Introduction to Worldviews

What's Your Filter

Date: September 7, 2014
Study: What’s Your Filter? Christian Apologetics and Worldview
Teacher: Lawson Hembree

REVIEW
Thesis for this study: a Christian worldview enables us to look at all of life through scriptural lenses, which in turn equips us to defend the faith, evangelize wisely, critique unbiblical thought that pervades our culture, and bring God glory in all of life.

Four Views of Christ and Culture: 1) Christ against culture [condemn] 2) Christ of culture [copy and consume] 3) Christ above culture [critique] 4) Christ transforming culture [cultivate and create]

WHAT IS A WORLDVIEW?
Everyone looks at the world through certain lenses. Even if you can’t see them, like contact lenses, we all have them. If, then, the world is everything that we see, our worldview is the pair of glasses that help us make sense of the world around us.

According to James Sire, 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.” (James Sire, Naming the Elephant, 122) 

Everyone has a worldview, though not everyone is aware of his or her worldview. Not everyone has sat down and defined exactly what they think about God, reality, knowledge, humankind, and morality. But everyone has default or automatic assumptions that inform his or her life and behavior. They are the things you believe at the deepest, gut level, sometimes without thought or reflection. A worldview is comprised of our presuppositions about life’s five most basic, fundamental issues:  

  1. GOD (the study of whom is called theology)
    Our idea of God is by far the most important component of our worldview. Is there a God? If so, what is he like? Is he a personal God, or an impersonal force? Does he care about us?
  2. REALITY (the study of which is called metaphysics):
    Metaphysics is the study of the nature of reality. What is the universe? Who or what created it? Is it a product of conscious design or random chance? Is there meaning or purpose to it? What is its purpose?
  3. MAN (the study of which involves disciplines like anthropology, sociology, psychology):
    What is the nature of man? Are we only physical bodies or bodies and spirits? Is man basically good or basically bad? Are we totally free, or mere pawns of fate, or something else altogether? What happens at death? Are there are rewards or punishments after death?
  4. MORALITY (the study of which is called ethics):
    Is there such a thing as right and wrong? What or who decides which is which? Are there moral laws that govern human conduct? Are they the same for all human beings, or are they relative to certain historical periods, cultures or individuals? Do they transcend cultural, historical, or individual boundaries? Is morality discovered, fabricated, agreed on, or declared?
  5. KNOWLEDGE (the study of which is called epistemology):
    What is the nature of knowledge? How do we know anything? Can we know something for certain? Can we trust our senses? How far will reason take us? Is knowledge different from faith?

A worldview, then, is a set of foundational beliefs about these issues: about God, reality, man, knowledge, and morality. From these foundational beliefs flow subsequent beliefs and actions that affect the way we live each and every day.

WHY SHOULD WE STUDY WORLDVIEWS?
Worldviews might sound like an interesting but irrelevant armchair exercise. Why is it important to study worldviews?  Six reasons are found in the thesis for this entire study: a Christian worldview enables us to look at all of life through scriptural lenses, which in turn equips us to defend the faith, evangelize wisely, identify and reject false teaching, critique unbiblical thought that pervades our culture, and bring God glory in all of life.

So, why do we want to study worldviews?

