The twenty-first century has seen energy passing between religious and political worldviews, kicking up dust around the identity- and conviction-based fault lines in American society. While many evangelical Christians have developed and deployed a “worldview theory” to describe and locate themselves within the world’s ideological strife, Jacob Cook argues this approach has, in effect, compelled those listening to adopt the world’s divisive modes of dealing with difference rather than living out a compelling alternative. As a popular framework for theology in recent history, world-viewing has driven its white evangelical adherents to narrate human lives in this world (including their own) in ways that warp Christian identity as a personal, social, and theological reality. Through close studies of key white evangelical leaders who utilized the worldview concept for political engagement and cultural transformation over the last century, Cook reveals why worldview theory is inept for grasping real human complexity and, moreover, how it forms a barrier to genuine life together as creatures in a world only the living God can really “view.” In between these studies, he draws from current conversations in psychology, sociology, critical race studies, and other fields to deliver a vigorous critique of the worldview concept and its use as well as its underlying impulse—and to unmask what world-viewing shares with the history and spirit of whiteness. This book is for those wrestling with the relationship between Christianity and whiteness in America, how the dynamics of whiteness have become transparent and, thus, contentions, and where to go from here if one is to follow Jesus.
Jacob Alan Cook is a postdoctoral fellow at the Wake Forest University School of Divinity.
Part I. Self Revelations
1. The Neo-Calvinist World-View of Abraham Kuyper
2. A Contemporary Psychological Discussion of Selfhood
Part II. Social Revelations
3. The New Evangelical World-View of Harold Ockenga
4. A Socio-Historical Analysis of White, American Evangelicalism
Part III. Divine Revelation
5. The Evangelical Calvinist World-View of Richard Mouw
6. A Theological Criticism of the Preoccupation with Epistemology
“Worldviews” has served as the central image animating the intellectual life of generations of evangelical thinkers. My sociologically observing the cognitive behavior of real people disabused me long ago of the worldview thinking on which I was raised. But Jake Cook’s story reveals just how profoundly problematic “worldview” discourse really is, unmasking even more the “scandal of the evangelical mind.” Evangelicals are not the only ones incriminated, however. Cook’s analysis suggests just how insidiously social positions of power and sanctimony can deform ideas, identities, and arguments of potentially any group seeking influence. In a world bereft of courage and humility, this book is an important corrective intervention, a gift for those with ears to hear.
American evangelicalism is in crisis. In this insightful and engaging book, Jacob Cook explains why. He demonstrates how over a century and a half a group of predominantly white, straight, elite men created a “Christian” worldview that sacralized an ethno-nationalist identity politics. In the process they failed to see the diversity of God’s creation and landed on the wrong side of the great social movements of recent generations. Nevertheless, in excavating this troubled history, Cook sees the potential for redemption.