Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Do you have a worldview?

Worldview Apologetics

Do you have worldview? The term worldview is used in the sense described by prominent German philosopher Wilhelm Dilthey (1833-1911). Dilthey affirmed that philosophy must be defined as a comprehensiveness vision of reality that involves the social and historical reality of humankind, including religion. A worldview is thus the nature and structure of the body of convictions of a group or individual. (1) Worldview includes a sense of meaning and value and principles of action. It is much more than merely an "outlook" or an "attitude." Each person's worldview is based on a key category, an organizing principle, a guiding image, a clue, or an insight selected from the complexity of his or her multidimensional experience. (2) Believe it or not, a worldview will impact our view of our vocation, our family, government, education, the environment, etc. A worldview also impacts ethical issues in our culture such as homosexuality, abortion, stem cell research etc. Remember, the issues of competing worldviews shape the past, present, and future of a nation.

Some of the fundamental questions that make up a worldview are the following:
Creation: How did it all begin? Where did we come from?
Fall: What went wrong? What is the source of evil and suffering?
Redemption: What can we do about it? How can the world be set right again?
Morality: What is the basis for morality? In other words, how do we know what is right and wrong?
History: What is the meaning of history? Where is history going?
Death: What happens to a person at death?
Epistemology: Why is it possible to know anything at all?
Ontology: What is reality? What is the nature of the external reality around us?
Purpose: What is man's purpose in the world? (3)

Perhaps we may ask, how does one decide on a worldview? Here are a few guidelines:

Reason has to be utilized which includes systematic criteria. In using systematic criteria, an individual appraises the truth of a system or worldview.These criteria do not produce systems of thought; instead they judge them. David Wolfe has identified four ways in which one may judge a system of thought: consistency (meaning ideas do not contradict each other) and coherence (the ideas have a positive fit). These are the rational criteria. Comprehensiveness (a system of thought that incorporates the broad range of experience) and congruence (the idea fits human experience) are part of the empirical criteria.(4)

First of all, a worldview must be consistent: Reason utilizes the laws of logic (the law of non-contradiction- A is not non-A; the law of identity- A is A; the law of excluded middle- either- A or non-A). The laws of logic have to be used in evaluating a worldview. If contradiction is a sign of falsity, then noncontradiction (or consistency) is a necessity for truth. A real contradiction occurs when two truth claims are given and one is the logical opposite of the other (they are logically contradictory, not merely contrary).(5)

Two worldviews that make opposite truth claims are naturalism and biblical theism. The naturalistic worldview came to be more prominent during the Enlightenment period. Philosophical or metaphysical naturalism refers to the view that nature is the “whole show.” For theists, miracles (which are paramount to the Christian faith) are supernatual but not anti-natural. If a miracle occurs, it is not the violation or contradiction of the ordinary laws of cause and effect, but rather a new effect produced by the introduction of a supernatural cause. Natural law describes naturally caused regularities; a miracle is a supernatually caused singularity. Christian theism is not opposed to natural causes and certainly admits that God does work through natural causes. However, the Christian theist is open to the possibility of a supernatual, or intelligent cause. (6)

Remember, in a Christian worldview, the universe was created from nothing (ex nihilo). After all, something can't come from nothing since nothing does not even exist. One of the classical or traditional arguments for God's existence is the cosmological argument. While Christian apologist William Lane Craig has revived the horizontal form of the cosmological argument, Thomas Aquinas left the church with an apologetic for the vertical form of the cosmological argument. While the former centers on how the universe began in some time in the past, the latter focuses on how the universe exists at this very moment. In other words, the horizontal form is interested in originating causality or the First Cause of the universe while the vertical form defends the need for conserving causality or a Sustainer of the universe.

Secondly, a worldview must be comprehensive: A worldview should cover the whole world of reality. A worldview must provide adequate answers to the worldview questions mentioned above.

Third, a worldview must be livable: After all, a worldview is not just a philosophical system but something that can be attempted to live out each day. Thus, if some views are not livable, then they are not adequate. However, remember that what works is not always true. Lies work very well for many people, but that does not make a lie true.(7) Truth is determined by what corresponds to reality, not simply results. Therefore, while a pragmatic test is helpful, it cannot be the only test for the truthfulness of a worldview.

Fourth, a good worldview will have explanatory power: When examining how a worldview needs explanatory power, it is important to emphasize that a good worldview needs to avoid both extremes of being neither too simple or too complex. In his book called A Case For Christian Theism, Arlie J. Hoover uses the famous “Occam’s razor test.” William of Occam (1300-1349) supposedly said, “Do not multiply entities without necessity” which basically means to resist the temptation to make our explanations too complex. On the other hand, the worldview should not be so simplistic that it commits the reductive fallacy. In other words, it cannot be too simple. (8)

Fifth, a worldview is an issue of the heart: As worldview analyst David K. Naugle says, “The heart of the matter is that worldview is a matter of the heart. Thus, when “worldview” is reinterpreted in light of the doctrine of the heart, not only is its true source located, but it becomes a richer concept than its philosophical counterpart, being more than just a reference to an abstract thesis about reality, but an Hebraic expression of the existential condition of the whole person.”(9) The Hebrew word for heart is "leb," or "lebad." While the word "heart" is used as a metaphor to describe the physical organ, from a Biblical standpoint, it is also the center or defining element of the entire person. It can be seen as the center of the person's intellectual, emotional, affective, religious and volitional life. In other words, the “heart” plays an integral role in how a man or woman sees the world. The heart establishes the presuppositions of life and, because of its life-determining influence, must always be guarded. (10)

To see an chart on the various worldviews- click here:

1. Newport. J.P. Life’s Ultimate Questions: A Contemporary Philosophy of Religion. Dallas: Word Publishing. 1989, 4.
2. Ibid.
3. Pearcey, N. Total Truth. Liberating Christianity From Its Cultural Captivity. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books. 2004, 25-28.
4. Clark, D.J. Dialogical Apologetics: A Person Centered Approach to Christian Defense. Grand Rapids MI: Baker Books. 1993, 85-86.
5. Geisler, N.L. Systematic Theology Vol 1. Bloomington, MINN: Bethany House Publishers 2003, 82-96.
6. Ibid, 40-63.
7. Ibid, 110-124.
8. Hoover, A.J. The Case for Christian Theism. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House. 1976, 52.
9. Naugle, D.K. Worldview: The History Of A Concept. Grand Rapids, Eerdmans. 2002, 266-274. 10. Ibid, 266-274.


Brian said...

Happy to come across your site. Please keep up the good work. Thanks said...

Thanks Brian- where are you located?

Brian said...

Northern Ireland

Eric Chabot said...

Wow. Are you in school there? Do you live there? What is the spiritual climate like there? You are the first person to leave a comment on my blog- so God bless ya man!

Brian said...

Please email me directly if you like at apologetics315 at gmail dot com.