What is a worldview, what it’s made of, and why it matters.
What is a worldview? A worldview is “the sum total of our beliefs about the world.” (Chuck Colson). We all have a worldview, it consists of certain parts, and leads to real-life actions.
Have you ever put on colored glasses? Slip on those colored glasses and everything you see takes on a shade of the lens color. If you put on red colored glasses, everything takes on a different hue of red. If you put on green colored glasses, then everything looks green – and so on. That’s like a worldview.
A worldview is a way you look at the world. It’s the lens through which you interpret all your experience and through which you make decisions. It’s your colored glasses you wear, even if you don’t know you’re wearing them. More technically, according to David Noebel, author of Understanding the Times (Focus on the Family), a worldview is…
“The framework from which we view reality and make sense of life and the world. “[It’s] 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.”
That’s a great definition. But sometimes it helps to sum up many words with a few. So a more simple understanding comes from Chuck Colson who once said, a worldview is “the sum total of our beliefs about the world.” (Focus on the Family)
Everybody has a worldview. That worldview may not be well-developed or the person holding it may not be able to articulate it clearly, but each person has a distinct way they interpret their world. For instance, each of these people have a worldview…
- The crying 2-year old who believes he’s the center of the universe.
- The atheist biology professor who just finished a lecture on Neo-Darwinism.
- The Christian pastor who just posted a blog on his church’s website.
- The Hindu technical support rep who just answered your computer question.
- The stay-at-home mom who just finished cooking dinner.
You and I have our own worldview too. Whenever we overhear a conversation from someone in a coffee shop, or stumble upon lewd website, or when we read an unbelievable news story, we automatically file that new information into a grid of prior understanding. That understanding is our worldview.
Parts of a Worldview
A worldview, like a philosophy, has different aspects. Depending on the teacher, some divide worldviews by a few parts and others by many parts. Here’s a simple, but not too expansive worldview framework. Every worldview includes the following 8 areas:
- God (Theology)
- Knowledge (Epistemology)
- Origin (Cosmology)
- Humanity (Anthropology)
- Morality (Ethics)
- Salvation (Soteriology)
- Meaning (Teleology)
- Destiny (Eschatology)
God (Theology) – Every worldview has a theology – it says something about God or the divine. The view may be very precise or vague, explicit or implicit, negative or positive (i.e. atheistic vs. theistic), but every worldview talks about God.
Knowledge (Epistemology) – Likewise, worldviews usually attempt to explain knowledge: what we can know and how we can know it. It also comments on closely related subjects, like truth, logic, reason, experience, intuition, and revelation.
Origin (Cosmology) – Worldviews always explicitly or implicitly tell us where we came from. For instance, the secular worldviews relies on some form of molecules-to-man evolution. Biblical Christianity teaches special creation in six days a few thousand years ago.
Humanity (Anthropology) – In the same way, every worldview has a take on human beings. It represents a certain perspective on humanity. It articulates our origin, uniqueness (or non-uniqueness), purpose, nature, and destiny. Worldviews always address what we are and our significance.
Morality (Ethics) – Each worldview also has a distinct take on goodness and morality. Ethics covers areas like the highest good, whether morality is objective or subjective, what is right and wrong, and rewards for doing good or judgments for doing evil.
Salvation (Soteriology) – Worldviews also include a “salvation story.” When Christians hear the word ‘salvation’ we tend to think salvation from sin, death, and hell through the atoning work of Jesus. But here ‘salvation’ is more generic: what is the basic human problem and what is the solution to that problem.
Meaning (Teleology) – What is the meaning of life? Every worldview aims to answers this question. The answer to this question in each worldview tells us why we are even here.
Destiny (Eschatology) – Finally, a worldview tells us something about the destiny of the universe and everyone in it. Though the end has not happened yet, each worldview describes what will happen based on their understanding of reality and revelation.
Worldview Describes Your Beliefs Which Lead To Your Actions
In addition, every component of a worldview is interrelated. Theology relates to anthropology and anthropology relates to knowledge, and so on. What you believe about God has a direct impact on what you believe about humanity and our ultimate destiny.
These worldview components also affect how you will live your life and your ethics. And your ethics lead to real world actions. Then think about it like this…
Thought Experiment: The Atheist & The Mentally Ill Child
Pretend you’re an atheist. In your atheist mind, us humans are just a cosmic accident floating on a remote rock in a cold, dying universe. We are stardust, as an old song says. That’s a standard understanding in an atheistic worldview. If that’s true, what makes killing a mentally ill child wrong?
You may think it’s wrong because it feels wrong, and it’s not something you really want to do. But if you’re a consistent atheist, can you really justify your uncomfortable feelings about murder? Perhaps that’s just your unreasonable self who hasn’t come to terms with your atheism just yet. In your new reality, that child is just stardust and you’re stardust too.
So what’s really wrong with some stardust snuffing out another speck of stardust in the mind of an atheist?
See how one aspect of someone’s worldview can affect their life. And that’s just one example of how someone’s atheism (theology) affects their view of a mentally challenged person (humanity) and whether it’s okay to kill that person (ethics).
Of Worldviews and Philosophies
Studying worldview is a fascinating area. It’s essentially a fresh way to consider yours or others basic philosophy of life. Worldview analysis can uncover what you and your friends believe which can be helpful in important conversations.
Suffice to say: we all have a worldview, it consists of certain parts, and it describes your foundational beliefs which leads to real-life actions.