An accidental blog

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Monday, 20 June 2005

What's a worldview?

I have used the term 'worldview' in a number of posts recently, so I thought it might be worth defining 'worldview'.

Tom Wright defines a worldview thus:

Worldviews are ... the basic stuff of human existence, the lens through which the world is seen, the blueprint for how one should live in it and above all the sense of identity and place which enables human beings to be what they are. To ignore worldviews, either our own or those of the culture we are studying, would result in extraordinary shallowness.

Worldviews provide stories through which humans see reality. These stories in turn provide answers to the basic worldview questions. Questions such as

Who are we?
Why are we here?

Where are we?

What is wrong?

What is the solution?

The answers to these ultimate questions are based on faith, there is no way we can rationally justify the answers we give to them. We can never prove our answers to be wrong or right. They are faith comitments.

The story provided by a worldview and the answers it provides are expressed in the cultural symbols of a society. These symbols can be either events or artifacts - or both. Worldviews as well as providing a way of viewing reality provide a "way-of-being-in-the-world", praxis. Worldviews provide both a vision of life and a vision for life.

A worldview operates like a pair of tinted goggles - all that we see, hear and experience is colured by them - and it acts like a filter, preventing us from seeing anything we don't want to see. Two people can experience the same series of events and yet, because they adhere to different worldviews, interpret them very differently.

Worldviews operate at a pre-theoretical level. Our worldview may even be incoherent and inconsistent, but it will still mould us. Whether or not we are able to articulate our worldview is irrelevant, it will still influence how we think and live in the world: "We know more than we can tell", as Polanyi reminds us.

References and Further Reading

David K. Naugle Worldview: The History of a Concept (Grand Rapid: Eerdmans, 2002).
James H. Olthuis 'On worldviews' Christian Scholars Review 14 (2) 1985: 153-164.
Brian J. Walsh and J. Richard Middleton The Transforming Vision: Shaping a christian World View (Downers Grove: 1984).
N. T. Wright The New Testament as the People of God (London: SPCK, 1992).

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