Worldview Thinking – No Neutral Ground

July 31, 2006

Everyone has a worldview.  Each of us acts, thinks, and operates based on the framework through which we view the world.  James Sire in The Universe Next Door defines a worldview this way:

“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” (p. 17).



Our worldview includes beliefs about the nature of the cosmos, the origins of humanity, solutions for the perceived problems in the world, the prospects of life after death and the nature of history (linear or cyclical). 


Some people may never investigate some of the deep questions about life, but that passive decision is itself shaped by a worldview that does not value thoughtful reflection about who we are and why we are here.  Some may avoid rigorous contemplation of life out of fear – fear that cherished beliefs about reality may crumble under tough scrutiny.  Others may be too busy to devote time to inspect the presuppositions that drive a hectic lifestyle.  Then there is the person who may be buried under a mountain of insecurity, lacking the confidence in her own ability to think and form opinions about the weighty issues in life.  Finally, one may suffer from the pinball syndrome in which one simply bounces from one pastime to the next, oblivious to the significance of the world outside his little fiefdom.  Many excuses abound, but none justify this non-action.  All should seek knowledge and truth about the world and oneself.  As Pascal stated, “One must know oneself.  Even if that does not help in finding truth, at least it helps in running one’s life, and nothing is more proper” (72/66).


Though no two people hold the exact same worldview, several general categories exist, such as Christian theism, naturalism and pantheism.  I hold to a Christian worldview (and defending that worldview is not the intent of this post, instead see “It’s Never a Bad Time To Recommend a Few Books” at Culture Watch) and that Christian worldview is not confined to determining my Sunday morning activities but informs every aspect of my life and lays claim to every corner of the universe, including both the seen and the unseen.   


However, I live in a pluralistic society and I need to accurately understand other worldviews such as naturalism and pantheism.  As I interact with other humans, the worldview that I hold influences others and in turn their beliefs and underlying worldview can affect my beliefs.  For instance, I recently attended my daughter’s Christian pre-school class to read a few books to them.  I chose a couple books from the public library that matched their theme for the week.  But when I previewed one book, it subtly communicated a message that was laced with pantheistic undertones.  Thus, when I read the book to the class, I changed the ending (and thank goodness three year olds can’t read)!!  Even something as subtle as an innocuous children’s story can influence how one understands the universe.


This lack of neutrality in culture was emphasized by Susan, at Philosophical Pastor, when she recently posted on the “myth” of secular culture.  Henry Van Til states, “Since religion is rooted in the heart, it is therefore totalitarian in nature. It does not so much consummate culture as give culture its foundation, and serves as the presupposition of every culture…A truly secular culture has never been found.”  At our core, we are religious creatures.  There is some ideal or some thing that has captured our heart and our actions and thoughts flow from the worship of this thing.


Religion and worldview are intertwined.  One may claim to be spiritual but not religious.  However, everyone holds a worldview (even if it is subconscious and inconsistent) that attempts to answer the monumentous questions about life that are addressed by the world’s religions.  One cannot be truly non-religious.  To say that one is not religious simply means that one does not participate in organized religion.   There is no neutral worldview nor can we craft a bubble of protection around our precious worldview hoping to insulate it and us from challenge and examination. 


My Christian worldview is not perfect and it is my joy and heart’s desire to have it reshaped and molded such that my thoughts and actions continue to become (despite many unintentional detours) more Christ like.  Through this transformation, God’s constant presence in my life takes on an almost tangible realness such that I can, like Paul, have joy in all circumstances.


Over the upcoming days and weeks I’ll continue to explore the specifics of the Christian worldview and incorporate a bit of theology and philosophy as well as comment on the pragmatic ramifications of one’s worldview.


Contemplative Spirituality: A non-definition

July 26, 2006

Susan began an interesting historical look at the contemplative movement and its attempts to bring Christians to greater intimacy with God. The ensuing discussion involved definitions of terms and I’d like to further elaborate on those definitions.

