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.