“A worldview is a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic makeup of our world” (Sire, 16).
“A worldview is a way of seeing or picturing the world and everything in it. It’s a conceptual framework. It determines how we interpret our experience and it guides our actions – whether we are conscious of it or not” (Phillips & Okholm, 19).
A. Observations on Worldview Formation
· The clash of east and west
· Two illustrations
B. Characteristics of a Worldview
According to James Sire (The Universe Next Door, 17-18), all worldviews can be broken down according to how they answer seven questions:
1. What is prime reality? What is the really real? Is it God or merely the cosmos. “The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be” (Carl Sagan). How might this affect your beliefs about the possibility of miracles, such as the resurrection of Jesus?
2. What is the nature of external reality, i.e., the world around us? Created or autonomous? Chaotic or orderly? Material substance or spirit or both? Contrast the Christian Scientist with the materialist: “The brain secretes thought as the liver secrets bile” (Pierre Jean George Cabanis, 1757-1808). Or perhaps external reality is simply God himself manifest in differing forms and levels of awareness (pantheism).
3. What is a human being? A highly complicated machine? A creation of an infinitely great God in whose image we’ve been shaped? A product of time and chance in some evolutionary scheme? Listen to Mary Anne Warren, a philosopher and pro-abortion activist. Note how her worldview on the nature of what it is to be a human being impacts her opinion on abortion:
"Thus, in the relevant respects, a fetus, even a fully developed one, is considerably less personlike than is the average mature mammal, indeed the average fish. And I think that a rational person must conclude that if the right to life of a fetus is to be based upon its resemblance to a person, then it cannot be said to have any more right to life than, let us say, a newborn guppy . . . , and that a right of that magnitude could never override a woman's right to obtain an abortion, at any stage of her pregnancy" ("On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion", in Social Ethics, pp. 20,22).
Consider this comment by Ingrid Newkirk: “There really is no rational reason for saying a human being has special rights. . . . A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.”
4. What happens to a person at death? Extinction? Reincarnation? Another world? Heaven or hell?
5. Why is it possible to know anything at all? Evolution? Sensory experience? Revelation?
6. How do we know what is right and wrong? Pragmatism (does it work)? Utilitarianism (does it produce the greatest degree of happiness for the greatest number of people)? Subjectivism (what feels good and pleases me)? Transcendent revelation?
7. What is the meaning of human history? Does it have a purpose or is it aimless? Will there be judgment at the end? Will there be vindication of right and punishment of wrong?
C. How do we obtain a worldview? Where does it come from?
1. Culture and the traditions associated with it. For example, I was born into Caucasian culture of the southern U.S. to Christian parents of baptistic persuasion. I was born into a world where certain beliefs and principles and practices were a given. No one argued for them. They were simply assumed.
2. Experience of empirical data. Worldviews are often shaped by experience, whether through where you live, what you do, read, hear, observe in the world around you, etc. Often, however, not even experience can change or challenge our worldview.
3. Feelings, emotional encounters; perhaps a mystical phenomenon. Often worldviews are shaped by what we love, what we find pleasing and fulfilling and satisfying.
D. The Function of a Worldview
1. They provide a sense of value and meaning and place in the universe. In other words, they answer the questions: do I matter, why am I here, what role do I play, where am I going?
2. They provide a sense of peace and comfort.
3. They provide a perspective from which to analyze and evaluate and process the world around us.
E. Validating Worldviews
Whose view is the true view? Can we prove the Christian worldview to be the correct one? No. But we can demonstrate the plausibility of the Christian view. Several criteria:
1. Coherence – How well does the worldview explain all the pieces of the puzzle? Does its explanation of reality cohere or are there inexplicable glitches and pieces that don’t fit?
2. Correspondence – Does your worldview actually correspond to the way things really are? If your worldview denies the existence of natural laws, believing them to be the artificial creation of people, what do you discover when you persist in jumping off buildings? How many times do you have to break your leg to admit that gravity exists? Cf. Christian Science belief that pain and death are illusions. What if part of your worldview is that all people are inherently good or that humanity is making constant progress toward social and personal perfection? Does this belief correspond to life as we know and experience it?
3. Consistency – By this is meant internal consistency. Your worldview should be consistent with the basic laws of logic and not suffer from internal contradictions.
4. Comprehensiveness – Can your worldview potentially explain all of reality? Are you able to adequately account for all empirical data? For example, how does your worldview handle the problem of evil? How do you account for the existence of human tragedy and torture and premature death?
Consider the portrayal of a western, naturalistic worldview as over against the biblical worldview and how this affects your attitude to such phenomena as the existence and activity of angels/demons, the possibility of supernatural phenomena such as physical healing, whether psychological problems are biochemical, emotional, sociological, demonic, all of the above or none of the above.