In Worldview Theory, Whiteness, and the Future of Evangelical Faith, Jacob Alan Cook argues that evangelical Christians’ embrace of worldview theory has, in effect, compelled them to adopt the world’s divisive modes of dealing with difference rather than live out a compelling, faithful alternative. As a popular framework for theology, world-viewing has driven evangelical adherents to narrate human lives (including their own) in ways that warp Christian identity as a personal, social, and theological reality—grounded less in the Bible than an unacknowledged, self-norming “whiteness.” Through close studies of key white evangelical leaders who utilized the worldview concept for political engagement and cultural transformation, Cook reveals why worldview theory fails to grasp human complexity and how it artificially limits community in a world only God can truly “view.” In between these case studies, he draws from current conversations in psychology, sociology, critical race studies, and other fields to vigorously critique the worldview concept, its use, and its underlying impulse. This book is for those wrestling with the relationship between Christianity and whiteness in America, how the dynamics of whiteness have become transparent and contentious, and where to go from here if one is to follow Jesus.
What People Are Saying
World-view thinking takes us away from flesh-and-blood people into conceptual abstractions, which block communion. Here we meet this particular human being, made in the image of God, with a story to tell and a journey into which we are invited to enter. But we world-viewers are more interested in floating once again to our “God’s-eye” vantage point to classify them according to our categories. Once we have done that, what is the point of looking them in the eye ever again? Jacob Cook reminds us that this is not how Jesus knew people. It is not the spirit of the church that he founded. For those leaving evangelicalism behind, here is one more seed for the rebirth:
David P. Gushee
In this insightful and engaging book, Cook explains why American evangelicalism is in crisis. He demonstrates how over a century and a half a group of predominantly white, straight, elite men created a “Christian” worldview that sacralized ethno-nationalist identity politics. In the process, they failed to see the diversity of God’s creation and landed on the wrong side of several great social movements of recent generations. Nevertheless, in excavating this troubled history, Cook sees potential for redemption.
Matthew Avery Sutton
Washington State University
“Worldviews” has served as the central image animating the intellectual life of generations of evangelical thinkers. My sociological observation of people’s cognitive behavior disabused me long ago of the worldview thinking on which I was raised. Jacob Alan Cook’s story reveals just how profoundly problematic “worldview” discourse really is, further unmasking 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.
University of Notre Dame
Chapters in Edited Volumes
“Everything, Nothing, Something: Trading in World-Viewing for Everyday Faithfulness in Peacemaking and Sustainability”
in The Gospel of Peace in a Violent World: Christian Nonviolence for Communal Flourishing
Edited by Shawn Graves and Marlena Graves
“War, Nonviolence, and Just Peacemaking”
in Discerning Ethics: Diverse Christian Responses to Divisive Moral Issues
Edited by Hak Joon Lee and Tim Dearborn
“Toward an Incarnational Theology of Identity”
in Justice and the Way of Jesus: Christian Ethics and the Incarnational Discipleship of Glen Stassen
Edited by David P. Gushee and Reggie L. Williams