At the most basic level a worldview is one’s belief system. It is that basic set of principles which governs the way one thinks and acts. To put it in a more metaphorical fashion, it is that lens by which you see and understand the world.
In his opening chapter Francis Schaeffer says, “What [you] are in your thought world determines how you act.” He goes on to talk about one’s presuppositions (which is another way of talking about a worldview):
In sum, a worldview answers the question, “How do you understand the world and how do you live in it?”
It has been said that “One’s culture is a product of one’s cult.” America is the way it is (culture) because it has shared beliefs (cult). We who live in Ashland differ from the tribal people of the African Sahara because our basic understanding of life (i.e. our worldview) is different.
For example, why is it that an American missionary team can come to a tribal village of Africa and dig a hole 40 feet deep and bring rushing waves of fresh water to a place that was essentially covered by sand? It is because these missionaries have centuries of western culture behind them. Christianity allowed one to investigate creation and develop technology. The African tribes, being bound by their superstitions, had no sense of scientific inquiry. It never occurred to them that water might be trapped under the sand. Their worldview wouldn’t permit them to make this discovery.
This being said, we should recognize that everyone has a worldview. A person may not be able to expressly spell it out, but they have one—as assuredly as paint has color. Life requires a worldview because you have to make sense of the world to live in it. You have to have a basic philosophy to guide how you live and interpret reality. So the question that must be asked is not so much, “Do you have a worldview?”, but rather “Which worldview do you have?” (and more importantly, Is it right?).
Why Study Worldview?
This class will be dedicated to 1) explaining the basic essentials of a Christian worldview, 2) learning the principles of a few other popular worldviews in our day, and 3) tracing the development of Western culture (and its worldview).
But why should we pursue this course of study? (In other words, why do your parents think it is important for you to be in this class?)
The Bible says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for out of it spring the issues of life.” This verse gets at the importance of a worldview. In your heart (that is, the core of your being) you determine how to deal with “the issues of life.” We deal with all kinds of issues everyday: What about abortion? Is it right? Are there times when it is acceptable? Is there such a thing as absolute truth? Or is truth something that is relative?—If we do not guard our hearts, we will not be able to deal with the issues of life.
Francis Schaeffer gave the illustration of the Roman bridges. These bridges allowed people to pass from one place to another for centuries. But if we drove a loaded down semi-truck over one, it would cave in under us.
If you have the wrong worldview, you might be able to cope with life—so long as the issues of life are small. But when the pressures are greater, a faulty worldview will not be able stand. It will crash and leave you in shambles.
Similarly, in the New Testament the Apostle Paul says, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. Col. 2:8 (ESV)”
In this passage Paul tells us that we need to demonstrate discernment because there are alternative systems of belief that are always coming at us seeking to lead us astray. We are bombarded by different philosophies everyday (friends, family members, movies, billboards, artwork, facebook, etc.). These messages convey a worldview—a philosophy of life that either corresponds or conflicts with the Christian worldview. We need to beware of these messages so we are not “taken captive.”
Again, the proverbs often talk about the one who is “simple.” He is not just one who is gullible or naïve. He is one who is impressionable and lacks the ability to discern right and wrong, truth and error. As a result of his being simple he suffers.
Proverbs 9:6 (ESV)
Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight."
Proverbs 14:15 (ESV)
The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps.
Proverbs 14:18 (ESV)
The simple inherit folly, but the prudent are crowned with knowledge.
Proverbs 22:3 (ESV)
The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.
All this is to say that it is very important to be discerning regarding the whole issue of worldviews. We must know what our own worldview is as a Christian and be able to detect false worldviews so that we are not led astray.
According to a George Barna survey conducted in 2009, only 9% of American’s hold to a traditional Biblical worldview.
The Elements of a Worldview:
A worldview answers 5 basic questions, either conscientiously or unconscientiously.
THEOLOGY -What do you believe about God?
Does God exist? Is there more than one god? What is he/she/it’s relationship with nature? Is God personal? Can He be known? If so, how may He be known? What is God like?
METAPHYSICS -What is the nature of reality?
What is God’s relation to the universe? Is the universe sustained by God or is it self-existent? Is the universe created? Is the universe co-eternal with God? Is the universe mechanistic, solely material, non-purposeful, closed?
EPISTEMOLOGY -How do we know what we know?
Is knowledge about the world possible? Can man trust his senses? Does man’s abstract reason correspond with the physical universe so that meaning is possible? Is all truth relative and none absolute? What is the proper role of reason? Can God reveal Himself? Has God infallibly revealed Himself? What is the ultimate authority in the realm of knowledge? What is the source of man’s innate ideas?
ETHICS -How do we define right and wrong?
Is there a standard for judging morality? Or are they completely relative? Are moral laws the same for all people? (Do morals transcend culture, history, and individual boundaries?) Or are morals always changing? Are moral laws constructed by human beings? Are moral laws to be discerned by investigation? Is there an absolute source external to humans?
ANTHROPOLOGY -What is man?
From whence did man come? Is man composed only of a body, or does he have a soul too? Does man’s existence end at death or is there an afterlife? Is there a heaven and a hell where individuals are conscious and physically present? Are humans “pawns” controlled by deterministic forces?
Exercise: Discuss the worldview of a Viking.
1. What is a worldview?
2. Why is it necessary to study worldviews?
3. List and explain the 5 basic elements of a worldview.
Materials for class:
1. Wretched DVD & Player
2. Viking Hat
3. Different pairs of glasses
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.