The Other Worldview by Peter Jones – Book Review

Dr. Peter Jones’ book, The Other Worldview: Exposing Christianity’s Greatest Threat, is aptly titled. Christians around the world have no difficulty recognizing that something is wrong in the world and identifying that there seems to be a shift away from Christianity and its values, but it is often very difficult to narrow down what are the real issues causing this shift. In this landmark title, Dr. Jones is able to show the history and evolution of the thought that is creating these shifts in society.

The secular humanism of a generation ago has evolved into something much more dangerous. Dr. Jones identifies 5 areas in which the “traditional plausibility structures that gave life meaning and significance under Christian influence” have become unrecognizable in the greater culture:

  1. Morality is relativized by varied (and often contradictory) personal and social convictions
  2. Honesty means being true to one’s inner commitments and longings more than to external expectations or objective facts
  3. Acceptable models of sexuality and family allow various combinations of persons and genders
  4. Marriage is often functionally indistinguishable from mutually convenient cohabitation
  5. Motherhood is celebrated in the same breath as abortion on demand

Society is not homogenous and it is rare to find a society in which everyone lives in lockstep in agreement to a set of rules, but it is common for a society to have an agreed upon set of rules or standards, and that is what many westerners have assumed about their societies. The author quotes Peter Berger, who called it the “‘sacred canopy’ of basic Christian worldview, so that the fundamental ideas-about God, morality, sexuality, family, marriage, motherhood, spirituality, and religion-were understood from a Christian perspective, consciously or unconsciously.” As someone who has lived in a society that holds to a very different “sacred canopy”, I can attest to both the commonality of those standards in my society and the shifts that have occurred in the 20 years I’ve lived mostly outside of the US.

As a Christian, Dr. Jones desires to hold up what he is seeing in society and evaluate it according to that understanding. As such, he finds “two worldviews-one based on the ultimacy of creation, and the other based on the ultimate, prior, and all-determining existence of  the Creator.” He calls these 2 worldviews Oneism and Twoism and defines them as following in more detail:

“Oneism sees the world as self-creating (or perpetually existing) and self-explanatory. Everything is made up of the same stuff, whether matter, spirit, or mixture. There’s one kind of existence, which, in one way or another, we worship as divine (or of ultimate importance), even if that means worshipping ourselves…This is ‘homocosmology,’ a worldview of sameness. The classic term of this is ‘paganism,’ worship of nature.”

“The only other option is a world that is the free work of a personal, transcendent God, who creates ex nihilo (from nothing). In creating, God was not constrained by or dependent on any preexisting conditions. There is nothing exactly like this in our human experience of creating; our creative acts are analogous with God’s. There is God, and there is everything that is not-God-everything created and sustained by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This worldview celebrates otherness, distinctiveness. We only worship as divine the distinct, personal, triune Creator, who placed essential distinctions within the creation. This is ‘heterocosmology,’ a worldview based on otherness and difference. This is often called ‘theism.'”

The author takes most of the book to talk about the history of Oneism and to point to what has contributed to its most dominate form in the modern age, such as humanism, Jungism, the sexual revolution and postmodernism. This provides a helpful framework for the reader to understand the viewpoints of many of those acting so differently in society than is considered normal or rational for someone who holds to a more traditional sacred canopy. The author describes how for many their worldview is as much a belief system as what is found in some of the more traditional forms of religion. People have strong, passionate beliefs that are based more on faith than reason, but have nothing to do with a belief in God. These are often centered around social and environmental issues.

In addition to examples of Oneism found in a more secular framework, Dr. Jones also visits some of the more “religious” forms found in the US, which can make use of the terminology of traditional Christianity, but abandons the orthodox theology. These forms can turn the focus on man-made ideals such as prosperity, nationalism or mindfulness. This path doesn’t lead toward a true relationship with God any more than Carl Jung’s teaching did.

The author ends by reminding the readers the Pagan society that Christianity was born into. Paul traveled throughout the Roman Empire and was in the minority wherever he went. The ancestors of modern Oneism can be found in the societies that he engaged. Gnosticism had many similarities with the thought we see today. Dr. Jones implores the readers to not give up, but seek wisdom as they refuse to withdraw from society, but follow the Biblical commands to engage with those who hold a different worldview than our own. I highly recommend this book for any Christian leader or any Christian who desires to follow this path towards engagement. Dr. Jones’ book should be in the library of every pastor and college minister and would be a very helpful resource in training up new ministers for today and tomorrow.

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