Web Design Worldview (Part 5): Introduction to the Christian Worldview

May 14th, 2008 in Web Design Worldview

by: Matthew Griffin

In Christianity we find a unique and inspiring worldview grid through which we may create and understand design. In the Bible and throughout history, design and the arts have been a central medium through which God has communicated to man and man has communicated with each other. Other worldviews have assimilated pieces of truth from the Christian worldview; but none can account for reality so satisfactorily or liberate our creativty so completely. In this article, I will be giving a brief overview of the Christian worldview and its primary tenets which affect our view of web design. In the last article in this series (part six), I will develop a practical model of a Christian web designer.

What Christianity Is Not

From the outside looking in, many people make the mistake of assuming Christianity is only a religion—a neo-pagan set of mystical traditions and rituals. This assumption is false from the founding members of the Christian faith to the theological leaders of today. Christianity has always been a complete worldview. Paul argued with Greek and Roman philosophers. Aquinas showed us how the Christian system of philosophy compares to that of Aristotle. When John Calvin wrote his Institutes of the Christian Religion in the sixteenth century AD, he wasn't knitting mythological yarns of fairies and nymphs; he was laying out a system of thought and practice—a worldview based on God's revelation from start to finish. Even many Christians view their faith as a collection of little truths—little nuggets to live by. This is not the Christianity of history nor the Bible. Christianity has always been presented as an all-encompassing system of life having cognitive, mystical, and behavioral aspects.

From inside Christianity, there have also been some distortions of the Christian worldview, especially in design and art. These distortions tend to be actions from (or reactions to) contrary worldviews. Many well-meaning Christians deny the usefulness of leisure and pleasure. Some absolutize utility or beauty. Others actually degrade the aesthetic disciplines, associating them with weak, or specifically effeminate characteristics. All of these positions are corrosive and unfounded. As I develop the full Christian perspective of design, you'll see why.

Overview of Christian Worldview

Back in part one of this series I explained that every worldview starts by answering three foundational questions: How did we get here? What went wrong? and How can we fix it? Christianity answers each of these questions with a unique response that perfectly conforms to reality. Starting with the perfect triune God, the universe was created ex nihilo (out of nothing). Nothing existed before God; he is self-existent and infinite—only constrained by his own intrinsic character. His creation bore the mark of his own unity and diversity. Just as we see perfect unity and yet diversity in the trinity, we see a universe that is held together by unified laws but also displays a breathtaking range diverse forms. At this early stage, you may already notice a glaring difference between Christianity and the other worldviews we've been discussing. Christianity starts with both unity and diversity. This is the only rational beginning for reality as we experience it.

After humans were created, God gave them a purpose—a mandate. They were to take dominion of his creation and harness its power for his glory and the good of his people. We see then that man's original purpose was an echo of God's own act of creation. We were designed to justly rule the creation just as God rules all that is. Next, Humankind was thrown off course when our first parents violated God's perfection by sinning. At that point, humans died spiritually and every aspect of their being was corrupted—minds, hearts, bodies, and all that is human. Their original purpose of taking dominion was devastated. They were thrown into enmity with God, with each other, and the creation.

But God immediately promised that he would have mercy. Because God is perfectly just, he could not let sin go unpunished. But because he is merciful, he decreed that he would provide a substitute—God the Son, the second member of the trinity—to take the punishment in the place of those he would save. Thousands of years later, God the Son came to earth as the "second Adam", lived the perfect life that Adam could not live, and received the full punishment of God as a substitute. This is the answer to the final worldview question—how do we fix it? Christianity finds its redemption in God the Son. In him, though we are not yet perfected, we find redemption and a path back to our original purpose of dominion. This is another unique position of Christianity because the full measure of our redemption is found outside of ourselves.

Christian Principles Affecting and Defining Design

This section is perhaps the most important in this entire series of articles. The stage has been carefully set and it's time to open the door and see what Christianity has to say about our work. In some ways I feel that the brevity of this section does an injustice to its content. In the future I will post additional articles to expand and explain the concepts presented here.