Definitions of Contemplative Prayer

1. Thoughfully and prayerfully thinking about a passage of scripture and seeking illumination from Holy Spirit.A dear friend of mind recently stated that when she learned about contemplative prayer she realized she had been engaging in this activity all her Christian life. What she meant was that she would think about and pray over certain passages in Scripture. She might “chew on” a passage for weeks or months. This activity would promote a continuous dialog with the Lord as she sought God’s wisdom and inspiration in applying the passage to her life. Her contemplation of the Word exemplified the admonition to pray continuously (1Thess. 5:17). This activity did not replace the study of scripture, but augmented the hard work of examining the text.
2. Attempting to induce an altered state of consciousness, exhibited by the feeling of oneness, by repeating a mantra or prayer word. This definition differs dramatically from #1 and reflects the views of Thomas Keating and those who endorse his form of centering prayer. A full evaluation of centering prayer is beyond the scope of this post. At this time I’m only laying out definitions. The contemplative state, that point at which one ceases to use the cognitive part of the brain and is thus ushered into an altered state of consciousness, is the goal of centering prayer. Keating states that the practitioner of centering prayer may attain the state at which she has ” no thoughts. Then your are at the deepest point that you can go” (Foundations for Centering Prayer, p. 37). The goal is to experience the contemplative state of Divine union in which “the knower, the knowing and that which is known are all one ” (The Diversity of Centering Prayer, p. 22-23). The euphoria of oneness resembles that experienced in Buddhist meditation.  Keating practiced Buddhis meditation and studied under the Buddhist monks to develop his methodology (Intimacy with God, Chapter 1). Therefore this definition of contemplative prayer bears little resemblance to my friend’s “chewing on” a verse of Scripture.

Many other definitions may exist between #1 and #2. Most importantly, when entering into a discussion of “contemplative xyz” the parties should first clarify terms.

Blogging Break

July 20, 2006

I am currently enjoying a restful vacation (as opposed to one of those vacations where you spend all day everyday in pursuit of all required tourist activities) in a delightful mountain valley.  Part of my vacation includes reading more and detaching my self from the computer monitor – so alas I won’t be posting until Monday or Tuesday.  Upcoming posts will likely involve the Christian worldview, spirituality and perhaps a few thoughts on politics.


Love, Love, Love

July 17, 2006

I wrestle with the tension between God’s transcendence and His immanence. On the one hand we witness Isaiah’s encounter with the presence of God and see his utter anguish as he exclaims, “Woe is me! for I am undone” (Isa. 6:5 KJV). Isaiah’s experience of God does not instill a sense of oneness with God, but accentuates his understanding of the infinite gulf between the Creator and the creature. However, Jesus is my friend and my desire for this relationship is demonstrated as I seek to obey His commands. (John 15:14).

But…after Paul’s unique, transformative experience, he was not led to speak only of the softer side of Jesus, but reminded the Christian community that “the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (Rom. 1:18 NIV). Though saved by faith, Paul could not completely escape his sinful nature and like Isaiah exclaims “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:24-25, NIV). But this does not convey the full story since my Savior is also “gentle and humble in heart” (Matt. 11:29, NIV) and I can joyfully rest in him. (Lest one make the mistake of assuming that God is wrathful and Jesus is nice, it was Jesus who said to Peter “Get behind me Satan!” – Matt. 16:23).
Reconciling these apparent contradictions in God’s nature requires an understanding of God’s essential characteristic – Holiness. When we spot a glimmer of God’s holiness, we begin to comprehend our distance and sinfulness. We are also filled with the immensity of Christ’s sacrifice and as such our gratitude to our savior minimizes the likelihood that we would take for granted his presence in our lives. Read the rest of this entry »

Aesthetically Speaking

July 14, 2006

This pic is evidence of beauty that can only reside in the eyes of the beholder. This was my 4 year old’s Birthday cake that was decorated by her and her 6 year old brother. But it does beg the question about beauty. Is true beauty (and in my limited understanding about aesthetics I’m defining it as that which in some capacity reflects the glory of God) something that each and every Christian, regardless of training in aestheics, should be able to recognize? Can art that bears similarities Jackson Pollock’s “One” (which to my untrained eye is similar to my daughter’s cake) be truly beautiful? I have so many questions…perhaps I’ll glean some answers as the Saturday philosophy party…

Closing the Patio Door

July 12, 2006

View from the Patio

My family and I were fortunate to stay in a charming little condo in Grand Lake, CO with this morning view from the patio. The rapids roared day and night. I took advantage of the loveliness of God’s handiwork and spent a fair amount of time in the patio thinking-chair.

Admittedly, I was stewing over a perceived wrong that had been committed against me by a fellow Christian. I attempted to be honest and grasp the “God’s eye view” of the situation. Fortunately Clowney’s “Christian Meditation” was my companion and I read this sentence on page 66. “By meditation in the Spirit, the Christian engages in heartseaching to perceive his own sin.” Perhaps my feathers were unduly ruffled. Regardless, in the margin I scribbled “Now I understand…this all happened so that I can better see my sin and as such…therefore…it is not my role in this case to correct another.”

Read the rest of this entry »

A Domestic Diva’s Lament

July 11, 2006

I am not a poet, not even an amateur one and have not composed a single poem since my high school creative writing class. But since I so enjoyed Susan’s last poetic endeavour, I thought I’d toss this back:

Sitting there…in the family room,
Calling, beckoning…
Tempting me to neglect my domestic duties,
Promising a rendezvous
Of splendid delight

My solace and salvation
My book