by Rob Lundberg
Have you ever realized that you have a worldview? It may be a Christian worldview, an atheistic worldview, or one that believes in many gods or even that everything we see around us is “god.” At this point, you might be thinking, “Whoa, wait a minute, what on earth is a worldview?”
There are a variety of definitions that are presented by different authors. One of the more popular writers on the subject of worldviews is James Sire, who states that
“a worldview is a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions (assumptions, that may be true, partially true, or false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously) about the basic constitution of reality, and that provides that foundation on which we live and move and have our being“.
Another writer states that “a worldview is, first of all, an explanation and interpretation of the world, and second, an application of this view to life. In simpler terms, our worldview is a view of the world and a view for the world.”
Having taught a couple of courses on worldviews, I like Sire’s definition because of its specificity. If you look at Sire’s definition worldviews can be true or they can be false. They can be consistent or inconsistent. We can embrace them consciously and volitionally; or we can embrace a little bit from one worldview, and a little from another worldview without even thinking that what we believe is consistent or sound. Again, the question is not about everyone having a worldview. We know that everyone has a worldview. The question is whether or not the worldview that you embrace is a good one or not.
Take for example the questions, “Where do I come from? (Origin); “Why am I here?” (Meaning); “How can I change?” (Condition); and “Where am I going?” (Destiny). Each of these questions all fit the specific definition of Sire’s definition. Is it possible to have an inconsistent worldview? If you are a professing Christian how would you answer those questions, and are each of the answers consistent with the previous questions? What does it mean to have a “good worldview?” Here is a set of criteria that I found in a great source by Ravi Zacharias that will help in the framing of your worldview.
- A good worldview will have a strong foundation in correspondence. This means that is it will have factual support. Conversely, it will refuse that which is known to be false. It must harness all areas of reality and not retain a selective sovereignty. To refuse to include facts that challenge the thesis or to arbitrarily make some subservient to others because they better fit a predetermined conclusion betrays a prejudice that distorts the worldview.
- A good worldview should have a high degree of coherence or internal consistency. A logically contradictory system cannot be true. To be internally consistent it cannot have contradicting deductions, regardless of what “experiential need” are met in the process.
- A good worldview has explanatory power. The collation of facts leads to initial postulations, from whence we devise our theories, our hypotheses, and then finally delineate our “laws.” United facts and integrated deductions lead to systems. Facts ultimately do not just speak for themselves; they help build a theory, or provide the prescriptive elements, the eyeglasses, through which we see the world.
- A good worldview will avoid two extremes. It will not be too simple nor will be too complex. This is the famous Occam’s Razor Test (William of Occam (1300-1349)) who supposedly said “do not multiply entities without necessity,” which basically means that we are to resist the temptation to make our explanations too complex. IF an explanation becomes too complex, Occam’s razor will cut it off. On the other hand, an explanation should not become too simplistic that it commits the reductive fallacy. To make a man an incomprehensibility is to go to one extreme. To consider him a mere brute is to reduce him to the other extreme.
- A good worldview is neither too simple nor too complex in its explanatory power. This is pretty self-explanatory.
- A good worldview has more than one line of evidence, not just one knockout argument. Cumulative evidence converges from several sources of data.
- A good worldview is not complete in itself until it is able to refute, implicitly or explicitly, contrary worldviews. The law of non-contradiction applies not only within a worldview, but also between worldviews. Thus, it is more reasonable to say that all religions we know of are wrong than to assert that all are right. Any system that opens its arms wide enough to incorporate everything will end up strangling itself when the arms close in.
As you can see, these are some great criteria that you can use to help shape your worldview. If one examines all six of these elements, taking the elements of the biblical Christian worldview, it will be easy to see that it meets the standard set forth by these criterium.
Over the next several weeks, I hope to have a short summation of the worldviews that are right now competing with the biblical Christian worldview using the four main questions hinged upon origin, meaning, condition, and destiny. Stay tuned as there is more to come. — RL
1. James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door. (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1988), 17. Even Wikipedia has a page that defines a worldview pretty well and can be found here at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_view.
2. W. Gary Phillips and William E. Brown, Making Sense of Your World (Chicago: Moody Press, 1991), 29.
3. Ravi Zacharias, A Shattered Visage: The Real Face of Atheism. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 189-91; This section of the appendix of Zacharias’ work is worth the whole book. These six points are taken from Appendix 2, entitled The Establishment of a Worldview. In this section Ravi references Arlie J. Hoover’s work The Case for Christian Theism. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1976 and Ron Nash’s Faith and Reason.