The Days That Changed History’s Worldview

Ramon Arias | April 9, 2017

Only the deniers don’t see the obvious of what is unfolding in the world. Those who understand the cycles of war can see how dangerous things are; the ones who go deeper in their understanding can read the handwriting on the wall as it relates to moral decadence that causes nations to collapse. In the midst of all the repeated old cyclical signs, we have the assurance from God who created all things that total control of human events are under His plan and no power can thwart them.

As we approach another Easter celebration, over 2 billion Christians worldwide will be remembering what is known as the Holy Week or Passion Week, which begins on Palm Sunday. Traditional activities will be carried out during Holy Week ending with Resurrection Sunday. After that, most Christians will move on with life without any further regard to the true meaning of the historical facts that set in motion a new cosmic event and how it relates to a revolutionary or dynamic way of life that enriches not only the individual but the whole of society. One fact is undeniable: Jesus came to change history’s worldview.

If we accept the fact that Jesus came from heaven and to heaven He returned, we can confidently say that He knows everything about life’s purpose and meaning. This reality makes Him the only One qualified to teach us the way, the truth and the life, which reconciles us to our heavenly Father. Can we think of any man or woman who knows more about how life and the world should function than Him? 

“There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” William Shakespeare, Hamlet

William Shakespeare (1564 –1616) was making reference to the biblical worldview. Many secularists deny that he was a Christian, but are they right or are they wrong? And, why should you or I care? Let us consider the following:

Crossway published an article: Was Shakespeare a Christian Writer? By Leland Ryken (Ph.D. University of Oregon), who served as professor of English at Wheaton College for over 43 years. The following are some quotes:

It is indisputable that Shakespeare lived in a society that was thoroughly Christian in its worldview and daily practices. The Bible was not only the best selling book of the day—it was also the most talked about.

What Counts as Evidence?

If we ask, what counts as evidence for claiming the Christian allegiance for Shakespeare’s plays?  The answer is the same as with any other author. I propose that the following is a reliable grid for identifying points at which Shakespeare's plays intersect with the Christian faith:

  1. Explicit allusions to the Bible or Christian documents like the Book of Common Prayer
  2. Congruence of ideas in a play with Christian doctrines
  3. Correspondence of the view of reality embodied in the plays with the biblical view of reality
  4. Portrayal of Christian experiences (e.g., forgiveness, repentance, guilt) in the plays
  5. The presence of Christian archetypes and symbols (such as the saint, the sinner, and the penitent)

All of this could easily sustain a book. I have space to elaborate on my grid only selectively and briefly.

The Bible in Shakespeare's Plays

Shakespeare's writing contains more references to the Bible than the plays of any other Elizabethan playwright—five times the range of Christopher Marlowe. A commonly accepted tally of the total number of biblical references is at least two thousand allusions. Scholars regularly claim that there are so many references to the first chapters of Genesis that Shakespeare must have known them by heart.

What English Bible did Shakespeare use? Before 1598, Shakespeare's references were primarily to the Bishops' Bible. However, starting in 1598, when Shakespeare became a renter in a Huguenot household, he used the Geneva Bible, known informally as the Puritan Bible.

The View of Reality in Shakespeare's Plays

An extremely helpful formula for the Christian strand in Shakespeare's plays comes from an unlikely source: the author of a visitors' guide to Christian sites in London writes at one point that Shakespeare's plays "assume the same kind of reality that the Bible assumes." That is exactly right.

What are some of these aspects of reality that Shakespeare's plays assume? God, Satan, heaven, hell, an eternal destiny for every person, good, and evil. Shakespeare regularly introduces these into his plays, and at no point does he suggest skepticism regarding them. With any other writer, we would take that to mean authorial endorsement. We should do the same for Shakespeare.

We can also compile a list of experiences that Shakespeare puts into his plays that have a particular relevance to Christianity. These include evil or sin, guilt, forgiveness, moral choice, love, marriage, and repentance. Not all of these are exclusive to Christianity, but that does not make them any less Christian. Every time Christians encounter these experiences in a Shakespearean play (as in Cordelia's Christlike love in King Lear), they assimilate them as a Christian element in the play.

The Bottom Line

Some of the data in Shakespeare's plays indisputably intersects with the Christian faith—biblical allusions, for example, or references to heaven and hell. By way of parallel, if a writer's works are filled with classical allusions, we do not hesitate to think of the author as having a worldview that is at least partly classical. We should not shrink from making a similar claim for Christian allusions in Shakespeare's plays.

At the level of ideas, I would simply ask what ideas in Shakespeare's plays strike us as incongruent with Christianity. The answer is that very few of the ideas that we deduce from Shakespeare's plays offer any resistance whatever to the ideas of Christianity.

We should call a moratorium on the entrenched bias of the secular academy in regard to Shakespeare's plays. University scholars simply assume that Shakespeare was as secular as they are. Conversely, Christian readers who sense a kindred spirit at work in Shakespeare's plays should have the courage of their convictions.

It is so true that, “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Let us remember what a worldview is and the importance of understanding its meaning: Every person has a worldview; a worldview is used to determine how reality is interpreted, or what each one of us believes to be true. As humanity advances into the future, it will come to accept the biblical worldview as the only foundation for social stability and progress as well as how to ethically use every aspect of our planet.

Every century, since Christ’s Resurrection, reveals the powerful influence it has in spite of the corruption that has been introduced within the Christian camp. In the 1100’s the sparks of the Biblical reformation began to take place. In 1517 the fire of the Protestant Biblical Reformation in Western Europe totally revolutionized the Biblical worldview. The Reformation revolutionized the understanding of science, technology, humanities, commerce and education. None of those disciplines can indefinitely ignore or deny the validity of God’s revealed Word.

The nations have experienced several transformations of progress since the last two thousand years. Of course, it seems, for the most part, that the present generation could care less to know the historical events of the last twenty centuries. However, what every generation since then should know is the remarkable historical single event that divided history into before and after Christ and the way it literally brings into perspective The True Worldview.

We must not fall for the mere “religious tradition” of Easter, rather, we must endeavor to fully understand its meaning at the personal and social level in the present generation, as well as restore its true meaning for future generations. It is up to you and me, to accept or reject that Jesus Christ changes how we understand our place in the world if we are to fulfill our time adequately in the here and now before we depart this world to give an account of our actions.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” Ephesians 1:3-11 English Standard Version (ESV)