By: Laura Bennett
Have you ever thought to question what underpins your beliefs on right and wrong and how you align with certain cultural systems?
Every day we exist within an underlying set of assumptions that shape our society and dictate how we approach everything from church to politics and our personal family life.
Christian philosopher Christopher Watkin has set his mind on examining them from a Biblical lens in his book, ‘Biblical Critical Theory’ where he offers an extensive analysis of these assumptions and their social and spiritual benefits.
“Everybody has a way of looking at the world,” Christopher said in an interview.
“There’s too much [stimulus] to pay attention to everything, so we all make choices about what we focus on and what we think’s important in the world and a critical theory guides you in doing that.
“There are a lot of critical theories out there: we think of feminist critical theories, or queer theories and things like that.
“What they’re doing is focusing your attention on certain things out there in society and saying, ‘This is really important, pay attention to this, and this is really good and this other thing over there is really bad’.
“Without some sort of filter like that none of us could get up in the morning and go through a day because there’s just so much coming at us from all angles.”
How a Biblical Worldview Contrasts to Others
With his book, Christopher wanted to explore what it would look like for the Bible to define how we looked at the world and the ways it contrasts to other critical theories.
“There’s a few really key distinctives that actually make a biblical critical theory really exciting,” Christopher said.
“One of them that really struck me writing the book, is how God is always lavish. He always starts with ‘super abundance’ and the gift, whereas if you don’t have a god there isn’t that same lavishness to reality.
“God didn’t need to make the universe, He did it because He loved us and gave it to us.”
“God didn’t need to make the universe, He did it because He loved us and gave it to us.
“That just completely reorients the way that you think about reality, if the world is a gift.”
The work of evaluating the worldview you’re predisposed to isn’t a small thing – nor is admitting it needs adjustment – but Christopher thinks it’s important we’re considerate of our attitudes and not just defaulting to them.
“I think there are two sorts of people,” Christopher said.
“There are the people who recognise they’ve got a “critical theory” or an angle on the world and think about it and [ask], ‘why do I think this way?’, and then there are people who still have an approach, but they just don’t think about it.
“I think that’s actually a very dangerous way of thinking because if you don’t think about the way that you think, you can never challenge yourself.
“…if you don’t think about the way that you think, you can never challenge yourself.”
“You can never grow or change or realise that some parts of the way you see the world might not be quite right.”
Christians Can See God’s Nature in All of Life
Christopher also believes Christians “should make the best and the most discerning cultural critics – not that we always do” because of our ability to see the characteristics of God throughout all facets of life, and the tensions between the intersection of good an evil in our fallen state.
“There’s nothing as a Christian I can shut my mind to before I’ve even engaged with it,” Christopher said.
“No novel, no film – and there’s nothing that I can completely accept without having my antenna up and [asking] ‘What is there here that might be a little bit off?’.”
“There’s nothing as a Christian I can shut my mind to before I’ve even engaged with it.”
The Christian voice may not always be welcome in public considerations of culture and how we shape it Christopher acknowledges, but in some respects that shouldn’t be our end goal.
“What we should be shooting for is loving God and loving other people by a Biblical definition of love [and] working for the peace and prosperity of the city where God’s put you.”