What is a Worldview?

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Excerpt A worldview consists of a series of assumptions/presuppositions that a person holds about reality. A worldview, consciously or subconsciously, affects the way a person evaluates every aspect of reality. Every person adheres to some sort of worldview... Continue reading

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This article was first published in the August 2005 ABR E-Newsletter.


A worldview consists of a series of assumptions/presuppositions that a person holds about reality. A worldview, consciously or subconsciously, affects the way a person evaluates every aspect of reality. Every person adheres to some sort of worldview, although one person may not be as consciously aware of it as another person. These presuppositions affect the thinking of every person in the world. It logically follows that the way a person thinks affects what a person does.


"The term worldview refers to any ideology, philosophy, theology, movement, or religion that provides an overarching approach to understanding God, the world, and man's relations to God and the world. Specifically, a worldview should contain a particular perspective regarding each of the following ten disciplines: theology, philosophy, ethics, biology, psychology, sociology, law, politics, economics, and history.
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  These ten disciplines cover almost every aspect of reality, and provide an overarching framework within which worldviews can be evaluated. These categories can be used to answer important questions about reality. In evaluating these categories, worldviews can be evaluated for their logic, explanatory power and coherence. A worldview that most adequately provides explanations within these disciplines is the most probable and correct view of the world.

Theology is defined as the study and discourse about God. In non-theistic belief systems, their "theology" is their final basis of reality, if they think there is reality.2  Non-theistic theology is based on the primacy of matter, mankind or science. A worldview must demonstrate the coherence of the basis of all reality. Philosophy is closely related to theology, as the philosophical viewpoint of any worldview makes assertions about the nature of ultimate reality.

Biology is the study of living organisms, and since our planet is saturated with life at many levels, a coherent and comprehensive worldview must account for earth’s biological life forms. A coherent worldview must not only reasonably explain the current state of affairs as it relates to living organisms, but it must answer one of the most important questions in history: how did life originate on planet earth? The non-theist must account for life from non-life, while the Christian theist must explain life through a coherent, theistic worldview. Biology is directly dependent on theology and philosophy, and these three areas of discipline are inseparable from one another.

Ethics are clearly an important and integral part of human existence, and must be accounted for in any worldview. The non-theists must explain how obligation arose from impersonal matter. Theists must explain morality in their worldview. Ethics are essential to any coherent worldview. Ethics are related to law and sociology, which are integrally important to human relations. A coherent worldview must provide an explanation for the existence and origin of the law. It must also provide an appropriate framework to explain the human relations within our society throughout history. Human relations are essential to a coherent and defensible worldview. Human psychology is another integral part of human relationships and an integral part of the nature of self. A worldview must provide a coherent psychology of humanity.

Economics deals with property, money, and exchange of goods and services between fellow human beings. There are local, state, and national economies and a world economy. Economics is essential to the operation of human society. A worldview must account for the economic operations within human society. A comprehensive worldview should present an appropriate and workable economic system. An economic system must relate to law, sociology, and ethics. They are inexorably interrelated.

Finally, history has come from somewhere, and appears to be headed somewhere. Any worldview needs to present a view of history. Is it cyclical, linear, or an illusion? Does history have a beginning? An end? Can history be studied to demonstrate the coherence of one’s worldview? A worldview should tie together all the previous disciplines, and should say something about the nature of history and where history is going. This includes an important question: what happens to man after death?

It should be noted that there are a variety of sub-categories that would fall under these ten disciplines. These might include: psychiatry, medicine, cosmology, geology, anthropology, metaphysics, ontology, epistemology and government. There may be a variety of other categories, but most, if not all, will fall under these ten disciplines.

Now, it is important in evaluating worldviews to note that any assertion within the context of a worldview will always have implications on some other assertions that the worldview makes. For example, a philosophy of naturalism that denies the supernatural, an alternative 'theology', will affect fundamental assertions about biology (and many other areas). The branches of knowledge within each worldview are all interconnected with one another. No area of study can be compartmentalized. Problems with one area of discipline will overflow into other arenas, compounding any difficulties with the worldview. Coherent and logical assertions in one arena of study which touch directly upon other disciplines will strengthen the overall case for any particular worldview. A weak link in the chain weakens the overall strength of the chain.

A belief system forms a web, and ideas are rejected and accepted based on how they fit into that web. Now, it must be noted that certain assertions within the worldview have greater implications on the whole web than others. Some ideas may be removed without adversely affecting the overall strength of the web. Other ideas, when removed, would make the web fall apart.

Allow me to illustrate an example. The worldviews of humanism and Marxism are built on the foundation of evolutionary naturalism. In evaluating the evidence in this regard, the whole house of cards can be destroyed. If the Christian theist wishes to refute humanism, the best thing to do is destroy the foundation. In discussing humanistic versus Christian psychology the humanistic assumptions are based on philosophical naturalism. The Christian theist can demonstrate that life cannot come from non-life, the fossil record refutes evolution, the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics and the laws of cause and effect necessitate a Creator, and many other proofs to refute naturalism. When this is done, the entire web of naturalism is destroyed. Refuting humanistic psychology will not have the same devastating affect.

This worldview "web" can also be evaluated on the basis of its overall explanatory power. Its coherence is important, but one must also ask: Does the evidence pile up to a degree that reaches the level of reasonable proof? And when this evidence is piled up, does the argument’s coherence present itself with a strong cumulative force? The evaluation of the evidence for the worldview can be done in an inductive manner, similar to the procedure used in our court system.

We must also discuss the issue of mystery. Non-Christian worldviews all have unanswered questions, unsolved mysteries. In Christian theism, there are some questions which human beings do not have exhaustive answers to. In Christian theism, we are dealing with a personal, omnipresent, infinite, eternal, omnipotent God.3 Since human beings are finite, there will necessarily be issues that remain mysterious to us. This is a logical consequence of Christian theism, articulated quite well by Moses: "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever..."(Deuteronomy 29:29). This does not mean that we make God the "God of the gaps," or write everything off to God that is unknown to us. We must investigate, evaluate and research the Christian worldview as exhaustively as possible. Mystery is a logical consequence of Christian theism, not a reason to reject it.

Apparent contradictions must be honestly and logically fleshed out. This will be the case with all worldviews. When fully examined, real contradictions must be admitted. One may find out later that the contradiction is not real, but apparent. However, if a worldview is loaded with the real logical contradictions, the force of the argument should lead one to reject the worldview. The criteria for rejection, the weight of the evidence, will differ for each person. Some people hold onto their worldview in spite of the evidence, some are "converted" immediately, and some are "converted" slowly.

ABR is in the business of dealing with history through archaeological research. Our assertion: God has acted in history and the record of that fact is found in the Bible. When fairly evaluated, archaeological research substantiates the Biblical record. The God of the Old and New Testaments is fully in control of history, and He has purposes for that history. This assertion is a critical element of the Christian worldview. ABR has been raised up to demonstrate that the historical record in the Bible is accurate.

Recommended Resources for Further Study


     
Why Trust the Bible?
 
50 Proofs for the Bible
Old Testament
 
Searching for the
Original Bible



Footnotes

  1. David Noebel, Understanding the Times (Harvest House Publishers: Eugene, Oregon, 1991), 8.

  2. Worldviews that deny reality are self-referentially refuting, since they are asserting a reality that there is no reality. This is logically incoherent and should be rejected based on this fact.

  3. Omnipotence does not include illogical and incoherent pseudo-tasks, such as God making a stone that is too heavy to lift, and making a round square, or creating a married bachelor.

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