Book Review: Worldviews in Conflict

Identification of thesis and summary of text content

Worldviews in Conflict is a primer on the importance of the Christian worldview. Ronald Nash seeks to show the importance of worldview, how to select a worldview, the shortcomings of two non-Christian worldviews, and the superiority of the Christian worldview. After being introduced to the idea of worldview and the Christian worldview in particular, the reader is taken on a tour of some tools to select a worldview. Next, the reader learns how the Christian worldview is able to pass the test, while two non-Christian worldviews (namely, naturalism and the new age movement) fail the test. Nash writes, “No believer today can be really effective in the arena of ideas until he or she has been trained to think in worldview terms” (p. 14). Nash seeks to do just that by providing a concise introduction to the conflicts between worldviews.

Analysis of text

Nash does a superb job of introducing worldview and explaining the key features of it. He defines worldview as “a set of beliefs about the most important issues in life” (p. 16). He explains that a well-rounded worldview will include beliefs in at least five major areas: God, reality, knowledge, morality, and humankind (p. 26). I greatly appreciate Nash’s insistence that Christianity should be approached as a conceptual system—a “total world-and-life view” (p. 19). However, I differ with Nash’s approach to “prove” the Christian worldview. Throughout the book, Nash attempts to show that the Christian worldview is superior to all others by appealing to rational standards. My approach, in contrast, would be to show that those very rational standards (like logic, for instance) only make sense if the Christian worldview is true. Nash does address the importance of presuppositions, but not in a sufficient way, or in the manner that I would have liked. Namely, the rock-bottom presuppositions that all thinkers use to “analyze” any worldview (i.e. the law of noncontradiction) can only exist if the Christian worldview is true. Nash bypasses this critical step and simply tries to show that by using these standards of rationality, one can come to the Christian worldview and “judge” it, as it were. But why, I ask, must one accept these standards?

After concisely summarizing the Christian worldview (with a focus on the five aforementioned areas), Nash goes on to write about how one should choose a worldview. He proposes three main tests: the test of reason, the test of experiences, and the test of practice (p. 55). I will focus my attention on his first test: the test of reason. Nash writes, “By the test of reason I mean logic or, to be more specific, the law of noncontradiction” (p. 55). Nash then goes on to show that by using the unchanging laws of logic, one can show the superiority of the Christian worldview. In fact, Nash spends an additional two chapters on the test of reason (Chapters 4 and 5). There is much to be commended in Nash’s presentation. Nash shows that Christianity is not opposed to reason and that other worldviews fail to be logically consistent. Much to my delight, Nash even references Alvin Platinga in an attempt to refute the evidentialist position. However, Nash stops far short of showing that unless one begins with Christianity, there can be no appeal to law of logic, such as the law of noncontradiction. In other words, Nash assumes the truth of the Christian worldview to use the laws of logic to reason to the Christian worldview. Instead, in my view, Nash ought to clearly present that unless one does indeed assume the truth of the Christian worldview, he cannot reason about anything at all.

When it comes to the problem of evil (pp. 94-99), Nash makes some good points, but still assumes the Christian worldview (i.e. the unchanging laws of logic, etc.) in order to defend the Christian worldview. I would submit that one need not even go down this road: if someone objects to the Christian worldview because there is evil, we can simply point out to him that he has already accepted the Christian worldview in his acknowledgement of evil as a reality. Many atheists use the “problem of evil” as their main argument against God. However, unless God is, there is no such thing as evil. (This is because without an objective standard outside of us, there is no such thing as evil.) Therefore, in my view, Nash spends a lot of unnecessary time trying to reason about the problem of evil. For someone who has already embraced Christ, this sort of discussion can be helpful. But when it comes to “choosing” worldviews, Nash seems to give the nonbeliever the “right” to sit in judgment on the one true God and see if the Christian worldview (based on God’s Word) is true.

In Chapters 7 and 8, Nash does an excellent job of interacting with two prevailing worldviews: naturalism and the New Age Movement. I like his use of logic and reason to show the inconsistency and illogicalness of these worldviews. Nash points out that “it is hard to see how the selection of naturalism as one’s worldview can be a wise or rational act” (p. 129). To this, I give a hearty Amen! Nash shows the folly of the naturalist trying to present any way of life as morally superior to another. If naturalism is true, there is no objective standard. Nash exposes the fact that naturalists do not practice what they preach—their worldview fails the test of practice: “Their theory precludes any appeal to the kinds of values that Christians find central to a truly human existence. But theirpractice shows that they do something quite different” (p. 128).

In a very impressive way, Nash shows us that the central Christian doctrines of the incarnation and the resurrection are not opposed to reason and evidence. However, I feel this argument a bit out of place. His treatment on the incarnation, admittedly, is very helpful for me as a believer. His presentation of evidences in favor of the resurrection is also helpful. However, such an appeal to evidences and reason without strongly asserting that using such things (evidence and reason) only makes sense in the Christian worldview is a fatal omission that allows the nonbeliever to sit in judgment on the so-called evidences for the Christian faith. Christianity is not a worldview to be reasoned to, but the only worldview which allows us to reason at all.

Conclusion

In many ways, Nash’s book is a breath of fresh air. It defines worldview and urges us to think critically about how we view the world. It shows us that Christianity is not an illogical system of belief. It demonstrates the folly of other worldviews that are vying for acceptance in our pluralistic society. However, much of Nash’s approach to this issue is in opposition to what I consider biblical apologetics. I do not think that we ought to reasonto the God of Christianity; rather, the only way we can reason at all is because God is—and this can be demonstrated by showing the impossibility of the contrary.


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