|Andy Hoffecker loves to talk history, but he'll probably take it a step further than most people. He'll more than likely want to know how the historical concept or philosophical system under discussion fits into the worldview that governs your life. If he gets a blank stare, he'll just smile and assume that's his cue to enlighten you on one of his favorite subjects.|
Professor of Church History at RTS/Jackson since 1997, Andy held the same position at Grove City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania, for a quarter of a century, teaching more than twenty different courses during his tenure there. But it was in the area of apologetics and worldview issues that he really excelled. After designing an interdisciplinary course on worldviews, he co-edited with Grove City colleague Dr. Gary Smith the highly popular Building a Christian Worldview (P & R). The two-volume work is still used as a text for the course at Grove City and other Christian colleges around the country.
The reason they do so is because he breaks complex issues down to a palatable size so students can digest them. "He is a very practical scholar-teacher," says Smith. "His scholarship is geared more toward students and laity than an elite group of academicians. He translates theological ideas clearly into everyday life and his lectures come alive. Drawing connections between hundreds of years of history and sophisticated theological issues is a tough job that he does extremely well."
JUST WHAT IS A WORLDVIEW?
The word actually comes from the German weltanschaaung, coined by Immanuel Kant in 1790. It refers to how one looks at the world and life, and how that view influences the way one lives. Everyone has a basic perspective - convictions, axioms, presuppositions that help him interpret reality and make ethical choices. We usually don't examine them, though, just as we don't smell our noses.
But it's even more. "A worldview basically is the religious orientation of a person," explains Andy. "'Religion' comes from the Latin religare, meaning 'to commit or bind.' Thus, all of life is religious. The atheist can be religious - he's religiously against the fact that there is a God. A famous America's Cup captain once was asked what it took to be one of his crew. He replied, 'If someone is willing to put sailing before his spouse, his religion, everything, I consider him for a member of my crew.' Sailing, then, was this man's religion. No one can refuse to hear the Gospel because they aren't 'religious' - a non-religious person does not exist."
A person's religion, then, becomes what he is committed to. Some people are committed to power, others are bound to their jobs, some to various fears or phobias. When the apostle James talks about religion, he does not mention going to church or reading the Bible, but how one uses his tongue. Does a person's faith show by the language he uses, by his behavior? Does the Christian businessman ask questions such as: Does my product enhance the culture? Are my employee benefits the best I can do or am I more interested in showing a maximum profit? One doesn't need Marx to teach social imperatives; one need only read the Old Testament prophets who questioned the Israelites' economic practices and called them to task for their treatment of the poor.
In worldview seminars, Andy first shows his listeners that God is sovereign over all of life by examining Deuteronomy 32:46-47: "Take to heart all the words with which I am warning you today, which you shall command your sons to observe carefully, even all the words of this law. For it is not an idle word for you; indeed, it is your life." He then shows how God's sovereignty works out by dividing the covenant law in Deuteronomy into four areas: political life, economic activity, societal/family relationships, and worship to show how God governs our whole lives, public and private. Life is indeed religious.
He also traces the biblical worldview against the Greek worldview through the centuries. During the Middle Ages Plato and Aristotle were used as philosophical props of faith, indicating that Scripture could not stand on its own. Two movements came out of the Middle Ages - the Renaissance, which attempted to recover the classical Greek view, and the Reformation, which attempted to recover the biblical view.
Andy tries to help Christians become comfortable explaining their worldviews clearly by equipping them to meet unbelievers at the point of their sinfulness. A worldview is a good evangelistic tool because it forces one to consider the different aspects of salvation. For example, we must first determine whether or not God exists. If He does, what kind of God is He - passive, active, personal, impersonal? Next, what about human nature? Is there such a thing? Is man perfect/perfectible or imperfect, saved only by grace? Third, how do I relate to God? How does God save? And finally, how do I know anything? Am I a rationalist, empiricist, positivist, existentialist, or do I believe that all knowledge comes only through God's revelation?
A LATE BLOOMING SCHOLAR
Andy understands the need to jumpstart people's thinking about philosophical and theological issues because it wasn't until 1963 during his senior year at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, that he cared a whit about them either. That year he took a modern philosophy course that sparked, in his words, "his intellectual birth." Although he had been a good student before, now more than ever he wanted to delve into deep life issues.
