What is a Worldview?
At the outset it’s vital to realize that each of us has a worldview. And each of us is deeply affected by that worldview. As one person put it, “It’s less about what worldview you have, and more about what sort of worldview has you.” It affects everything we do—especially what we do when we’re not thinking. How we approach life, how we regard God, the world, and other human beings are directly impacted by it.
So what exactly do we mean by this term, “worldview”?
We hear that word tossed around a lot these days, mainly in Christian circles perhaps, but in others as well. Despite hearing this language, many of us couldn’t give a distinct definition of what exactly the word “worldview” means. Here is a dictionary definition:
“A Worldview is a pattern of ideas, beliefs, convictions, and habits that help us make sense of God, the world, and our relationship to God and the world.”
One the best practical examples of how this works is the way each person views nature differently. Imagine this: It’s a winter day. You see a snow-capped awesome mountain peak before you. You approach it and hear the wind blowing the powdery snow down the peak toward you. You smell the pine trees, the evergreens. You’re struck speechless by the sight. Or alternatively you’re lying in a hammock by the beach as the sun sets over the horizon. The world feels still, and you hear the gentle crash of the waves as they beat against the sands. It’s peaceful, it’s serene, it almost otherworldly.
How you interpret these two events depends entirely on your worldview. As a believer with a (presumably) Christian outlook, you attempt to make sense of these awe-inspiring vistas of nature. You know that a loving Creator made this world and all its beauty. You know that He lovingly crafted all you see, just as the Psalm says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1, ESV). Nature, for the Christian, brings him to worship, not worship of self, or of nature itself, but to the worship of God. It brings us to our knees, it moves us to say in our heart, our mind, and our voice, “Praise the Lord.”
That is one way to see a beautiful natural setting. But another individual might see it differently. A naturalist (someone who believes only in the physical world) might see the same landscape, and when he looks at the mountain or the beach, he too might be moved deeply. He might even be moved to tears. But he would not for a moment consider how wonderful the Creator is. He takes it in for a moment—and just thinks how lucky he is to live in a world with such beauty, how lucky he is that the dice were cast in his favor. For him it’s all mere chance.
You see how important a worldview is? Two people look at identical things and come away with two completely different reactions. A worldview affects our perception of everything about us. So you could say that every person has a worldview, but I think this quote by John Stonestreet, President of the Colson Center, perhaps says it better: “A worldview is not so much the one you have; but it’s the one that has you.” So it’s important to ask, “What worldview has you?”
Why is this important?
Stonestreet also likes to say, “Ideas have consequences, and bad ideas have victims.”
Just under six million people died from a virus years ago. It spread like fire through a whole community of people. There seemed to be no stopping it. People were dying left and right. That community was the Jews, and the virus was Nazism. It was an idea that had many victims—an idea that said, “Some men are better than others, and some men are less than human,” and with that idea many were killed.
The main reason that worldview study is so important is because worldviews can be dangerous. Many of them are not as openly evil as Nazism, but many are a lot more subtle, as they penetrate into our young people, our minds, and our culture. Whether it be Secularism, Islam, Marxism, or any number of others, many such beliefs are infecting people’s minds here in the West, and in this column we will address their wrong thinking, and talk about why Christianity is the only view that works in the world.
Another reason why this is so important is for the sake of the children and young people of our society. We live in what some have deemed the age of information. Just the advent of the “smart phone” has given anyone alive today access to an amount of information that would have seemed unfathomable just a few years ago. Today if you want to know something, ask Google—and before you know it you have a seemingly unlimited amount of viewpoints bombarding you in seconds.
All generations have obviously had to deal with the conflict of hearing ideas that are contrary to the Truth, but now more than ever we need to be firm in what we believe, and know why it is believable. Because if we don’t know why we believe what we do, it will be easy to run with whatever ideas sound nice, regardless of whether or not they are true.
Ideas spread like viruses in various ways. One person has a thought, he shares it with others that he meets, whether online or in person, and then the next person catches it. Now there are two carriers of that idea, and they freely spread it further and further. Being well equipped in the Truth is one way we, as believers, can protect ourselves and our young people from catching these idea-viruses.
What is the scriptural basis for this?
In 1 Chronicles 12:32, the tribe of Issachar is described as having “men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do.” As modern believers, we too ought to understand the times and the popular ideas around us. If we don’t understand them, how can we speak life and truth into the lives of people who are taken in by them?
In Mathew 22:37 Jesus tells us, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” As Christians nowadays, accustomed to hearing appeals to the “heart,” it’s easy to forget that Jesus specifically includes “with all your mind.” In worldview studies, we use our God-given minds to look at the order in which the world He has made fits into His beautiful story of creation, life, the fall, and redemption. I believe and trust that these articles will help us love God with our minds.
When Paul preached to the men of Athens (Acts 17:22-28), he did not start from Scripture, for none of them knew the Old Testament. He started from some of their own writings, telling the people “that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him. Yet He is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In Him we live and move and have our being’ as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’” Paul knew the culture in which they lived, and he spoke in terms that they would understand, quoting what was to them a well-known poet. One of the goals of understanding other belief systems in our world is being able to better understand those we come in contact with, and reach them with the Gospel in a way that makes sense to them. Not that you change the message of the Gospel at all; you just need know how to speak truth in words that others understand.
After all, reaching out to people with love and the Gospel is what we are here for anyway!
A Note of Caution Before We Continue:
When studying worldviews, apologetics, and other mentally stimulating subjects, it can be a real temptation as we progress to develop a sense of superiority. We must always remember that we are not in the business of winning arguments. We are in the business of winning souls. We must always season our knowledge and our language with the salt of love. As one of my teachers once told me, “It’s not about mental gymnastics. It’s not about a ‘you shoot, then I shoot’ mentality.” It’s about engaging in productive conversations with others. Let’s seek the humility of Christ as we have conversations with people of other faiths.
In closing this introductory prospectus, I repeat: In all that we do, we want to honor Christ and preach the Gospel. My overall heart for this column is to make it a place where we can gain knowledge of the Truth in new ways, and learn more about how to love our neighbors. Remember, the mission field is not just across the sea. With the increase in immigration these days, the mission field is our neighborhoods. The mission field is just outside our doors. I trust that Christ will bless us all with the ability to be “wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” as we reach those around us with the hope that is within us.