TESTIMONY

I Timothy 3:16 "Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great:

He appeared in a body,
was vindicated by the Spirit,
was seen by angels,
was preached among the nations,
was believed on in the world,
was taken up in glory."

 

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.

 

 

 

"All manner of thing shall be well/ When the tongues of flame are in-folded/ Into the crowned knot of fire/ And the fire and the rose are one." -- T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding