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What is a worldview and why does it matter?

This week, I wanted to introduce the concept, discuss what it is, and introduce why it matters. In the following weeks, I want to explore the core questions related to a worldview in more detail and try and prompt my readers to begin processing through his or her own worldview.

So, what is a worldview? Author James Sire describes a worldview as, “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) that 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.”

When Sire talks about this, essentially he is saying that each human on earth has a set of assumptions that he or she is making based upon at least some amount of faith about reality. An example of these assumptions, or perhaps a better word is presuppositions, could be a belief that God created the world, a conviction that the world is simply a result of matter colliding, that earth was seeded by alien life, and everything in between.

Every culture in the history of the world has held to presuppositions about reality. Our worldview, building upon these presuppositions, serves as the eyeglasses through which we see the world. When a problem arises, a social issue, or wonderful events transpire, we view our reality through those glasses. As an example of this, one person might blame a car accident on karma, bad luck, coincidence, or anything else. How we view the event is largely related to our worldview.

Sire has boiled down the idea of a worldview to core questions that worldview must answer. If they cannot answer the questions, then they are not a valid way of viewing the world. As we engage with the following questions in the coming weeks, my goal is not to convert you to my view, necessarily, although I of course pray that all would come to follow Jesus and discover the love that he has for us. Rather, I want to challenge your way of thinking and encourage you to ask this key question: “IS MY WORLDVIEW CONSISTENT?”

As I have been pouring into men and women within my career as a pastor, I find that the vast majority of people do not have a consistent worldview. Instead, they have a buffet approach to their worldview. They hear something they like, they add it to their shelf. They hear something they don’t like, they reject it. The problem with this perspective is that although it might make for a feel good life, it doesn’t answer the core questions of reality, and is, therefore, artificial. Often we are walking contradictions, completely unaware that our own views disagree with themselves!

So, what are the key, core questions surrounding a worldview? Sire summarizes:

  1. What is prime reality—the really real? To this we might answer: God, or the gods, or the material cosmos. Our answer here is the most fundamental. It sets the boundaries for the answers that can consistently be given to the other six questions. This will become clear as we move from worldview to worldview in the chapters that follow.
  2. What is the nature of external reality, that is, the world around us? Here our answers point to whether we see the world as created or autonomous, as chaotic or orderly, as matter or spirit.
  3. What is a human being? To this we might answer: a highly complex machine, a sleeping god, a person made in the image of God, a naked ape.
  4. What happens to a person at death? Here we might reply: personal extinction, or transformation to a higher state, or reincarnation, or departure to a shadowy existence on "the other side."
  5. Why is it possible to know anything at all? Sample answers include the idea that we are made in the image of an all-knowing God or that consciousness and rationality developed under the contingencies of survival in a long process of evolution.
  6. How do we know what is right and wrong? Again, perhaps we are made in the image of a God whose character is good, or right and wrong are determined by human choice alone or what feels good, or the notions simply developed under an impetus toward cultural or physical survival.
  7. What is the meaning of human history? To this we might answer: to realize the purposes of God or the gods, to prepare a people for a life in community with a loving and holy God, or simply to survive.

So this week, begin wrestling with these questions. In the coming weeks we will flesh them out more and look at the implications of the various worldview choices that we might make. I hope that it is beneficial to you as we go on this journey together.