haters reminding us that marriage was abused in good ol’ Bible times, so it should be anything goes today.

Yes. It’s true. Abraham slept with Hagar. Solomon had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. David murdered Uriah so he could have Bathsheba. There are directions in the law for taking the widow of your brother, for marrying war captives, for marrying women you’ve raped, and for pairing together your male and female slaves. It does no good to list every weird account of marriage in Scripture indiscriminately and then sit back with a self-satisfied smirk. The question that should be asked is what view of marriage and sex does the Scripture commend?

This is where Joseph shines so brightly. The fact that the account of Judah and Tamar appears in the middle of the longer story about Joseph and right before the account of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife says something about both accounts.

First, this is an intentional pairing. We’re meant to look at Judah and Joseph together. Two brothers, two temptations, two responses. As I said, Judah serves as a foil to Joseph. There are, of course, more levels to the story of Judah and Tamar, and Chad has covered them admirably. But the placement of the story at this point in Genesis reveals that, whatever else is going on in redemptive history, Joseph is the main character right now, and he’s drawing everything else into his narratival orbit.

Second, the contrast preaches. Judah condemns his own actions, both by his decision not to burn Tamar and by his statement, “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah” (38:24-26). No one who reads the text well can come away with the impression that Judah is somehow commended for his immorality. Similarly, it is impossible to read the following chapter and conclude that Joseph is not being commended. He recognizes that to sleep with Mrs. Potiphar would be a sin against his master and his God (39:8-9). He refuses temptation steadfastly (39:10). And when push comes to shove, Joseph gets right out of dodge, leaving his coat behind (39:11-12). This last bit, by the way, is an intentional echo of Joseph’s previous betrayal at the hands of his brothers: though innocent of wrongdoing, he is punished, his garments are used in a deception against him, and he is put someplace unfavorable where God gives him success in all he does. The flow of the story itself teaches us that Joseph is to be commended.

There is no doubt in these accounts that, regardless of the social mores of the time concerning sexuality, Judah’s example is to be condemned and Joseph’s to be praised. In the words of the Dread Pirate Roberts, “Anyone who says differently is selling something.”