Multiple Blueprints

Posted by on Mar 1, 2017
Multiple Blueprints

I wrote previously about the need to have an overarching blueprint to help make sense of life. Actually we need more than one. Some call it a worldview or a world-and-life-view or some other term but, whatever we call it, we need a way of thinking about all of life that helps us interpret confusing or conflicting messages. As Christians, we want a worldview that lines up consistently with scripture.

But I hope you won’t write me off as a heretic if I suggest that we need more than one blueprint. I will quickly say that the Bible has the highest authority of all our blueprints. But we still need some help with aspects of life that the specific revelation of the Bible leaves us to discern through general revelation or common sense or good old-fashioned wisdom.

For example, the Scriptures state clearly that God is the creator of my physical body. But if I break a bone, I want my doctor to treat me with information and skill gained from other books – Gray’s Anatomy comes to mind.

Here’s how noted missiologist and anthropologist Paul Hiebert put it:

 “To understand the complex nature of reality, we need a number of complementary maps or blueprints, each of which shows us truth about some aspect of the whole. For example, to understand a house, a simple photograph will not do. We need the blueprints of its wiring, plumbing, structural beams, and foundations, most of which remain unseen. Reality is too complex for our finite minds to grasp in total. We need complementary models to comprehend it.”[i]

Note that he says the blueprints can be and need to be complementary. I do realize some postmodern theorists may despair that we can never find such complementarity or can ever know anything with confidence. But I disagree. (And they probably don’t read my blog or Hiebert’s books).

For the task of evangelism, I wonder if this suggestion of multiple blueprints might prove to be rather helpful. When we talk to outsiders, we certainly need to convey the truth of the gospel as it is revealed in scripture. This is the most important of our blueprints.

They need to hear and understand that God is both holy and loving, that their sins have made a separation between them and God, that Jesus died as a sacrifice to atone for sins, and they need to respond in repentance and faith to this good news.

But consider other blueprints that could help. We need a blueprint of communication to know which words to use. We need a blueprint of interpersonal skills to know how to express ourselves respectfully and effectively. We need a blueprint of culture so we don’t do things that offend people from other backgrounds. We might even need a blueprint of a sense of humor as well.

I fear that, for some, the only blueprint they value is the truth of scripture. I certainly don’t want to diminish the value of the Bible  one bit. But these would-be evangelists, while proclaiming a Biblical message, violate the very Bible they quote with their non-verbal actions of disrespect, insensitivity, or unkindness. There’s a lot we need to explore in the phrase, “do this with gentleness and respect,” at the end of I Peter 3:15. A few blueprints could help with that exploration.


[i] Paul Hiebert, The Missiological Implications of Epistemological Shifts, 1999, Bloomsbury T& T Clark, p.84-85.

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