Shoe’s on the Other Foot—A Conversation with J. Mark Bertrand

As part of the introduction to a new study being held at my church, the flier included this paragraph:

The Barna Research Group revealed a stunning statistic—that only nine percent of professing Christians have a biblical worldview. Because of this, today’s believers live very similarly to non-believers. A personal sense of significance is rarely experienced, we spend our money and time on things that fail to satisfy and we begin to wonder what life’s ultimate purpose really is.

“Worldview” seems to be a hot topic just now, and books are beginning to come out discussing the topic. One such is by J. Mark Bertrand, a writer I respect for his integrity and intelligence. Mark’s first book Rethinking Worldview: Learning to Think, Live, and Speak in This World released last week.

The timing of his book and my conversation with him posted at Mark’s fiction blog Write About Now pointed me to the idea of holding a dialogue with him here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction, so for the next two days or so, I’ll post the interchange we had triggered by his new book. Just the opening today:

RLM: You have a non-fiction book coming out, Rethinking Worldview. Why a book on this subject and who did you write it for–who most do you hope reads it?

JMB: I’ve always been fascinated by the way prior beliefs shape our thought. We’re all trying to make sense of the world, and we don’t start with a clean slate. We’re fitting pieces into a puzzle — but what if they don’t fit? Either we make them fit, or we rethink the puzzle. That’s where the worldview concept comes into play.

Rethinking Worldview is an introduction to worldviews, but it’s also a re-introduction for people who think they’ve heard it all before. I wrote it for readers who want to think biblically about the world, and for the ones who think they already do, and for the ones who aren’t sure why it’s such a big deal in the first place.

RLM: I’m not sure I understand what you mean by “prior beliefs” or “we don’t start with a clean slate.” Can you elaborate a little more on what you mean by those thoughts?

JMB: Let me go back to the puzzle analogy. A new idea is like a puzzle piece. You’ve gone through life collecting these pieces, and you don’t keep them loose in the box. You fit them together. If I hand you a new piece that doesn’t fit — in other words, if I introduce you to a new idea that doesn’t fit with your prior belief system — you’ll be more skeptical than you would if it snapped into place. Prior beliefs, which are a product of past choices and experiences, influence your receptivity to new ones. Some pieces fit, some can be made to fit, and some don’t fit no matter how you re-arrange the puzzle.

The point is, the puzzle is your worldview, an effort to make sense of all the ideas and influences coming in on you. Being conscious of how worldviews are formed and how they function — as starting points, systems, and stories — helps you appreciate your own limitations and the limits of others, and also helps you communicate more effectively with them. And I would argue that, for the Christian, worldview thinking can be a useful tool in sanctification.

RLM: That’s a helpful analogy. In your earlier response, you mentioned thinking biblically. Would this be a “new puzzle piece” that makes a person rework the entire puzzle? And since I’m most interested in fiction, how do you believe a rethinking of worldview will affect a novelist?

We’ll take up the conversation from here tomorrow.

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Published in: on October 15, 2007 at 10:13 am  Comments (9)  

9 Comments

  1. Worldviews

    The first part of a conversation I had with author Becky Miller is online at her site, A Christian Worldview of Fiction. This one should be of particular interest to readers who want to see how worldview thinking can be

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  2. Becky, just a note of thanks for giving me this reciprocal opportunity to chat. I enjoyed the questions and look forward to the conversation they will stimulate.

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  3. Mark, I’m delighted we had the opportunity to continue discussing the intersection of writing fiction and faith. But as I warned you, since you aren’t being controversial in your answers, I doubt we’ll have the same kind of discussion as when I said on your site that the problem with Christian fiction isn’t a lack of cussing; it’s a lack of depicting God in a realistic way. For whatever reason that cursing and swearing issue is some kind of lightning rod. I think the lightning rod should be Jesus Christ. The picture is … wrong.

    Becky

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  4. If I need to start cussing up a storm and explain how only literary fiction is suited to capturing the glory of God, how plot is an abomination, and it’s impossible even to secure a publishing deal without belonging to the Confraternity of the Beast, just let me know. 🙂

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  5. Well, see, if you start cussing, I’ll have to censor you, and which of us will be the controversial one? 😛

    Now, granted, if you start with that plot is an abomination tripe, when we’ve clearly established here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction, that story trumps all, well … that would be controversial. 😉

    And I guess since you let me say that fantasy was the best genre to depict the truth about God, I have to let you say that stuff about literary fiction. 😀

    Becky

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  6. Ha! Just because we are commenting doesn’t mean we are reading!
    🙂

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  7. Oh, silly me.

    I meant to write:

    Just because we AREN’T commenting doesn’t mean we AREN’T reading.

    Now I have egg on my cyber-face. I’ll go away now. I was trying to help.

    See what happens when I’m on deadline. My brain dies.

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  8. I’m such an idiot.

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  9. 😀 Merrie, you make me laugh. You are so faaaarr from being an idiot! And yes, the blog stats bear out what you’re saying—readers may not be commenting but they are at least stopping by and taking a look at these posts. We’ll see if the concluding post brings out any discussion.

    Becky

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