Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Weltanschung

More than twenty years ago in a college Introduction to Philosophy class I learned the quirky German word Weltanschung which means, roughly, "world view." A world view is the way you understand existence based partly on your experiences of life. There are other factors that become mixed in to create our individual views of the world (our socioeconomic status, the broader cultural issues, and the like), but essentially Weltanschung informs the way we live our lives.

Today is June 28, the "day" of Irenaeus (born about 202), an early Christian leader whose names means "lover of peace." As with many of the early Christians, Irenaeus debated competing faith claims in distinction to Christian faith. He is most remembered for his vigorous challenges to Gnosticism, which held that the world is foundationally evil and that one can escape the evil world only through secretive knowledge available to a select few. The battles Irenaeus fought dealt with a foundational matter ... how we exist in the world. In contrast to Gnostic claims of secrecy and limitation, Irenaeus countered with God's creative goodness and redemption in Jesus Christ, echoing themes which have been passed down through the eons since the time of the Apostles.

While most of us do not take much time to examine our own Weltanschung, the ministry of Irenaeus is a reminder that it is important to consider on a periodic basis how we understand our existence in this world. Known for his respectful, peaceful approach to the matter, Irenaeus can serve as an example when we are engaged in dialogue with those who do not share our views or the world.

Irenaeus said, "[God] redeemed the world from [apostate power], not by violence (which is the way that power got control of us to begin with: it snatched insatiably at what did not belong to it) but by persuasion, for that is the proper way for a God who persuades and does not compel in order to get what he wants."

A good world, created and sustained by God, redeemed by Christ, filled with the Spirit's presence describe Irenaeus' Weltanschung ... a universe in which God's modus operandi is persuasion, not compulsion.

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