We all have one, but it’s largely invisible. It determines our values, molds our perceptions, and profoundly shapes every decision we make. Yet we’re rarely, if ever, aware of it.
Our worldview is simply our basic assumptions about how the world works, and how we fit into it. The key word there is "assumptions." You see, while we each hold a web of beliefs regarding how the world works, these beliefs are held so deeply that we’re not even aware of them any more than a fish is aware of the water it swims in.
In this way a worldview is much like a pair of sunglasses. As a teenager I was fond of ruby tinted, blue-blocker sunglasses. Right after I put them on everything appeared reddish, but the effect didn’t last long. Soon I was seeing the blue of the sky and the green of the grass normally (or so I thought) and I would eventually forget I even had the glasses on. Until I took them off, that is. Then that blue sky suddenly looked really blue, and boy that green grass was green! The sunglasses were affecting how I perceived the world around me, even when I wasn’t aware of their effect. Our worldview functions the same way, tinting our view of everything around us even though we’re not aware of it.
A worldview consists of many assumptions, but they can be summarized with four key worldview questions:
- Origin – where did we come from?
- Problem – what’s wrong with the world?
- Solution – how do we fix it?
- Purpose – why am I here?
Every worldview answers all four questions, albeit very differently. The answers we give to these questions form the basis of our personal worldview. And for a Christian, becoming aware of our own worldview is critical for at least three reasons:
First, Biblical Christianity is a worldview: it's God’s worldview. Christianity was not given to man in order to simply fulfill our spiritual needs. Rather, even a cursory read of the Bible shows that it offers answers to all of life’s biggest questions. In the Bible, God is offering us a pair of glasses that will help us see the world with 20/20 clarity. In other words, if I don’t understand what a worldview is, I may never fully understand my own faith.
Second, it’s vital to spiritual growth. For the Christian, spiritual maturity is about much more than learning Bible stories. It’s about becoming like Jesus in how we think, feel, value, and act. Understanding my own worldview gives me the opportunity to compare it with the Bible’s. But if I’m not aware of my own worldview, I run the risk of unintentionally re-interpreting the Bible through a pair of glasses I don’t even know I’m wearing.
Finally, it’s essential to the task of witness. Learning how worldviews work is a lot like learning to speak another language. It helps me translate Jesus' offer of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-20) into terms that someone with a completely different worldview is more likely to understand.
Worldviews matter - a lot! My next few posts will look at how the Bible answers the four key worldview questions, and contrast those answers with some of today’s other popular worldviews.
Because in the Christian life, few things are more important than comparing my view of the world and how I fit into it with Scripture.