Over the next few weeks I'm going to try to catch up on some long overdue book reviews, and today I'll start with a review of J. Mark Bertrand's Rethinking Worldview, published by Crossway. I'll begin with the disclaimer that I always see on these kinds of reviews to the effect that I'm not getting rich by reviewing this book, neither Mark, nor any of his friends and family, nor the publishers, nor anyone else is giving me one red cent for this review. However, unlike other reviewers let me just say that should any of the aforementioned people, or you, gentle reader, wish to send me large sums of money, I will humbly accept.
This book is another one in the category of "good news for bloggers" in the sense that this is another case of a blogger who has gone on to be published. Mark blogs at his own eponymous blog, at the book blog for this book, at the "Bible Design and Binding" blog, at "Write About Now" - his blog for writing and publishing, and at "The Masters Artist" - a group blog for writers. Of course, Mark has been teaching and writing for years now, even before blogs became cool, but it's still nice to think of him as "one of us."
His book on worldview is one of an expanding genre of books on worldview and it dovetails with what you might call the Kuyperian, Neo-Kuyperian, or Neo-Calvinistic school of thought. I mention "Kuyper" in reference to Abraham Kuyper the great theologian and Dutch statesman who famously said that there is not one squre inch of all creation over which God does not say "this is mine." Kuyper worked out the implications of this worldview practically and intellectually. Practically he worked it out by not only being a theologian, but a Prime Minister. Intellectually, he worked it out in his famous Lectures on Calvinism which applied the doctrine of divine sovereignty to the different spheres in which we live.
Francis Schaeffer gets the most credit for taking this worldview stuff out of the academy and into the streets and this tradition has found popular expression in recent days in the writings of Chuck Colson and Nancy Pearcey.
So you might be tempted to think "why do I need to read Bertrand if I have read Schaeffer Pearcey, Colson and/or Schaeffer?" Let me tell you why.
Mark does cover some of the same ground as these authors do and it is right that he does. Were he to go in a dramatically different direction it would detract from his credibility. He does put some new spins on their thought though, repackaging things a bit. But his greatest contribution in this book is his discussion on wisdom and witness. He is not content to merely define worldview, he takes it to the next level with a discussion of how worldview relates to wisdom and is applied through witness.
In the first section of the book, on worldview, he does cover some familiar ground but he gives us three different perspectives on worldview - worldview as starting point, worldview as system and worldview as story. In this section he takes some of the familiar worldview terms like creation, fall and redemption and speaks of them in some refreshing new ways.
I particularly liked his chapter on worldview as system where he deals with our relationships with God, man and the world. In that chapter he demonstrates one of his strengths, and that is the ability to interact with opposing viewpoints respectfully and insightfully. He doesn't duck from the arguments of the anti-systematizers, be they Nietzsche or Christian colleagues. And he finds it inevitable that we will all have to answer how we deal with God, man and the world, questions which lend themselves to systematization.
The second section of the book, on wisdom, is an attempt to connect thinking and living. While worldview is commonly, and rightly spoken of in intellectual or "thinking" terms, it has to make its way to the street. Mark finds the biblical category of "wisdom" to be a great bridge from the academy to the marketplace. Further, he holds up wisdom as an antidote to a spurious mysticism.
Mysticism can get a bad rap, I know I am one to give it some of the raps it has gotten. If by mysticism we mean to acknowledge the presence of an unseen world behind that which is seen and to acknowledge that happenings in the unseen realm greatly influence what happens in the realm of the seen, and pray and seek God accordingly, then all is well and good. But Mark has run into the same kind of people that I and many others have run into, that has made us a bit guarded when it comes to mysticism, and that is those who too quickly forgo their own responsibilities in the hopes of divine intervention.
I want to be cautious here - I acknowledge and affirm that there is never a moment when God is not intervening in the affairs of this life. At the same time, He is normally intervening through secondary causes, and those secondary causes are our considered study, thinking and acting on the truth of what He shows us in His word.
This is what Mark wants us to do in the section on wisdom. We need to realize that wisdom is a gift God gives to His people, it is the ability to apply biblical worldview to the details of life, and it is very much concerned with the practical details of life.
The third section on witness takes it to the next level. Not only do we understand and develop our own worldview, not only do we apply it to life through wisdom, but we give witness to it to an unbelieving world. Mark covers several areas on how we can do this.
As you can tell, I am favorably disposed to the book. Although we have only met through internet correspondence I do consider the author a friend, so if I sound too much like I'm cheering for my own team here, I apologize.
But I do sincerely believe this is a good book to add to your worldview repertoire. If you've read the others, you can still profit from this book as he covers valuable new ground and packages some of the familiar in new ways. He is very well read, pulling illustrations from daily life, to movies, to great literature and beyond. I'm frankly amazed at how such a young man (well, he looks young to me) has such a breadth of reading. This book can be profitably read by college students and up. Atlhough it would be a reach for some high schoolers I still wouldn't hesitate to give it to smarter, older high schoolers as an introduction to some higher level reading.