Born in Portland, Maine, and raised in a Philadelphia suburb, Andy had Christian parents. He remembers kneeling beside his grandmother's bed to ask the Lord into his heart. He first became convicted of his need for a Savior as a young child at a summer evangelistic camp. The camp would be a regular part of his life for years to come, eventually introducing him to the world of horses.
During college, he was introduced to Reformed theology at a Reformed Baptist church that he attended. Then the doctrines of grace became very clear as he read through Scripture. He lettered in track and became the leader of the school's InterVarsity group during his last three years in college. It was at an InterVarsity conference that he met his wife, Pam, who was then in nursing school. As cadet commander of Army ROTC, he received a commission in the service when he graduated.
But God was pulling him toward seminary, for what reason he did not know. He knew he was not called to pastoral ministry or chaplaincy; he simply wanted to understand God's Word better and continue working out what he believed. For the first time, the idea of becoming an academic intrigued him. After receiving a B.A. in history, he and Pam married in 1963. He was granted a delayed call to duty and entered Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts.
After graduating from Brown in 1970, Andy worked as a sales representative for a title search company and became very successful. But he wasn't satisfied, feeling God's call to teach. A friend called and told him about a position at Grove City College. Would he be interested?
"My years at Grove City were wonderful," remembers Andy. "I knew my students well and built strong ties with the faculty. I was encouraged to teach a broad spectrum of courses such as C.S. Lewis, Christianity and Culture, and Contemporary Theology. After becoming interested in apologetics, I loved teaching the worldview course. What a blessing to see students understand for the first time the relevance of history and philosophy to their faith!"
RTS/Jackson Professor of Old Testament John Currid, also a former Grove City professor; kept after Andy to come to the deep South and teach at RTS/Jackson. "He would call me on days when the mercury stood at thirty degrees with three feet of snow in Pennsylvania just to say that he was heading to the golf course on a sunny sixty-degree Saturday" Andy recalls. "When I finally taught a course at RTS/Jackson in January, 1994,I felt comfortable immediately and knew this is where God wanted me.
A WAKEUP CALL FOR CHRISTIANS
Although developing a worldview is crucial for Christians, most churches don't teach believers how. Part of the reason is that the church has been lulled into a false sense of security for so long because a basic Christian consensus has prevailed in the United States since its birth. In the aftermath of the sixties, however, Christians began wondering when culture started unraveling. Was it the Roe vs. Wade decision in 1973, the rise of post-modernism and the drug culture, or the increasing acceptance of pornography and euthanasia?
Serious believers now want to recover the Christian world and life view. Pam Hoffecker is a good example. Several years ago she became very concerned about the government's encroachment on education and co-authored with Peg Luksik Outcome-Based Education: The States' Assault on Our Childrens' Values (Huntington House). A national award-winning author and college lecturer, she speaks frequently on the dangers of outcome-based education.
Another Christian who is putting his worldview into action is Paul McNulty one of Andy's former students who has been very successful at integrating a Christian worldview into his life in the highest reaches of power in the United States.
"When I came to Grove City in 1976,1 had no idea that I could view the world coherently on the basis of my spiritual convictions," says Paul, currently Chief Counsel and Director of Legislative Operations for House Majority Leader Dick Armey. "Andy Hoffecker was by far the most influential person in helping me see this. Even though I wasn't a religion major, I took every course he offered and hung on every word. I was fascinated to realize that my conversion could affect everything I do each day from the moment I rise to the second I fall asleep at night."
By the time Paul went to law school he was determined to view all of his life from a redemptive perspective. He had come to understand that the Gospel worked on people's souls, but the redeemed were also responsible to transform creation to bring about real change in all institutions of life so they would reflect God's truth and bring Him glory.
Gathering like-minded students, he formed an organization of Christian law students to look at law from a Christian perspective. After graduation he began a career in public policy and since 1983 has served in various executive and legislative branch positions. His primary aim is to integrate his worldview into every area of his work in Washington.
Reformed Quarterly, Volume 19, Number 1