Worldview 101 (part 1) - Why Worldview Matters

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:

  1. Origin – where did we come from?
  2. Problem – what’s wrong with the world?
  3. Solution – how do we fix it?
  4. 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.


Anonymous said...

These are very important questions you mention. I use to ponder on these same basic questions when I went to High School. The world we live in, and The Life we live seems to perfect to fall in place. I find that Life is a very precious gift from God, that should not be wasted. I find My purpose in Life by Helping anyway I can my fellow American OR Neighbor. LIFE is FULL OF DECISIONS. My mother preaches "Your Reward is in Heaven.."


Amy Guerino said...

I am thankful for the privilege of doing life with you and getting to discuss worldviews with you as they enter my life. Dawkin's book, The God Delusion, has been just that. He holds a naturalism wordlview and puts down any other as not based on evidence and irrelevant to the discussion. This is not very fair and I don't believe he cares. So, I find his view very narrow minded and he is unwilling to admit that his naturalism worldview does not adequately answer the four main questions of origin, problem, solution, and purpose. I hope our book club discussion will be able to touch on this.

Matt Guerino said...

Right on, as usual! Dawkins is a great example of a fish who isn't aware of the water he's in. He's so steeped in his Naturalism that he utterly fails to even comprehend the perspective and arguments of those who think differently. Consequently he can't mount any serious arguments: his book is 400 pages of contempt and assertions, but unfortunately for him neither qualifies as evidence or support. He also fails to grasp even the basic premise behind many of the philosophical and historical ideas he claims to have refuted. The God Delusion is a monument to the power of a worldview to warp one's thinking.

I'm actually going to look at Naturalism next in this worldview series, after a brief digression to review a book...

Dan Franklin said...

Is that picture of the eye copyright of Good Shepherd? I am not sure it is okay for you to use that. Take some time and think about what it is that you have done.

Matt Guerino said...

Hmmm... I supplied a fair bit of the design concept behind the piece, although someone else (don't remember who at the moment) did the actual graphics work. I think that entitles me to claim at least a partial intellectual property right... So yeah, I'm confident. Go ahead and sue me! What else are friends for? :)

Besides I'm not making any cabbage with this blog. Though now that I mention it, I might start charging you for every comment you leave...

Mark Thomas, C5 said...

Thanx, Matt for these definitions. I just started a 1 year Centurion type program at our church and I sent each participant a link to your blog to read your summaries.

Matt Guerino said...

Thanks Mark! I hope these brief summaries are useful to you & your church.

And congratulations on completing the Centurion year! It amazes me that two full years have already passed since I finished - One of the best investments of time I've ever made.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to pose a fifth question I think fits in well with this.
What happens when I die?
I think every worldview must answer this question, and I would love to hear your views on the main worldviews and how they interpret their findings on this question.

Matt Guerino said...

McLaine, thanks for your contributions, and the good question. The question of life after death is indeed a critical one for every worldview. James Sire includes that in his more thorough 7 worldview questions (from The Universe Next Door,) along with a couple others.

As with every WV question, the differences between worldviews show clearly in their answers. So how does each worldview answer the question of what happens after death?
1. Christianity: eternal life, either in joy with God or in torment apart from him
2. Naturalism: annihilation. Since all you are is a body, once the body ceases functioning, you cease to exist.
3. New Age: as soon as enough people get enlightened (means different things depending on the specific belief system) a utopian age of higher existence will be ushered in.
4. Postmodernism: don't think about it. Reality beyond death can't be known, so make the most of your own life, hold whatever beliefs work for you (just DON'T say your beliefs are absolutely true), and enjoy the ride.

There are profound implications and consequences for how we live that stem from each belief.

tlyen said...

Fascinating topics and enduring questions, Matt. You are a chip off the old block, although a little more animated.

I love getting into these topics because they keep me on the right path in life. I find my views about how Christ wants us to live is clear to me, but disagreed with by many Christians. After writing Oxbowl Incident—A Case for Jesus Christ Through Scientific Inquiry—the matter was cleared up in my mind. I am in accord with the end-game of Christianity, but connect the theological dots getting the the end-game differently. So, I've stopped debating people over Christian Doctrines. How folks connect their dots are valid and part of their climb up the mountain to gain perspective.

I enjoy your blog, a lot.

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