Many scholars believe this passage
is one of the first Christian confessions of faith. "To confess" means to agree
with something. Similarly, "to testify" is to openly attest that
something is true. When we testify or confess, we are staking a claim about the nature of
the world and humanity. We are attesting that the world serves a certain purpose, has a
certain end, and is intended for a certain kind of life. And we do this in a culture that
challenges our testimonies and confessions, asking us to give an account of what we
believe and why. Equally, many of the texts we will be reading offer radically
different "testimonies." Literature, like every human endeavor, is a field
of conflicting positions and challenges. Part of our goal is to see how these
testaments of worldview complement and contradict Christianity.
One of the more famous Christian statements of this
type, the Westminster Confession, claims that our purpose as human beings is "to
serve God and enjoy him forever." Everything we do, according to this claim,
ultimately finds its purpose in serving God and in reveling in the exquisite joy of a
relationship with him. This includes the stories we read, the poems we recite, the papers
we write, and the ideas that we encounter.
As Brian J. Walsh and J. Richard Middleton point
out, every person has an answer, even if not consciously understood, to four questions: Who
am I? Where am I? What's wrong? and What is the remedy? (35) A Christian
worldview holds that we are beings made in the image of God, infintely precious and chosen
by God as stewards of his good Creation, a world which manifests God's order and wisdom
and beauty. Yet we are also deeply impacted by wickedness in every area of human culture,
there being no aspect of life not marred by sin. As Christians, we look to the redemption
that Christ has wrought in the cross; we strive to practice Christ's Lordship over every
area of our life; we exist in Christian communitites to be better equipped to worship God
in every facet of existence; and we await his expected complete cosmic redemption of
"all things" (Col 1:15-20).
And this includes the arts. Jesus is Lord of poetry,
story, and drama, as well as all words. One of the purposes of this course is to
familiarize you with Christian thinking on the subject of literature. This section of our
course is designed to explore in brief how a Christ-centered worldview may be applied to
literary studies. What does it mean for a worldview to be "applied" to a text?
Sometimes this means that we discover things the author intended for us to see;
other times it means we observe and evaluate the text in a way that the author might not
have foreseen. Inevitably, it does mean that we actively engage the work.
It is my hope that each student will become more
aware of the possibilities of Christian faith. Christ speaks to all of life, including the
texts we read. Too often, people have a rather reductive view of what Christianity is. If
you are not a follower of Christ, I hope you will expand your understanding of what our
faith confesses. If you are a follower of Jesus, I hope these readings will suggest ways
to deepen the walk you have with God.
* * * * *
Central Insight: Reading, responding, and analyzing
literature is always carried out in the conflict of differing worldviews.
Suggestions for Application: Locate a passage,
character, or portion of plot that represents the author's worldview, and compare and
contrast it with the Christian worldview.
Walsh, Brian J. and J. Richard Middleton. The
Transforming Vision: Shaping a Christian World View. Downers Grove: IVP, 1984.