Goheen and Bartholomew’s – Living at the Crossroads
There have been many books written on Christian Worldview in the past years (worldview). However, what makes Living at the Crossroads stand out from the others is its mission-centred focus and its defined setting within the biblical story. Both of these factors reflect the personal interests of the authors. Goheen’s PhD was on Lesslie Newbiggin (Goheen) and Bartholomew’s was on Ecclesiastes (Bartholomew).
The book starts by explaining how worldviews fit into the context of the gospel story and mission. The authors’ belief is that people are now at the crosswords of two opposing narratives, these being the biblical story of creation and the post-modern western story, and that now we live in a state of tension:
“So we find ourselves at the crossroads, where we live as part of two communities, in two stories each largely incompatible with the other, but both of which claim to be true–and claim the whole of our lives” (Goheen & Bartholomew, 2008, p. 8).
The authors define worldview as a fundamental series of beliefs about the world that in turn influences all of our thinking. They make the point, somewhat obviously, that ‘thinking Christianly’ is crucial if an individual is to express a Christian worldview.
The authors’ purpose is “to seek to carry on in the worldview-conscious tradition of James Orr and Abraham Kuyper, whose aim was simply to shine the brightest possible light on the Christian church’s mission in the public life of culture” (p. 18).
However, while I believe the authors aimed towards this purpose, their perception of worldview seems to have been influences much more by Lesslie Newbigin; Newbigin was the former officer of the World Council of Churches and missionary to India (Biography). He is talked about on more than eighteen pages and is footnoted thirty-one times (SV Chapel).
Considering Newbigin’s involvement and power on the developing church, anyone reading this volume should do so with caution. It doesn’t necessarily suggest that the views of Newbigin or the authors are wrong. However, it is possible that a certain comprehension of Christianity must be learned in order to grasp the concepts within the text.
In Living at the Crossroads there is an helpful section on the meaning of worldview as well as a persuasive argument about how significantly our worldview moulds our everyday choices and whole interpretation of life (p. 12-30).
The authors offer a warning along with their commendation of the importance of biblical worldview. However the warning actually comes from Thomas Merton, a Roman Catholic mystic. Nonetheless, the explanation of the basis of biblical worldview are valuable.
Goheen and Bartholomew (2008) offer “four signs of the times:” the growth of postmodernity, consumerism and globalisation, the renascence of Christianity in the southern hemisphere, and the rebirth of Islam.
A great deal of this information is helpful, but it seems surprising that the authors group all divisions of Christianity into one, claiming that ‘Christianity’ governs the southern hemispheres. It also seems incredible that the authors view this group of Christians as “predominantly an orthodox, conservative Christianity with a high view of the Bible” (p. 120).
In terms of structure, the first seven chapters of the book bring the reader as far as the, so called, crossroads. The final two chapters offer ideas on how to successfully live in this state. The authors argue that as withdrawing from culture entirely is out of the question, the issue is how to coexist and improve it. They speak of this dichotomy as a ‘missionary encounter’, in which mankind continue to partake in the surrounding culture, but to be aware of the gospel in all areas of life:
“In whatever we examine critically we will discover something of God’s good creational
structure and also evidence of how it has been deformed by sin. A faithful embodiment of the gospel in our own cultural settings demands that we discern between the creational structure and design in all things and the religious misdirection and rebellion that pervert God’s good world” (p. 136).
The authors’ understanding of the gospel is fixed in what they refer to as the cultural mandate. The cultural mandate is the conviction that the church has been awarded the Great Commission and, furthermore, also maintains the command given to Adam to conquer and control the earth (Gen 1:26:28). Any argument about whether this cultural mandate is still relevant or applicable in life today is absent.
The central idea of Living at the Crossroads seems to be based upon this concept, along with the notion that Jesus’s message was for mankind to work with God and re-establish his control over all life on earth. There are no references to the New Testament in which Jesus explains how near the two worlds are.
Goheen and Bartholomew (2008) propose that redeeming culture is contextual and is best tackled according to perspectives on public life. These perspectives include art, politics, sports, business, economics, psychology, education and scholarship. The meaning being conveyed, by the authors, is that culture will be restored once Christians have made a significant contribution to each of the disciplines.
Living at the Crossroads is contemplative book in which the authors bring in the tradition of Reformed thought. It is gentle and accessible, in terms of language. For a Christian reader, this book may serve to provide hope and enthusiasm in the importance of the Gospel. However, the arguments are so unwavering that I think a non-Christian reader wanting to know more could be easily put off.
Goheen and Bartholomew effectively explain the historical development of worldviews. They are also convincing in comparing the philosophies of the past with current beliefs. Therefore, Living at the Crossroads can be a useful book for open minded readers who can think critically. Also readers who have a firm knowledge of the Scripture will be at an advantage. However, the text is littered with, albeit very persuasive, one sided arguments. To a non-Christian reader the book may well get dismissed and discarded.
This text is becoming popular as a set text on some college courses. It is certainly a valuable read in that it raises some interesting points about worldviews and provokes discussion. Nonetheless, as a learning source it appears to be a little too narrow-minded to be safe in 2011.
Goheen, M. & Bartholomew, C. (2008). Living at the Crossroads. SPCK Publishing.
Naugle, D. (2002). Worldview: The History of a Concept. William B Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Sire, J.W (2004). Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a Concept. IVP USA
Bartholomew. Biblical Theology. Retrieved from http://biblicaltheology.ca/blueauthors.htm#cb
Biography. Newbigin. Retrieved from http://www.newbigin.net/general/biography.cfm
Genesis 1:26:28. Bible on the Web. Retrieved from http://www.bibleontheweb.com/Bible.asp
Goheen. Biblical Theology. Retrieved from http://www.biblicaltheology.ca/blueauthors.htm#mg
Living on the Crossroads Review. SV Chapel. Retrieved from http://www.svchapel.org/resources/book-reviews/12-doctrine-and-theology/627-living-at-the-crossroads-and-introduction-to-christian-worldview-by-michael-w-goheen-and-craig-g-bartholomew
Review of Living at the Crossroads. Reformation. Retrieved from http://www.reformation21.org/shelf-life/living-at-the-crossroads-an-introduction-to-christian-worldview.php
Worldview. The Great Books. Retrieved from http://www.thegreatbooks.com/read_list