Ideas Matter. Worldview Matters.

Ideas that inform a person’s worldview matter a great deal. We see that clearly in the worldview of Karl Marx, whose ideas led to the deaths of 20 million Soviet citizens in Stalin’s reign. The communist philosophy is basically nihilist and naturalistic. It’s nihilist because it believes life is without meaning. And it’s naturalistic because it believes, like Darwin, that we came to be here only because of random, unguided processes, without purpose or design. So their worldview is grounded in evolution and atheism. Karl Marx once said, “We make war against all the prevailing ideas of religion, of the state, of country, of patriotism. The idea of God is the keynote of a perverted civilization. It must be destroyed.”

Did you know Stalin once trained for the seminary? But somewhere along the way, he rejected God and became a Darwinist. Then he became a Marxist. Svetlana Alliluyyeva, Stalin’s daughter, said of her father and of Beria, the Soviet minister of interior affairs: “Beria seems to have had a diabolic link with all our family… Beria was a frightening, wicked demon. A terrible demon had taken possession of my father’s soul.” Her father, she said, considered goodness and forgiving love to be “worse than the greatest crime.” She also said that on his death bed, Stalin rose up and shook his fist in anger at God.

Like many atheists, Stalin’s creed seemed to be: “There is no God. And I hate him.” Stalin’s atheism informed his worldview. And the result? Twenty million dead. Many more lives ruined.

We can contrast Stalin’s worldview with that of William Wilberforce, a native of Yorkshire, England. In 1780 he entered politics, eventually becoming a member of parliament. Five years later he became an evangelical Christian and experienced the transforming power of Christ.

WHM112034 Portrait of William Wilberforce (1759-1833) Aged 29 (oil on canvas) by Rising, John (1753-1817) oil on canvas 220x130 © Wilberforce House, Hull City Museums and Art Galleries, UK English, out of copyright

WHM112034 Portrait of William Wilberforce (1759-1833) Aged 29 (oil on canvas) by Rising, John (1753-1817)
oil on canvas
© Wilberforce House, Hull City Museums and Art Galleries, UK
English, out of copyright

Then in 1787 Wilberforce saw firsthand the evils of the slave trade. He learned how they packed men shoulder to shoulder in the cramped, reeking holds of the Liverpool slave ships and how they fastened the unfortunates together with leg irons. During the transit from Africa to the colonies, slaves died in such numbers that the seamen would throw overboard the carcasses of one third of their “cargo”. Not often mentioned is that the slave ships were so unhealthy even the seamen on those vessels died in the same proportions. (From: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, by Marcus Rediker.)

Wilberforce saw this evil. He couldn’t reconcile it with the teachings of Christ. Against the advice and warnings of friends and allies, he took up the cause of abolition. He became its most ardent activist. For twenty six years, year after year, he introduced a bill in parliament to outlaw the buying and selling of human beings. But every year his bill was voted down. The other parliamentarians began to view him as an outcast. At times he felt nearly alone in his fight to end the abomination of slavery. But he persevered. Then in 1807 Parliament passed the Slave Trade Act. This was the beginning of the end for the slave trade in Britain. If you haven’t seen “Amazing Grace”, the movie chronicling his life, it’s worth a look.

William Wilberforce held a Christian worldview. And he changed the world.

Our search is for the meaning of life, but it’s also for a consistent, coherent worldview based on truth. Of the worldview examples we’ve now shown, wouldn’t we want ours to be a force for good in the world like William Wilberforce’s?

Next time we’ll ask the questions that, when answered, will give us the meaning of life and form the basis for our search.