What is a Worldview?
We all have an opinion, conviction or belief about life. Philosophers are fascinated by why things are the way they are, whereas scientists concentrate more on what it is that makes things the way they are. Few of us have a comprehensive philosophical view of life we have thought through, and perhaps even fewer of us have given thorough thought as to what a theistic outlook of life entails. Nevertheless, we all have an opinion or a point of view, even if it is not based on profound philosophy or theology. This is called a ‘worldview’.
What is meant by a ‘worldview’? It is a term that it is almost im- possible to define concisely. James W. Sire’s book, The Universe Next Door46, discusses the nine most important worldviews. A worldview is a foundation of faith that determines how we think about the world, our mission and our future here. A worldview is more than an out- look on life that revolves basically around religious belief. We all have a worldview, but we may not have a conscious view of reality upon which we have reflected. A worldview is the set of opinions we have about our reality. We could also say that our worldview is the lens, pair of spectacles, through which we see the whole of our reality. It may often be the case that we have not thought through why we think what we think. Religious and philosophical ideas are only part of a worldview. A worldview also encompasses our view of politics, economics, working life, business, family, morality, ethics, science. In short: our total reality.
Nancy Pearcey puts it this way: ‘Each of us has a model of the universe inside our heads that tells us what the world looks like and how we’re going to live in it. We all try to have an opinion with our lives. Some convictions are deliberate, others more unconscious, but together they form a uniform view of reality’ 47. A worldview is a complex composite set of principles, preconceptions, beliefs, opinions and values person hold, which shapes how they perceive reality, and determines how they will act. It concerns the fundamental convictions a person holds, upon which they base their choices and thus, their life. A worldview is therefore a kind of commitment which influences our heart, mind, and soul. If a person has a true understanding of what a Christian worldview includes, then they will be very resilient to being influenced by secular thoughts. A Christian worldview is like an im- munization against everything that different belief systems throw at us, and it also provides protection against all the influences that are so subtle as to be imperceptible. Peter says in his first letter (3,15) that we should always be ready to defend the reason for the hope we have as Christians. By having a conscious Christian worldview, a person strengthens her personal belief, and becomes better qualified to share that faith to others. How Now Shall We Live? is a book I would recom- mend, as it throws light on the most important aspects of a Christian worldview48.
A worldview has four important components. The first relates to our view of creation: Where do we come from, does God exist, what con- stitutes the basis of our values, what forms the basis of authority? The second relates to morality and ethics: What is the basis for assessing whether something is right or wrong, how do I distinguish between good and evil, what is wrong with our world? The third is about knowledge: Can we know what is true? The fourth component is about destiny and purpose: Does life have any meaning, is death the end of it all, can I do something to make the world a better place? A Christian worldview has God as the basis for all four components.
The usual way to evaluate a worldview is as follows: 52 How and Why the West lost its Faith
- Is it coherent? In other words, is it logical, and does it hold together?
- Does it correspond to reality?
3. Does it work in practice? What conclusions does it lead to?
We live in a time when two competing worldviews are fighting for peo- ple’s minds in Western civilization: the Christian faith and Naturalism. On the whole, the academic world rejects Christianity, which as a result has lost its position as the dominant western worldview. All worldviews are based on faith – although naturalists and atheists might contest that. People either believe that the world was created by God, or that the world came into being by its own accord. People either believe that our moral standards are a consequence of us being created in God’s image, or that morality depends on your personal preferences. People either think that life has a purpose, or that everything is a result of pure coincidence. Finally, people either believe in an eternal life, or that everything is over when you die.
An intense battle currently ensues between these two worldviews. Some people describe it as a spiritual battle. All Christians need to have a view of life that is well thought through. If we are to be able to help others who may be struggling with doubt and uncertainty, we need to have the necessary background and knowledge to be able to defend the Christian faith. Defending the Christian faith in this way is called apologetics, and in this book, the word is used only with that meaning. Teaching apologetics is particularly appropriate for young people. Surveys from the United States show that most Christian teenagers have the same worldview as non-Christians. If we do not have a clear understanding of this problem, we are in danger of losing our young people to the secular world in which we all live. Teenagers today grow up in a culture that does not have fixed boundaries for right and wrong, unlike in the past. A Christian worldview works on the basis that God is the creator of all things, that he created heaven and earth. In other words, he created every- thing in the realm of human reality. Secular worldviews have a different starting point than God. It is important that we learn to analyze secular thoughts to find out what they consider as the supreme authority. Our lives have a purpose; we were born for a reason and have a task to fulfill. In particular, Christians should see themselves as here to serve others. A humanistic outlook on life prioritizes the individual, and satisfying the diverse needs of the individual is important. Conversely, our lives should be characterized by Christian ethics as defined in the Bible.
In the next chapter, I want to discuss reasons why Christianity is no longer a dominant worldview in western countries. When one worldview is rejected, it is always replaced by a new one, because human beings depend on having a system of beliefs they perceive as true. Some people have voiced the desire for a ‘life neutral’ society, but that is a utopian idea. Life-neutrality is an impossibility and does not exist – it is a word without substance. These exponents of ‘life neutral society’ are actually calling atheism to be considered a ‘value-neutral’ outlook on life, but this is impossible, because every worldview has foundational thoughts and ideas, and thus cannot be value-neutral. Various philosophers stand behind these concepts and ideas. Christianity has always had opponents. The decisive struggle which led to the current situation started a long time ago, in the time called the Enlightenment, and we are reaping the fruits of Enlightenment philosophy today.