  1. The Creation
    Out of nothing God created a world that is both beautiful and functional. He then placed humans in the middle of it with his blessing. And, although he gave emphatic approval to his creation, he also made clear his own separation from and superiority to it. We glean from these truths that humanity's creation of both beauty and function is an echo of that original divine act of creation. We find support for the imagination of humankind in the fact that God created the world from intangible ideas just as man creates design from intangible ideas. God's separateness from his creation shows us that, although design is approved by God, it cannot be directly equated with God (Human design is not an explicitly Christian or religious act).
  2. Leisure and Beauty
    Though capable of being perverted, beauty is described in the Bible as being derived from God. Leisure and pleasure, likewise are ordained by God. Because these qualities are intrinsic to God and ordained for man, they should be cherished and held as valuable in and of themselves. This places the work of the web designer, the artist, and the entertainer in a position that's not only good but necessary. On the subject of beauty, it's interesting to note that God has prescribed all types of artistic expression in the Bible including symbolic, representational, and abstract. Leland Ryken in The Liberated Imagination says, "There is no 'sacred' style of design. Design belongs to the human race."
  3. Sin Enters the World
    Because sin has entered the world, art may convey ideas which are true and ideas which are false. Web design may be be twisted to pervert beauty and truth. Web design and other art is not true or beautiful simply because it is art. We must always consider that we may be looking at a twisted version of truth when we consider a website or a work of art.
  4. Vocation and Calling
    According to the Bible there is a set of obligations attached to every vocation—every talent that is given by God to an individual. The Bible calls us to be good stewards of our time and out talents. We should learn the best methods and techniques in our field, and continuously strive for excellence. Also, note that all moral vocations are sacred because all moral vocations fulfill God's original mandate to take dominion. This means that being a "Christian" web designer does not preclude design for secular sites; provided those sites do not violate God's moral law. As Larry Norman once said, "I think everyone should be a full time Christian." Our talents as web designers should be encouraged and cultivated in the Christian community.
  5. Otherworldly Spirituality
    Christianity holds that reality is made up of the physical creation and the transcendent spiritual realm. Our work as designers and artists is free to convey truths from either of these realms as they are both equally real.
  6. Christ's Incarnation
    The very fact that Christ was a man affirms the idea that our earthly reality is worth our study and our good stewardship. An overemphasis on the transcendent is just as wrong as an overemphasis on the earthly. For us this legitimizes work that focuses on earthly matters.
  7. Redemption and Sanctification
    Christ's act of redemption thrusts us back into a position where we can continue the work for which we were originally created. This is where the process of sanctification begins—the process by which we are gradually reinstated to our original communion with God. Though we know we will not fully complete this goal in our lifetime, we must still press on from "glory to glory". This means that we should always be looking for ways to improve our skills and our vocation overall as well as training our minds to think about our work from God's perspective—a Christian worldview.


I would like to start off this conclusion by giving credit where credit is due. The list above is primarily drawn from Leland Ryken's The Liberated Imagination: Thinking Christianly About the Arts. In it, Ryken gives an incredibly concise overview of the historical orthodox Christian view of the arts. If you're a Christian designer, or a Christian working in any kind of creative field, The Liberated Imagination should be the first book in your worldview collection. I don't say this about many works: you need to get this book. Don't think about it or put it off. You must understand your work if you are to be effective for God in your field. This is where you need to start.

In light of our exploration of the Christian worldview and its principle affecting design, we are ready to look closer at web design itself. The next article will zero in on a practical model of a Christian web designer. I'll dig deeper into the elements of web design and break down their purposes, describing how we should approach each of them as Christians.



Posted By: hanzyms on 05/14/08

good article you have there. kind of informative and very useful. hope to see more in the future.

Posted By: Missioner on 05/14/08

Good post - plenty to consider, and plenty to share with others. Although it not so much 'design' as it was filling in spaces on a template, we wanted to include a web component in a recent mission effort. It worked well ..... and continues to work well, as the web component has evolved and expanded in the months since our return to West Texas.

Posted By: on 05/14/08

Not to oversimplify, but I'm pretty sure that for most of us, our greatest disgust with all that is deemed "Christianity" is that it is a system and as such is undermined as a relationship with explicit overflow in various manifestations. That is to say, that when Christianity is a system, it loses it's flavor (or if you prefer, it's "salt").

Posted By: on 05/14/08

M.Joshua, I understand your concern and I too am zealous about guarding the legitimate diversity of God's character. But to disparage the system of Christianity because it is a system is to deny the order and unity of God. God gave us His word as written document which automatically implies a "system". After all, language follows rules. He didn't have to communicate through written word; he could have given us each a mystical feeling instead. The means by which he communicates speaks volumes about how we should interpret his communication. Without a system Christianity is just sand slipping through our fingers. I find that the better I understand the system of Christianity, the saltier I get.

Posted By: Daniel Sherson on 05/14/08

I've been really enjoying this series, It keeps me thinking and i appreciate the time you've been putting into this. Just saying thanks.

Posted By: on 05/15/08

Thanks, Daniel. I'm glad you're enjoying it. I'm looking forward to expanding on this series in the near future.

Posted By: E. I. Sanchez on 05/16/08

In our post-modern culture, all art is beautiful and deemed art. I'm glad you pointed out that not all art is art - and we need to be wary of that fact.

Posted By: VeraBradley on 05/16/08

Oh wow.. You actually are able to relate web designing with Christianity, and in a very good way. I appreciate the effort and its a very good read.

Posted By: fatsgone on 05/19/08

I never actually thought that there could be any plausible link between Christianity and web design, but I suppose I'm wrong. Very out-of-the-box thinking here!

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