  1. To develop ours
    We want to study worldviews in order to expose whatever beliefs and presuppositions we hold to that are actually inconsistent with Scripture. We want to study worldviews in order to develop a more consistent and thoroughly Christian worldview for ourselves. The Bible calls us to love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength, and this is one component of what it means for us to do that.
  1. To defend the faith (2 Timothy 4:1-2; 1 Peter 3:14-16)
    Studying worldviews enables us to see the coherence of the biblical worldview and the inconsistencies of worldviews that are not based on God’s revelation. This will help us to better defend the faith against the claims of unbelievers. It will enable us to dialogue with them in a more informed way, and will help us to use God’s Word to undermine their mistaken beliefs and presuppositions.
  1. To evangelize better (Acts 17:22-31; 1 Corinthians 9:19-23)
    The more we understand the people we’re speaking to, the better we will be able to evangelize them. The more we can critically engage with what our non-Christian friends believe and think, the more precisely we can explain to them just what they need to repent of.
  1. To identify and reject false teaching (Matthew 10:16; Romans 16:17-18)
    Paul writes in Romans 16:17-18 “I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned…By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.” False teaching usually sounds very sophisticated, very educated; we must avoid being those “naïve people” who fall for it.  Jesus himself tells us to be “shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16) when we go out into the world.  So we need to understand how non-Christians think about the world in order to be on guard against it and to be shrewd in avoiding it.  Studying worldviews helps us identify and reject false teaching.
  1. To grow in cultural discernment (Proverbs 14:8; Romans 12:2; Ephesians 5:1-21)
    We are constantly bombarded with unbiblical ideas, whether from well-meaning friends and family, co-workers, music, movies, other media, or countless other sources. Studying worldviews will help us accept the good and sift out the bad in the constant stream of ideas we receive in our hyperconnected culture.
  1. To glorify God in all of life
    Our ideas influence what we worship, what we want, what we do, and how we do it. If we want to glorify God in all of life, one major component of that—though certainly not the only component—is intellectual. Therefore, we want to study worldviews to better glorify God in all of life: at home, at work, in relationships with Christians and non-Christians, in our hobbies, as we raise children, and more.

HOW DO WE DEVELOP A CHRISTIAN WORLDVIEW?

  1. Soak your mind in Scripture
    “The unfolding of your words gives light. It imparts understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130). Study the Bible deeply and broadly. Get to know all of it. Meditate on it. Memorize it. When we devote ourselves to study God’s Word we begin to think God’s thoughts after him, which is the essence of a Christian worldview.
  1. Understand the whole storyline of Scripture and how we apply different parts of it to our lives today
    The technical term for this is biblical theology, and those of you who have been in that core seminar will be very familiar with it. Basically, Scripture presents us with one unified story of God’s redeeming work throughout history. Biblical theology is the task of putting that story together, and understanding how all of the parts contribute to the whole.
    Biblical theology is important for developing a Christian worldview because it enables us to understand how different portions of Scripture—such as Old Testament law or prophecy or wisdom or psalms or the gospels or the epistles—apply to our lives as Christians.
  1. Synthesize the teaching of Scripture on individual topics
    We call this systematic theology. The main way to do this is to learn what all of Scripture says about the main topics it addresses: God, man, sin, Christ, our salvation, how to life the Christian life, the church, and so on. Books like Wayne Grudem’s Systematic theology are a valuable tool for us in this regard.
    The more consistently we understand the Bible’s teaching on the main topics it addresses, the better we’ll understand how to address more peripheral issues. Moreover, we’ll learn how those main topics will bear on individual issues. For instance, man being created in God’s image means that racism is flatly contrary to Scripture.
  1. Gain, evaluate, and integrate knowledge from other sources
    In order to live in the world, we need to know how the world works. This means that as Christians, we’re always going to be gaining knowledge from sources besides the Bible, whether that is knowledge about food, engineering, politics, construction, weather, the English language, infant sleep patterns, Microsoft Word, driving regulations, and more. You get the point.
    But in order to develop and apply a truly Christian worldview, we need to evaluate all information we receive from outside Scripture in order to make sure it is consistent with Scripture. For example, macroevolutionary theory flatly contradicts the Bible’s teaching that God created humankind by a distinct, sovereign act. Therefore Christians should reject it.
  1. Live it out
    A worldview is not merely an academic tool. It’s a practical road map. The Christian worldview is meant to be lived, through devotion to Christ, worship of God, studying Scripture, evangelizing non-Christians, serving the church, encouraging one another, raising our families, working unto God’s glory, and more.

THREE MAJOR WORLDVIEWS

  1. Christianity
  2. Modernism
  3. Postmodernism

APPLICATION

  • Write down what you believe about each of the Five Fundamental Worldview Issues
  • Read John 7-8, Acts 7, and Acts 17:22-31. How do Jesus, Stephen, and Paul address the false presuppositions held by their audiences?

RESOURCES

Apologetics and Worldview, Lesson 2. Capitol Hill Core Seminars

Naming the Elephant  and The Universe Next Door by James W. Sire

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