Worldviews – What are Worldviews?
What is a good definition of "worldviews"? In The Universe Next Door, James Sire says, “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 which may be true, partially true or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic constitution of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being.”1
In Naming the Elephant, James Sire tightens his worldview definition to the following: “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.”2
Simply, a worldview is a set of beliefs that you hold true and live by. It’s a special pair of goggles that you put on every morning that allows you to see the world through your version of reality.
Worldviews – What’s Your Worldview?
Have you ever thought about your own worldview? Have you ever really examined it, tested it, and poked holes in it? What’s your personal worldview?
In the Foreword to Making Sense of Your World, Dr. Norman Geisler declares: “The truth is that a worldview is like colored glasses; it colors everything at which we look. It is a grid through which one views all of life. As such it helps form our thoughts, values, and decisions. The tragedy is that most people do not even know what their worldview is, how they got it, and how important it is in their lives.”3
At Summit Ministries, they help us understand our worldviews by examining our core beliefs across ten major categories of thought: (1) Theology, (2) Philosophy, (3) Ethics, (4) Biology, (5) Psychology, (6) Sociology, (7) Law, (8) Politics, (9) Economics, and (10) History. Your collection of views across these ten categories will help you understand your overall worldview, whether Christian Theistic, Secular Humanist, Cosmic Humanist (Eastern Philosophy and/or Western New Age), Islamic, Marxist-Leninist, or Postmodern.4
Worldviews – Your Answers to Basic Life Questions
Another way to start understanding your personal worldview to see how you answer key life questions. James Sire uses seven central questions to get to the heart of anyone’s worldview:
- What is prime reality – the really real? To this we might answer God, or the gods, or the material cosmos.
- What is the nature of external reality, that is, the world around us? Here our answers point to whether we see the world as created or autonomous, as chaotic or orderly, as matter or spirit, or whether we emphasize our subjective, personal relationship to the world or its objectivity apart from us.
- What is a human being? To this we might answer a highly complex machine, a sleeping god, a person made in the image of God, a “naked ape.”
- What happens to a person at death? Here we might reply personal extinction, or transformation to a higher state, or reincarnation, or departure to a shadowy existence on “the other side.”
- Why is it possible to know anything at all? Sample answers include the idea that we are made in the image of an all-knowing God or that consciousness and rationality developed under the contingencies of survival in a long process of evolution.
- How do we know what is right and wrong? Again, perhaps we are made in the image of a God whose character is good; or right and wrong are determined by human choice alone or what feels good; or the notions of simply developed under an impetus toward cultural or physical survival.
- What is the meaning of human history? To this we might answer, to realize the purpose of God or the gods, to make a paradise on earth, to prepare a people for a life in community with a loving and holy God, and so forth.5
Worldviews – Conclusion
Whether we realize it or not, worldviews are fundamental. A cohesive worldview provides the foundation for our moral values and corresponding actions. Our worldview provides the holistic perspective from which we interpret ambiguous evidence. When confronted with more than one plausible interpretation, we always interpret evidence in a manner consistent with how we already see the world.
But remember, worldviews can be conscious or subconscious -- consistent or inconsistent -- true, partially true, or entirely false. Therefore, a seemingly rational worldview can be terribly wrong. Even the most educated person alive can hold a false view of reality. So, we ask again, have you really examined your worldview lately? Is your belief system really supported by reality?
1 James Sire, The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog (4th edition) (InterVarsity Press, 2004), 17.
2 James Sire, Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a Concept (InterVarsity Press, 2004), 19.
3 W. Gary Phillips, William E. Brown, and John Stonestreet, Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview (second edition) (Sheffield Publishing Company, 2008), vii.
5 Sire, Naming the Elephant, 20.
What is your response?
Yes, today I am deciding to follow Jesus
Yes, I am already a follower of Jesus
I still have questions