At church we have just finished the five talk series called From God. For God. We saw that God was at the centre of all of the bible story. Something that came up quite a lot was the difference between a God-centered perspective of the world and a man-centred perspective. Recently I came across an article by John Piper that does a really good job of summarising these two ways of viewing the world. He calls them the biblical mindset and the secular mindset. I thought I’d share part of it with you below. It’s a little long, but it’s worth it!
“What I mean by the secular mindset is not necessarily a mindset that rules God out or denies in principle that the Bible is true. It’s a mindset that begins with man as the basic given reality in the universe. All of its thinking starts with the assumption that man has basic rights and basic needs and basic expectations. Then the secular mind moves out from this center and interprets the world, with man and his rights and needs as the measure of all things.
What the secular mindset sees as problems are seen as problems because of how things fit or don’t fit with the center – man and his rights and needs and expectations. And what this mindset sees as successes are seen as successes because they fit with man and his rights and needs and expectations.
This is the mindset we were born with and that our secular society reinforces virtually every hour of the day in our lives. The Apostle Paul calls this mindset “the mind that is set on the flesh” (Romans. 8:6-7), and says that it is the way the “natural person” thinks (1 Corinthians 2:14, literal translation). It is so much a part of us that we hardly even know it’s there. We just take it for granted – until it collides with another mindset, namely the one in the Bible.
The biblical mindset is not simply one that includes God somewhere in the universe and says that the Bible is true. The biblical mindset begins with a radically different starting point, namely, God. God is the basic given reality in the universe. He was there before we were in existence – or before anything was in existence. He is simply the most absolute reality.
And so the biblical mindset starts with the assumption that God is the center of reality. All thinking starts with the assumption that God has basic rights as the Creator of all things. He has goals that fit with his nature and perfect character. Then the biblical mindset moves out from this center and interprets the world, with God and his rights and goals as the measure of all things.
What the biblical mindset sees as basic problems in the universe are usually not the same problems that the secular mindset sees. The reason for this is that what makes a problem is not, first, that something doesn’t fit the rights and needs of man, but that it doesn’t fit the rights and goals of God. If you start with man and his rights and wants, rather than starting with the Creator and his rights and goals, the problems you see in the universe will be very different.
Is the basic riddle of the universe how to preserve man’s rights and solve his problems (say, the right of self-determination, and the problem of suffering)? Or is the basic riddle of the universe how an infinitely worthy God in complete freedom can display the full range of his perfections – what Paul calls the “riches of his glory” (Romans 9:23) – his holiness and power and wisdom and justice and wrath and goodness and truth and grace?”
Piper goes on to discuss how these two perspectives shape our understanding of the cross. You can read the rest here.