Worldviews… What Are They? & Do You Have One?
Many people today do not realize what a worldview is or how it effects their every day life. Let us first define in a general sense what a worldview is. The American Heritage Dictionary defines it two ways: 1) The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world; 2) A collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or a group. With these broad definitions, one can see that everyone is caught ion a web of defining their relation to the universe and the world. However, this generation doesn’t get much beyond this dictionary definition, and the actions behind this generation’s thinking are quite evident.
Let me give an example of how this lack of understanding about one’s worldview can effect a whole generation. Alexander W. Astin dissected a longitudinal study conducted by UCLA started in 1966 for the Review of Higher Education in which 290,000 students were surveyed from about 500 colleges. The main question was asked of students why study or learn, seeking to develop “a meaningful philosophy of life” (to develop a meaningful worldview) was ranked “essential” by a majority of entering freshmen. In 1996 however, 80% of the college students barely recognized the need for “a meaningful philosophy of life” and ranked “being very well off financially” (to not necessarily develop a meaningful worldview) as paramount.
This is quite eye-opening. It says a lot about where people’s “heads” are, or aren’t. A few decades ago most college students were looking to answer life’s big questions and learn how to relate to them. Today? Not so much. What are these questions that everyones worldview must answer? Below are the main ones that every viable worldview should answer:
What kind of God, if any, actually exists?
Is there anything beyond the cosmos?
What can be known, and how can anyone know it?
Where did I come from?
Who am I?
Where am I?
How should I live?
What should I consider of great worth?
What is humanity's fundamental problem?
How can humanity's problem be solved?
Past / Present
What is the meaning and direction of history?
Will I survive the death of my body and, if so, in what state?
These questions are the bedrock of any worldview that holds any weight. So before we go any further, let’s define a bit more for clarity purposes what a worldview is. Norman Geisler has the best working definition that will help guide us through the maze of religious and non-religious worldviews we will encounter in our lives. He says:
Something is missing from this definition though. In it there is no relational comparison to show that merely knowing one’s worldview doesn’t “presto” make it somehow true, this definition delves a bit deeper into what is at stake:
Another engaging way to put it is found over at All About the Journey:
Many haven’t poked their fingers into their presuppositions in order to test their worldview. The author of an online book entitled Faith with Reason: Why Christianity is True, starts out his book like this: “This is a book about worldviews. Everybody has one, but most individuals never really pay much attention to their own personal philosophy of life. This is a tragedy because there is no state of awareness so fundamental to living life.” Again, no state of awareness is so fundamental! Another author supports this idea by saying that “raising one’s self-consciousness [awareness] about worldviews is an essential part of intellectual maturity.”
Have you ever put on a pair of prescription glasses from a family member or friend? The distorted view one gets when putting on these prescription strength glasses is like a worldview. What one accepts as truth will effect all aspects of their life. A wonderful example of this comes from an illustration via Norman Geisler:
The professor had a worldview that presupposed “naturalism,” or, “materialism,” which is defined as “the philosophical belief that reality is composed solely of matter and that all phenomena can be explained in terms of natural causes.” This presupposition that guided the professor caused him to be unable to even consider a non-natural event as an actual event. Therefore, Jesus couldn’t have risen from the grave, ergo, Christianity is false. Another way to see this “begging of questions” is in the following example:
Premise: Since there is no God,
Conclusion: all theistic proofs are invalid.
Premise: Since the theistic proofs are invalid,
Again, I hope one can see how a worldview, or pair of prescription glasses, can warp a person’s view of the world around them. Here we have dealt with the naturalist, or, atheistic worldview, what are some other worldviews we can categorize, and how do they view reality? Let’s see. A pretty good chart comes from the book Understanding the Times: The Collision of Today’s Competing Worldviews, realize that the chart is enlargeable:
Another informative chart can be found here. I am pretty sure you are getting the idea of just how important a worldview can be. Once someone has a good idea of what worldview (Weltanschauung) is true, whether by a) investigation; or by b) bias, they then live out their lives according to those principles presupposed. John Stott explains, somewhat, the power of that worldview in the bringing forth “of actions into the external world” and influencing it.
One researcher says that there are 10,000 religions in the world, but if you bring all these religious beliefs to there core values, there is only a handful left in the hous, in fact, Francs Schaeffer said this:
All this should make you want to Jump In, and Engage Life:
L. Cohen is a mathematician, researcher and author who chose to jump in. He is a member of the New York Academy of Sciences and officer of the Archaeological Institute of America. In his book, Darwin was Wrong: A Study in Probabilities, Cohen writes:
By using his worldview backed by logic, science, math, and sound presuppositions, Cohen rejected Darwinian evolution. Another worldview that should be tested is that of Carl Jung. And it is a worldview, as a site mentions: “Thus, far from being just another theory, Jungian psychology embraces the universe in all its manifestations: art, history, myth, philosophy, and spirituality are all essential components of Jung’s worldview” (this quote was taken from the Jung Center of Houston, founded in 1958). I hope these definitions and charts helped to bring to mind some areas of your life that need study. If not, then so be it. I hope those reading will enjoy the below presentation:
 John Warwick
 Alexander W. Astin, “The changing American college student: thirty year trends, 1966-1996,” Review of Higher Education, 21 (2), 115-135.
 Some of what is here is with thanks to professor Stephen Whatley, as, they are notes from one of his classes.
 Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999), 785-786.
 James W. Sire, Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a Concept (
 To require something as a prior condition; to make something necessary if a particular thing is to be shown to be true or false. The sentence “Fred loves his daughter” presupposes that Fred has a daughter.
 Ronald H. Nash, Worldviews in Conflict: Choosing Christianity In a World of Ideas (
 Joseph R. Farinaccio, Faith with Reason: Why Christianity is True (Pennsville: Book Specs, 2002), 9.
 Norman L. Geisler & Peter Bocchino, Unshakeable Foundations: Contemporary Answers to Crucial Questions About the Christian Faith (
 David A. Noebel, Understanding the Times: The Collision of Today’s Competing Worldviews (Manitou Springs: Summit Press, 2006), 101.
 Robert A. Morey, The New Atheism: And the Erosion of Freedom (Phillipsburg: P & R, 1986), 57.
 From a radio sermon.
 Francis A. Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture (Crossway Books; 1976), 19-20.
 I. L. Cohen, Darwin was Wrong: A Study in Probabilities (?: New Research Pub, 1984), 6-7, 8, 214-215, 209, 210.