Today's public square permeates with verbal violence. Each side gathers a group of like minded people and lob ad hominem arguments to the enemy. Whether the issues are political, philosophical, or theological, every one talks past one another. As a result, the public square reverberates with the war cries of sectarian factions as the verbal arrows of attack fly across the public square. The goal of civil conversation quickly declines into barbarian assault. Is there any hope for renewal and civility in our public dialogue with one another, or are we doomed to watch talking heads argue with tweet-able one-liners for the foreseeable future? Is there any hope for the recovery of rhetoric and courtesy on the issues of utmost importance?
All is not lost, but if we hope to make the war-ravaged public square a place of lively, substantive conversation, we must identify and recognize the differing worldviews that make up our pluralistic culture. We must not demonize, but empathize with those whom we disagree with the most. Rather than creating straw men or defacing a caricature of our opponents, we must seek a mutual understanding no matter how wide the gap of our differences. This requires both patience and love: patience, because these conversations take time and cannot happen over 140-character-tweets or the few minutes between commercial breaks, and love, because we must care enough about our neighbor to truly understand his or her own position, motivations, and desires.
If we seek to truly understand one another and engage in a substantive way, we must understand the worldview of our conversation companions. Yet, many are blind to their own worldview let alone aware of the worldview of the person to which they speak. If we fail to recognize the differing worldview presuppositions, our conversations will fail to take off, and only sputter in futility.
[Tweet "Worldview no mans land does not exist."]
Worldview no mans land does not exist. Everybody has one. No one can argue from a place of neutrality as we stand on our own presuppositions no matter how firm or mushy they may be. The man who thinks he can argue from neutrality will never contribute reasonably to any philosophical or theological debate as he lives in a idealistic, self-centered world of fiction. To discuss important issues meaningfully requires that we possess the courage to confess our own biases. Only then will we have a conversation that is both substantial and above all charitable.
[Tweet "Worldviews are inextricably theological."]
Worldviews are inextricably theological. Every person has their own answers to the big questions of life. Why does the world exist and how does it exist? Is there a God, if so who is he (or she)? What is the fundamental problem of human beings? For what purpose is the universe moving towards? How a person answers those questions determines the worldview. Christians answer those questions a very particular way. We believe that God exists in Trinity as the creator who redeems fallen humanity through the incarnate and resurrected Christ, the true King who will restore and renew this broken world to the praise of his glory. Knowing the gospel lens of the Christian worldview, will help us identify the similarities and differences of alternate worldview, whether Islamic, pantheistic, or atheistic.
So, may we lend our ear to our opponents and study the presuppositional ground on which they stand. May we understand their own fish bowl so we can perceive the worldview environment in which their ideas come forth. Christians above all must love our neighbors well by observing the shelter of ideas our opponents have constructed around themselves. To use the words of Francis Schaeffer, our goal then as Christians in the public square is to remove the unstable roof of their worldview, exposing the inconsistencies and holes in their thinking in hopes of showing the reasonableness of the Christian worldview. Perhaps Schaeffer's apologetic method outlined in his book The God Who Is There would best be saved as a post for another day, but before we as Christians can hope to engage in the public square we must understand the differing worldview of those around us, listening both with patience and love, then may we see less verbal arrows and more civil conversation.